Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Beach Blanket Hoof and Horn

A while back I composed this version of Hoof and Horn:

Mostly, I wanted chant accompaniment that didn't make the song sound like a Neo-Pagan version of Three Blind Mice. Or a dirge.

Anyway, I probably overcompensated and strayed into a place where Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon are the Goddess and God. Cowabunga!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Put A Little Dog In It

I'm back from a Renaissance Faire. I play harp and sing with a group of musicians called The Pearwood Pipers. We had a lot of fun, but as usual, ended our weekend gig with the standard question:

Why are the songs that we have the largest audiences for the ones about drinking (or the one where I put on a dress and pretend to be an oyster girl [hint: "oyster girl" is a euphemism]), whereas the beautiful, four-part madrigals by John Dowland (okay, yeah; they're kind of melancholy) make them leave in droves ?

Part of the problem is that it's easier for modern audiences to understand, "Jolly good luck to the landlady; good luck to the barley mow!" than it is "Wilt thou, unkind, thus reave me of my heart (of my heart, of my heart) and so leave me?" But still; these are folks who come to a Renaissance Faire -- surely they've brushed up their Shakespeare? Or is it true that they only came to see the Chicks in Chainmail.

It's a conundrum for us, because as performers, we want large audiences, but as musicians we want to create portals to other worlds with haunting, chilling, music. But maybe our audience is fleeing from the peril of transformative music. (Yes, there is always room for improvement in our music, but I don't think they're fleeing because we play badly.)

Perhaps it's time to make a sandwich board flip sign with a translation of the words and train a little dog to turn the pages...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tears In My Eyes Scam

Two of my friends have been the victims of bad guys breaking into their G-mail accounts (and possibly their Facebook Accounts) and subsequently had phishing e-mails sent from their accounts to everyone they know. The e-mail messages go something like this: "My eyes are filled with tears as I type this. I'm traveling in the UK (London or Ireland or Scotland) and I got mugged (or I lost my wallet with all my money). Please send me money."

Since the bad guys have control of the e-mail account, any replies (like money orders or banking information) go to _them_.

Anyway, you know the drill:

1) make your passwords eight characters (at least) long.

2) use upper- and lowercase letters and numbers in your password to make it complex.

3) use different passwords for your different accounts so if the bad guys figure out your New York Times account password they don't have your e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter accounts (or worse, your banking account).

4) scan your PC for Trojan Horses that might be watching for passwords.

5) avoid entering your password onto a public access computer (and say NO when you're asked if you want a social networking web site to remember your password).

6) use caution supplying a password over public, unsecured wireless networks (see #5)

7) change your password every so often

Here's some links:

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm On The Top of the World...

My version of "The View from the Top" is available on the Analog website!

It was written as part of a Wordos exercise. As an experiment to see what happens to the art and craft of story telling, several of us wrote a near science fiction story using an identical plot. Jerry Oltion's version of the story made it into print, but Stanley Schmidt, the editor of Analog, kindly put my and Joshua Skurtu's stories in.

Josh's story is here:

Jerry wrote a short intro (with spoilers) for the on-line versions of the story here. His story will be published in the September 2010 print edition of Analog.

I'm so excited to have one of my stories up on the Analog web site that I can't type straight; so I'll stop now.

Starhawk Says "It's Not About the Goddess."

I stumbled across this article by Starhawk the other day. It's about a decade old.

Whoa! Starhawk is pissed off! At Charlotte Allen's article:

Most of Ms. Allen's article appears to be a paraphrase of Philip G. Davis's (very hostile) Goddess Unmasked and Ronald Hutton's (relentlessly historic) Triumph of the Moon. She points out that many Wiccans (at the time of the 2001 article's writing) came to the craft after reading Starhawk's (c. 1980) The Spiral Dance, which includes the accepted history of Neo-Paganism at that time -- that Neo-Paganism was an ancient, re-emerging, Goddess religion forced underground by a repressive Christianity.

Then Ms. Allen's gloves come off.

I can overlook how Ms. Allen includes the mandatory Aleister Crowley (BOO!) cameo of Neo-Pagan history (and that the cameo links to a somewhat unflattering dictionary entry for Crowley) and her impolitic use of the words "hookum" and "bunk." But then she writes "Practicing Wicca is a way to have Christianity without, well, the burdens of Christianity." (Gee did Ms. Allen read Catherine Sanders's Wicca's Charm, too ?)

Starhawk was right, Ms. Allen did miss the point of Neo-Paganism's spiritual underpinnings. Starhawk angrily asserts that Ms. Allen is too stuck in a Christian world-view to be an ecumenical reporter (maybe Ms. Allen and Ms. Sanders hang out together) and she missed the point of Neo-Paganism (or, to be more accurate, Wicca / Goddess Worship). I'd have to agree with her assertion -- although I am not sure I agree with some of her statements about archeology.

Starhawk's argument is that A) she's written more books on Neo-Paganism since The Spiral Dance, and B) her spirituality is based not on history or archeology, but on her experiences of natural processes today.

If I were Starhawk (pause to smile at the image)... I would have added that Ms. Allen's article was about as politic as someone writing about Christians needing historical proof of Jesus for their faith.

It all comes down to faith, history, archeology, and if a single Mother Goddess is at the heart of Wiccan belief. Starhawk says: no, while she talks about the Goddess, what choices she makes, how she experience the world, what actions she takes and what structures she creates as a Neo-Pagan are based on the cycles of Nature.

I am so looking forward to quoting Starhawk the next time I get More-Pagan-Than-Thou'ed for questioning the validity or need for Neo-Paganism's pedigree or for not focusing exclusively on The Goddess.

In the meantime, the crescent moon and Venus are in the sky....

Precious Bodily Fluids

Good news. Leechblock is working, and as a result, I've submitted a story to a market today (instead of endlessly checking my e-mail and Facebook).

Speaking of e-mail, the other day I saw a forwarded message attributed to Vicki Nobel, the creator of the Motherpeace Tarot (a round tarot deck). In it, she revealed that two of her students had come to her on separate occasions with visions of using their menstrual blood in ritual to lessen the ecological damage of the BP oil spill. The ritual did not involve traveling to the Gulf of Mexico to provide food for bird washers or help run an oil skimmer, but instead using meditation and visualization techniques to lessen the ecological damage.

Whenever I read missives like this, my first response is to imagine the public and Neo-Pagan reactions if seminal fluids were used instead of menstrual ones. (Pause to consider a circle of gay men: "Brothers, tonight we will summon our precious bodily fluids to clean up the streets of Eugene... "[cue disco music]) Then I am filled with astonishment that Neo-Pagan women still do these kinds of rituals; didn't this gyne-chauvinism go out of vogue in the mid 1990's? (At least it appears that ritual provisions for non-menstruating women and men were appended to the original call to ritual.) Finally, I always wonder why prayers and visualizations for disasters seldom are accompanied by positive, practical actions one can take. (And, yes; sometimes the only thing one can do in certain situations is pray...)

So. Here are some suggestions (what boundaries to push with bodily fluids is left as an exercise for the reader).

Short term suggestions for action break down into A) physically providing support or aid in the gulf states, OR B) sending money to various ecological organizations. I suppose that C) supporting local nature preserves funded by national ecological organizations might free up more funds to go to the gulf, but that's a supposition on my part.

Various long term suggestions break down into A) driving less specifically and using less energy generally, B) switching to "green" energy, and C) working with government to enact ecological policies.

And for Eugenians, here's a local nature preserve:

Ready? Let the ritual begin.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Turning Away from the Internet

2010-06-23 Wednesday

What I've learned from my recent vacation is how much time I spend on-line. What's worrisome is how much of my time it eats up for low-signal things. Don't get me wrong, I love that I can find out what is going on with my friends and family, and knowing the status (over and over again) of a story at a particular market.

I want to make an effort to have something worth saying ("I can haz corn flakes now") instead of posting something because I can, and cut down on the constantly checking thing (LeechBlock, I think you're about to become my Best Friend again).

Also, while on vacation I noticed a kind of temporal disconnect. Before vacation, I time-delayed a few Twitter Updates so they would occur a week or two later. I also time-delayed " ≟Love" a piece of Twitterature, so that it would be a serial.

The time-delay underscored the virtual part of virtual networking -- yes, my Tweets are real, and the responses are real, except that I'm emotionally and temporally divorced from my original message; so the responses don't seem quite connected. And yes, again, I prefer having a wide virtual community over having a very narrow real one (okay, actually, I want both). I imagine that the responses to my "time travel" Tweets feel similar to time-dilation responses between space travelers and earth. Perhaps this time-delay with message and emotional content happens with folks who send messages via post, and I've simply re-discovered the electronic version.

I will give myself this: I've gotten better at not "fatigue surfing" the web late at night. Yes; there's room for improvement.

So. Off to reconfigure LeechBlock!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Better than Spirograph ?

What's better than Spirograph ?

Lego gears, an LED, and long-exposure photography!

I think it may be time to make a photo harmoniograph.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The New Purple Prose

While I was visiting my in-laws, I re-discovered cable TV.

We don't have a TV at our house, much less cable, for the Very Good Reason that we would end up watching things like Star Trek or Bewitched, which were fine shows the first three or five times.

Anyway, one night I amused myself by watching cable television science shows. What I learned:
  1. civilizations tend to coalesce along the Earth's fault lines, where natural resources are made easily accessible by earthquakes and volcanoes,
  2. scientist hosts are now expected to rock climb or play the violin while they expound scientific hypotheses,
  3. producers think tidal waves and The Big Bang are scarier when the film is played at random speeds and directions, and
  4. all that playing the film backward-and-forward stuff can inflate a 10 minute lecture to a full 60 minutes (90 with commercials).

I've since been welcomed by my writer friends to the World of High Definition Documentaries, Where We Slow Down Tidal Waves of Lava and Zoom In On Them Not Because It's Cool Or Educational, But Because We Can.

High definition camera work still doesn't explain the paranormal investigator shows, though. I'm sure there's a metaphor in there.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Only Thing Between Me and the Void

While on vacation, I had the opportunity to visit a water park.

At one point, Cousin D (six-years old) asked me to go with her on the water tube slide. I asked if we could go on the more twisty slide, only to discover that the twistier slide was completely opaque, and thus completely dark dark DARK. By then we had jumped into the fast line.

Over the staccato hiss of the raft delivery system and the shrieks of the riders ahead of us as they plunged into the birth-canal-like opening, I repeated "You can do this," to myself. About a hundred times. I distracted myself with small talk with 6-year-old Cousin D.

And the yawning black mouth to the void grew closer. And closer.

Each step brought me nearer and nearer to a potential Rebirthing Experience.

Then it was our turn and we had to get onto the small three-person life-raft for the ride down.

Hot, humid air blew out of the tube. "Ready?" the attendant asked, and then we were sliding, sliding! down into darkness. My feet disappeared as the light from the entrance dimmed. When I couldn't see D sitting in front of me, we entered a spiral. In the blackness the only indication of motion was the minor whiplash induced by corkscrew turns or my fluttering stomach during an unseen drop. And then a sheen of black plastic heralded the tube's end and we were sliding out in sunlight.

During one of the eight subsequent trips, my sister-in-law, M, rode with us. She walked away at the end opining that I "scream like a girl."

Friday, July 02, 2010

Smoke From Past Fires

I knew I had this old photo of a previous July 4th around somewhere. We put ABBA on the side of a box and put a smoke bomb inside so it looked like they were smoking.