Saturday, 26 June 2010


Now that the U.S.A. team has been eliminated from the FIFA World Cup I wonder if the recent American interest in “Association Football” will fade away.

What Americans invariably call “soccer” is, in the U.K., most appropriately called “association football”. It is the game which is played according to association rules.

There are other forms of “football”. There is “rugby football” This is a game which is chiefly played in the U.K, in Ireland, in France, in the Republic of South Africa, and in New Zealand and Australia.

Believe it or not, there are two forms of rugby football played in England. There is the internationally played rugby – technically known as “rugby union”. This is a 15 person a side game.

But there is also “rugby league”. This game has 13 players on each side. It is mostly played in the north of England, especially in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

In the “olden days” rugby league was a semi-professional game, whilst rugby union was strictly for amateurs. Rugby league was blue collar/working class. Rugby union was white collar/prep school/middle class. Issues of “class” were important (see below).

Lest I should appear to be myopic I add that in the world of “football” there are two football sports other than soccer or rugby.

There is “Australian rules” football, of which I understand not a thing, but which seems to have an “earthy passion” and “gutsiness” which is missing in so many other games.

And there is “American football” – which to me is so pathetically boring that it makes my dreariest sermon seem like divine poetry.

Back to class.

“Class” used to reign in the U.K. Thus when I was a teenager the British fans of football (soccer) were strictly working class/blue collar. They supported a local team which had players who had grown up in local schools.

“Supporters” ( a.k.a. “fans”) would arrive by ‘bus at their local football ground for a 3:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon game. Most of them would stand for the 90 minute game, ( a few would have grandstand seats) Most of them were men, wearing cloth caps and overcoats, shivering in the middle of winter and smoking up a storm.

They knew the players by first name. Any player who achieved “star” status might retire in his late 30’s and perhaps run a pub where he could trade in his fame.

There were a few mid-week evening games. There were no Sunday games. There were no enormously expensive transfers of players from one team to another. There were no super-stars.

And those old days were fine, just as these new days are fine. Everything changes and we would be unhappy were the clock to be turned back.

Hence these are but memories, shared with you without judgment

(But I will scream bloody murder if England does not thrash Germany!)

Friday, 25 June 2010

Bizzare,and then Beautiful.

Those who know me well also know that I have vivid dreams, which I most often remember.
Last night was no exception.
My first remembered dream was bizarre. In the dream I was with a very lovely young woman with gorgeous blonde hair.  She was so sad.  She told me that her friends had said that “she was a crocodile”. In the dream I held her close and assured her that she was not a crocodile.  But I could not convince her.
Later in last night’s dream world I was in a Church. There I listened to a soprano who was singing a tune which I thought to be entirely and utterly beautiful.
This second dream repeated itself.  But this time around, there were others with me.  We all began to sob at the sheer beauty of the voice, and of the song.  I was sobbing in my sleep.
Who the hell knows the “meaning” of such dreams?  My best guess is that my unconscious was sorting out two themes:  first that which is destructive in my life viz “the crocodile”; second that which is creative in my life viz “the song of beauty”
I suspect that most humans live in a tension between the destructive and the creative.  I recognise both impulses in my own life.
Soon I will sleep again.  I’d love to dream again of the beautiful song which made me cry in last night’s dream.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

"Sex and Religion": random thoughts as I walked today.

Religious ardour and sexual desire are closely linked.

Sexuality and spirituality are next door neighbours in the human soul.

We use the same words for both spirituality and sexuality, viz; passion, coldness, longing, desire, faithfulness, unfaithfulness, committed, casual, duty, joy.

Sexuality is a gift from God. It is a gift to be treasured, and therefore to be enjoyed wisely..

Spirituality is a human response to God. It is an attitude to be matured.

Un-treasured sexuality and immature spirituality are signposts towards danger in the Christian community.

Parishioners have crushes on their pastors. (These parishioners often have immature spiritualities).

Pastors have affairs with parishioners. (These pastors often have un-disciplined sexualities). 

Priests who molest children often have rigid spiritualities, and retarded sexualities.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

My "own made" headlines for 23rd June 2010

Tough budget in the United Kingdom.
Change of leadership in Australia?
100f  temperatures in Sarasota today.
Gulf of Mexico oil well spewing more and more – no end in sight.
Gabby American General quits (should he have been fired?).
jmp reading biography of Marshall Petain.
In many places anger abounds.
Worldwide joy at an all time low.
Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury are increasingly irrelevant.
Leaders should stop covering their asses.
Over-population is the world’s #1 problem.
U.S.A. and England survive for the while:  “gooooaaaal”

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Ralph Zupancec - a wonderful man.

Ralph and Marjorie Zupanec became my friends in their later years.

I was privileged to know Marjorie Zupanec from 1984 when I became the Rector of her Church – St. Stephen’s, Pittsfield, Ma - until her death in 2005.

Likewise I knew her husband Ralph from 1984 until a few days ago when he died. I last saw Ralph in 2006 when I had dinner with him in Charlotte, N.C. on my drive down from Massachusetts to Florida.

Ralph’s obituary was published in the Berkshire Eagle on June 20th 2010. I read it today, and gave thanks to God for this man and his wife, now united in death.

What a blessing that I enjoyed the friendship of this couple for 20+ years.

Here is Ralph’s obit. I have highlighted in yellow the bit which speaks most wonderfully of this fabulous man. Who would not want words like these to be spoken of them?!

Ralph Zupanec, M.D.

1913 - 2010

PITTSFIELD - Ralph Zupanec, M.D., of Charlotte, N.C., formerly of Pittsfield, died on June 17, 2010 at the age of 96.

Dr. Zupanec was born on Aug. 18, 1913, in Joliet, Ill., to Ralph and Anna Zupanec, immigrants from (now) Slovenia who came through Ellis Island in the early 20th century.

Dr. Zupanec spent his early years in northern Minnesota and later moved to a wheat farm in Kansas.

Although he failed kindergarten because he could not speak English, Dr. Zupanec ultimately excelled in school. He graduated from the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas in 1934 at the age of 20, having been elected into the academic honor society of Alpha Omega Alpha.

Dr. Zupanec interned for a year at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Although his original intention was to become a family doctor, he accepted a surgical fellowship from the Cleveland Clinic in July 1935 and remained there for four years of surgical training. He was proud to have known Dr. George Crile, one of the founders of the Cleveland Clinic, and decided to become a surgeon after his experiences at the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Zupanec accepted a surgical residency at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital (now the University Hospital) in Boston, where he remained from July 1939-1941. In August 1941, Dr. Zupanec joined the Naval Reserves, serving aboard the USS Arkansas from 1941-1942. He spent most of his time in the South Pacific, setting up hospitals in New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.

Dr. Zupanec married Marjorie Hirst in June 1941. After the war ended, he started a surgical practice in Pittsfield, where he performed general surgery until his retirement in 1983.

He served as Chief of Staff of Berkshire Medical Center (then called Pittsfield General Hospital) from 1960-1965. He was a clinical instructor in postgraduate medicine at the Albany Medical College of Union University from 1961-1977 and then became an Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. From 1961 to 1972, Dr. Zupanec served as program director of the residency in general surgery at Berkshire Medical Center.

After his retirement, Dr. Zupanec became a volunteer member of Berkshire Medical Center's Quality Assurance Committee and served as chairman from 1984-1985. Dr. Zupanec was also a member of the Ethics Committee at Berkshire Medical Center beginning in 1986.

Dr. Zupanec was truly a Renaissance man. While he was described by one of his peers as a surgical "artist," he also knew how to plant and harvest wheat and milk cows. In addition to volunteering at Berkshire Medical Center after his retirement, Dr. Zupanec took courses in German, weather, and history, while relearning to play the piano. He served on the board of directors of such agencies as Elder Services of Berkshire County and volunteered for the United Way.

Dr. Zupanec was a lifelong learner; he read everything he could get his hands on and found interest in it all.

His medical legacy is forever established by the fellowship that was created in his honor in 1983 at the Berkshire Medical Center: "The Ralph Zupanec Surgical Award shall be given annually to the Berkshire Medical Center surgical resident who most closely approximates the broad medical knowledge, the diagnostic acumen, the unusual surgical skill, and the remarkable sensitivity toward the sick, characteristic of Ralph Zupanec, M.D., during his 37 years as a member of the Berkshire Medical Center surgical staff."

Dr. Zupanec never veered from his innate modesty and integrity. He found joy in serving others. He was always able to accept with grace whatever difficulties he was handed. He was a man at peace with himself.

Dr. Zupanec was predeceased by his wife, Marjorie.

He leaves his two children, Donald Merrill Zupanec (and wife, Cheryl) of Colorado Springs, Colo., and Nancy Zupanec (and husband, Robert Hempson,) of Charlotte, N.C., as well as his two grandchildren, Leslie Hirst Hempson and Christopher Merrill Hempson. He also leaves countless former patients whom Dr. Zupanec considered to be family.

MEMORIAL NOTICE: A memorial service for Dr. Zupanec will be held at St. Stephen's Church on a date to be announced later.

Monday, 21 June 2010

What is wrong with this picture? (2)

Last Wednesday, 16th June 2010 I drove over to “Detwilers Farm Market” (on Palmer Boulevard, Sarasota - about 4 miles from my home) to stock up on fruit and vegetables.
The Detwilers are a Mennonite family. They run this excellent source of produce.
I bought: 1 lb parsnips; 1.37 lb green peppers; 1.59 lb Georgia peaches; 0.99 lb yellow tomatoes; 2.07 lb red tomatoes; and 0.42 lbs Vidalia onions.
For all of the above I spent $9.60.
This is all excellent and first class produce.  The vegetables are sufficient for at least five meals.  The peaches are sweet and juicy, they “dribble down your chin” The Detwilers are an honourable family and I delight to do business with them (it’s great to know the owner’s first name!).
But there is something wrong with this picture.  It is the absurdly low cost of approx 7 ½   lbs of produce.
I cannot believe that the farmers made much profit on all this produce, (except perhaps on the economies of scale).
I am sure that the (mostly immigrant) workers who plucked or picked the items were underpaid (that’s the way of life for migrant workers).
I know that a fair part of my $9.60 went for the transportation and the wholesaling of the produce.
I suspect that the Detwilers are content with a very small “mark up” since they too rely upon economies of scale, and their business employs mostly family members (who live in community as an extended family).
Therefore I have come to the conclusions that
a.      I “have it made”.
b.      Farmers are scarcely “making it”.
c.      Migrant workers are scraping by.
d.      It’s hard to compute the “carbon fuel, and social costs” of parsnips from Michigan, peaches & onions from Georgia, and tomatoes from southern Florida.

It’s not that I am opposed to capitalism.   It’s simply that I wish the capitalistic system were more transparent. 

Wouldn’t it be cool if the items we buy had price tags which told us the % of our cost which went to owners, workers, transporters, wholesalers, retailers etc etc.

Just  a  thought from your left wing pal   jmp

Sunday, 20 June 2010

What is wrong with this picture?

There is nothing that is intrinsically wrong with this picture. It’s of a garden bench which I bought to enhance my front entrance patio.

“Some assembly required” were the dreaded words on the carton, but I managed to get the thing together in about an hour. And it looks very good.

What is “wrong” is that I paid just fifty bucks ($50) for the bench at my local “Big Lots” – “a bargain indeed”.

But..... please consider the following.

1. The cost of the raw materials, and the wages of those who mined the iron, or cut the wood.

2. The cost of moving those raw materials to the Chinese factory.

3. The use of electricity in changing the raw materials into a “ready to assemble” bench. The wages of the Chinese workers who turned raw materials into a bench.

4. The use of carbon based fuels to move this item from the factory to the sea port; from the Chinese sea port to an American port.

5. The use of gas/petrol/diesel oil to take the bench from an American port to a warehouse, and thence to my local “Big Lots”

6. The wages of (a) the Chinese miners and factory workers; (b) the Chinese transportation workers (rail or road); (c) the mariners who brought this from China to the U.S.A ; (d) of the workers at my local store are surely below par.

7. This list could and should go on and on. But three things are clear to me.

First: Somewhere in the big picture the workers (miners, lumberers, factory hands, truck, train or ship hands, clerks in retail etc [the list goes on and on] are being shafted.

Second: Somewhere in the big picture the ecological cost of carbon fuel based energy does not get reflected in the cost of a product.

Third: I can buy an item which for me is a bargain. But the hidden costs for workers and for the “environment” are horrendous.

Fourth: The hidden costs of the “free market” are very high. Human workers are enslaved and the natural world is devastated in order to support unbridled capitalism.