July is a tough month for Facebook. Several major corporations have boycotted the social media website/election meddler in response to hate groups being able to freely spread their repulsive rhetoric with little to no repercussions, including posts from the current US president. It seems that in response to this, Facebook has adjusted yet again to bypass my AdBlock extension as I am seeing more sponsored posts for half-assed law firms advertising services for victims of sexual assault while in the Boy Scouts or for victims of Zantac side-effects. That’s pretty much every unwanted ad wedged between my friends’ posts.
Just in one scroll, I had over a dozen ads for assault victims while a scout. I was never a scout. Your algorithm and data harvesting sucks!
I started reporting these adverts as most are scams to begin with, especially those promoted by pages with such elegant names as “Ukdfg,” “Boudreaux's Butt Paste” or “Wgjdfghgjfgh” (yes, these are all real):
That is when I noticed yet another significant change to Facebook’s layout. For the past few weeks, a new tab has emerged under the “Explore” option: Lift Black Voices. This was in response to worldwide protests against systemic racism, especially in policing, after the murder of George Floyd. The tab will provide the user with news and groups for reform as well as links to Black artists, authors, speakers, musicians, etc. to help end the whitewashing. For the last several weeks since this emerged, it was at the top of the “Explore” menu. Today, it’s at the very bottom and hidden from view:
Oh, look at that! Just as Facebook is trying to defend itself amidst a boycott that resulted from Facebook itself amplifying the voices of racists and white nationalist groups, it decides that now is also the best time to actively hide the Lift Black Voices tab! I guess you really didn’t care about racial justice and equality after all, and just added that to be “cool” during the early stages of the protests.
Nothing says “we’re not racist” like continuing to promote white supremacist activity on your platform while hiding resources that promote equal rights for every human being! What an absolute load of wank! Facebook will give a Grand Dragon of the KKK full advertising accessibility, but hide one tab that contains news regarding police reform or that promotes Black artists, entertainers, teachers, etc.
I’ve saved this picture for nearly a year and I think that given all of this, Mark Zuckerberg deserves the full dose:
I am sitting in my parlour just after midnight contemplating everything that’s been going on for the past six months, and at last have some good news. Besides coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and fatalities being at an all-time low where I live thanks to early, aggressive measures to protect the people and the willingness of our community to take the necessary precautions (masks and gloves in public, and a strong adherence to maintaining a two metre distance) I am happy to announce the beginning of online music lessons as promised in my last update.
(And I just have to add that the COVID-19 cases are so incredibly low here that we are even allowing eat in services at restaurants starting tomorrow, though I would personally avoid that for the time being; I had a panic attack when I went for a haircut. It’s just such a ray of hope to see some semblance of the ordinary returning, albeit with face masks.)
For personal security, I have partnered with TakeLessons.com to provide instructions on the piano and electric bass in the safety (and convenience) of your own home. This partnership allows me to focus on teaching without the need for the red tape that comes with administrative tasks that typically would consume my schedule when not practising or conducting lessons.
Having my background check on display is just gravy that gives me much more confidence to teach students of all ages and know that parents/guardians can trust me. Online lessons are available starting today and will be offered year-round rather than on a semester/trimester system so despite all the craziness going on in the world, I can at least try to keep some normalcy in the lives of young musicians and adult learners while we all adapt to these new circumstances.
I am still working on a solution for live streaming performances. The technical issues have been worked out, but I am struggling to find the poise to perform online to an audience that I cannot see and is likely filled with trolls, as well as where to conduct streams. That will come in a third, and hopefully final, installment of The Future and I hope to stream at least twice a week on average.
This is a short update to announce the arrival of online private lessons, and I cannot wait to see all my students again. Stay safe, keep washing your hands and avoid the evil robot dogs that enforce social distancing! Those are straight out of Half-Life 2 and are only working for The Combine. Heck, modern cops look like the Combine Overwatch now! When all this corona is over, I’ll be the first one to get yelled at to pick up that can.
Institutional Failures, Security Theatre and Existential Dread: A Brief Essay on My Thoughts & Experiences During the Pandemic of 2020 Thus Far
I am just going to come out and say it: when did such prestigious institutions as the Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organization become filled to the brim with completely inept and clueless leadership? From actually assisting in large scale testing and containment, and issuing requirements for biological disaster areas to follow instead of meagre suggestions, the leading organizations for global healthcare seem to have adopted a stance that pleases politicians over actually doing their jobs.
Now I know that there are actual doctors and scientists working throughout the day and night on not only COVID-19 but other pathogens such as measles, Ebola and God knows what else that could be lying in wait (such as a latent viruses or bacterium our ancient ancestors dealt with tens of thousands of years ago, but have remained dormant in the permafrost until the current climate crisis roused it from its slumber). However, those in charge of these institutes have been eerily silent over the past few months or only make common sense suggestions, often extremely late such as the WHO’s recommendation for face masks in public (which was made only yesterday), months after the suddenly and mysteriously slow CDC had already made such an announcement.
The US has to deal with Doctor Fauci contradicting himself so much that he is a caricature of any prestige he may have once had. For the love all that is holy, he not only recommended that Americans not use masks but that they also take cruises while the outbreak was tearing through those very cruise ships during the same interview earlier in 2020.
The head of the CDC is a homophobic bigot who, during the HIV/AIDS crisis forty years ago, considered that the affliction was caused by a moral failing (read: homosexuality is a “sin”) and not due to a virus despite obvious evidence that it was a goddamn virus. Robert Redfield nearly went full on Mengele with HIV/AIDS patients in the US military, forcing them into “HIV Hotels” where they were studied before being dishonourably discharged from the service and being convicted of a felony (that crime was being gay by the way, whether the patients were actually LGBTQ+ or not, as in the 1980s it was assumed that only gay people could develop AIDS).
Both Fauci and Redfield have made ridiculous promises of a vaccine against COVID-19 sooner than any actual doctors and scientists have said. The WHO's daily briefings are filled with speculation, with real but overall meaningless information sparsely interjected. The remaining time consists of the organization attempting to defend itself against a scientifically illiterate US president who hawks snake oil from the White House, then rallies a bunch of quacks to support his idiotic ideas so as to make them seem more legitimate to a desperate nation.
It is obvious that the CDC and many leading “health experts” in the US that are frequently seen on television are doing whatever they can to appease the Dear Leader rather than do their jobs, as said jobs are in jeopardy if they go against whatever the Dark Lord has to offer.
I also understand that we are dealing with a new virus and that actually intelligent individuals in these groups do not want to release anything until there have been substantial double-blind placebo controlled studies for virologic treatments and vaccines, but the silence at the top produces an air of hopelessness as tech companies attempt to fill the vacuum with idiotic masks with a moveable flap so you can eat in a restaurant while still using a mask (which defeats the purpose of the mask), personal bubbles so you can go to a movie theatre again, or full on Half-Life styled biosuits that are revealed as the future of concerts or for merely leaving your house. What a beautiful dystopia we are creating!
This is not helping.
This is a temporary situation, yet the only news we are receiving is fear-mongering that suggests my generation’s great-grandchildren may still be living in and out of quarantines over COVID-19. We overcame the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. We are not wandering the streets, looking for a cure or treatment for the Spanish Flu, nor are we huddling around a mad inventor who just rolled into town with his crazy new electric gizmo that he hails as a miracle remedy after failing as a clergyman, as people had a century ago (but as a note: nearly all modern flu strains are descended from that pandemic). We developed vaccines and, more importantly, our little evolutionary defence called the immune system did its job. Our bodies are adapting as I write this to fight COVID-19 while our ingenuity simultaneously is developing a vaccine to further that battle. That is in our evolution and the reason why we’ve overcome so many pathological disasters in our relatively short history on Earth.
While on the subject of asymptomatic people, the same people who make up the majority of those inflicted with the virus, I need to make a statement to the CDC and WHO: temperature checkpoints do not work on those aforementioned individuals. Fever is a symptom; they don’t have symptoms. I hate that I have to make mention of something so obvious to a group of scientists. Temperature checks are nothing but security theatre and allow silent carries to spread the coronavirus to others. Do not waste time trying to make people feel better when going through a biological checkpoint is only going to cause more anxiety and feelings of mistrust towards those in charge, especially the CDC and WHO. And those organizations have enough of a public image problem at this point in time between presidential rants and their inability to hold a simple press conference to reassure an entire planet suffering from daily panic attacks.
(UPDATE 9 June 2020: The consensus as of today is that asymptomatic people cannot easily spread the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, which came from the WHO. Within hours, they retracted the statement, shrugged their shoulders so as to provide no further information, and continued their streak of pure incompetence.)
I have written this short article as a way to vent my frustrations and to alleviate the constant anxiety that I have been dealing with for the entire year between the coronavirus and being completely unemployed or underemployed for at least the next two years. It has been very difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning, and thoughts of moving to the woods, a dozen kilometres between myself and the next nearest human being, come to mind as a better alternative to living in a world under the draconian laws of COVID-19. This comes as a courtesy of constant misinformation, lack of leadership from the medical community and from politicians, and the endless commercials (coronammercials) that go on, and on, and on about the virus and how we are all in this together (we’re not, companies that say this just want to remind you that they still exist and want you to buy something).
Corporations always have to hijack our lives. As I write this, every major company in the world is posting a black square to their Twitter and Instagram feeds as a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter, but are actually hurting the movement by hiding relevant information for protestors and allies. Then there's all the corporate accounts suddenly turning their logos into rainbows for Pride Month, only to change them back at midnight on 1 July. Yeah, some allies you are. Any plans on adding rainbow flags to your official Russian accounts while you're at it?
Maybe it would be better to go full on Henry David Thoreau and just disappear into the trees given how horrible capitalist and consumer life is under ordinary times, never mind this. Then I would only have to worry about my friends and family debating on whether or not I have become another Unabomber.
So, this is the post I have been procrastinating on writing for months now. As I am sure you are aware, things are not well in the world right now. I have waited to write this update while looking at what I would need to do in order for my business to survive the pandemic and simultaneously looking ahead on when I may possibly be able to return services.
As of this moment all live concerts are cancelled until June of 2022, at the earliest.
Photography as a service may not be returning at all. Given that I have lost the entirety of 2020’s workload, with special consideration to the loss of an entire year’s wedding season (which provides the majority of my income), the cost of maintaining business as an event photographer in a world where there are no longer events is simply too much. As a result, I have made the painful decision to go out of business as a photographer for the foreseeable future. As of today, the earliest I can possibly (and safely) restore photography services would be roughly 2023 or even 2024.
Performances in 2022 are likely to be a strange thing as well. Many of the venues that I have relied on for the past 20 years have either permanently closed as a result of prolonged lockdowns ravaging their revenue, or will no longer be hosting live entertainment when they come back, even years down the line, out of the fear that crowds could spread disease. Many of these venues are looking at permanent distancing measures and a massive reduction of capacity born from the trauma we are all enduring, and the additional groups that come from live entertainment would not be conducive to these new environments. What concerts two years from now will be like, or where they will even be held, is just as mysterious to me as it is to all of you.
While on the subject of setbacks, I must also make note of CD Baby’s changes that have had a negative impact on myself and many other artists. I have used CD Baby for years now as both a major storefront and for digital distribution on all your favourite apps like Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music. About 90% of all my music sales came from the CD Baby store. It was at the end of this past March, when the company was trying to help artists through this time of cancellations and fear, that CD Baby abruptly retired their storefront with only 48 hours’ notice to the artists using it in order to focus entirely on digital distribution (which makes only about 5% of my annual income for sales). The notice came by way of a post to social media that I saw randomly in my chaotic Facebook news feed. Not an email to long time artists, no warning, just kaput.
Despite taking a larger percentage out of sales, I have had a preference for Bandcamp for several years now given that there is no cost to release new music, no UPC codes required and I can re-upload new master tracks or edit audio without having to remove a record and pay for it all over again. The only downside is the lack of digital distribution, but as that makes such a pitiful amount by comparison it is far from the end of the world. My entire discography is, and always has been, on Bandcamp principally and that platform is the only place to find new music from my studio. I will eventually digitally distribute my back catalogue, but due to the debacle with CD Baby, I have changed my decision to wait six months between the Bandcamp and CD Baby versions to a year (or more, given the financial hardships that I am experiencing).
So, what happens now?
Like every other artist, I am turning to live streaming and will host all concerts online until at least 2022, barring any sudden changes to the world situation for the better. Right now, I am working on how to do that for the best possible quality in private sessions on Facebook. I am looking for a solid platform for public streaming and will announce where those will be taking place. YouTube seems like a good option, but given their history of attacking content where an artist is performing public domain classical music on behalf of major labels that will never forfeit their algorithmic claims, I am hesitant. Right now I am just weighing my options between accessibility, cost, partnerships, security, etc.
I am also re-launching online private lessons on the piano and electric bass. I had offered online lessons for years, but students always had a preference to come to me (or ask me to drive three hours away to them) for in-person instruction. This current situation means that virtual lessons are pretty much the only lessons you can get at the moment. Personally, I have always preferred lessons online as it means not having strangers come to my home, younger pupils coming in with the flu and spreading it in the winter months, and it’s much easier for me to move from student to student by switching Skype or Facetime calls versus figuring out where people should park on the road and if it impedes traffic on a narrow, dead-end street.
In order to separate some of the heavier stuff on this website (political satire, dark poetry, curse words, horror fiction, etc.) from the learning environment, I have already created a second website just for lessons and will make it a clickable link in the menu here to provide easy navigation when the time comes. I plan on launching that this summer, and hopefully we’ll all have a little more disposable income to spend on personal education, which is not really an option here in May of 2020.
If you enjoy what I offer already, please consider supporting me with that nifty little Tip Jar link to my PayPal.me or consider purchasing my music and artwork. Even a little bit helps right now.
Stay safe, wash your hands, and never leave the house without a biosuit. It’s so good to know what we now live in the world of Half-Life 2.
We need a new word here in the year of our Lord 2020, and I have it right here:
This is the term that I am using to describe the ceaseless adverts about COVID-19, being together at home, or otherwise reminding you of the global pandemic when you are desperately trying to take your mind off of the global pandemic.
The other day, I put on Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel after a storm of notifications from the BBC News app reminded me that death was lurking around every corner of this new reality that I occupy. There were ten ads in the first break and bloody nine of them were about COVID-19, the "new normal," or how we're all in this together.
Fuck off. Just fuck right off.
I can't even tune in to Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network without existential dread pouring forth from my television like a Lovecraftian nightmare. The tendrils of ancient, unholy beasts are always there. Death is just outside the door.
My elderly parents have a decent sized yard with a gazebo and a pool, and they're afraid to go out in that yard for fear that the virus is lurking in the grass or in the trees, and that a little breeze will spread it like a demonic cough right into their faces. The constant news cycle didn't implant these fears by itself, these incessant coronammercials are just as bad, if not worse, than never changing the channel from FOX, CNN or MSNBC.
Big companies, business and the like, I have some advice: Shut the fuck up. If you want to make an impact in "these unprecedented times," stop wasting your money on television ads and put it towards virologic research and development, and maybe then we can get back to something remotely ordinary a little sooner.
Until then, shut your holes and realize that nobody wants your shitty car, phone, or Barbie's Quarantine Dream House until we can go about safely and get work again.