my life

open letter to Fandimo: merchandise with terrorist logos

Posted on: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 18:02 By: Tom Swiss
Ohms Gifts Inc.
13724 Prairie Ave
Hawthorne, California 90250

Dear Fandimo:

While searching eBay for a new business card case, I noticed that your store carried several models of what seemed to be quality products at good prices. After some comparison, I was all set to make a purchase from you -- until I found this:

I fully support the right of free speech, and would oppose any effort to legally restrict what images or logos might appear on the products you sell. However, I will not do business with a company that features products promoting the logos of violent terrorist organizations -- and that includes the anti-American, pro-slavery nineteenth-century terrorist organization that styled itself the "Confederate States Of America."

This product is not only offensive to the millions of Americans who are the descendants of the slaves that the "Confederacy" fought to keep shackled, it is offensive to every American who understands history.

Again, I support your legal right to choose the products that you offer. But I wanted you to know why you lost my business, and why I will be urging others to take their business elsewhere.

Very truly yours,

Tom Swiss

lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at you

Posted on: Wed, 12/22/2010 - 20:28 By: Tom Swiss

I don't believe in astrology in the least. But, I do check Rob Brezsny's "Freewill Astrology" every week, as a random source of insight. And this week's Capricorn entry, was so perfect that I guffawed out loud and made everyone in Bean Hollow turn and stare:

I have tracked down a formula that I think should be one of your central ongoing meditations in 2011. It's from newsman David Brinkley: "A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her." In the coming months you will be extra smart about knowing which of these bricks to use and how exactly to position them in your foundation. And more than that, Capricorn: You will have special insight not only about bricks that have been flung fairly recently, but also about those that have been hurled at any time in your life.

RIP Emily Salmon

Posted on: Tue, 12/14/2010 - 17:38 By: Tom Swiss

This is about all I knew about her: Emily Salmon was about my age, didn't smoke, loved dogs, and was trying to go vegetarian. She lived in Hagerstown, where she worked as an afterschool aide. But as she said in an e-mail, "Hagerstown is no place for a single person with no family. I want to meet more people." She wanted to become a math teacher, so she was going to move to Catonsville and take classes at CCBC. She was going to rent my spare bedroom. I only met her the one time she came over to see the room; she seemed like a really nice person.

She was supposed to come over last Saturday to sign paperwork and get a key, but I never heard from her. I figured she had decided at the last minute to take a room elsewhere, or got cold feet about moving (she seemed a little nervous about it).

Today I got a call from her cousin. Emily passed away. I don't know the details.

I didn't know her at all. But in a couple of months we could have been friends. And that seems to call for some sort of commemoration. So may you rest in peace, Emily.

"...and don't call me Shirley"

Posted on: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 23:03 By: Tom Swiss

Really, it is not my intention to turn this blog into the obituary pages. But I can't let the passing of Leslie Nielsen go unremarked.

There are a couple of movies that are classics in my family, that we might quote at each other at any opportunity, and Airplane!, which featured Nielsen's deadpan comedy debut, is one of them. My mom has also always been a fan of Nielsen's work in Police Squad!, though I didn't get turned on to that until later, after The Naked Gun came out.

Long before his turn to comedy, Nielsen starred in the classic SF film Forbidden Planet. So he played big roles -- very different roles -- in key films in two of my favorite genres.

Thanks, Mr. Nielsen.

RIP Sensei Marion Ciekot

Posted on: Sun, 11/28/2010 - 16:49 By: Tom Swiss

Sensei Marion Ciekot was the branch chief for Seido Karate in Maryland for many years, from (I believe) its founding in 1976 until the early 1990s. He was my sensei for several of the those years, and all of the senior instructors now teaching in Maryland (Jun Shihan Kate, Jun Shihan Marc, Kyoshi Sandy, Kyoshi Karen, and I) trained under him.

While Sensei Ciekot eventually chose to leave Seido for reasons of his own, and I had not seen him in many years, still he was my sensei and a profound influence on my life. And he helped lay the foundations for Seido Karate in Maryland.

Osu Sensei. May you rest in peace.

RIP Erica Hinson Denny ("Artfisch")

Posted on: Thu, 11/25/2010 - 00:39 By: Tom Swiss
photo by Jeff Dicken

It's a common trope in fiction that "primitive" people believe that photographs will steal your soul. I don't know if anyone actually ever believed that, or if it's just some writer's plot device that went viral. Crazy Horse never let anyone take his photo, but it seems to me that might be more because he didn't like the way white photographers portrayed his people than out of any fear of soul-stealing.

I don't believe that the camera can steal your soul, of course; as the son of a shutterbug, I wasn't allowed to develop any camera shyness. (My dad joined the Air Force with the intention of getting trained in photography -- of course, they made him an AP instead and sent him over the Vietnam to walk patrol around an airbase. Never believe military recruiters, kids!) But I believe that a good photographer, rather than stealing it, can show a person sides of their own soul that they didn't know were there. A good photographer, in other words, can be a spiritual guide -- a shaman of sorts.

Baltimore has lost a shaman.

it takes an Erisian village...

Posted on: Sat, 11/20/2010 - 17:29 By: Tom Swiss

I've been to Greenwich Village a couple of times before, but previously I've always been tagging along with someone who knew the area, so I didn't really bother with navigation. But last night, I decided that I should check a map before heading down for dinner and a few drinks (at, as it turned out, a nice little restaurant called Village Natural, and then the famous Stonewall Inn).

Now, Manhattan is famous for being laid out on a grid of east-west streets and north-south avenues. Indeed, it's lent its name to the mathematical concept of "Manhattan distance", the sum of the horizontal and vertical distance distance between two points, as if you were walking a square grid. It's pretty much a canonical example of Order. Chelsea, which is the neighborhood where the Seido Karate Honbu is located and thus where I spend most of my NYC visits, is just about a perfect implementation of this grid.

But when you go just a few blocks south into Greenwich Village the grid breaks down. Here, the system is so warped that 4th Street actually bends to run north-south and intersects with other numbered streets.

Now, this would be a sign of the hand of what goddess of Chaos?

And what, my friends, do we find where 5th Avenue and 5th Street would meet, but Washington Square Park, the heart of the Village?

Guess if NYC is the Big Apple, this is the place where it turns to the Golden Apple.

Hail Eris! Kallisti!

Rally to Restore Sanity causes record Metro ridership

Posted on: Mon, 11/01/2010 - 15:33 By: Tom Swiss

As I mentioned recently, the Metro was way frickin' crowded on Saturday. And it turns out that's not just me whining: Metro set a new record for Saturday Metrorail ridership. They estimate 825,437 Metrorail trips were taken -- average Saturday ridership is about 350,000. The ridership for the rally on Saturday broke the previous record of 786,358 set by the June 8, 1991 "celebration" of Gulf War I (a.k.a. Desert Storm).

Rally to Restore Sanity

Posted on: Sat, 10/30/2010 - 14:35 By: Tom Swiss

On the Metro, headed down to the Rally to Restore Sanity. We got to the Greenbelt metro station at 11am, and only an hour and a half later have we managed to get on a train -- transit is that backed up. Reports are that the Mall is packed.

We met a lady here all the way from San Francisco as we walked to the station from Beltway Plaza, where we parked. Another lady in the traincar calls out asking if there's anyone else from the Hudson Valley, two people answer.

At this rate, we may not get down to the Mall before the end of the Rally at 3pm. But it's worth it to be a part of today.

The big question, of course, is whether it will matter, whether these people will turn out and vote on Tuesday -- and get their friends to vote -- or whether it will just be a lark for them with no impact.

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