Zelda's Inferno exercise: the local roads twist and turn; guaranteed room

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 11/04/2012 - 19:14

Zelda's Inferno exercise: use one or more of the following phrases (randomly selected from a newspaper) as a base, and write from it:

meandering local roads twist and turn
the ability to be by themselves
guaranteed room upgrade
the only detail that stands out
people drew lots to find out

the local roads twist and turn and you can't see where you're going, what's
      around the corner, a hill or a valley or a big truck coming
      the other way or a deer standing in the middle of the pavement or...

the local roads twist and turn like the small intestine, like their job was to
      absorb you rather than to get you from one place to another,
      so that by the time you get to the end all the nutrients would be drained from you...

Seeing Things? Hearing Things? Many of Us Do (NYT)

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 11/04/2012 - 13:55

Interesting article on hallucinations by the famous neurologist and author Oliver Sacks over at the New York Times.

I've had small auditory hallucinations (not chemical-induced! :-) ) a few times. The last significant one was a few years ago, when while sitting zazen alone and almost falling asleep I heard a voice say, "I'm not here to defend the bookmobile." I have no idea what that meant or where it came from.

Seeing Things? Hearing Things? Many of Us Do

Hallucinations are very startling and frightening: you suddenly see, or hear or smell something — something that is not there. Your immediate, bewildered feeling is, what is going on? Where is this coming from? The hallucination is convincingly real, produced by the same neural pathways as actual perception, and yet no one else seems to see it. And then you are forced to the conclusion that something — something unprecedented — is happening in your own brain or mind. Are you going insane, getting dementia, having a stroke?

Samhain and Halloween

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 10/31/2012 - 19:17

I've just never been that in to Halloween.

I know that some of my friends may want to disown me for saying that. But I'm not really into cosplay -- yes, I enjoy the opportunity to dress up in my regalia at FSG or Starwood or PDF, but putting on your finery to show who you are is a very different thing than putting on a costume or disguise. So when I go out tonight I'll wear something fancy, but I won't be going "as" anything.

More than that, though, I haven't figured out how to reconcile the spiritual origins of this holiday with the costumes-and-candy thing. In the old Celtic reckoning, Samhain is one of the "cross-quarter" days, and the beginning of winter; thus, a natural time to reflect on the life-and-death cycle of existence.

What is religion?

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Wed, 10/31/2012 - 17:57

When I see the same theme or point pop up in a several different contexts over a few days, I usually take that as a hint that it's time to try to write something about it.

A few days ago on Facebook, I shared a story about parents threatening to sue a school over teaching kids yoga, on the theory that it was religious indoctrination. Now, I'm about as strong an advocate of the separation of church and state as you'll find, but I also know that hatha yoga can be (and from all available info, seems be here) taught as a system of physical culture and mental discipline with no religious overtones.

Ian Corrigan (a leading instigator of the contemporary Neopaganism movement, who I've met through the Starwood Festival) posted the interesting question, "Doesn't stripping yoga from its religious origins leave it just half-a-thing?" To which I replied:

Most frustrating hotel experience I've ever had (Milford NYC)

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Mon, 10/22/2012 - 21:27

I was in New York this weekend for the Seido Karate 36th Anniversary Benefit Tournament. I'll post more on my trip later (and more on the tournament over at Sky Hand Road), but I wanted to share the hotel review I sent to Expedia, about my time at the Milford NYC. May its warning help prevent others from experiencing the same frustration...

Most frustrating hotel experience I've ever had

Posted October 22, 2012

Near Times Square and the theaters. If that's where your business is, it might be worth the hassle; mine was elsewhere.

I'm not the world's greatest traveler, but I've been around. I've stayed in extra-tiny hotels in Japan and hostels in NYC and festival campgrounds where there were only portable toilets and a handful of showers, and never had a complaint about lodgings...until now. I hope that I never again experience a stay as frustration-filled as my two nights at the Milford.

"Anarchospirituality", by Paul Pojman (RIP)

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Thu, 09/20/2012 - 10:42

Paul Pojman passed away this morning. An Associate Professor at Towson University's Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Paul was active in several Baltimore organizations working for a better world: the Free Farm, the Baltimore Green Currency Association, and the Free School.

I didn't have the pleasure to know him well. But in the conversations that we had I knew him as a man of keen intellect, rare insight, and open heart. I was looking forward to getting to know him better and maybe working together in some way. This is truly a loss for Baltimore.

Today on Facebook, several people have quoted the marvelous final paragraph of his paper "Anarchospirituality". It's a short paper and I'd like to post it in its entirety here. (I believe "fair use" applies.) As always, that doesn't mean I agree with every word of it -- but I'm sad that I won't have the chance to discuss those fine points with him over a beer.

Zelda's Inferno exercise: spirals

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Sun, 09/16/2012 - 20:19

Zelda's Inferno exercise: (from http://www.davidrm.com/thejournal/tjresources-exercises.php#poetry)

Write a poem about something that "spirals".


Write a poem using images of things that are connected, such as "paperclip(s)", or "trains".


Write a poem about a very small object.

qi --
that energy in martial arts and acupuncture and the like --
moves in spirals
or so I have been told
like water in the drain
or the stars of the galaxy slowly falling into the center
or the spiral dance

September 11: No Words of Wisdom

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Tue, 09/11/2012 - 12:06

Back in the fall of 2001, I had a regular happy hour gig on Tuesdays at a bar in Fells Point, Leadbetters.

September 11 that year was, as it is this year, a Tuesday. So, I had a gig on 9/11.

A few years later, I wrote a song about that experience, "No Words of Wisdom". I've posted the words before, but here's a live recording of me performing it. (It's off my new demo CD, Lo Fi, No Talent.)

friday night thoughts: a time between the summer and the fall

Submitted by Tom Swiss on Fri, 09/07/2012 - 22:49

Friday night, a new (to me) pub (Liam Flynn's), a new (to me) beer (Union, a local brew), soccer on the TV (U.S. vs. Jamaica), enough of a crowd to make a din that's louder than the voices in my head, enough pretty women to look at and smile at if I catch their eye...it's a place to be for now.

a time between the summer and the fall
unwilling to let go of summer hope