this sonofabitch old blog is back

An old blog is back. Run for your lives.

via GIPHY

I’d been thinking for a few weeks of starting a new blog and had been brainstorming names for it, when it the idea suddenly hit me. That old Different Dinosaur Soundtrack—er, I mean The Different Drummer Soundtrack—why not revive it? I searched my hard drive, and it turns out that I still had old .xml files from it. Why just display current content when I’d been writing for a long time? While there were some entries that were a clear waste of pixel space, some of them were pretty good. I figure it might make sense to show my old stuff as well.

And there were a lot more posts than I thought. Five hundred of them. Amazing what an .xml file can store. I did whittle them down to about 350.

When The Different Drummer Soundtrack started in 2005, I started it on a platform called Squarespace, because it was the most sophisticated web platform at the time. I wasn’t the LiveJournal type, Blogger wasn’t much to write home about, and WordPress had yet to become of the powerhouse tool it now is. MySpace was the king of social media, while what we now know as Facebook was exclusively reserved for college students, and it wasn’t until a year later that said students would be mortified by a friend request from a middle-aged parent. While Friendster had been around, social media was still consider a new concept people were trying to wrap their minds around.

About a year or two after the this blog was founded, an online magazine from Milwaukee (MKE Online, I don’t think it still exists) nominated The Different Drummer Soundtrack for “Blog of the Week.” The contest would have readers look at the nominee blogs and vote for their favorite. I ended up losing out to someone’s MySpace page (even though I did my best Laverne and Shirley chant), because the editors apparently didn’t know about how easy it was for a MySpace user could mobilize their friends to vote for their.

Here in Madison, this blog also made a few appearances on Madison.com. This news and features website, which has online editions of both the Wisconsin State Journal, the Capital Times, and a few other publications, also had a publication called Post which featured local bloggers, and I made a few appearances there. They even had a print edition of Post. You might still occasionally see a plastic newspaper box out there with that logo on it, It looks like a cheap spray paint stencil with the word “post” and the Madison.com pentacle logo on them. (Yes, they’re closet pagans, I’m sure of it). Such boxes were last seen holding random real estate and grocery advertising rags.

Remember when MySpace was considered creepy while Facebook seemed shiny and clean? Do you remember blogrings? This blog was a member of a couple of those.

I’d started writing The Different Drummer Soundtrack because, well, I had a different perspective on things and I felt it was worth sharing. This is still true. And honestly, I feel like I have a lot more to say now, as we try to act like everything’s normal when the world is anything but.

via GIPHY

So, feel free to explore.  There’s some entertaining reading, from the time that I tried to stalk a Wisconsin U.S. Senator, to lambasting the lamestream media for publicly humiliating someone never previously in the public spotlight, offending the religious sensibilities of a spiritual organization I used to belong to by performing a sacrilegious act describing it in excruciating detail.and gleefully causing dozens of people to unsubscribe with a single post. Some of my more recent posts are from a more recent anonymous blog, but decided to place them here. Finally you can see where I might turn you on to  lesser known music either once popular or perpetually obscure.

In fact, I will conclude this post with a video from some technical geek musicians around my age who are still bringing down the house more than twenty years later—on their own terms.

a break from blogging–i’ve already slowed down, so I’ve just decided to stop…for now…

8 ‘Ilm 168 B.E.
Soundtrack in my head: Game Theory, “Regenisraen”

There are many things I wish to tell you, but I cannot bear to post them right now. 

Yes, this blog has been suffering for a while.  I’m now halfway through my first semester as a graduate student at the UW, and yet a blog post I wrote about orientation into grad school has yet to be uploaded onto this website.  

This is what a busy grad school schedule looks like.  It doesn’t matter whether I’m a full-time student with a part-time job or a part-time student with a full-time job.  Life has just gotten insanely busy and it’s not surprising that this blog would be a casualty of this new lifestyle.  

But there are other things going on, too.  I’ve been struggling with purpose and voice for some time in this blog.  Things I’ve wanted to materialize in this blog just haven’t materialized.  I think it’s now time to make a bit of a retreat and reflect on my six years of blogging, and thinking about where I want to go from here.

I still very much want to write, and I am continuing to do so.  Whether it is on this blog, or a new one, I eventually will start posting blog entries again and hopefully in a more focused way than before. My guess is that this hiatus will last a few months.  I’ll eventually get used to the hectic graduate school life and be able to manage my time better. (I hope!)  I’m already thinking of ideas of how to approach my writing once I do start posting again.

Meanwhile, feel free to explore my past posts on this website.  I certainly will be.  I’m still quite proud of this body of work I’ve created over the years.  I’ve changed a lot in the six years that I have been blogging, and, if anything, that change is accelerating. 

five years of the different drummer soundtrack

16 Qawl 167 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head: The Pretenders “2000 Miles”

Five years ago tonight I posted my first little post on this new blog called The Different Drummer Soundtrack.  It was a very brief and rather silly little post where I likened working with my new blog and website to hijacking an alien space ship, and not being very sure how to drive it.  Half a decade later, this “space ship” and I have taken a rather amazing journey. 

I started writing this blog because I felt like I had something to say, and a unique perspective to offer.  My perspective has changed and evolved over the years.  One of the main purposes for starting this blog was to talk about my positive experiences with a religion I belonged to, but instead, I left that religion nearly two years later, and threw their so-called holy object to the bottom of Lake Mendota.  I chronicled my discovery and rediscovery of the Baha’i Faith and then finally announced my declaration as a Baha’i on November 19, 2007. I intend to continue writing about my experiences as a Baha’i. 

The other reason for starting this website was to talk about co-op life.  When I first moved into a co-op house in December 2002, I was not quite sure how long I would keep up this lifestyle, but eight years later, my dedication to it is only stronger and I continue to chronicle it.

During the past five years, I lost my mother to cancer, began DJ’ing, turned 40, moved from a co-op house in downtown Madison to a family-friendly one in a quieter neighborhood, and now serve, in essence, as an uncle to a nine-year old and two two-year olds.  I’ve promoted the cause of Net Neutrality, criticized the treatment of a former astronaut by the media and the blogosphere, twice wrote thirty posts in thirty days, geeked out on the Baha’i Calendar, written about the seasons which never cease to amaze me, and posted the names of a number of songs that were going through my head. 

I want to give a shout-out to Squarespace, which has been the host of this website all five years. When I was thinking about where I wanted to post my blog, I looked hard for a service that would give me maximum control over the design and layout of the website.  I knew I’d be paying a little bit of money anyway because of my desire to have my own URL (especially since it ended up being quite a find IMHO), but it’s not much more than what I would pay to use my URL and have it hosted on a server.  A lot of people have raved about WordPress in recent years. I tried using it earlier this year for another project, and with the improvements they’ve made I can see why some people like it–but compared to Squarespace, I find WordPress to be quite clunky, inflexible, and not very intuitive.  I personally don’t know anybody else who uses Squarespace, but I would highly recommend it.

I’ve come a long way, which is why the above song selection seems appropriate–not only was it the first “soundtrack in my head,” on this blog, but it feels like I have traveled 2000 miles from where I was five years ago.

four years of blogging, and the soundtrack is back

15 Qawl 166 B.E.  (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Cocteau Twins, “Know Who You Are At Every Age”

Sometimes your first or second thought is the best thought.

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the first post on The Different Drummer Soundtrack.  My first entry talked about getting used to the online tools provided by Squarespace, the home to this blog since its inception.  I also started the tradition of including the byline “Soundtrack in my head” and listing whatever song was going through my head at the time. 

Prior to starting this blog, I’d been keeping a journal for over fifteen years, and by 2005 I felt that it was time to write for more than just myself.  I also had the desire to write about co-op life, and promote the spiritual organization of Mahikari.

Many changes have occurred since then.  I left Mahikari in the fall of 2007, and became a Baha’i.  The following spring, I began to add the Baha’i calendar date to the byline. But with such a significant shift in my spiritual life, I decided to change the name of the blog to “A Colorburst Prayer” in the summer of 2008. 

However, for some reason, I kept on renewing my ownership of “thedifferentdrummer.net” domain name.  And in the summer of 2009, I suddenly felt called to restore “The Different Drummer” name, while keeping the word “Prayer” in the name

And today, on the blog’s fourth anniversary, I’ve decided fully restore the blog’s original name, “The Different Drummer Soundtrack.” 

The main reason is that it simply felt right.  What’s in a name anyway?  Actually, my original working title for this blog before I started it was “Deluge of Sound.” But “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” suddenly came to me, and when I discovered that “thedifferentdrummer.net” was available as a domain, that sealed the deal.  I took several months to come up with the “Colorburst Prayer” name, but after I changed the name of my blog to that name, I found that as I talked it about it, it simply did not resonate with me.

And “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” simply kept growing on me.  I’ve always known that things that suddenly come to you often do so for a reason.  I realize now that the name fits me. I didn’t find the name–it found me.

For those who are not familiar with the literary reference of the “different drummer,” it comes from Walden by Henry David Thoreau. He said, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

I am a “different drummer” in many ways–in my choice of lifestyle, in my choice of religion, and the way that I tend to question everything.  As a DJ, music has been part of my life since an early age, so it makes sense that a “soundtrack” be part of the name.  I also think the name is fitting for my intended audience for this blog, which not only includes Baha’is and people who live in co-ops and intentional communities, but also friends, family, non-Baha’is and non-co-opers who might have some curiosity about the lifestyle I lead.

In fact, I’ve grown so comfortable with the name that I’ve decided to make it my DJ name (without the initials DJ in the front).  So The Different Drummer Soundtrack will now be a DJ alongside DJ Geek Boy, Moebius, and Richard Aviles at the Madtown Barefoot Boogie.

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on this blog over the last four years, and I hope to continue to offer provocative, stimulating, and quality content on “The Different Drummer Soundtrack” for years to come.

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the Different Drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

(Henry David Thoreau)

sodium blow-pops in missouri?

19 ‘Ilm 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)

Soundtrack:  Josh Ritter, “Long Yellow Line”

That’s what NaBloPoMo stands for, right?  Na is the chemical symbol for sodium, BloPo has to stand for Blow-Pops, and Mo is the abbreviation for Missouri.  Sodium blow-pops in Missouri?  Well, no.

National Blog Posting Month is an effort to encourage bloggers to post every day for a single month.  It used to be that November was the focus for NaBloPoMo, now any month can be a National Blog Posting Month.  I did my 30 postings in 30 days last November, and now seems the right time for me to do it again.

It’s been a wild few months.  I moved in early September to help start a new co-op. We had to clean up the house, get new furniture, recruit new members,and set up house workjob system.  Our efforts culiminated in a retreat held in Dodgeville at the end of October.  Also during October, I took an Amtrak train to Albuquerque to visit family and a brand new friend.  So November is a time to slow down and reflect.

NaBloPoMo is Rx for lame blog posting habits. One bad habit I can’t shake–even after completing the NaBloPoMo last month–is that I’m a petty perfectionist when it comes toposting on my blog, and as such, things don’t get posted. It was the same bad habit I was trying to lick a year ago. 

I had a lot to write about in November 2007.  Ten days before, I publicly announced my departure from a spiritual organization called Mahikari, and was seriously considering joining the Baha’i Faith.  I wrote quite a bit about what was going on with me with this transition, and it culminated in me making my declaration as a Baha’i on November 19th. 

There’s a lot going on in Steve’s head circa November 2008 as well.  A lot of it is of a somewhat more personal nature, but if you’re nice, I may reveal some of it…

 

the realm of unmatched socks, pocketed business cards and unused social networking pages

10 Baha 165 (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  The Pogues, “The Sickbed of Cuchulainn”

I was a Friendster once.  Technically, I still am.  One of my housemates urged me to sign up sometime in 2004.  He was trying to explain the concept to me, and I must admit that at the time I had a bit of difficulty grasping it.  It was something about having friends and being able to see friends of friends.  It sounded strangely similar to the practice of collecting baseball cards.  

But I signed up, and added four people as friends.  Well, actually three.  One of my friends decided to create a profile for one of the prominent buildings in my neighborhood.  I might have had someone’s cat as a friend at one point as well.  Since I’m deathly allergic to cats, interacting with one via a social networking group has a lot of appeal, since cat dander is not an issue in cyberspace.

Later, I started to hear a lot about MySpace.  A few months after I started this blog, I was nominated for a “Blogger of the Week” by MKEonline.com.  I was one of five contestants and people had to vote on their favorite, and a MySpace blog won that week.  This kind of ticked me off because, duh, it’s a social networking site, and of course they’re in a good position to win because all they have to do is get their friends to vote.  So much for artistic merit.

I think on two different previous occasions I did set up a MySpace site, but I have absolutely no idea where they are or how to access them.  Like my Friendster account, I set up the page and then ignored it.  

Last November, I heard about NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) in which bloggers would take up the challenge of posting to their blog once a day, every day in November.  I decided to take up the challenge so I signed up at the site, and discovered, to my surprise, that I was signing up for an account at a social networking site.  It was not one of the big ones, but a network set up on Ning.  I was busy trying to post a blog posting every day—why would I want to mess around on a social network site as well?  But I did start a group for Wisconsin bloggers and three signed up, and I do link to two of them and occasionally correspond.  

Then I heard about “Baha’i Communities,” another social networking site.  I signed up, and discovered that this, too was a Ning site.  They verified that I truly was a registered Baha’i and let me join.  This was kind of nice, too.  I did not know anyone on the site, though.  I have a couple of “friends” that I’ve added on there.  I could add more—people who are on the discussion groups, though there isn’t a whole lot of discussion on the groups I belong to.

It was around this time that I began to hear more and more about Facebook.  Many of my housemates had Facebook pages and I was considering setting up a page there, too.  But one Baha’i friend told me she had a MySpace page and insisted it was better.  I was reluctant to set up a MySpace page again—not only because of my previous experience but also because there was a period of time where my computer would crash every time I went onto MySpace, and although I wasn’t having that problem now, I still felt MySpace was kind of skanky.

Then another friend invited me to join MySpace.  She said she was doing so because of the online music that one could check out there.  So I figured that if I had two friends on there already, I might as well sign up.  Then I decided, well, if I’m going to do that, then I should set up a Facebook account.  So I registered with Facebook as well.  

I’m surprised at how much I like Facebook.  It made it easy for me to search for Facebook pages of people from my high school and at my current workplace.  I found a bunch of people from work who I knew, including someone I’ve never met in person but with whom exchange emails with frequently for business-related purposes.  I made a bunch of friend requests from my workplace.  Then I found the page of one housemate (one of my friends from Friendster), went through his friends list since I knew there would be a lot of people I knew there, too, and through this and other means came up with eighteen friends in the space of week without really trying hard.  One of them posted a very poignant comment that said, “Ah, yes…no friendship is really real unless it’s cemented over the Internet.”  

Meanwhile, through MySpace, I began to get friend requests from people I’d never met.  Like five or six in a day.  All of them were female, and their names were, well, exotic.  Their manner of dress was, too.  I don’t personally know anyone who poses online in a thong—such people usually aren’t in my real life social network.  I decide it would be prudent to deny their friend request lest I catch some kind of, um, virus from them.  I think they found me through Tom, though I’m not sure.  Tom is a guy who automatically appears as your friend when you sign up for MySpace.  He apparently works for MySpace, serves as the welcoming committee to all new members, and has a blog with insightful suggestions for how to use MySpace and protect yourself.  He has useful tips, so I’m not sure if I want to delete him as a friend, but if it’s the only way to avoid visits from people with names like Fanny, that might be a good call.

Meanwhile, one of my MySpace friends, who is fourteen years younger than I, posted a comment telling me that that I needed to “pimp up” my MySpace page.  I responded by jokingly quoting a lyric from War’s 1975 hit “Low Rider,” and mentioned that I felt like an old man on MySpace as I try to figure out how to use the thing.  I didn’t realize that what I said would appear on my friend’s comment wall, so I thought, great, now I’m going to look like a total dork in front of my friend’s 57 friends.  

But I did explore the music section of MySpace and liked what I saw.  I can do a search of music by genre and location, and it seems like a lot of bands and singer-songwriters have their own pages where I can listen to music.  I can see myself potentially getting lost there for hours.

Meanwhile, Friendster seems to sense that I’m drifting away from them because I’ve been getting more emails from them lately. They sent one email saying that they improved their photos feature, and then they sent another saying that they improved their photos feature even more.  

Honestly, I don’t know how much mileage I will get out of these social networking pages.  At the current time, I have eighteen friends on Facebook, three on MySpace (including Tom), three on NaBloPoMo, two on Baha’i Communities, and four (okay, really three) on Friendster. I’m not up for increasing my numbers just for the heck of it—I favor quality, not quantity.  In any case, I’ve joined millions of others taking up server space on some computers somewhere, offering friendship.

the mask crumbles

Soundtrack:  Slowdive, “Waves”

Since the beginning of this blog, I have tried to sing the praises of Sukyo Mahikari, the spiritual path that I’ve called my own for eleven years.  One of my purposes in starting this blog has been to try to put out something positive about Mahikari on the Web. Part of the reason is that there have been many disgruntled former members posting negative things about the organization, and little effort by Mahikari members to put out alternative viewpoints. Also, I wanted to put my writing ability to service on behalf of what I believe in most strongly.  

I have had many positive experiences with the spiritual path over the last eleven years—some of which have been posted on this blog. I have fond memories of the Light-giving open houses I used to hold out of my apartment in Chicago, of the trips I took to Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota to visit group members (and the time a group member and I spontaneously started a Light-giving open house in a bar outside Stevens Point, WI at 10:30 p.m.) of the trip I took to the Autumn Grand Ceremony in in Takayama, Japan back in November 2000, and a wide array of other spiritual experiences that have colored my eleven years in this organization.

But what I’ve posted about Mahikari is only half the story. It was only half of me talking.  

The truth is that the other half of me has had some very serious issues with the organization for quite some time now.  I’m not going to go into details—I see no point in condemning an organization that, despite its flaws, has definitely helped me grow spiritually over the last eleven years.  But those flaws do include things that go against my core values.  I thought for years that the organization would change—there were some signs that it might, but I finally came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t.

I’ve never really been afraid to say within the organization what I honestly think. Several kanbu within Mahikari are well aware of most of my concerns with the organization.  But in the blogosphere, I’ve been publicly concealing my concerns about Mahikari because I’ve felt that the best and most appropriate way to address them is within the organization. After all, my primary goal has been to build and promote the organization.

But no longer.  I am leaving Mahikari.

An astute observer of this website may have noticed a few weeks ago that I removed the page that talked about my reasons for being involved in Mahikari, and later I removed links to the Mahikari organization websites.  I started the blog in part to promote Mahikari, but try as I could, I found it hard to write about that spiritual path.  I think what I was really was doing, even from the beginning nearly two years ago, was to try to rekindle a fire that was dying and perhaps already dead.  I wanted to write and express myself, but more and more, I found that I couldn’t talk about Mahikari anymore, to close friends or to anyone.

I just can’t hide this fact from my readers anymore.  I have probably written literally thousands of pages in my journals sorting out my feelings about the organization. What has been on this blog has been only a small portion of me, and I’ve been remarkably silent, especially in the last few weeks.  The reality is that a lot of things have been going on with me, a lot of things that I consider to be exciting and revolutionary.  Walls are crumbling within me and it feels very liberating.

As these changes progressed within me, I began, a couple of months ago, to open some books on the Baha’i Faith that have been sitting on my bookshelf for nearly two decades. I seriously considered the Baha’i Faith at the end of the 80’s, but for various reasons chose not to go in that direction. But now I’ve started going to the Madison Baha’i Center to participate in the devotionals and some study classes.  We’ll see what comes of it.  

One thing I’ve noticed recently is that since I’ve started seriously considering this change, my prayers have become more genuine and whole-hearted. At one point my prayers were ritualistic and literally on automatic pilot. Occasionally I would even fall asleep while praying. Now I am no longer going through the motions in my prayers, and it’s gotten to the point where I look forward to them every morning and evening.  

I wanted to hide my feelings about Mahikari until I was sure, absolutely sure of my decision to leave.  Right now I am quite sure. I also accept that I will never be absolutely sure about anything.  I am re-opening a door I closed eighteen years ago and I’m discovering new treasure inside. I had very good reasons for closing that door at the end of 1989 just as I have very good reasons for opening that door at the end of 2007.  As such, I can’t completely rule out Mahikari or any other path in the future, either.  But my reasons for leaving Mahikari are very sound, and I have little doubt in my mind that it’s the right thing to do.

If you are considering Mahikari as a spiritual path, I can’t tell whether you should get involved or not—that’s a personal choice. I did grow spiritually through my involvement in the organization. I would, however, suggest that any visitor to a Mahikari center or who receives light energy from a Mahikari member should pay close attention to what s/he sees and hears.  Ask a lot of questions.  Then ask more questions.  And if Mahikari members start to get uncomfortable with your questions, politely ask even more of them.

In the meantime, I am not going to join other ex-members in slamming the organization.  I am leaving Mahikari with many fond memories. But those are all in the past.

And now it’s time for me to move on…

when i grow old, my blog shall wear purple

Soundtrack:  Ashley MacIsaac, "Sleepy Maggie"

Anyway, I was looking around and found this funny little survey that asked "What Color Should Your Blog Be?"  I like the current color scheme as it is, but if I ever get in the mood for re-decorating, I’ll consider the sage wisdom below:

 


Your Blog Should Be Purple


You’re an expressive, offbeat blogger who tends to write about anything and everything.
You tend to set blogging trends, and you’re the most likely to write your own meme or survey.
You are a bit distant though. Your blog is all about you – not what anyone else has to say.

oh yah, i’m really in the zeitgeist now

Soundtrack in my head:  The White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army"

Sometimes when I tell people I have a blog, I feel like I immediately get put into a category with teeny-boppers who hang out at Hot Topic and listen to My Chemical Romance over and over again.  To test myself, (and to set the record straight), I took a quiz that asked how much I knew about blogging.  Unlike the weight quiz mentioned a couple of posts ago, this one is dead-on accurate.

 


Well, You Know What a Blog Is…


You got 4/8 correct!

But, truthfully, most blogs probably bore you.

feedback is not just an eight-minute song by the grateful dead

Soundtrack in my head: Grateful Dead, “Feedback”

Okay, so I admit it. I was initially ambivalent about allowing people to post comments on this site—partially because I didn’t quite know how to use the comments function on Squarespace, and partially because I didn’t know how to protect my site from spam-bots and people wanting to use my space for their own political platforms, whatever those might be. But now I’ve got a better sense now of how those functions work.

I just want to write something I believe in and believe should be out there in cyberspace someplace. But I’ve realized that publishing in a vacuum is fun for only so long. What I’m saying is that I want to hear from you, gentle reader. There are at least two of you stopping by every hour. I know I have dozens of people tapping my RSS and XML feeds. What draws you here? What keeps you coming back? What resonates with you? Do you have something to add to what I’m saying? I may take your comments to heart, or I may completely ignore you, but at least I’ll have more information than before.

Now I’ve got it set up so that all you have to do enter a name and some text—you don’t have to register your email address or join Blogger or do any of that. The only catch is that I must approve your post, so be nice. Or you can also email me through the site—a friend of mine tested it long ago and it works beautifully.

By the way, in case you’re wondering about the Grateful Dead reference, the song is the second to last track on “Live Dead.” And we bid you goodnight…