My life still sucks

Dear Diary,

So one of my favourite artists (that I met at Maschinenfest and gave my demo to) just released a new album. This album is on one of my favourite labels (one of the labels that was supposed to release my album, in fact), and is a fairly high-profile release.

This would usually be a good thing. Unfortunately, the first 45 seconds or so of one of the tracks on this album are exactly the same as the first 45 seconds of one of my songs (my best song, in fact).

I emailed the act and the label, and according to the people who wrote the album, we just happened to sample the same sounds from the same place and arrange them in the same order. An “unhappy coincidence”, as one of them put it.

I dug up the extremely-early-and-rough version of my song to see exactly where each of the sounds came from (this song in particular is a collage built almost entirely out of samples), and it would seem that it’s theoretically possible that they went through the same creative process as I did in selecting/assembling the sounds.

Honestly, at this point I don’t even care if they ripped it off on purpose, if it was cosmic synchronicity at work, or if they heard the track and then subconsciously rebuilt it. The most frustrating thing about this is that there’s no way I can release it now. Everyone knows I’m a fan of the artists involved, and everyone knows I listen to everything the label releases. If I put out the track on an album tomorrow, everyone who buys it will think that I’m ripping them off.

I’m so tired of music bullshit already, and I don’t even have a fucking album out.

Groupthink

I haven’t written much about anything that matters lately. I’m not saying that this is going to change or anything, but I’ve been waiting to talk about Leslie posting what happened between her and Ben. I didn’t write about it sooner, because I didn’t think that anyone this is directed at was willing to stop talking long enough to listen, and I didn’t think I had the right words in case they were.

I’m not saying that this has changed or anything. Still, I’m going to try.

If you’re not willing or able to consider someone else’s position on an issue — and I don’t mean tolerate their position, I mean consider, as in actually think about what it is they’re saying — you should skip to the next quiz posted on your friends list and go on with your day.

I’m not writing about what Ben did or didn’t do, or what Leslie should or shouldn’t have done at the time. This post isn’t about who’s lying, or what does and does not constitute a ‘bad person’, or anything at all that happened before Leslie wrote her post. If you want to have a discussion about that, we can do that, but that’s not what this is.

This is about how people have treated her for speaking out.

First, it amazes me that so many people immediately made this a partisan Us-vs-Them issue. Leslie didn’t post a tirade about how Ben is a horrible human being and you should never talk to him or go to his place and hey let’s get on with the lynching — in fact, she described him as someone who was trying to be a good person who had control issues. She didn’t once said anything shitty about him as a person, she only spoke negatively about his actions. She didn’t tell people they shouldn’t be his friend. She didn’t ask people not to go to his party. She didn’t suggest that he should be exiled from The Scene with a backpack, a shotgun and a horse – she didn’t even suggest that Eugene should take any action against him at this point.

Think I’m exaggerating? Go look. I’ll wait.

Even from a purely semantic point of view, this is as far away from confrontational and aggressive as you can get, especially given the subject matter. Regardless, people talk angrily about how Leslie is righteously issuing demands of people from her lofty ivory tower DJ booth, and who does she think she is telling people to abandon their friends?

Leslie wrote in her journal about something that happened to her. There was no line in the sand drawn, there was no call to arms. It was a journal entry. It was a description of events, not a suggestion of action.

We all know people do shitty things. It’s impossible to be a social creature and not come into contact with people who’ve hit their girlfriend, or date-raped somebody, or falsely accused somebody of rape. If you think you don’t know people who’ve done this, you just haven’t heard about it yet. Every single person in this society has a number of friends, good friends, who have done a number of cruel and damaging things. That’s natural. That’s to be expected. That’s humanity. I know this. Leslie knows this. The only action Leslie advocated was “help him”. Not ‘ignore him’ or ‘punch him’ or ‘hide your sister’, but “help him”.

This didn’t matter, of course. People wrote about how Leslie “wants us to be her cops, her judge and her jailer”, how she was “trying to force her individual will upon others”, and (I am not joking here) how we “have violated his rights as a citizen of Canada, guaranteed in the Constitution of Canada, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”” and “under the UN Declaration of Human Rights”.

I know I’m calling out things people reading this have said, and I know how it’s hard to honestly consider your actions when they’re held up to the light by someone else, but the demonstrable fact of the matter is that no one bothered to actually evaluate what she said. If you strip out the friendships, the emotions, and the people involved — if you take the actual issue presented here, an journal entry someone wrote and how people have responded to that entry, it’s obvious that they’re responses to what they assume was said, not what actually was said. These responses are so off the mark that my mind boggles just thinking about it.

So, what happens next?

Next, Ben punches some guy in the face at Zaphods on a Tuesday, and the club kicks his ass out and bans him. Leslie and I are informed by the staff (as we always are under such circumstances) that a regular patron assaulted someone, and is not welcome back in the club. Neither of us knew someone had been in a fight, or that someone was kicked out. We are told these things (and who it was) by the bar after closing. When management asked about his aggressive behaviour, Leslie said that he had assaulted her, years back.

Leslie did not kick Ben out. She did not ban him. She did not invisibly guide his hand into someone else’s face. Like hundreds before him, Ben punched some dude at Zaphods and got turfed.

This didn’t matter to anyone. Now, people talk smugly about how this ban is proof that Leslie is waging social warfare, and about how they’re happy to be spending their money at the Dom instead, and how they’re all going Boycott Bowling on Tuesday.

Now, think about this for a minute. This is one of the parts where I’m asking you to stop reading, and actually consider what it is I’m about to say:

Ben punches someone at a nightclub and is banned. This ban is seen as validation that Leslie is in the wrong on the hotly-debated-Leslie-said-her-old-boyfriend-assaulted-her issue, and people proudly organize boycotts of her events and employer.

Now, I know Leslie has long been a person people love to hate — and anyone who would say otherwise hasn’t been paying attention for the last ten years — but think about this. Seriously.

You might think I’m an arrogant shithead, or that Leslie’s a drama-seeking bitch who schemes on a Machiavellian scale; and even if every horrible thing everyone thinks about us is actually the Gospel Truth, the individual and community reaction to this situation is obviously, overwhelmingly and unnecessarily antagonistic, combative, spiteful, and quite literally, unreasonable.

And it sickens me.

As I said, I know people do shitty things. People can get caught up in the moment of I CANT BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT ABOUT MY FRIEND GRAAA and be cold and vicious.

This isn’t a moment. This is three months later.

This is hate mail, cruel jokes, and abusive calls to Zaphods. This is people accosting and intimidating friends of ours at the Dom simply because they’re friends of ours.

This is people actively trying to shut down or starve an underground music night — an underground night which is one of the oldest in the world, and has helped artists (including their friends) achieve things they’ve wanted their whole lives — people trying to starve that underground music night… because they don’t like a promoter who has worked tirelessly every week for over ten years to support the genre they enjoy?

[Here’s a Jairus Protip™: Leslie has a standing invite to start a night (and we’re talkin weekends here, no Tuesday shit) in every major city I’ve ever traveled to with her, and a lot of cities I haven’t. She started the Retro 80s night at Barrymore’s. She can build a community, and she’s proven she can make a club money hand-over-fucking-fist. If the night here were to somehow fold due to boycotts or more forged emails to Eugene or whatever, she could have a gig the next day in Montreal, New York, or Leipzig. It’s Ottawa’s artists and audience that would be left trying to rebuild in a vacuum, not Leslie.]

You can hate me and Leslie and say bad things about us to your friends for the rest of your life and that’s fine — but you’re one empty motherfucker if you’re selfish enough to try and fuck over everything that’s been built here over the last decade (not just by Leslie, but by everyone who’s donated, paid, worked, sweat, and bled to make things happen) because you don’t like someone.

Regardless of which ‘side’ you’re on, if you actually stop reading this and consider what was said and what was done over the past three months, you’ll know that the way she’s been treated cannot be justified. Even if you don’t agree with a word she says or a thing she does, you’ll know that the way she’s been treated cannot be justified.

As I said some 1500 words ago, I don’t expect people to actually think about how they have responded to all this. I don’t expect things to actually change, or for Leslie to even receive an email saying “I’m not your friend and I don’t want to be, but I reacted unfairly”. A lot of people refuse to say that.

On a personal level, all of this has really driven home how few people I want to invest my time and energies into. I didn’t think Leslie’s post would bring a flood of praise and well-wishing, but there are a lot of people I expected something other than overt hostility from. I can count on one hand the number of people who aren’t close friends, but still treated Leslie with some respect — even if they didn’t agree with her.

To those few and rare people, thank you. To anyone who takes the time to read this and think about how Leslie’s been treated, thank you, even if you don’t agree with everything I say. To our friends, thank you for your continued friendship and support.

To everyone else: I have no more energy to spend on the mob and individuals alike who’ve done nothing but support this antagonistic little circus of spite. I’m done with this, and with you.

Manifestus

I used to think it was that I was getting older. I thought that, with the ‘gift’ of age and experience, came a certain hardening of the skin, a lessening of tolerance for seemingly juvenile actions, and so on.

Today, however, I learned something.

I was sitting in a car that would not start. Inside the house next to the car were two people who I had given a place to stay, free food, furniture, and much more. Both of these people had quite literally moved out under cover of night — from different houses, in different cities — to avoid paying me rent. One of them had snuck out leaving a phone bill of close to two thousand dollars in collect long-distance calls from prison, in addition to spraypainted walls, and many more gifts in kind.

In this car which would not start, outside a house of people who collectively owe me thousands upon thousands of dollars, to return to a home where I do not have heat or hot water; this is where I learned something.

I will never be able to surround myself with people who will do for me what I would do for them.

I used to believe differently, that the people I had chosen to spend my time with had the same views on friendship and community that I do. That they, too, believed in social responsibility, trust, respect.

They don’t.

Or rather, if they do believe in these things, these beliefs are not nearly important enough for them to be able to act in line with them. The two possibilities are functionally identical, and I’m not going to bother drawing a distinction between them.

After our heat was shut off here a few weeks ago, I had a very good conversation with my very good friend Charles. The conversation can be summed up very simply:

“How can I make significantly more money and accrue significantly less expenses than I am making and accruing now?”

During the course of this conversation, we realized that we had been having conversations on this topic, off and on, for about seven years; it seems plain to me that if you’re continuing to have financial issues of this caliber after seven years and several significant increases in workload and pay, chances are that the problem has to do with you.

With this in mind, I have taken a lot of time lately to think about my financial situation over the years, and why I keep ending up where I am. In this time, I’ve been increasingly distant to my friends and family — for this, I apologize, but it needed to be done — but after spending a lot of time examining things, I discovered something very alarming.

Without exception, every single time that I have had significant income and reduced financially to the point where I literally cannot afford a cup of coffee, I have been fucked over by someone. From the first time in 1998 to the last two years of nearly constant abuse and non-payment from the people we’ve been renting the upstairs to (The greater part of $10K).

I can count the number of people I have lived with on one hand who have always paid their share in full on time, or made alternative arrangements before money was due.

I wish this were an entry regarding rent and roommates. Then, the solution would be simple: get out of the landlord business. And I have. But the landlord business isn’t what this post is about, and it isn’t what the problems I’m having are about.

The landlord business is a not a problem, it is a symptom. The treatment I have received by the people I have been living with is symptomatic of the treatment I have received by the people in my life.

With very nearly no exceptions, every single person that I have spent a lot of my life with has betrayed my trust, or crossed a mutually-understood boundary of responsibility and/or respect. The only names I have been able to come up with are Leslie, Venk, Suzanne, Charles, and Tony Christofaro. Five people, two of which I have not spent significant time with in a while. If we’ve spent a lot of time together, and your name isn’t on the list, it’s not by omission.

These aren’t small things I’m overreacting to, either. These are things like hanging out with someone who has beaten the shit out of my girlfriend, or neglecting to mention to me that the person I live with is going to skip out on rent and leave me holding a lease.

I’m going somewhere with all of this.

Given that there is a strong pool of evidence to suggest that many of my financial woes would be cured by not trusting anyone with or allowing anyone access to my living space, and given that even my closest friends and family have done and continue to do things that I have a great deal of difficulty reconciling with a working relationship, the logical conclusion is that I should live (mostly) alone, and not involve myself in friendly relations. (There is a second option — lowering my standards — but I have tried this, ending only in resentment and misery.)

I am very seriously considering doing just this. Living (mostly) alone, and not spending time with anyone at all. Just writing, designing, working, playing games, spending time with the woman I’m going to marry. It sounds like a very nice life. Especially the having-hot-water-to-take-a-shower-with part.

I recognize that we’re all human, and we all have faults. I, having more than most, understand this. I know that a lot of people try their best to be a good friend/roommate/whatever, and that any failings they may have are being addressed in some personal discipline of self-improvement or whatever. I, too, try to be a better person each day than I was the last – but I do not have the emotional (or financial) fortitude to spend any more of my time being fucked by people who’re trying and failing to get their shit together.

I will not live for friends, family, or community that does not return – at the very least – their mutually agreed obligations. This is no hyperbole; when I take home $3500 in a month and spend $3200 on other people’s rent and bills, I am literally living for other people, and with that said, I don’t consider social and personal obligations any less important or binding than financial ones. The inverse is true, if anything.

So if we don’t talk again anytime soon, or I turn down that coffee date, you know why. It’s nothing personal, but it’s time for me to stop pretending that the people around me are something that they’re not.

In my dreams, there is only smoke and fear.

[Disclaimer: This is long, and you probably won’t like what I have to say.]

Mostly, I try to stay ‘impartial’ in online conversations, unless I’m involved directly. This is done for several reasons, all of which I’ve decided upon over the last fifteen years of communicating via computers.

You see, back in the days of echo-mail and Usenet, there was a very real sense of etiquette. Flame wars were rare, and usually taken off-channel. When people spoke, they did so reasonably, and took the time to listen to what everyone else was saying, even if they didn’t agree with it. There were no ‘sides’, only a bunch of nerds trying to communicate. Respect was implicit, as everyone treated the medium as a blessing — we all knew that the conversations we were having were a lot more reasoned than we could expect to have outside of the community, and everyone held up their end of the bargain.

As a result, I try to stay out of conversations I’m not already part of, in the hopes that when I do have something to say, people know I’m not saying it lightly.

However.

In this, the September That Never Ended, I’m starting to find my methods archaic, and made largely irrelevant in the face of the larger segment of internet users; people who don’t have a history with computers, and who treat the medium cheaply.

As more and more people use the internet as a way of communicating without accountability for what they say, I feel more and more like a dinosaur. I hold up my end of the bargain, but it seems like I’m the only one who knows the rules. This is, in all likelihood, the case, and I think LiveJournal is in no small part responsible.

I remember when LiveJournal was created. Some friends and I had just finished working on a similar project, Diary-X. We felt our product was superior to LJ, because ours was community-oriented, and not post-oriented. People want community, right?

It turns out that they don’t. People want to say things, and have as many people as possible read them. People don’t want conversations, they want comments. People don’t care what happens to their words after they click submit, nor do they take any responsibility for them. Get over it, it’s only LiveJournal.

I am constantly amazed by the human capacity for distance. What you feel isn’t relevant. The emotions and years of experience behind your words, irrelevant. You, the sum of your person, the good that you’ve contributed to the world — irrelevant. Now, your feelings have been reduced to “LJ Drama”. And, if you dare to express your frustration with the imposed imitations of the medium, you’re a drama queen.

I have a game I play.

When I get into a debate with someone online, and I know that my points are researched and well-spoken, that my logic is valid, and my language simple, I like to try to guess what angle the other person in the conversation will take to avoid addressing what I’ve said. Will they cherry-pick words from my argument for the sake of pedantry? Will they focus on my spelling? Personal Attack? Straw man?

It’s not a fun game, but it takes away from the frustration of dealing with idiots. I’ve gotten very good at it, over the years.

In any case, I’ve remained mostly silent when Leslie gets into arguments with people online, having learned something about people who haven’t grown up with the internet: You will never change their mind about anything. A casual internet user who goes into an argument with one opinion and leaves with another is a freak occurrence on the scale of virgin birth, or a forward-thinking record label. LiveJournal is proof positive of this.

With that said, I have to say something about this ‘drama’.

Although many of you are divorced from your online activities, not all of us are so blase. I treat online conversations with the same emotional investment that I would give to an offline conversation. The medium is irrelevant, what matters is what it is that people have to say. And while (sadly) I understand that other people treat this as a throwaway medium, I would ask you to take the time to think about what it is you’re saying, and who you’re saying it to. I would also ask you to approach someone if you have a problem with what it is they’re saying, and not let it fester for a year before you bring it up to them. At that point, your hurt has grown into something beyond the original slight. A simple miscommunication or difference of opinion can be easy to resolve, but less so when you’ve been carrying bruised feelings around for a while.

More specifically, hold up your end of the bargain. If you can’t be bothered to fairly respond to other people’s points, don’t respond at all. There is a social contract at work.

And if you do respond unfairly, and there’s a shitstorm of people calling you out on your prejudices, maybe they see something you don’t. Take the opportunity to examine what it is they’re saying, and see if you can learn from it. No one will fault you for bettering yourself.

But if you’re determined to be a stubborn, arrogant jerk about it, find someone else to play with. I’m tired of watching my partner feel like shit because of assholes and bitches. She’s not DJ Leslie, she’s not what other people have told you about her (ie: some chick who’s meth lab exploded), she’s a person. A wicked, brilliant and loving one who has taken the time to listen to and try to understand what other people are saying, even if it’s mean-spirited accusations about the motivations behind her own actions. I’ve spent every day with her for two years, and I’ve seen her every day dedicated to doing what she can to help others, regardless of how they’ve treated her — and I’m tired of watching someone so beautiful and rare edge closer and closer to self-loathing because of ugly people who can’t keep their own issues to themselves.

If you have an issue with her, state it fairly and come to the table with an open mind. Our door is open, and we have really good coffee.

If you don’t want to bring it up, and you’d rather let sleeping dogs lie, that’s your choice. Live your life, and leave her out of it.

If you insist on being an cunt, I’m not going to just sit back and watch anymore. I’m not above kicking people in the teeth. Or if my leg’s acting up that day, emptying bank accounts.

I’m done trying to be reasonable to unreasonable people.

(Of course, I really don’t have high expectations about people paying attention to this post. Even if they do, I expect people to sidestep. Play along at home! My money’s on a Circumstantial ad Hominem!)

OMFHMFGFG!

Dear world:

What you say on LJ is a reflection of you, and you should expect to be held as accountable for it as if you posted it on a bulletin board at town hall, or spoke it at your dinner party.

Dismissing criticisms of your actions as “It’s just LJ” or “OMFG DRAMA!!11” is demeaning to yourself, and to the people who care about you. There’s no such thing as ‘just LJ’ or ‘real-life’ — You may not think about it, but when you’re on a computer, you’re still living your very personal, very real life. It’s not made any less ‘real’ by virtue of the fact that there are protocols and transistors and light-speed communications involved.

Everything you say, everything you do, every friend and enemy you make is a reflection of your character, morality, and ethical structure. Of course, everyone is free to do as they wish with their own journal, but they shouldn’t expect it to exist in a vacuum, without social and personal effects and repercussions. The defense that ‘no one is forcing you to read it’ is as irrelevant as it is in regards to racial/sexual/religious intolerance and hatred. If you don’t want it read, don’t make it public. If you don’t want to be held accountable for it, then don’t say it to the world.

If you find this concept uncomfortable, then perhaps you shouldn’t spend your time posting to a community site with over a million members on it.

If you don’t think or care about what you’re saying online, why should anyone expect anything more from you in the ‘real world’?

That is all.

Send money,
Love, Jairus.