Monday, June 09, 2008
Cool Debut Album
A friend sent me a set of instructions to create my own debut album, and the results came out really nicely (although I had a bit of a struggle posting the photo here). Check it out, and create your own.
ETH Zurich: To Music and Silence
Want your own debut? Here's the instructions
1 - Go to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.
I got ETH Zurich, a science and technology university in Switzerland.
2 - Go to Random Quotations: www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of
your first album.
From Edith Sitwell, "My personal hobbies are reading, listening to music, and silence". I personally would have used 3 words, Music and Silence, but so be it.
If you want to do this again, you'll have to hit refresh to generate
new quotes, because clicking the quotes link again will just give you
the same quotes over and over again.
3 - Go to flickr's "explore the last seven days"
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/34989657@N00/2557184007/. This was hard to paste over, but the photo is from Gabriele Lopez, and it's awesome, especially in pristine format. Check the link and see more of his stuff, he really has talent.
Put it all together, that's your debut album.
Posted by Scottage at 4:10 PM /
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Today I’m weary beyond words. Perhaps it’s the hard work I put in all semester to pick up grades in grad school. Maybe it’s the difficulty I’ve had sleeping of late. It may be the emotional stress of watching the people I love the most detach from me. Or maybe it’s the unknown issue that my subconscious knows but I have not realized yet.
But regardless of the reason, my exhaustion grows. I went to two meetings today; the first I could barely stay awake in, the second; I couldn’t even achieve that, falling asleep constantly and waking up nearly immediately, falling over in my chair and letting out occasional snores.
I long to talk to my best friend about this, but she needs her space. It would be wonderful to have her say something comforting, to tell me that it’s all going to be ok, but that’s not my, destiny for today. It would be great to have a family to lean on, but that is not my destiny either. Today, I have my higher power, my steps and my fellowship, and that is all.
Even as I type this my eyes close. I grow weary with the weight of all that has befallen me. Part of me thinks my load would be lightened by a drink, but I know that a short time later my payload would be tripled. I need to use these tools, and deal with the task at hand. That is my destiny for today.
I admit it, I’m scared to close my eyes, scared of the darkness, scared of never waking up again, a path that was so welcome for so long, and that I fight against today. But I must close my eyes, staying alert is no longer a question of will, there is a will all its own. And I must submit to it. I am powerless!
And so I close my eyes, and the darkness closes in around me. Maybe for tonight, maybe for longer. Maybe it will be the darkness of sleep, maybe it will be the darkness of loneliness, and maybe it will be the darkness of death. But the darkness is here, no matter what I say. The darkness surrounds me, consumes me. And though I pray for light, darkness is all I find.
Posted by Scottage at 3:07 AM /
Saturday, December 29, 2007
I was told the story of the monkey traps the other day in a meeting the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What bobbles have trapped me in my life? What insignificant trinkets lead me towards certain destruction?
In Africa, monkey hunters will take a coconut and drill a hole in it, wide enough to fit a monkey’s open hand, but not wide enough for a monkey’s clenched fist. The coconut is anchored to a tree, and a shiny object is put inside the coconut, normally something like a worthless pebble.
Time and time again, the monkey comes along, sees the shiny object, and has to have it. He sticks his hand in the coconut with ease, grabs the trinket, and now is trapped. He is unwilling to let go of the shiny object, despite the growing fear of being trapped. Even when the hunters show up to gather the caught monkey, he won’t let go of his prize.
Now, I know people talk up this evolution thing, but I’m not far up on the evolutionary ladder from the monkey. There are quite a few trinkets which, upon taking hold of, I will not let go, even as they lead to my demise.
At first, I thought the trinkets were drugs and alcohol, consistent plagues in my life. Yet, on further reflection, these are more aspects of the trap, probably the tree, holding me in place once the trap has been triggered. No, the trinket I must have is subtler than this, though worth much more.
I almost thought that women were the object of my desire, and here I was closer. But this was a superficial view, as I could not see the forest through the trees. Yes, women are a huge part of the attraction inside the coconut, but they are more the shine than the object itself, and other shines are available as well.
No, I discovered my shiny object is acceptance! Acceptance by a woman, acceptance by a group, a feeling of belonging, a feeling like I’m not an outcast, like I’m not hated, here lies my shiny bobble, and for that feeling I would remained trapped for the rest of my life without even fretting any potential ramifications.
For that special feeling of not being alone in the world, of not being isolated or unloved, I would take any risk, whether it is being trapped by the tree or at the mercy of my addictions. Because the feeling of emptiness that comes with being alone is a fate worse than death in my perception.
Today that is changing. I am beginning to feel a bit more comfortable being alone. I am also just starting to realize that I may belong, that I may be accepted, more than I truly understand. Slowly but surely, I can resist that trap, because I know that I already have what’s in the coconut.
Yeah, sometimes my paw still gets caught. Yes, sometimes I’m put at peril as I seek out the close friends or the overall acceptance that I’ve always wanted for myself. But more and more, I see that by not needing the trinket in the hole, it comes to me on its own.
Posted by Scottage at 9:44 AM /
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Inequality: A Rape Victim Shows How Saudi Arabian Women Face Constant Injustice
I try to keep an open mind when it comes to alternative religious and political agendas, and to remember that just because another culture’s morals don’t match my moral convictions doesn’t mean that culture is necessarily evil or wrong; it just means we have different perspectives.
Still, this headline challenges my desire to be open minded!
A woman, in Saudi Arabia, who was engaged at the time to a man she had never met, was gang raped
by seven men over a year ago. But worse yet, she has been brutalized again, this time by the Saudi Arabian government, who has punished her in multiple ways for being attacked.
The saga begins with a 18-year-old Saudi Arabian woman preparing for her arranged marriage and relocation to the United States with a 24-year-old Muslim American business man. The woman was contacted by a man claiming to have pictures of her, and requiring blackmail to return the photos. The photos were not compromising in nature, but were embarrassing, and the woman agreed to pay to keep her family’s honor intact.
She agreed to meet the blackmailer to purchase the photo. They met at a mall in Qatif, and were preparing for the exchange when a group of seven men abducted the pair from the mall. The woman was raped by all of the men, while the blackmailer was left untouched. At present the blackmailer has not been linked to the attack, and remains a free man.
The trial, in October of 2006, was a perfect example of the victim being on trial. She was forced to wait through the proceedings in a room with the rapists, who made offensive gestures at her regularly. One of the three judges had an issue with her lawyer, a human rights activist Abdulrahman al-Lahim, and eventually removed him from the trial, leaving her without a lawyer.
The seven men were sentenced to between 10 months and five years in prison for the attack. But surprisingly, the woman was also sentenced to 90 lashes for having met with an unrelated male, clearly indicting the woman for her own rape
Al-Lahim felt that the punishment of the seven men was too short, indicating the attack constitutes Hiraba, or sinful violent crimes, and the punishment should be death, as indicated by the standing fatwa (edict) against Hiraba. Al-Lahim filed an appeal under these grounds, not even addressing the injustice of the woman’s lashes.
The court did not take the same attitude. They extended the prison sentences of the rapists to between two and nine years, nearly doubling the prison sentences for the attackers. But the court also doubled the sentence of the woman, giving her 200 lashes and a six month prison sentence, citing her contact with the media regarding the case. Al-Lahim has been stripped of his license to practice law, and faces a judiciary ethics hearing. Saudi Arabia
maintains many strict Islamic laws with regards to the rights of women. They must maintain a strict dress code, they aren’t allowed to drive, and require permission from a man to travel or have surgery. They are not allowed to testify in court except when not observed by a man, and they are not permitted to vote.
The Saudi government claims to have bettered the situation for women by creating courts to handle domestic abuse cases, creating labor law for woman workers, and establishing a human rights commission. And I admit these are all good steps. But in my mind, people are people, and everyone should be equal, and that includes women.
Of course, here’s where I find it difficult to maintain my belief that each culture has a right to its own beliefs. Fundamentally, I believe that no government has the right to pass laws that make any individual a second class citizen simply because of characteristics outside their control, such as religion, skin color, or sex. But I also have to admit that my values do not necessarily carry over into other cultures.
So where is the line? At what point do we say that something is a fundamental truth and must be recognized in all cultures, where as other things are variables that every culture has the right to decide on for them selves. All I do know definitively is that I am not qualified to define that line, though I can comment when I believe that one culture has crossed it.
Posted by Scottage at 3:18 PM /
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
When Fear Trumps Freedom
The House overwhelmingly passed HR1955, The Violent Radicalization of Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, sending this very controversial bill to the Senate. The loose definitions, unchecked appointments and broad powers provided by this bill make it potentially the most dangerous attack on freedom in the United States since the country’s conception.
HR 1955 has been developed under the basic conception that there is an equal or greater risk of a terrorist attack from a US citizen as there is from a foreign national, and that the government has to protect against this possibility. That makes a great deal of sense to me. This country is a melting pot, where individual loyalties differ greatly, and individuals may and will use terrorism to advance their political agenda.
But while an argument can definitely be made for safeguards against domestic terrorism, care has to be taken that these safeguards do not change the fundamental nature of our freedom. This is certainly not the case here.
HR 1955 utilizes very loose definitions
on the threats to American society, so that nearly anything can be investigated. The bill utilizes this definition of violent radicalization: “The process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system to advance political, religious, or social change.”
This definition, upon which the bill is centered, is loose enough to include nearly any activity where people question the standing government. While the name mentions violence, the definition does not. So promoting a political party other than the party in power could fit in this definition. Promoting the morals of a given religion would also be taboo. Basically, anything which disrupts the status quo could merit investigation.
Under this definition, I would be worthy of investigation for a few reasons. As a Jew, I represent a different morality than Christianity, and some fundamentalist Christians (who do have a say in the current power structure) would consider that extreme. As a democrat, I certainly would be seen as maintaining a disparate belief system than the sitting government. Thus, I merit investigation under this definition.
The bill indicates
a 10-person panel will be created to investigate these potential threats, as well as a “center for excellence”. However, these appointments will be made by the sitting president and director of homeland security, without peer review. This is fraught with danger, as a president can essentially create a panel that represents any ideology he wants to promote to police the entire society.
Plus, this panel will have extraordinary power
, as it will be allowed to order surveillance on any individual, institute wire tapping and monitoring, and even detain individuals indefinitely without a hearing or even charges being pressed. Thus, if you happen to have a different set of views as the sitting government, they can have you investigated and ultimately plucked out of society without you having committed an overt act.
To me, this bill smacks of McCarthyism. It provides the government with a powerful tool to attack any dissenters, and has the potential to be utilized by any government to retain power by eliminating any real opposition. It threatens democracy at its core, and can’t help but remind me of Cold War Russia, where individuals were afraid to speak their own opinions for fear of being detained by the KGB.
I agree wholeheartedly that there is a growing threat of terrorism from US citizens, and that action should be taken to help prevent that. But at what point have we destroyed what makes our society great to protect it from our adversaries? When do we realize that terrorists have won simply by eliminating the freedom we hold dear? This bill threatens what America stands for, and provides a clear and present danger to the vision of our forefathers.
Posted by Scottage at 11:02 AM /
Monday, November 19, 2007
And the Weight Lifts…
I never imagined the workload of going back to school. Papers sometimes as long as 30 pages, hundreds of pages of reading every week, and this eternal feeling like, if I just spent a bit longer, worked a bit harder, I might do better in class, and achieve my goals. It all takes on a huge meaning in my eyes, probably much greater than it should.
Add on the responsibility of a new class to teach, two new jobs, the growing pains of the radio station, and the daily work that goes into recovery, and I’ve got quite a bit on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions that I have the toughest schedule around, or that my life is at all more hectic than so many people out there. But I do feel the additional pressures, and they weigh on me.
Today was the last day of teaching for a couple weeks. I also have no classes this week, leaving me for the first time in a while with none of the responsibilities that play a constant role in my life. And as a result, I feel this tremendous weight taken off my shoulders. I know the weight will be back in a week, but for this week, it feels great!
This short pause is giving me a moment to look back at what I’ve accomplished over the past few months, and how far I’ve come. I feel stronger than I ever have, I’m really enjoying life with a clear head, and my new career path puts me in a position to really make a difference in people’s lives for the first time in my life. Beyond my wildest dreams!
Of course there have been disappointments along the way. I’ve felt alone during this period, spending a ton of time by myself. I don’t get to blog as much as I used to, or to get my feelings out, and frankly I love to write. Plus, I just don’t get the time to stop and enjoy the little things in life like I used to. So during this short break I’m going to work at all of those facets of my life.
The truth is that when I come back to classes in two weeks, I only have 3 weeks left in the semester. What’s more, I have a bit more than a week before I reach the year point in my recovery, a major milestone that I’ve been looking forward to.
The hope is that after I pass these milestones, I’ll have a better understanding of what it takes to succeed at all my tasks, and be able to find a better balance. So in many ways, I see the light at the end of the tunnel as I head in to the end of the semester. But I’m very thankful to have a week here to enjoy some of the aspects of life that haven’t been addressed as much over the past few months. And this is a total blessing!
Posted by Scottage at 3:07 AM /
Thursday, October 25, 2007
A Bit of Help Please
Tonight I’m going to make a plea for some assistance. As many of you know, I got into a masters program at the University of Rochester on a non-matriculating basis. I am going back to school in drug and alcohol counseling, as I work towards a career change that I hope will allow me to help many other people who suffer from the same disease I do.
I am now applying for matriculating status, a necessity if I am to continue on my path. As a result, I have to turn in an application next Thursday for full acceptance into this program from the University of Rochester. As a result, I must write a 2-4 page personal statement, addressing my goals, future plans, experiences, etc. This is where you come in.
It is recommended that I find as many people as possible to review this essay before submitting it, and as such I’m hoping that my friends here on MySpace will help review the personal statement. It should be completed sometime tonight or tomorrow, and at that time I would like to send it to anyone who wouldn’t mind reviewing it and sending back some comments.
Don’t feel obligated at all. I know that everyone here leads busy lives, and that most don’t have a whole lot of spare time. But if you have a few minutes and could help review my personal statement, please let me know here, and I’ll send it your direction as soon as it’s completed.
Thank you in advance for all your help, and I look forward to whatever viewpoints and suggestions you can provide.
All the best,
Posted by Scottage at 1:53 AM /
The Value of Peer Support Networks in Recovery
In one of my classes, my main project is to create a mock research proposal studying one area of interest to me. I have decided to study the affects of peer support on recovery from addiction.
My theory is simple: I believe that people in recovery programs, such as alcoholics anonymous, have a much better chance of staying sober if they develop peer support groups that meet outside of the meeting. If people inside of the rooms can develop groups of friends from inside the rooms, and if these groups spend time together outside of meetings, all members will have a better chance of remaining sober.
This has certainly been true to some extent in my program. When I first came into the program, there were a group of us that would go out to dinner 4 or 5 nights a week. We would talk about life, about our challenges, and about what we had heard in the meeting that night. Occasionally we would do other activities, like going to hear live music or heading to the renaissance fair. And I always felt I could call these people in a pinch.
At about 4 months, my best friend in the program moved away, and the three women from the group decided to focus on spending time with other women. As my support network collapsed, it was only a couple weeks before I relapsed. This is not to say that it was anyone’s fault that I relapsed, but I think that the support network certainly helped me stay sober.
After my relapse, I developed a new support group which included people with varying lengths of sobriety. Now the old-timers were able to help people younger in the program, like myself. We helped each other, going to meals, reading together, hitting a wide variety of meetings, and always available to one another.
Another group of people I know came into the program at the same time, all of them in their late 20s or 30s. They go to meals, have small parties, celebrate anniversaries, and are there for each other all the time. Each 1 year anniversary has met with the whole group getting together to celebrate and support each other, and they are in constant communication.
In my first group, the 3 women just passed their one year anniversary. My best friend, who moved to Memphis, found his own group down there, and passed two years recently. Only I relapsed. In the new group that formed, all 6 of us have stayed sober since then. Despite some troubled times, we all have each other to lean on, and have remained sober. And in the other group mentioned, 11 people have passed the one year mark over the past 6 months, and none have relapsed.
Considering the statistics we hear in the room constantly, 1 in 35 people remaining sober in the program, it seems more than apparent that people with strong peer support networks are able to maintain their sobriety better than people who only spend time with other people in recovery while in the rooms.
Anyway, these are my observations, and I hope one day to show the importance of peer support networks, and to help people realize the importance of these networks in their programs. What do you think? How have these networks helped your program? I’m looking forward to your thoughts.
Posted by Scottage at 1:52 AM /
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
While I Wasn’t Looking, Happiness Snuck Up On Me
It’s been nearly a week now that I’ve been down in the dumps, with a million things, some minor, some major, weighing on my mind. I had almost thought I had forgotten how to smile. But when I stopped pressing, stopped looking for the answer to my troubles, the answer appeared on its own.
The feeling wasn’t completely unprompted. I’ve been praying more, and not for my angst to be removed, but for understanding of God’s will and the strength to do it. I wrote a blog post and spoke at a meeting, fighting pride to experience the relief of owning up to my feelings. I met with my sponsor today, which is always a positive experience, examining the issues in depth. I even chaired a meeting, hopefully helping another person.
But perhaps the biggest thing I did was focus my attention away, ceasing to look at the problems in my life and simply accepting them as exactly the way God meant it to be this week. I taught, I read for class, read my big book, catalogued songs in my music library for my radio station, made speaker disks for my home group, reached out to other members of the fellowship. It was a busy day, but a productive day as well.
And as I sat down for a chat meeting with the other owners of my radio station, an amazing thing happened: I laughed! Not the forced laugh that you do to make someone feel like you’re alright, but the belly laugh that comes naturally and unbidden. One owner, who was on the phone with me, was startled, and said it was about time she heard that. I couldn’t agree more.
I guess that’s the trick; the less I focus on the issues that plague me, the more I accept life on life’s terms, the happier I am. The big book says that “acceptance is the answer to all my problems today”, and I feel myself being more accepting all the time. But perhaps the lesson I needed from this past week was a further lesson in acceptance, a lesson which I received loud and clear.
I’m heading to bed now, and I couldn’t be happier!
Posted by Scottage at 2:37 AM /
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Grad School Meets Life – Escaping My Story
As many people know, I’ve gone back to school, to a masters program to become a addiction counselor, and in a short time I’ve come to understand that a great deal of what I learn will really pertain to my own life, and open some doors for me that my program may never have addressed. This week, one of those doors into my soul was opened, and I learned something crucial about myself. So I’m going to share it with you.
I’m reading a book by William C. Madsen on Collaborative Therapy, and its fascinating reading. Madsen indicates that each person, healthy or sick, creates a story for themselves. The story defines the teller, determines the teller’s reality. It is the image a person chooses to project to the people around him, and it may be more or less accurate depending on the person. Regardless, it’s how the person sees himself.
The individual has many experiences, the events that comprise his life. Naturally, the person determines which of these experiences to include in his story, which fit in with the person he’s trying to be. An experience outside of the scope of the story will be forgotten. And an experience inside the scope of the story will be retold, perhaps even stretched to reinforce or enhance the person’s story.
But here’s the thing, and this really got inside my head; once the person has determined his story, and found the experiences that fit with his story, he may unconsciously shape future experiences to jive with his story as well.
OK, a bit confusing, right? I’ll use myself as an example, and maybe it will come clearer.
When I was young, I was in a car accident; the accident nearly killed both my sister and I, but we both survived. Before that I had been an athlete, but following the accident I was told I would never walk again, let alone run. At that time, all I had worked for was removed from me, and I took on the role of the victim. That was my story, and now, looking back, I see that many times my feeling the victim influenced the outcome of experiences I faced.
Alternatively, I could have recognized that, but for a small miracle, I would be dead, and be grateful for the gift of life. If I had taken this perspective, I think that my life would have been very different to date. For one thing, I have had many near-death incidents since then, and since my story was that I was cursed, these experiences became examples of my being cursed. They could have instead been examples of my being blessed, as I see them now.
The crazy thing is, I always thought that, to get out of my story, I needed to look at the events in my life and find their roots. But Madsen disagrees. He believes that, to change our story, we have to find our goal, how we want our lives to be, and then work to make our experiences fit into this story. Individual incidents do get analyzed, but with an eye towards the long-term goals and the story we want to tell.
This is what I’m working towards today. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not there yet. But I see where my story has dictated my perception of the experiences that have befallen me, and thus influenced the outcome of these experiences. I am learning to rethink my story, and to reshape my experiences to fit the story I want to tell as my life. And this is a step in the right direction.
How about you? What is your story, and how has it affected the events in your life, and the way you perceive yourself? Looking at this may provide great insights on your life and the role you’ve played in events you thought you had no part in, just like it has provided me with these insights. Who knows, it may even help you find a story that is beyond your wildest dreams. That is rapidly becoming my story today, and I couldn’t be happier!
Posted by Scottage at 1:44 AM /
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Radio Station Comes to Life: An Awesome Weekend!
On August 8th, having not heard from my co-owner in months, amidst serious technical issues that couldn’t be resolved without some passwords held by the co-owner, bleeding money and watching our streaming company shut their doors, BigDawgRadio shut its doors, and Caravan Radio was born. We didn’t have the name then, but we had a team, a theme, and a goal. And that was far more than we had before.
Caravan was based on the premise that we would be a team of equals, working together towards the creating of a truly unique station. The station would feature a variety of genres, with a variety of live DJs to engage the listener. And that is the key, as far as we were concerned; a radio station totally for the listeners and all about the listeners, with requests, dedications, chat rooms, interactions, and just a generally good time for all.
And this weekend, that is exactly what we had! Live DJs all day and evening all 3 days, double digit listeners the whole time, the chat rooms packed, and request after request after request. For me, it was totally a blast. I would go into the chat rooms, and all these people would welcome me, joke with me and make me feel welcome. For a person who has difficulty socializing and winds up as a loner most of the time, it was awesome!
Sure, it didn’t go perfectly. We had so many listeners that we exceeded our transfer quota at one point, and had to contact someone from our hosting company to get the stream working again. And there were slight slips along the way, like me finishing one show with the same song that the next DJ started with, or one of my fellow DJs calling the station by the old name, BigDawgRadio. But none of it mattered; it was a ton of fun.
Plus, this is just the beginning. We have more in the works, and it seems like every day is a new adventure. We have new DJs starting to enter into the mix. We’re talking about contests and games. And now we’re even putting together a technology that will allow users to call into a show and go on the air using a program called Skype. It’s free, and listeners can make their own dedications to other listeners.
So it’s exciting, exciting the way any brand new project should be. I love the new station, and all the people who are working with me to make it a reality. It’s an awesome environment, and I’m so glad to be a part of it. And it all really started to come to fruition this past weekend. Does it get any better than that?
Posted by Scottage at 12:25 AM /
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Hatred and Intolerance
If it’s one thing I just don’t get, its blind hatred. I can understand meeting someone and not liking them. I can even understand not liking what a person stands for or their principles. But how can a person hate another person just because of their race, creed, religion or color? Why hurt a person just because they are different?
I try to practice acceptance today, because without acceptance I’m doomed to relive the expectations that will eventually lead me to my destruction. Sometimes that’s harder than others, and sometimes I may not have expectations but desires for how I would like things to work out. But without fail I’m unable to handle blind hatred.
Tonight I was confronted with hatred in pretty brutal fashion. A person on a message board I frequent was offending many people, and I talked to him a bit about acceptance for other people’s perspectives. His response was this:
I hope you know that wearing black out in the sunlight doesn’t make you look thin. Gluttony is a sin. Even for Jews. Don't presume to know what Jesus thought you arrogant fatman.
You do not respect my beliefs. You Jews killed Jesus and you hate Christians. Just like we hate you. I thought Hitler gassed you fuckers. You probably got away because there wasn't an oven big enough for you.
Jesus didn't have a problem prostelatizing, its what got him killed you idiot. What he was against was the church using religion and control to keep people from knowing God. Think twice before you open your big mouth next time.
I was devastated by it. I knew that I should be able to ignore him, that he has problems and I should not by into his issues. And yet it got to me. It ruined my mood, effected me all evening, brought back various times I had been persecuted in my life for being Jewish and that feeling of being less than just for being myself.
It had already been a tough day for some other reasons, and I was wrecked. It got inside my head, and I couldn’t stop the squirrel circling in the cage. I wanted someone to just tell me it was going to be alright, that I would be alright, that I am alright despite what this person thinks, but that was not in the cards for tonight.
And maybe that’s the lesson I need to learn: to be able to tell myself that I’m alright. But it isn’t happening, at least not yet. Not through prayer, through helping other members of my fellowship, not even through a meal with friends. I just can’t seem to get it out of my head, and even now I sit up in the middle of the night thinking about his words.
Somehow I need to learn to deal with this blind hatred. Somehow I need to learn how to tune out people who haven’t taken the time to hear who I am beyond the most superficial aspects of my life. And if I can do that, if I can accomplish that goal, I think I’ll live a happier, healthier, more serene life.
Posted by Scottage at 2:47 AM /
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Back to School
Tonight was my first class in my masters program, and I must say, it was an amazing experience.
I haven’t been a student for 17 years, so it was scary walking into that room, book bag in hand, to study a topic that is so divergent from any I’ve studied before. The move from business to counseling is a huge move, and many times the terminology was as foreign to me as any of the languages I’ve learned over the years.
But after a short amount of time I began to realize just how wonderful and exciting it is to again be in an environment where everyone is learning. During class, we looked at the topic, critical research in proving social theories, from a variety of different perspectives, and discussed the various ramifications of different methodologies. What fun!
After class, a group of us walked together for a bit, and discussed some of the material from class. We were excited by the subject matter, and wanted to better understand what we had heard and learned. Soon the subject of our discussion was much broader than the class’ scope and far more satisfying as well.
Yes, I found myself somewhat behind the class because of my lack of experience or education in a related field. And yes, it was odd being much older than the vast majority of the class. But moving back into a realm of higher learning was invigorating, and I am truly excited to see where it will lead me.
So I’m a student again. It’s scary, but it’s fun; in all, it’s beyond my wildest dreams!
Posted by Scottage at 1:35 AM /
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Practicing What I Preach: Acceptance
On of the key goals of my sobriety has been to be more accepting. I am learning, often the hard way, that it is none of my business what others think of me, that I am powerless over the events happening around me, and that the more I accept, the happier I am. There has been some times recently where my acceptance has been put to the test.
Last night, I was having an amazing evening. I had a long conversation with my mother, a sign of a new level of communication between us, which included an amazing and unexpected complement. I worked with a couple of newcomers in my fellowship and really felt like I made a difference; one asked me to sponsor him. I cooked a great dinner for a great friend, Indian food, and it came out perfectly. Life was great!
And then the call came!
The number on the cell phone was withheld, and when I first picked it up I couldn’t understand the person on the other end of the phone. A couple times I asked for the person to speak clearer, and finally indicated that I was going to hang up. Then the voice came through loud and clear: stupid kike! It said. I was called a money grubbing Jew, a Christ killer, and that I deserved to die.
It was like I was paralyzed, stuck in my tracks. As the person hung up, I couldn’t move. I was overwhelmed; I didn’t know how to process the call. I have experienced anti-Semitism before, it’s certainly nothing new to me at all, but so many times I’ve pushed my feelings down with alcohol and drugs. Now I was feeling it. Now I was going through the pain instead of going around it. And believe me, it hurt.
Consciously I knew that this was out of my control, and I just have to accept it. Some are sicker than others, and it is none of my business what others think of me. But that wasn’t what I was feeling at all. What I was feeling was fear, and hatred, and self-loathing at my weakness. I was jumping to conclusions as to who made the call, and immediately taking their inventory. It was like I had done no work on myself at all over this year.
By myself, I think that I could have slipped back to my old ways, maybe not to using, but certainly to old attitudes and old behaviors, and that can’t be healthy. But instead, the people in my fellowship rallied around me, and helped support me. I can’t tell you why I felt so weak, or why I needed to be supported, but they were there for me, and helped me move back towards the new Scott, the person I want to be.
Every day I feel like I am growing, learning, becoming a better person, and so much of that has to do with the people around me. I have great friends and wonderful people in the fellowship. I care for and love so many people around me today, not only because of who they are but because of who they help me to be. With their help, I am getting better each day at practicing what I preach.
Image from Danny Sheffield
Posted by Scottage at 2:09 AM /
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Capote and the Good and Evil in My Soul
I just watched a film called Capote, about author Truman Capote and his book “In Cold Blood”. The movie was reminiscent of my favorite author, Stephen King, in that both get a stunningly accurate view of human nature by analyzing the darker side of human nature and comparing it to a more “accepted” values system.
“In Cold Blood” centers on the murder of a family in a sleepy Kansas community that had never been exposed to this type of violence. The movie shows that Capote’s work is a blueprint for understanding the growing divide between the moral and immoral segments of society. And by looking in the face of immorality, it breaks new ground. From the movie:
On the night of November 14th, two men broke into a quiet farmhouse in Kansas and murdered an entire family. Why did they do that? Two worlds exist in this country: the quiet conservative life, and the life of those two men - the underbelly, the criminally violent. Those two worlds converged that bloody night.
I do not believe that society is nearly so black and white. I think that all people have some morality, and all people have some immorality, and we are only talking about degrees. Which, of course, begs the question of what degree of morality or immorality I possess? What’s more, it raises the question of whether the degree of morality can change during the course of an individual’s life. Another quote from the movie:
It's as if Perry [one of the murderers] and I grew up in the same house. And one day he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front.
That one certainly had me thinking. I don’t think I went out the back door at all, but during my years of drinking and drugging, I certainly seemed to have exited a side door, or something of the sort. Hell, maybe I climbed out of a window. Meanwhile, you look at my sister, an extraordinary individual who came out of the same house as I did (though she left before the wicked stepfather entered) and I can’t help but wonder what went wrong.
When Perry finally spoke about the night of the murder, some morality showed through. He never had any intention of killing the family, and when his partner spoke of no witnesses, he hoped the family would be left alive. He tried to make the family as comfortable as possible while tied up. And he prevented his partner from taking advantage of the daughter. But suddenly a look by the father triggered one of Perry’s childhood issues, and almost unconsciously he began killing the family.
Similarly, I often felt that I knew right from wrong. But when my issues are triggered, I find myself powerless to do the right thing. Does the fact that my actions are triggered from childhood issues make me not responsible for my actions? Absolutely not, as Capote shows with the death sentence being carried out upon the two murderers. But I can see where they come from, and what will happen if I don’t change my ways, and exit by the correct door now.
I think that, in general, I’m a good person. But the good hasn’t always won out over the evil in this journey of my life. Each day I need to strive to be a better person, and to improve upon my role in this world. And maybe, one day, I can find the front door, and join my sister in being a strong and moral contributor to the world.
Image from The Zippy Catholic
Posted by Scottage at 1:54 AM /
Friday, August 24, 2007
Caravan Radio Coming To Life
One of my projects, perhaps the project I enjoy the most, is the creating of a radio station, called Caravan Radio
. We have been building it for a month or so, after our last station had to fold. Finally, the station is coming together.
Today, we got back several of our key DJs, and that was a huge step forward. The goal is to have live DJs every night, representing different genres, but all being responsive to the listeners with requests, dedications, basically making it the listeners’ station. Now, getting back these DJs, we will be able to cover all nights, as well as covering a broad range of musical genres. That’s great stuff!
Plus, we have just commissioned a firm to do the last work on our web site. Request pages are on the way, where you will be able to go to a page, see all the song in a particular DJ’s library, and choose the song you want to hear. If there is no live DJ, the song will come on automatically in a few minutes. If there is a live DJ, he’ll work the song into the mix.
Plus, we’re adding Skype to our software, allowing listeners to call in to a particular radio show and go on the air. We’ll also be able to have two DJs interacting with the Skype system, which will really enhance shows like the Monday Love Line, where DJs address the love issues of our listeners from both a male and female perspective. And dedications will be great with Skype, with listeners sending personal messages to other listeners.
It’s a really exciting time, and I’m very excited to see it coming together. Hopefully, Labor Day weekend or the weekend after will be our grand opening, though we’re already broadcasting now. And soon enough, my goals and the goals of the team will be realized, as Caravan Radio becomes the station we all hope it can be.
This really is a labor of love, and I’m psyched it’s coming together. If you feel like being part of the family, tune in, we’d love to have you. Caravan Radio
: Where the Music is a Journey!
Posted by Scottage at 1:49 AM /
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Feel Like You Belong?
I was at a meeting tonight where a topic is picked from a basket and everyone comments on it. The topic picked was “Feel Like You Belong?” At first, I thought it was asking if I felt like I belonged at that particular meeting, which I was already questioning. But soon I realized this was a more general question: Do I feel like I belong? Do I fit in? And the question was far more complex for me than I would have ever imagined.
My first thought is that I never feel like I belong; I always feel like a misfit, like I’m just a bit different from all the other people around me, that I’m never comfortable in any situation. But that’s not exactly the truth, and true growth is only going to come from rigorous honesty.
The truth is that I desperately want to fit in, and as time goes on I fit in more and more. However, when it appears I’m starting to fit in I sabotage my efforts and fitting in, and separate myself. Now that I look at it, I could fit in if I wanted to, and consciously I think that I want to. But part of me won’t let myself fit in, won’t let myself be comfortable.
Probably my earliest memories are of kindergarten. During recess, the boys and the girls would go out to the yard, and the boys would chase the girls around. I determined that the boys were wrong for doing this, so I started to defend the girls, separating myself from the group.
I had no idea at that time, but I was a natural leader. Soon, two of the boys started helping me, protecting the girls. Then there were five boys, and then ten. Pretty soon there were twenty-five boys protecting the girls and ten chasing them, and I was clearly leading the protectors. That was the cue for me to leave the game and start playing a new game by myself. The kids followed me to that game, and again I moved on. And so on.
Another great example was my move to Israel. For those of you who don’t know, there are some native English speakers in Israel, but not a ton. You can find pockets of them at the various colleges, but most of the rest are spread out, to some extent. Since us “Americaitz” maintain a serious stigma in Israel, I was destined to be an outcast.
That wasn’t how it worked out, however. Again, people gravitated towards me. Soon, American Jews from all around the country were coming to Tel Aviv to have Shabbat dinner at my apartment, and we would all cook together, and handle the pressures that Israel holds for foreigners. People from outer countries than the States started coming to these dinners, and the New Olim Society was founded.
The only real purpose for the New Olim Society was a bit of fellowship between people in similar situations. We would have dinners, go to the movies, have parties, whatever, just as long as we didn’t have to be alone in the country. More and more of these people were moving to Tel Aviv, and again I belonged, and was even at the center of the group. Of course, that made it the perfect time to move to Jerusalem.
I’ve lived in twenty-six cities over the past fifteen years, most of them pretty dissimilar from my native Philadelphia. In just about all of them I haven’t fit in when I got there, and in each city I’ve become more accepted as time went on, until I did really belong. But once that time arrived, I always felt like, for some reason, it was time for me to move on.
Why do I feel this way? Someone at the meeting suggested that, for him, he resisted fitting in because of low self esteem. It just seemed more natural to him to be an outcast, not worthy of other people’s positive attention. I suppose that is the reason I have resisted belonging as well. For me, being the outcast is comfortable, and being unworthy of acceptance fit in pretty well with my own self-image.
Today, I’ve been living in Rochester, NY for two years, the longest time I’ve spent in one city since college. The city, ironically enough, is beginning to feel like home for me, and I’ve been searching for a home for years. And I do feel like I belong in the recovery community here, which is large, diverse, and I believe filled with amazing and very special people.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, or if I truly have become comfortable enough with myself to feel like I belong anywhere. But without question, tonight was a night of revelations about myself, and a time where I identified a major defect of character that I need to work on. That in and of itself is a huge step forward, and I hope it’s a step I can build upon in the future.
Posted by Scottage at 2:14 AM /
Friday, August 17, 2007
The Director, The Actor….and the Reactor
One of my favorite sections in the Big Book is about the Director and the Actor. It basically says that, as alcoholics, we want to both direct everything going on around us while also being the lead actor in the unfolding drama. The book indicates that often our motives are both good and bad, but that we search for the perfect outcome to every situation, and only fail to find that perfect ending because of the actions of other players.
Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery, and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous, even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.
I was certainly both the director and the lead actor. I considered myself altruistic, trying to make life better for everyone. I thought that if people only followed my script, everyone’s lives would turn out better. I could change the world, one person at a time, if only people would listen to me. And do what I say. And revolve around me. Believe me, this was the height of my self-centeredness.
Yep, I played both roles perfectly. I directed a perfect show, as perfectly scripted as any ever seen. I acted perfectly as well, spectacular pronunciation, always hitting my queues. I was right where I needed to be at all times, doing whatever was necessary to make everything meet my standards. And my standards were nothing short of perfection, always!
Only when I joined AA did I realize that I was wrong just for playing the roles. Control is an illusion, and the more control I exercise, the less happiness I will maintain. Control comes with expectations, and rarely (if ever) are those expectations met. True happiness comes with avoiding expectations, and taking life as it comes. Expectations only lead to resentments and disappointment.
Recently I joined another program called Adult Children of Alcoholics, or ACoA, which is an offshoot of Al-Anon. I didn’t really consider myself a child of an alcoholic, but certainly alcoholism is present in my family, and the traits of the ACoA are traits with are prevalent in me. But a funny thing happened to me during today’s ACoA meeting: I discovered a new role in the play: The Reactor!
For every director and every actor in the plays created by alcoholics, there are a number of other characters, with roles ranging from bit parts to leading roles. Each of these characters is a reactor, reacting to the direction and acting of the alcoholic. The more time a person spends as a reactor to the alcoholic, the more the reactor develops defense mechanisms to deal with the abuse the alcoholic issues out.
These defense mechanisms are the tools we needed to survive our day to day lives. And they are the character attributes that cripple us today. Isolationism. Unease with authority figures. People pleasing and loss of our own identity. These serve us well when reacting to the alcoholic parent, but do they serve us well today?
Living like victims, with guilt, succumbing to the will of others. Letting others take the initiative, terrified of abandonment, addicted to excitement and drama, loving those we can rescue and those we pity, choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood: these are the signs of the reactor! These are the traits of the ACoA.
As an alcoholic, I play the role of the director and the actor. As my program progresses, I do less of that, accepting life as it comes at me, but I’m still far from perfect. I still fall back into those roles. But now I also see that, in so many ways, I play the role of the reactor. It plagues me every day, in every relationship, hell, in every basic interaction.
Only when I get past the traits developed in my role as the reactor will I be able to live the type of serene life that I search for, and have the type of healthy relationships I long for. A new challenge for a new day, right? I will attack this challenge like I have so many others, and maybe one day I will get past this set of inner demons and live a better life.
Posted by Scottage at 1:23 AM /
Monday, August 13, 2007
A friend blogged about expectations tonight, and really it was the perfect topic for me to hear about tonight. I try to avoid expectations like the plague, and I know they will be the death of me in the end, but sometimes they creep into my life. And when they do, they bring me nothing by sorrow.
My expectations are not as grand as my fellow blogger. What it really comes down to is that I want other people to treat me much as I treat them. I try hard to be caring, to help people in need, to be there for those that are hurting, and to be a good friend. So isn’t it fair to expect the same in return?
The truth is that, no, it isn’t fair to expect anything in return.
One of the quotes I hear around the rooms is that if you want to build self esteem, you should do esteemable acts. If you expect something in return, even the smallest thing, then the value of these acts diminishes. And in reality, I wind up feeling ashamed as a result of my expectations, and receive no esteem whatsoever.
Another saying I hear is that expectations are resentments waiting to happen. If I expect things, I am destined to be disappointed. Even the simplest of expectations seem to never come true. But when I can avoid all expectations, and approach situations with no preconceived notion, the results are often beyond my wildest dreams.
Perhaps all I want is a little kindness, a small percentage of the kindness I extend. Maybe I look for some caring, concern about my feelings in times of trouble, as I would do for any other person. Or quite possibly it’s honesty, rigorous honesty, despite the knowledge that I might disapprove, though I rarely would reject an honest plea.
With all these situations, if I had no expectations, my needs may have been met. But instead, my expectations wind up disrupting nice relationships and my own serenity. It hurts the people around me, and myself most of all. And I feel bad for all the people I’ve imposed my expectations upon. I hope they forgive me, as I need to forgive myself.
Posted by Scottage at 1:38 AM /
Friday, August 10, 2007
You’re on a path through the woods, long and wide. So wide you can hardly see one side or the other. It’s beautiful, with overhanging trees and occasional wildlife to amaze you at every stride, should you choose to look.
There are occasional rocks and branches that may trip you up, and beautiful flowers that may make you pause on your journey to admire them. But still the path moves forward, and you keep moving, occasionally running to make up for the time lost.
The path bends and winds. It may move east to west or west to east, but only occasionally does it go north or south. You have no compass, save the whisperings in your minds of directions from others long since forgotten. And though you dwell on the direction your heading, you often forget to ask where you are.
Occasionally there is a small path that seems to appear on the left or right. You have only a small idea of their destination or direction. Some go north and some go south, and you cannot tell which is which. Some are not even paths at all, just figments of your imagination, a fool’s errand waiting to happen.
Then you come to the crossroads, huge and vast. You stand in the center, and cannot even see the roads around you. You spin, trying to get an idea where you came from or where you were heading, but no direction is clear. You want the path that heads north, but have no idea which path that is.
One direction you turn will lead back the way you came, another will move forward in the same direction, maintaining the status quo. Some ways you’ll walk the long distance only to find no path exists, though you may see that before getting to the side of the road. One path will head up, the positive path, and one will head down, seemingly towards disaster.
In the crossroad exists the greatest fear, the true uncertainty. And in the crossroad exists the greatest possibility, the true potential for positive change. We choose our path and move forward, perhaps with the help of a higher power, and hope that we choose a path that leads us to where we want to go.
This is life as I see it, and today I am happy to walk this path. Perhaps I will see you along the path, and maybe we will walk it together, maybe for a short time, maybe for longer. But each step, no matter which direction, is something to be thankful for.
Posted by Scottage at 11:50 AM /