Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Love You All The Time

I got my first laptop in 2006, a wonderful Christmas/birthday present from my mother and my step-father. It was meant to be - and it was - a useful educational tool. I could bring my homework to the bar, afterall! That made me immediately more productive, for a bit, before things got too hazy.

It wasn't just my first laptop though, it was also the first computer I had that wasn't ancient, and slow, and reliant on a telephone line for access to the internet. I was a pretty late arrival to the internet party, but I jumped on board with a fair amount of gusto.

At the time, I was playing in a folk duo called nate and marcel, and of course we recognised that having some kind of precense on the internet was becoming a practical necessity. Myspace was very big at the time, not only as a site for hosting music, but for networking as well. It was a way to get information about shows and releases out to a larger audience, and was especially helpful for planning tours or out-of-town shows. In my initial attempt to create a myspace for our duo, I accidentally ended up with a personal, non-artist profile instead of the one that I'd been trying to make. But I held onto it, and it ended up being utilised far more than my professional one. I'll get back to that. That's what this entry is about.

And there was also halifaxlocals. The atlantic provinces seem unique, with their collection of related "music and skate talk" messageboards. I have sought out similar forums for other communities when planning tours, but I haven't found anything that compares to halifaxlocals.

When I first began posting on halifaxlocals it was to promote our shows, but it wasn't long after I acquired my laptop that I began reading and eventually contributing to other discussions. Halifaxlocals exists primarily as a tool for promoting local musicians and local performances, but that is certainly not all it's about. Everything gets discussed there, from local politics to favourite diners to cell phone providers. It's a helpful resourse, and most of the regular posters are exceptionally articulate, well-informed, clever, and funny, while also being very considerate. Above all, it is a community. It's a weird mixture of real-life and online community, given its regional focus. Most people seem to choose not to remain anonymous, and there's a lot of back and forth between people who are actually friends. These people actually do see one another in real-life. I have never met many of the posters on halifaxlocals, but I have met many of them, too, and there are a couple who are among my closest friends. These friends, we don't know each other because of halifaxlocals, we have just all found ourselves there because of our common interests. The messageboard seems to somehow both facilitate and maintain community, here in Halifax. It is almost always where I first hear about things I want to hear about.

There is another online community I feel a part of, too, and it is very different from halifaxlocals. It's sloppier, harsher, and much more abstract. And it isn't very useful, especially these days, or even as encouraging of intelligent discussion, but I really like a lot of the few remaining people who spend time there, and somehow, so strangely and slowly and inappropriately, that community has become a large part of my life. I am talking about the Myspace General Music Forum.

I guess I fell into it shortly after creating my band and my personal profiles. Aware, thanks to halifaxlocals, of the possibilty and functionality of online communities, I explored the forums on myspace, and I can't remember what it was, exactly, that pulled me in, but I'm pretty sure it was Beej, and The Chucky Danger Band.

There are few things I enjoy more than geeking out about music, and working in a record store, as I did at the time, I felt fairly knowledgeable about current music, especially Canadian music. Beej was a poster from just outside of Toronto who championed many of the bands I adored, and he was also a total jerk about them. He was a bully. He was unwaveringly devoted to his personal aesthetics and played a very loud and often cruel antagonist to anyone with differing ideas about good music. I think I sort of liked that. At least I found it somewhat refreshing in contrast to the incredibly inclusive atmosphere on halifaxlocals, where nobody is ever critical of local artists, with the notable exception of Bill Kidney.

The Chucky Danger Band had just taken home some awards during the East Coast Music Awards, and I resented this. I thought they were a terrible, completely uninspired band, and that there were so many other Atlantic Canadian artists much more deserving of recognition. The Chucky Danger Band decided to spam the General Music forum, and I sort of laid into them. It's not really like me. But Beej thought it was great. And there was and remains something in me - and I think this is pretty shameful - that really, desperately, just wants to be liked, by those intimidating figures with the confidence to let you know when they don't. It's like winning a prize. And I'll tell you, it hurt, when it seemed like he didn't anymore.

But that was just my in. There were a lot of neat people who posted in the general forum, of all ages and from everywhere around the world. Elias and Paul and Matthew and Amalia were all still in high school I think. I had a soft spot for Elias, who was occasionally sentimental and revealing in the midst of his posts about dark and harsh music. He seemed really innocent, and really vulnerable, and I remember occasions where reading the way he expressed himself would bring me right back to the way I felt when I was in high school. Disco and Bedbeats were the NICEST, most inclusive and mature people ever, without being too saccharine; still able to be clever and funny at nobody's expense. Except perhaps at the expense of the Acoustic forum. That night that Bedbeats, Johnny Rubber Maids, myself and surely some others tore into their "What's your favourite chord?" thread was one of my favourite times on the internet ever. Steve Zissou was incredibly cool, in sensibility and taste and expression. Philip and norm were older than everyone else, and they seemed older too; less concerned with hipness. There were some serious snobs in there, for sure, but almost everyone seemed very genuine.

I found out about a lot of new music through that forum. It was great. It seemed that the biggest band then, the most universally appreciated, was a band called Oh No! Oh My! And I liked them so much that I got in touch with the band and arranged to sell their cds on consignment at Sam the Record Man. I played them for my real life friends and we managed to sell out of the five cds they had sent within a week.

Then I left the forum for a long time. Several years. I guess I got more involved in real life. I was drinking a lot, and I had a very active social life that revolved around my favourite bar. It was probably some perceived sleight, though, or something that made me feel unliked, that mostly did it. I really can't remember, but I know how sensitive I am.

I have been an active participant in this community for several (nine?) months now, much longer even than the first time I stuck around. My participation in halifaxlocals had slowed down a great deal, but it has always been a constant. It's a different beast. It feels like myspace is dying. I mean, anyone could tell you that, but to look at it from the inside, it's a different thing, and I wanted to write about it, while it's fresh, and still something that I engage with.

The Myspace General Music Forum has a history. You still hear talk about what it was like back before the forum split. By this they mean that there used to be one music forum that was just called "General" until one day after logging in they discovered that it had mutated into a number of different subforums that divided genres and people who preferred metal to, say, electronic music. It feels like a mythology, and it always makes me think of that Sonic Youth show at NSCAD, back in the 80's, that comes up on halifaxlocals every so often. Where they played to something like ten people. Nobody was there, but everybody wants to claim it. Of course halifaxlocals has its own history too, its "guest book,"

Then facebook came along and social networking moved over there. Then myspace stopped allowing links to outside sites for fear of copyright infringements, so general forum users were unable to share the music they loved. Which was the point. Threads and threads, every day, about brand new music, top ten lists, it used to be a music nerd's paradise.

Now it's like a wasteland; so slow, and much less empassioned.

On the internet, as in life, I am a creature of habit. I like familiarity. I like comfort. I like substance and understatement and honesty and beautiful, affecting, genuine things and people and spaces. I also like being liked. And I have thought many times about writing something about myspace, using oh no! oh my! But now, maybe, it feels like it's close to being time to go, again. Some comment by a poster I really like but never quite know how to take upset me a bit yesterday, and I had to ask myself why, and what I feel like I've invested in this and what I feel my returns are. I feel coolness and reception and I react to kindness and insularity and dismissiveness like in real life. Posters are people even when they're just represented by some words they've typed and words of course aren't the always-all-the-time-truth. It's harder to recognise sarcasm or teasing without gestures and facial expressions. And I err myself on both sides; I find myself overly apologetic or agreeable or else off-handed. And what I really want, everywhere, is a genuine connection, but what I end up striving for is just being liked, even by bullies I don't even like myself.

I have some forum "friends" on facebook now, which is neat. And I'm sending some Christmas cds out to some of them, which is also neat. I like that connections in an online forum can extend into the world at large, because connections, however and wherever you may find them are what it's all about. That and the music. But mostly I feel my time slipping away from me. I would rather be out there than in here if I am not being affected or active.

I thought I'd be much more specific about people and my involvement this time around, but it feels too weird and perhaps rude to be too analytical about other people when it's present. The new format is glitchy they say, I'll see, and so they're making virtual suicide pacts, trying to get banned, and just

I didn't think this entry would trun out to be so depressing.

*Beej wrote a song about the myspace general music forum several years ago.
*Doug Mason has a great song about halifaxlocals called "locals culture."

I Love You All The Time - Oh No Oh My
**I have decided not to type out the lyrics this time because I think they're kind of silly, and not relevant, but it's a really great song! Much loved by the Myspace General Music forum circa 2006

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