Year: 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Emotionally fuelled vitriol

(This was originally posted to Facebook. I post here because I want to keep a copy where I can easily find it).So… the last 12 hours have been … interesting, judging by my inbox.

Just to be clear no-one close to me is a complete and utter nutcase who believe that a fun and harmless game about a song really killed a pop star. There are a few people on the fringes of my social circle who seem to be of the opinion that our “negative vibes certainly contributed to his decline in a cosmic way” (direct quote).

But the game did have far greater reach than I had anticipated (more than 120.000 people visited the website during the last three weeks), and when something tragic happens, the backside of that reach rears it’s ugly nasty head.George Michael wasn’t old by modern standards. 53 years in all. My mom is older than that. Your mom is probably older than that.

And he’s been not only a pop icon but also a forerunner for LGBTQ rights. He was a hero to that community, and the loss of a hero always hurts. That pain is real and it will often make you behave emotionally and with anger, as you try to find a reason or justification for the loss. A way to explain away the hurt and the sorrow. And it’s always, always, always easier to manage grief when you have somewhere to place the blame.

But sometimes that grief and pain also lead you to become a nutter. And on the internet where anonymity is easy to come by and it’s even easier being an asshole because it’s just text on a screen, and not a real person … well, the vitriol flows freely.

Here’s a short selection of the things I have been called in the last 12 hours, in no particular order:

  • a murderer

  • neo-Nazi

  • a gay basher

  • dogfucker (O.o)

  • a part of the NWO

  • a compound-dwelling kook (I kinda like this one)

  • a bible thumping ignorant (Hah!)

  • a knuckle dragger

  • sexually insecure boy toy

The common denominator is that behind most of these messages and emails I see a tiny bit of grief and sorrow. A searching for a place to put a loss that they might not fully know how to deal with. And if being angry with me for a few days makes it easier for them to bear it, well, I guess that’s going to be okay, too.

It would be a lot worse if I were to get DOX’d or Swatted because of this, but that would mean that 4chan or #gamergate suddenly felt sympathy towards the LGBTQ community, which in that case I’d be fine bearing the brunt of as well.

Right now, it’s just words on a screen from people who are upset and distraught.

A lot of you have written me and expressed support. Thank you. It means a lot, because even though it might just be words from random strangers it’s never nice to be told to go stick your head in a wood-chipper for the sake of humanity.

It has been demanded that a public apology be made, which is not going to happen because of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.

Now, it’s obvious to anyone who knows me that you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger sucker for sappy and glorious pop music than me (though the 90’s are my preferred decade). George Michael was a musical staple in my childhood home and I fondly remember dancing with my mother to many of his songs. A mom, who by the way, introduced me to the awesomeness that is G’n’R and Bon Jovi.

If you don’t mind, I’ll go put on some pop music, and boogie around the apartment while I get dressed for Christmas lunch with my family later today.

Day out with an old friend

Today I spent most of the afternoon with Erik. He took the picture at the top. He’s an old friend from way back when I lived in Aarhus, and since he relocated to London we don’t get to hang out nearly as much as I’d like to.

We went to Christiana, and despite Erik being Danish-American and having spent most of his adult life in Copenhagen, it was also only his second trip to Christiana. I guess that’s what happens when you’re a conservative ponce. We had lunch at Morgenstedet, which is a fine vegan spot a bit back from Pusher Street. Then we strolled around Christiania for a bit, taking in their Christmas market while catching up.

Erik is peculiar build. He thinks in ways that I don’t and sees the world through some decidedly different lenses. I like to think that we challenge each other, while still encouraging one another to try and find that little light in life. And he’s one of the few people that is capable of being more inappropriate than me; a trait I treasure highly.

No longer on the left

So, how about that US election, huh? That sure didn’t go as we expected it to, huh?

I wish I could say I was surprised. I really do. I woke up Tuesday morning to the news of President-Elect Donald J. Trump, and it felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Not disbelief as such, but fear.
For the first time in my life, I am genuinely concerned for the future. I cannot imagine how people who are not white and cisgendered feel. I imagine it’s pretty fucking awful.

But the more I think about it, the more I realise that this is the most natural result. I hate that the world works this way, but … ya know … hell is other people.

In the end, the last many elections across the west have been dominated by fear, frustration and anxiety. Those emotions easily translate into hate and bigotry. It’s always easier to lash out at “others”. But it’s based around the basic idea that for many people around the world, they can no longer go to sleep at night comforted by the idea that tomorrow will be better. They’re losing their jobs, their homes, and that creates a huge bubble of fear and insecurity. Things are continually becoming worse and worse for them.

So when a person comes along and says “this is the problem, and this is how we’re going to fix it” it can’t possibly be a surprise that people listen.

And yes. Trumps rallies were chock-a-block full of bigots and racists. Absolutely. But I maintain that that is likely a very vocal minority that, much like Trump himself, understood demagoguery and spoke to people’s fears and baser instincts.  But for the vast majority of these people, I think they would have voted another way if they felt they weren’t being ignored.

But that’s not even the bigger problem. The real problem is that the Left can’t see how they contributed to the divide. I mean, they’re so inclusive and with them, there’s a safe space for everyone.

Unless you disagree with them, that is. In that case, there is no limit to the amount of vitriol that can be thrown your way.

The Left has become so enamoured with the idea that they are right (and for the record, I think they are), that they don’t have to be polite or respect differing views. And that’s all across the Left, from the feminist movement to fucking Greenpeace.
It has become a fundamentalist movement, so convinced of its own ideals, its own virtues and its righteousness that any attempt at measured and open discourse is seen as a weakness in their enemies and as acquiescing to the enemy in their own ranks. Even acknowledging that you might understand where a racist person comes from automatically labels you as someone who endorses and encourages their point of view. This sort of absolutism is never healthy.

Considering all this, how can it possibly come as a surprise that those who feel disenfranchised and ignored turn to a man who speaks to our baser instincts? Who at least to some degree owns his own monstrosity?

It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re right if you can’t get people to listen. It doesn’t matter if your cause is just. This is not a Machiavellian tragedy. It’s just the way humanity works.

No one will listen to a person who has just accused them of being the worst kind of human being there is. It’s just not going to happen.
And until the Left wakes up and realises that, nothing is going to change.

We made this mess. Now we get to fix it.

A pit in my stomach

I’ve just returned to my hotel room in Szczecin. I’m here for the second round of dental work. I went to the nearby shopping mall to eat at Pizza Hut. It’s my way of spoiling myself, as I don’t think I’ll be able to get myself to eat any sort of solids over the next week or more. Don’t judge me.

This time I’m here by myself, and I’m not feeling to hot about it. I have massive anxiety when it comes to dentists, and this trip will be pure murder. Bone rebuilding of my lower left jaw, four implants, two root canals and three permanent bridges.

The first trip I had the Doctor with me, and while I was likely not the jolliest of travel partners then, I sure could use her with me now. I’m in a strange city, with people speaking a language I don’t understand. I’m holed up in my hotel room, the room that’s going to be my world for the next four days – that is, when I’m not sitting in the dentists chair.

It’s incredibly anxiety inducing, being here. I feel isolated and looking forward I can see four days of painful dental surgery, and complete exhaustion as my body tries to rebuild and recover. I am not a fan, and if I could I would run away from this right this instant.

Taking stock

Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and try to look at things objectively.

About four months ago talks started with a client. They needed a major overhaul of their online space, ideally for it to coincide with the launch of their product. It was a big project, probably the biggest I’ve worked on in a freelance capacity.

And here we are. Two weeks post-launch, and it’s officially safe to say I botched it. While their website is working better than ever, their community is burning. It’s not good. There are many reasons for this (an extremely tight deadline, several assumptions that have turned out to be wrong, and miscommunication about expectations, to name but a few). But none of that matters in the end. I botched it.

Yesterday my client contact and I started exploring alternative options. Which would mean scrapping the entire community part of that’s been built so far. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but letting my pride and ego get in the way of doing the right thing will only make an already strained relationship even more unbearable.

The good part is that it doesn’t look like they’re ready to cut ties with me just yet, which I must admit is surprising to me. I’m not sure I would have had the same patience if a provider of mine dropped the ball as spectacularly as I have.

It’s not that I don’t see where I went wrong. I was too ambitious, combined with an extremely tight deadline with very high requirements. But damn if it isn’t an orbital strike to your confidence being forced to admit that not only was a recommendation you made horribly and woefully wrong, it’s been actively damaging to clients relationship with their community.

My usual mantra; Simple is Complex, and Complex is Simple, has quite simply screwed me over. It still holds true, except when it doesn’t.

So where do we go from here? Hopefully, we’ll be moving forward with an entirely new solution to the community issues, and hopefully they’ll want to keep me on board for that process. It’s not a total disaster after all. The hosting setup that’s been built for them seems to hold up fine, though it has it’s own set of challenges. Secondly, the website is purring like a kitten, and has several fairly impressive features and integrations that seem to work really well for their workflows.

We are the lions

We need to be clear that there is no such thing as giving up one’s privilege to be ‘outside’ the system. One is always in the system. The only question is whether one is part of the system in a way that challenges or strengthens the status quo. Privilege is not something I take and which therefore have the option of not taking. It is something that society gives me, and unless I change the institutions which give it to me, they will continue to give it, and I will continue to have it, however noble and equalitarian my intentions. Harry Brod, “Work Clothes and Leisure Suits: The Class Basis and Bias of the Men’s Movement,” in Men’s Lives, ed. Michael S. Kimmel and Michael Messner (New York: Macmillan, 1989), 280.

The worlds oldest cinema

An unexpected benefit from the dental trip to Stettin is that down the street from our hotel is the world oldest cinema.

It opened in 1909 under the name Helios, at a time when Stettin was in Germany. And here 107 years later it’s still going. My inner filmbuff is unreasonably excited.

Facing a demon

One thursday morning in 1997 I was sitting at morning assembly at my boarding school (it wasn’t as fancy as it sounds). I was tonguing around inside my mouth, applied a little pressure to my front teeth. That’s when I hear a small crunch, and the next thing I know I’m holding a piece of tooth in my hand.

I’ve always been terrified of dentists. I can’t remember how or why it got to be that way, but it’s just one of those things. My last memory of visiting a dentist is sorta kinda like what I imagine dying is like. Being blinded by stark white light, blood pounding so hard it causes a headache, while lying down unable to move. Not exactly the thing you want to actively pursue.

This irrational fear has motivated one poor decision after the other. It’s coming up on 11 years since I’ve last set foot in a dentists office. As a result, my teeth … well, let me put it this way; Aleppo is in better shape.

And while it started as fear and phobia, shame has since creeped through the door those two bastards kicked open. And it’s been compounded as time went by. I feel self-conscious about my smile, which is filled with discolouring and chipped teeth. And so it became easier to justify not doing something about it. And that excuse moved onto a financial one, as it became readily apparent that the work needed was going to be ridiculously expensive. And so the situation deteriorated.

I really want to be able to smile again. Smile without thinking about what others might think. Especially since I have so much to smile about these days. My business is doing well, I have the Doctor in my life (and she is just amazing) and the days are looking brighter and brighter, even as we’re moving towards winter.

So now I’m facing the demons Shame and Fear. They’ve been riding me for more than twenty years. I’m terrified, and anxious, and excited, and nervous. But something has to change. And so on Sunday I’m taking the first of three trips to Poland, for extensive dental surgery. Wish me luck.

On the subject of self-care

One of the ways that stress has affected me, is that it’s taken my general lack of care for myself to new levels.
Which is weird, seeing as it wasn’t something I spent a lot of time on before, and when I neglect myself I lose the tenuous grasp on myself I already have.

Basically, because I don’t have much of an appetite I forget to eat. This leads to my blood sugar crashing. Which leads to hypersensitivity and bouts of unstable emotions.

Now, I am normally able to identify what’s going on when its about 5-6 hours too late. At which point I overeat to the point where I start feeling shame, because I am still about 30 pounds overweight. It’s a delightful circle of stupid.