Cornstalk Festival gig, demo CD; showman and shaman

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Fri, 09/07/2012 - 01:12

This past weekend was the Cornstalk Festival at Wisteria, a campground and nature center in eastern Ohio. As I previously mentioned, I managed to get a gig there; I played two sets at the Greenman Tavern. It was sort of a comeback show; it's been about three years since I played a show of my own, though I've done sets at open mics and art gallery events like Phil Laubner's "Instant Gratification" shows.

Happy Birthday, Voyager 1

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 09/05/2012 - 11:08

Today is the 35th anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1. It was the first probe to provide detailed images of the Jovian and Saturian systems, and is now nearing the edge of the solar system. At 120 times farther from the Sun than Earth is, it is the farthest manmade object from Earth, and the second longest-operating spacecraft in history -- Voyager 2 was launched a bit earlier. (Which seems weird to me.)

The AP reports on the anniversary: 35 years later, Voyager 1 is heading for the stars

Thirty-five years after leaving Earth, Voyager 1 is reaching for the stars.

Sooner or later, the workhorse spacecraft will bid adieu to the solar system and enter a new realm of space — the first time a manmade object will have escaped to the other side.

my Aunt Marcia

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 18:58

I got a voicemail from my brother Sunday afternoon, and I could tell right away something was wrong. When I called him back he gave me the bad news: our Aunt Marcia had died. She went suddenly, in her sleep. I saw her just a few weeks ago at a family reunion, healthy and happy. She was 72 -- she was born in 1940, her daughter in 1960, I in 1970, a cousin of ours in 1980, and her first grandson in 1990. Numbers guy that I am, I always thought that was kind of neat.

Family is a random deal, and I always figured I got a pretty good hand. When I was a kid, I lived within walking distance of both sets of grandparents, and my father had a brother and sister who both lived in Baltimore and who I would see at least a couple times a year. For many years the family holiday party was held at Marcia's house, and so I got something of a look into her life.

strange dream: I am the reincarnation of Bugs Bunny

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 14:20

I rarely remember my dreams. Generally it's only if I wake up in the middle or right after one, or if something reminds me of one shortly after I wake up, that I'll recall a dream. Otherwise they're lost with the dew.

Saturday morning, around 4:30am, I woke myself up from a dream. In that dream, I somehow knew that the reality I was experiencing was an illusion, and was determined to push through it. (I'll punt for now the question of whether "ordinary" reality is an illusion, and make the provisional and practical assumption that the reality I usually experience more or less corresponds to an external physical universe.) I made some sort of physical/mental effort that's hard to describe (though it's worth noting that it was somehow centered in the belly, the hara, the dantien) and woke up. I only remember the tail end of the dream, and that vaguely, but I have the sense that there were nested realities within the dream before breaking out of that final (?) one.

I probably would have gone back to sleep and not remembered anything of it in the morning, but my phone buzzed with a text message that turned out to be an automatic alert from the server at my day job. (A low memory condition -- I need to reset the threshold for that alarm, it's triggering too often to be useful.) Since the phone was set to vibrate rather than ring I probably would have slept through it, but as I was awake already, I got up to check it. That put me next to the computer, in place to leave a note to myself about the dream.

Still half-asleep, here's what I wrote (with a few typos fixed):

The Eight Great American Sabbats (Raise the Horns)

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 08/29/2012 - 14:19

Interesting thoughts from Jason Mankey on how the Wheel of the Year creeps into the American holiday calendar. The Eight Great American Sabbats (Raise the Horns)

Even when a holiday comes wrapped in patriotic or religious swaddling clothes seasonal trappings abound. Most of our “holiday decorations” are simply representations of the Earth’s natural cycles. As a nation we decorate with snow at Christmas, and plastic green grass at Easter. Labor Day might be about unions, but we celebrate with summer barbecues and back to school sales. It’s a weekend to mark the passing of summer and the beginnings of autumn. As we celebrate one Great American Sabbat this weekend, let’s look at how mundania celebrates the Wheel of the Year.

In Memory of Marcia B. Lyons

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Tue, 08/28/2012 - 18:15

I'll be posting a more personal memorial to my Aunt Marcia later, but it seems appropriate to publish this here for now. (I'm supposed to head for the Cornstalk Festival in Ohio this weekend, where I'm booked to play two sets, I'm still figuring out the logistics of honoring a loved one with the obligation that the show must go on.)

In Memory of
Marcia B. Lyons
March 19, 1940 - August 26, 2012

tip the musician, kid

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Fri, 08/24/2012 - 23:11

I live where I do partly because of its proximity to Historic Ellicott City. I found this little enclave by accident a long while back (25 years, is that right?!) while looking for a garage (the spot that's now the Old Mill Bakery) when my car's alternator light came on. Much later, when I was considering buying my Secret World Headquarters, the fact that it was near something this interesting was a definite factor in favor.

more music

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 08/19/2012 - 13:39

The callouses are coming back on the fingertips of my left hand, the skin hard and dark and peeling.

I haven't been playing much music the past few years. Much of my creative efforts were going into the book, after all. And there was that year I spent trying to get the finances of a Pagan organization straightened out, that can take the music out of you for sure.

It's not that I've been completely neglecting music; I've done a few shows, such as the various instances of Instant Gratification, and I've written a few songs. But sometimes weeks would go by between times I picked up the guitar.

Bikers Against Child Abuse make abuse victims feel safe (

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Tue, 08/14/2012 - 16:28

Story at from The Republic: Bikers Against Child Abuse make abuse victims feel safe (

The bikers are all volunteers, giving five, 10, 20 or more hours a week. There's no reimbursement for gas or the time they take off work. They have to go through background checks and prove themselves to the group. But each has a reason for doing so.

Wild-haired, tattooed tough guys (and gals) are scary...until they're on your side. Sort of a wrathful deity thing.

Dionysian thoughts after closing time

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sat, 08/11/2012 - 03:00

I am -- thank the Deities -- not an alcoholic, or even a problem drinker. But there are nights like tonight, when my heart is heavy for one reason or another and I can just hear, at the edge of audibility, the whisper of the bottle. "Come and take refuge in me," it says, "and I will be the solvent of your suffering."

I am wise to that whisper. While I walk the Path of Excess from time to time, I will not let it tempt me over the edge; it remains the case, as Winston Churchill said, that I have take more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me. Dionysus and I have an understanding, a compact or sorts, and he will work through me but not break me. But I can understand how someone could fall for that voice, could neglect to read the contract.