nationalism makes me cry
Something i have started to see emerging in the past few weeks is a reasoned, literate support for Trump based on the idea of nationalism. I am so very not okay with that.

Let's get the other baskets of deplorables out of the way first, though.

It was sad to see both mainstream and religious conservatives fall in line and vote for a person they all railed against during the primaries. It seems most Republicans are privileged enough that they would pull the lever for a potato as long as it could sign their party's bills. Further to the right are the honest-to-God neo-nazis who are overjoyed to have one or two of their own in the White House now. And it's no surprise to those of us who had to suffer through Gamergate and the Sad Puppies nonsense that the internet troll brigade also voted for him. They are a bunch of sad little sociopaths with nothing better to do than find ways to oppress and irritate women, PoC and other decent human beings. But all of these groups were known quantities to me in American politics.

What's new to me are the nationalists. Not white supremacist half-wits, but people from racially diverse backgrounds who take the idea of defending America's identity seriously. These are the slippery folks who extend a hand to the left because they speak out against free trade and interventionism, while also hating on immigration, multiculturalism and international cooperation. On Facebook the other day i saw a comment by someone who explained that this was his actual reason for voting Trump. Because neoliberalism failed, internationalism failed, interdependence is a lie - the only path forward is for all countries in the world to become strong, independent nation-states.

That is fucking chilling to me.

I haven't studied enough history to be able to hold a well-researched opinion, but just instinctively nationalism horrifies me. Let's forget about the fact that some of the most evil regimes of all time were nationalist. Considering your own nation superior - something whose culture must be protected and kept "pure" - means writing off the vast majority of human beings in the world as inferior. It's just staggering to me that anyone can think this way. It's appalling enough that people are bigoted against a particular race, or a particular religion, or even a gender, but this notion that building a (figurative) wall around a culture is a good idea is a whole nother level of despicable. It's nuts. The whole thing that makes each culture what it is today is the building upon and intermingling of different cultures that came beforehand.

Not to mention it is hideously privileged for people in rich, first-world countries to claim the world would be better off with "every nation for himself" when they only got to the top of the food chain by thoroughly exploiting poor, third-world countries. And, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, white Americans in particular don't have a leg to stand on because they forcibly relocated hundreds of sovereign nations to build their own nation on the bones of indigenous Americans and African slaves.

But who needs that guilt trip, right?

Modern Americans get a lot of flak for being crazy in love with themselves. All those flags and pledges of allegiance and whatnot. Personally i find American patriotism - even jingoism - quite sweet. It's fun to be part of a club, to sing a song that lifts everyone's spirits and wave a flag that you identify with. We all like to cheer on a team, and it's totally fine to be proud of all the great stuff that team does. But holy hell. Watch out, guys, because it is slipping into something far more sinister.

To see people deny cultural progress so utterly, dismiss the needs of every other human being outside of an imaginary line... And then to stand behind these views like they are an entirely legitimate political position... I feel like i'm living in some kind of barbaric dark age. And America isn't alone - it's happening all over Europe too. Every time i stumble across another instance of this insanity i am shocked all over again. As a life-long immigrant i am personally hurt that people think this way because it denies my very existence. As a human being it just disappoints and dismays me. I am not sure what i can do.

A tiny part of me hopes that by traveling, writing, talking, i can help remind people that foreigners aren't aggressive or scary or "scum". We are just human beings. Why can't people see that?

Howard Jones - Like To Get To Know You Well (UK video)

great music from celluloid and silicon
It would be remiss of me to not post a link to that album i mentioned a minute ago - the "pro" version of the Dune soundtrack by Stéphane Picq.

Exxos - Dune: Spice Opera

Since this album has been deleted, anyone who wants 320kbps MP3 rips let me know. I still have the original CD somewhere in Canada and one day i can probably upload a lossless version if no one else did already.

Also, since i am drunk, here is some other game music everyone should listen to.

Alexander Brandon - The Synapse (Hong Kong Streets) [from Deus Ex]

Alexander Brandon - NYC Streets [from Deus Ex]

And some film music from the god of scoring and master of the Prophet 5 synthesizer.

John Carpenter - Main Title [from Escape From New York]

John Carpenter - The President Is Gone [from Escape From New York]

I could go on posting John Carpenter forever. Instead here is some utterly predictable nonsense that every techno fan and their kid can post to seem like they are down with the old school. Hell, it's still a good song.

Giorgio Moroder - The Chase [from Midnight Express]

All scores should be dirty, sleazy and feature nasty synthesizers. That is all.

square waves and noise generators
Hello, i am drunk. I am going to rant today not about the TB-303 and acid house, but about game and chip music.

My first exposure to game music must have happened in the mid-80s when my parents bought an Amstrad CPC 6128 computer. Back in those days if you were rich, white and privileged, your parents threw down a ton of money to buy a "microcomputer" for educational purposes and maybe some word processing. There were tons of different computer brands, and none were compatible with one another. No internet. No common media. No common protocols. All the hardware was different, all software had to be coded individually.

I never grew up with game consoles. I am not sure if it was because they weren't really a thing in Europe, or if it was because my parents only wanted to buy "educational" stuff for us as kids. We also didn't have any "mainstream" toys of the era like Transformers, GI Joes, Teddie Ruxpins etc. We got Lego and books and stuffed animals and a microcomputer.

Anyway, of course we only played games. The AY-3-8912 chip of the CPC was an American-made chip that probably no Americans know of unless they had an Atari ST. The big all-American home computer of the 8-bit era, the C64, featured the entirely different cult favorite - 6581 and 8580 SID chips. The AY chip was - in retrospect - perhaps less aesthetically pleasing than the SID chip. It was a cheap-ass digital synth chip that came out at the time that the most exciting professional digital synthesizer was the now laughably retro-sounding Yamaha DX7. If you can remember Phil Collins - One More Night or Chicago - Hard Habit To Break you know that one. The AY is a whole nother level of retro-sounding. It was all square waves and white noise. No real modulation. Straight up fucking dirty chip music. To fake out having some kind of timbral depth - like the analog synthesizers of the day (and the C64) could shit out by accident - programmers used very high frequency looped amplitude modulation envelopes. Well, and the old fashioned chip music technique of extremely fast looped arpeggios. It was a hack. But it was a hack that made those chips unique.

Of course i didn't understand any of that at the time. Back then i was a child, an army brat, dead scared of Soviet nukes and thoroughly excited to watch The A-Team and Top of the Pops each week. But what i did know was when we got our first computer i would sit and listen to certain game intros on loop over and over and over. I'm sure my parents thought i was crazy. They didn't realize that at the time i was a li'l raver-in-training. But listen i did. For hours.

I learned how to play guitar at some point as a kid. I wanted to play AC/DC and Guns'n'Roses, but i couldn't because i didn't have an electric. So i learned Satriani instead. A lot of his stuff worked on classical guitar. Plus, he sounded like a synthesizer. My mom was very confused when i loaded up a computer tracker program from a magazine cover tape and started transcribing Stairway to Heaven into it. For me it was a no-brainer. The computer sounded better - more perfect - playing Led Zeppelin on that shitty-ass AY chip with only three square waves than i did on my rather expensive classical guitar.

How did my parents not get it? Synthesizers are perfect. The sounds they make are just... God, i can't even explain. Synthesizers speak to my heart, they express my feelings and moods better than any traditional instrument could hope to. Don't believe me? J Dave Rogers. God of the AY.

I never even played this game, but i had a cracktro where some kids had ripped off this song to send greetz to their hacker friends. I just listened to the cracktro on loop for hours.

J Dave Rogers - Stormlord

This was a terrible game, but the intro music. Holy hell. Magic.

J Dave Rogers - Zynaps

Who am i kidding? They were all terrible games. Computer games have advanced by leaps and bounds since the 80s, and going back to play anything even 5 years old is an exercise in masochism. But the game music of the time still stands up. Working within extremely tight bounds these musicians and coders coaxed out the wickedest sounds.

But if you don't believe me, if those two tracks were too low-brow for you, how about one of the most proggy game intros of the 80s?

Richard Joseph - Sacred Armour of Antiriad

Later, after the 8-bit era, i got into Ad Lib music on the PC. There was a lot of pretty great music... And then there was Stéphane Picq's score for the game Dune. The Ad Lib soundcard was basically a cheap, cut-down consumer version of the Yamaha DX7 synthesizer from ~5 years earlier, but when you listen to what this guy did with a shitty computer chip versus the pop music of the era it's just phenomenal.

Stéphane Picq - Dune Soundtrack

I AM NOT WORTHY. This man is a god, and pretty much the main reason i got into making techno music. The Dune soundtrack was an amazing fusion of Toto, Deep Forest, Jean-Michel Jarre and every great chip musician that came before. The soundtrack album he put out with "pro" synthesizer reinterpretations of the score was the first CD i ever bought and remains probably my favorite album of all time. Years ago he gave up on the west and disappeared to Madagascar, never to be heard from again. Almost never. Now he is one of my Facebook friends. He'll probably never know how influential his music was for me.

Plenty of other games in the early 90s continued with Ad Lib music, because the once-famous (now forgotten) Sound Blaster sample playback card was not yet industry standard. But eventually the Sound Blaster and its clones got big, Amiga-style tracker music hit the PC, and everything changed. Tracker music was still creative for what the musicians managed to do with limited RAM, but it wasn't really synthesizer music any more. Hell, tracker music got me into composing, but i do think tracker music hitting gaming was the start of the inevitable slide into game music losing its soul. Nowadays game music is just another branch of film scoring, and sadly most film (and game) scorers are not John Carpenter. They still use synths because synths are cheaper than real musicians, but the synths today emulate real instruments flawlessly and no longer have a character of their own. It's a shame.

So, you know. Some of the best game music of the modern era doesn't have any synthesizers at all. Here is a track from Kentucky Route Zero - a somewhat pretentious yet unforgettable surreal journey through the rural south.

Ben Babbitt - Long Journey Home

Great song. I wish game scorers still loved synthesizers as much as i do, though.

What now?
I had started to hit that point of exhaustion at work middle of last year sometime. I am not sure if i noticed the signs at the time, but one key indicator should have been that i was going out clubbing less - and clubbing was the main reason i moved to Berlin. I also made some personal "life changes", which tends to be a common theme when i am trying to solve the feeling of malcontent. I quit smoking. I cut down on drinking. I decided to eat vegan as often as possible. I started walking everywhere. But, as always, none of those things made a big difference to my mood. Early in 2016 i was ready to move on.

And then Brexit hit. It hit me and it hurt and it robbed me of that brief sense of belonging that i had enjoyed since moving back to Europe in 2013. I started to think, since my own country has revoked my citizenship, why bother staying in Europe at all? Then, the summer of unprecedented police oppression in my Kiez. Getting rounded up by jackbooted thugs and watching my neighbors get pepper-sprayed and arrested for nothing destroyed any remaining illusions i held of Berlin being some kind of open-minded raver's paradise. Yes, there is great art here. Living is still relatively cheap. Eating vegan is easy. But just like every other city in the world, it's full of self-interested gentrifiers and profligate consumers and wage slaves scrabbling to survive in the capitalist machine so what difference does it make whether i am here or anywhere else?

It's time to go. Out of principle i want to leave Europe. Since a bunch of racists in England have stolen my identity away from me, fuck the whole place. If i am sentenced to be a foreigner in Europe - a union, a community that i was born a citizen of - then why not be a foreigner in Africa, or Asia, or South America, or Antarctica?

I always wanted to travel more, but up until now i have stuck to countries where i could communicate fairly well in the primary tongue. Being able to read, write, talk - that is extremely important to me, wherever i am. Something i am not comfortable with is living inside an ex-pat bubble in another country, where the only people i talk to are the people who speak my language. I am not comfortable with traveling inside that bubble either, which is the impression i get of the banana pancake trail and other backpacker superhighways. I would like to be able to communicate with people who live in a place. Read the local newspaper. Just hang out there and live for a while. That's hard to do in huge parts of the world when all you got to fall back on is West European languages. But i guess i will never have the opportunity to learn to communicate outside of my comfort zone if i never get outside of my comfort zone.

So, the Middle East. I would love to visit the Middle East. I have wanted to for years. Cradle of civilization. Deserts. Nomads. Unfortunately there is also lots of social conservatism that i am not sure i can put up with right now. Anyone who knows me knows i have major anxiety issues with clothing, probably stemming from my gender issues... I will not cover my shoulders when it is warm. Period. It gives me so much anxiety. I will not wear a dress again. Ever. I have done it once or twice and literally had to fight back vomiting and intense panic attacks i hated it so much. Here is what i wear. Jeans and a tank top in summer. Jeans and a hoodie in winter. That is it. No T-shirts. No blouses. No skirts. No dresses. No no no no no i cannot.

Of course, there are plenty of places in the Middle East (and other Muslim majority countries) where people dress freely. In the bigger cities. In the more touristy areas. Whatever. I am just not ready for that level of anxiety right now. I want to go traveling so i can feel free for a while. I don't want to worry about work, or the future, or anything. It doesn't seem like a great idea to go places where i will worry about clothing - one of my absolute worst anxieties.

So, Africa. I would love to visit Africa. I guess i already did - sort of - when i took a ferry to Melilla a couple years ago. Or last year on my trip to Namibia. What a diverse and incredibly interesting continent. So many languages. So many cultures. So much natural beauty. And, sadly, so much poverty and exploitation. I would like to visit North Africa, but yeah, the clothing thing. East Africa! The plains of Kenya and Tanzania. Lake Victoria. Back to Namibia, maybe via Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana - take a car this time so i can visit the places in between the cities. Angola! Cameroon! Nigeria! A few months ago i was considering making my way down to Kisumu and noodling around there for a while to figure it all out. But then Trump got elected.

Trump's election and the subsequent hysteria i went through made me realize it's not enough to just leave Europe and visit someplace new. I also need a serious retreat from the internet for a while. A current events detox. It is not cool for me to wake up in the middle of the night and immediately check the news and then spend the next several hours in despair. I need to get a fucking grip. Given that even in the second least-populated country in the world (Namibia) i could still get internet on my phone, i decided to think outside the box. Where's the one place on Earth where no one has a phone? The ocean. I mean, obviously there is still satellite communications, but it's pretty much the most middle of nowhere you can be. And how to travel the ocean in relative solitude? Book a berth on a freighter. So that is my new plan.

Container ships take 3-4 weeks to get from Europe to (East) Asia. And there are lots of places i would like to visit in Asia. Not least of which Hong Kong, where i visited my grandfather as a child. The Philippines, where he passed away. Taiwan, where an acquaintance has been bumming around for the past few years. China, where in my opinion the world's richest and deepest culinary traditions developed. Mongolia, the number one least-populated country in the world. More deserts. More nomads. More so many languages, more so many cultures. Yes, i am going to take a container ship to Asia. And then, i don't know.

What are my next steps? My job finishes end of March. My mom will be in Europe briefly in March and will come to visit here in Berlin. My father lives in Vienna but will be visiting New Zealand in mid-April, so i would like to get down to see him before he goes. Prague is on the way. I have never been to the Czech Republic, so that would be interesting. Then i would like to do a "greatest hits" tour of Europe before i leave. My "number one hit" is my home country, the one that cast me out. I haven't been back to the UK in 30 years. But the UK is in the opposite direction from Asia.

The ship i am planning to try get a berth on leaves from Athens. So i am planning to either follow the Orient Express route through Budapest and Belgrade, or take what i am calling "the Venetian route", which would take me down to Croatia and the Adriatic. The only downside of both those routes is they would miss out my most favorite part of Europe to date which was Andalucía. A more ambitious route would be "the Phoenician route" - backtrack all the way to Almería to say goodbye, then hop back and forth across the Med between North Africa, the Balearic Islands, Italy etc till i get to Greece. But that's a much longer journey.

My backup option, by the way, if booking a freighter falls through (you need several visas, vaccinations and a doctor's note) is the Trans-Siberian through Russia and Mongolia. That is a more traditional backpacker route, so i anticipate visas being easier to get. Also, visiting Russia would be very cool.

What's the underlying theme? Peace. I like the idea of traveling around the world without getting on a plane. Planes are awesome in how they have shrunk the world, but they also really reinforce this capitalist notion that you have to get where you are going as quickly as possible. Get back to work! Maximize that tiny sliver of free time! Ugh. For me, this journey will be about slowing down. I don't know exactly how long it will take or where i will end up, but i just really need to spend some time precisely NOT worrying about that.

Fenix, my hero!
Over the Christmas break, the performers of NXT also took a break. The producers filled a few weeks with older taped shows, so i decided to watch Lucha Underground to fill the gap.

Lucha Underground is basically Mortal Kombat meets lucha libre. It's set in our world, but there are also dragons and ancient prophecies and undead warriors and it all goes down in a sketchy warehouse in LA's eastside. The promos are bilingual. The matches are high-flying and brutal. Men fight women fight monsters. It's filmed more like a reality show than a sports event. There are no replays. The matches are taped months in advance without the crowd having the slightest idea of the storyline. Storyline bits are spliced in for TV viewers, but the in-universe commentators ignore them. And the whole thing is anchored by perhaps the greatest non-wrestling character in wrestling history - the diabolical Dario Cueto.

In short, Lucha Underground is basically everything i love about wrestling all bundled up into an hour long weekly show. The fact that back in the real world the TV-style schedule is probably far more forgiving to the performers than other promotions is just a bonus. Honestly, i can't gush enough about it. Anyone even just a little bit into wrestling should watch it. Some of the violence is pretty gruesome, and some of the commentary is creepy and off-color, but the world-building and spectacle is so worth it.

After marathoning 2.5 seasons in as many weeks i was starting to overdose on the bombast. That is a LOT of lucha, my friends. Even still, going back to NXT to watch the buildup to San Antonio was a disappointing change of gear. Oh look, here comes Shinsuke again. Yawn. Fortunately Nikki Cross brought a bit of the excitement back when she took Asuka out to the announce table, though the women's division is going to need a lot more of that to top the epic takedown of Pentagón Dark by the Black Lotus Triad (three amazing women wrestlers from the Japanese circuit who visited the Lucha Underground arena). Fortunately, NXT still has Tye Dillinger and Bobby Roode. Please, Louise, make that rematch happen for Orlando. /end mark.

In completely unrelated news, it was my birthday on Wednesday. I did nothing special. Normally i try to take the day off work or at least get something special to eat, but this week was extremely stressful due to having the real estate agent, the HVAC guy and the chimney sweep all come through my apartment. And work was hectic too. I am so wiped out. I wanted to do something special today, like buy some chocolate or something nice, but i was too tired. Did my regular groceries, ordered in Chinese, collapsed back into bed. I am so exhausted. Perhaps tomorrow i will write about my travel plans, to see if i can start to straighten them out in my head. Right now it is basically just "leave the EU, take a boat around the world, go somewhere i never went before".

how to escape depression through the ancient art of navel-gazing
Things are definitely not going well for me emotionally right now. Although it took a weight off my shoulders last month when i resolved to quit work and leave the country, now i am getting hit with the (expected) stress of all the shit you need to do to move. Couple that with my personal outrage and exasperation at what is happening in both American and British/European politics, plus a tough week in the office... I was due for a breakdown. So, as is my wont, i decided to double-down on the self-loathing. I started to go back and tag my old LJ entries.

In particular, i was curious to find out where the tipping point happened between me being a raging neocon with libertarian-ish tendencies and whatever hypocritical anti-capitalist curmudgeon i am today. But first i had to get through all of the heartbreak and mental health issues that i feared would dominate my entries.

I am only up to 2009, but my biggest surprise is that there were far less public announcements of heartbreak and despair and manic depressive emotional diarrhea than i expected. I guess most of that was directed to my partners at the time, or filled my stacks of paper journals. I noticed that a lot of fairly important events are NOT documented here, and that makes me sad. In 2002 i deleted at least a year's worth of posts that would have been fascinating (although cringe-worthy) to read now. From 2002 through 2006 i engaged in a lot of self-censorship, where i avoided talking about things i thought T would disapprove of (in particular drug use and idiotic behavior like nocturnal drunken road trips). 2007 was okay. Then from 2008 i self-censored my (low) opinion of J's friends and her behavior that ultimately led me to give up alcohol and become a hermit. In 2009 we moved to Canada, got married, and then i publicly snapped and ended up in psychiatric care. And then there was a lot more drug use. I don't really want to read through those years just yet, but i know a large chunk of the entries are locked.

Anyway, point is, a lot of what i did end up leaving public in this journal was relatively uninteresting updates on my life, occasional insights into my thoughts, and odd rants about current events and politics with very little context of what was actually going on in my mind at the time. Here is part of what was going on.

In my 20s, a decent chunk of the people i hung out with were related to the rave scene. That is, they were almost universally liberal. But, being people, they were flawed. I saw vegan hippies reveal their homophobia. DIY punx with crippling drug addiction. Anti-capitalist crusaders who turned out to be paranoid conspiracy theorists. Queer activists who were alcoholic basket cases. And i was no different. Because, despite all the philosophy ravers spout about PLUR and temporary autonomous zones and freedom and joy, we are still humans, and humans are awful.

When i was a young raver, the "normal" people were my enemy. When i got older, we all started to become "normal". Ravers turned into clubbers. People left the scene altogether and bought houses and cars and started jogging in the morning and doing all the shit we used to think was hideous. I became hideous when i lived in America for a year. I had an outwardly blissful suburban/small-town lifestyle, in a house, going to the mall, decorating for Halloween, eating out, doing all the nice middle class things that middle class people should do. And you know what? It actually was not hideous at all. It was perfectly fine. When i got back to Aus in 2002 i tried to build that life for myself, because i knew it was the life that T wanted, that M wanted, that J wanted. And it's people living that life that both the political left and right pander to.

So i think my politics ended up colored by these disparate experiences. I associated with radical lefties - people who participated in direct action against the Jabiluka uranium mine, people who took part in weed marches and queer pride parades, people who were vegan before being vegan was hip, people who dumpster dived, who hitchhiked, who couch surfed and hoboed around and danced and philosophized. And they were interesting people, and they were flawed people. In the political mainstream (and federal opposition) was the Australian Labor Party, which i saw as the party of bogans. As an immigrant and a trannie i felt they never cared about me, my indigenous friends felt ignored, and the whole scene was demonized because we were all ferals, druggies and pooftahs. And the right-wing? Perhaps worse on the environment, perhaps better on international policy, but ultimately still hopeless.

I came out hard and angry against the middle class protestors who pretended to be pacifists while living ultra-consumerist lifestyles that were built on systemic exploitation of the third world. Never mind that all my leftie friends were protesting too - because i judged them for their personal flaws i didn't take their message seriously either. I came out hard and angry against the working class protestors whose labor union movement always came across to me as misogynistic, racist and homophobic. Even if in reality it probably wasn't any worse than the bog-standard Australian level of misogyny, racism and homophobia. I even came out hard against my younger self who attended Reclaim the Streets (green anarchist/anti-capitalist direct action).

I was fucking angry. I had no way to get to be with the woman i loved. I worked so fucking hard but never felt i could get any closer to my actual dreams. I filled the holes in my heart with "stuff". As both an immigrant and a transperson i was essentially a non-person. Unrecognized gender identity. Couldn't vote anyway. Why would i ever think either political wing would give a shit about me? Why would i throw in with the fragmented groups of the radical left? I wonder now if my politics were not specifically right-wing, but "no-wing" - fatigued, self-interested, nihilistic. You see people protesting against shit that seems desperately unimportant. The only time a politician ever does something that affects you and your friends is when they come to make your lives worse, not better. It's so easy to just say, well, they all suck so let's just hope for the best from whichever one wins.

Which is total nonsense, i see that now. But i guess - especially being disenfranchised my entire life - i had a lot in common with those Americans i met during my Greyhound journey through the ass-end of the country last year. Why should they care about politics? None of it ever seems to affect them. The current Orwellian regime in the White House is trying to claim this "forgotten man" as some kind of silent majority who supports their policies, but that is as hokey as all the other shit they are peddling. Because i can assure you if i went back to talk to those same guys in those same bars, they'd feel the same way today that they did 6 months ago. Well, except that thing where the Republicans want to sell off federal lands to the highest bidder. That'll be a kick in the nuts for the rural west. Anyway, point is, i never stood in solidarity with anyone because my life was a chaotic mess and i never felt like politicians would help me anyway. So i cherry-picked issues that mattered to my circle - licensing laws, affordable housing, indigenous rights, free trade, free healthcare, open borders, gay marriage... and bitterly opposed the rest.

I didn't read far enough in my journal to get up to Occupy, but it's clear that here and there i was already feeling torn between my need to maintain a white collar job to be able to afford a lifestyle i wanted and a more primal happiness that came when i wasn't working at all. God knows Canada is where i really started to rub shoulders with the most obnoxious slice of the middle class - that being, the ones who are completely oblivious to how much privilege they have and just surround themselves with ever more stuff to avoid feeling guilty about anything. Yeah, fuck married life. Fuck the suburbs. Fuck the police. Burn it all down. That happened, somewhere in there. I started to identify more with the freaks from my personal life than the "norms" from my working (and married) life. Then along came the 2010s and the social justice explosion on the internet, and here we are.

One thing i did notice, going back and skim-reading ~7 years of posts, is that there is some kind of cadence to this for me. I work and live a relatively normal middle class life for about 3 years at a time, and then i crack. I take six months or a year off, living on almost nothing, and then at some point i go back to the trough like a good little capitalist. Because society does not let people live outside of it, or between it. I am feeling more and more that property is evil, but i cannot keep my sanity without privacy, and it's hard to maintain privacy without property. Or a lot of money. Prepare to read a hypocritical spiel toward the end of the year when i try to justify starting the cycle all over again.

Regardless, it's nice to see that i have grown up a little bit. Standing in solidarity with liberals as i do today is better than spouting bitter conservative rhetoric like i did 10-15 years ago, even if on the inside i feel as alienated as ever.

hit the wall
I am wiped. This was an intense week.

Our team released some infrastructure that ended up messing up so bad we got a public shaming (bug report via Twitter). Then the guys got all stressed out and got into this meth addict-y loop of trying (and failing) to fix ever more tangential things till they lost track of what the original problem was in the first place. They left early Thursday and both were out on Friday. I came in with fresh eyes and have a fix i think will solve it, but the stress level was very high.

Meanwhile i did take everyone out for lunch on Wednesday to give us a breather and a moment to celebrate the actually larger success of our infrastructure project (the piece that failed was a very small but unfortunately public part). We got into really deep discussions of religion and politics and society. My team is definitely Team SJW compared to the other guys in the company. I also had one of my direct reports break down in tears during a one-on-one because they cared so much about a particular topic and had felt their opinions weren't being heard. Yay emotions.

It was also a week of giving peer feedback, so everyone was trying to think about how to be constructive but not too negative, but not sugar-coating... And then there is that subtle "did i say something too harsh" vibe the next time you see the person in the office. Urgh.

And all that against a backdrop of struggling to find an insurance company who will cover me when i go traveling, being told i need to find some timeslots for 60 (!) potential renters to come check out the apartment, i need to call the HVAC guy, the electric guy, i need to find a way to either donate all my junk or have it picked up... Fuck, i am so done with everything.

Oh yeah, and there is this fucking guy in America who appears hell-bent on plunging us all into a third world war.

So i am stressed. I am unhappy. I just want to run away, i want to disappear. I want to be anonymous again. My colleagues want to have events to see me off, they want to exchange contact details, they want to keep in touch, they want me to blog while i am away[1]... And that shit, that shit is exactly what makes me want to leave in the first place. No i do not want your friendship, i do not want you to get to know me, or care about what happens to me next, i am just another drifter. Sure, i give everything i have to the company, to my colleagues, because that is what i am being paid to do and i take the contract i signed very seriously. Leaving them is hard because i do care very much about their careers and the ongoing success of the company. But when that contract is done, i am done. I want to be free. I want to not have to deal with anyone.

People make me crazy. They do, they do. Friends, family, relationships, colleagues - when i don't have any of them i am content. When they come into play i'm a timebomb. The anxiety and stress builds till i feel strangled, trapped. My mood crashes and i hate everything and all i want is to be free again. I can't be free when i have to deal with people who want something from me.

[1] Although a few of my real-life friends and family members have learned about this LJ over the past 15 years, i doubt they keep up with it, and i never in sobriety share this address with people i know in real life.

and things didn't look better by the light of day
Nope, nope, nope, i am not okay. I woke up several times overnight, and each time the news was worse. Usually my dreams are just some nice place i retreat to that i forget shortly after waking. Last night i dreamt of being turned back at the border, oppressed by police, i dreamt of the fear... I am so not fucking okay with this.

And let's not forget that while all the cameras were trained on the American patriots protesting these despicable immigration changes, news also emerged that the NSC has been quietly reorganized to give an actual real life neo-Nazi propagandist a seat at the table.

I don't want to ignore it, i don't want to stick my head in the sand. I can scarcely believe that we are witnessing the rise of an Orwellian regime in a country that prides itself on its embrace of democracy, its system of checks and balances and its freedom of speech and expression. In books you read about how demagogues exploit the zeitgeist and are swept to power on a wave of public opinion. But is this how it happens in reality? A tiny minority fight dirty to get their guy elected, most people think he's awful, but a plurality don't have the time or energy to vote, or talk about it, or think about it, so - oh well - life goes on. Until it doesn't.

I mean, i guess that's exactly how it happens. There are plenty of "normal" and "reasonable" people living in Russia, and China, and Turkey, and Iran and wherever else that we in the west often see as fairly oppressive and un-free regimes. They just get on with their lives, because what else are you going to do? Maybe humankind is just destined to be awful. Who can blame someone for only taking the time to look out for themselves? Why should those of us who are members of minority expect that anyone else would look out for us? In a pure democracy the freaks are marginalized. In an authoritarian state freaks are marginalized too, they may just be a different set of freaks. It doesn't matter what form of government you have if most people are more concerned about their own lives than they are about social justice. But that's human nature, right?

When the state comes for ravers, i feel it personally. When they come for immigrants, i feel it personally. When they come for transpeople, or gay people, i feel it personally. But do i feel it when they come for people of color, or indigenous people, or people with disabilities... well, yes, i do. But is there a point where i just kind of sit back and let it happen? I hate to admit it, but sure, there is. I am too scared to take part in direct action because i fear deportation. I am too scared of my own mental health issues to give all my money away and live in a co-op. I am too much attached to being able to travel to invest long-term in building a community tied to a physical place. So i write. And i talk. And i swing between being an outwardly critical cog in the capitalist machine and bubbling along in its underbelly with the punx and the hobos and the drug addicts. And then i pop back out and exercise my privilege and what? Fucking nothing is what. Fucking nothing.

It has got to be some kind of epic first world problem to be able to spend as much time as i do worrying about society and the future of humankind. Get a hobby, right? Work harder like the rest of us do. Consume more like the rest of us do. Quit your sad sack moping around and get married again, have kids this time, buy a house like a respectable citizen. Urgh.

Perhaps this idea of sitting on a freighter surrounded by nothing but the purest symbol of globalization - containers - and a whole ocean of hostile nothingness for a few weeks is just what i need to figure out what is next for me. I contacted a few freighter companies last week. I would like to go direct to Taiwan to avoid having too much hassle straight off the bat in mainland China, but it seems most Europe to Taiwan shipping lines do not take passengers. Still looking. When i am less upset about American politics (ha!) i will write some more about this plan i have for April.

shabby city in the ditch
This Muslim ban is disgusting. It is deplorable in every fucking way.

Now that i am "out" about quitting at work, i have gotten into longer discussions with some of my colleagues about Brexit, and the experience of being an immigrant for most of my life. Here's a thing - for the last 30 years, i have never lived in a country where i was a citizen. I have never been able to vote. I have never had the comfort of knowing that if something really bad went down, my fellow countrymen would have my back. There is a constant fear in the back of my head that i might one day do or say something wrong and end up deported back to the UK - a country i haven't seen since i was a young child.

But, hold on, it's not entirely true that i have never lived in a country where i was a citizen. Until article 50 goes through, i am technically still a citizen of the EU. Coming back to Europe after 15+ years living in Australia and Canada was a revelation. For the first time in my adult life, i could go into the "citizen" line at the airport. The customs guy just waved me through. Welcome back. Welcome home. Of course, even though i am a citizen of the EU, that doesn't come with voting rights in the country i live and work. But it does provide some amount of peace that people who have never been immigrants take for granted. Brexit blew that all to hell for me.

Let's talk about this utter clusterfuck of an executive order that was signed yesterday. If it wasn't already disgusting enough to enact a blanket ban on refugees and travelers from specific countries, actual fucking American permanent residents are being blocked from traveling back to their own homes and families. The news coming out this morning is terrifying, and a manifestation of every fear i have held as a lifelong immigrant.

Right back when i started this journal i had been living as a permanent resident in Australia for several years, but i took a year off to be with my partner in the US and try to find a way to live up there. Technically it's illegal to "live" in the US on a visitor's visa and look for work at the same time, but i was in love with a girl from across the Pacific and i just wanted to fulfil my dream of moving to America - that shining city on a hill where anyone from anywhere in the world could go to be happy. Needless to say, looking for work immediately after the dot com bust and 9/11 was not the best idea. I headed back to Australia humbled and heartbroken. But, you know, at least my family and some friends would be there.

And then i didn't get let back into Australia. Little did i know that permanent residence in Australia is not really permanent - it expires every 5 years, and while i had been in the US, mine had expired. So, penniless, i was refused entry to the country where my family lived. I was taken into an interrogation chamber and forced to explain myself. Eventually i was given a temporary visa and told i had to visit immigration within a week. In the end i was granted residence again, but every time i left the country after that i dreaded a repeat occurrence.

It happened again in Canada. I had married a Canadian citizen and my own permanent residence application was pending, but in the mean time my visitor visa was about to expire. On the advice of our immigration lawyer we traveled out of the country and came back the next day to renew the visa. Once again i saw the inside of an interrogation chamber. I was separated from my wife and everyone on the Greyhound had to wait while i tried to convince the border officers that yes i had a permanent residence application pending and no i was not working illegally and no that letter from my lawyer was not a forgery. I don't even want to go into the hassles i encountered when i first arrived in Canada. And this in a "liberal" country which actually allows dual intent on a visitor visa.

Since then i have become a Canadian citizen and dear Lord i am forever grateful i had the foresight to file that application before i left Canada. Otherwise Brexit could very well have triggered an even more drastic reaction in me than just going "fuck everything, i'm leaving Europe for good".

Anyway, point is, being an immigrant FUCKING SUCKS. You are disenfranchised in the country you call home. You pay taxes and may never see the benefits. Building a credit rating is extremely difficult. And then there is that apprehension that you might get thrown out on your ass on the whim of a sadistic cop or border agent. But in spite of everything that sucks, we still do it because we want to learn, we want to contribute, we want to belong. We emigrate because we have a dream.

And then along comes a xenophobic demagogue to tell you that because of where you were born or the religion you follow, you are a risk, you cannot be trusted and you can no longer travel. You can't visit family or friends, your job doesn't count for shit, your contributions ain't shit, and hell yes prepare to be booted out on your ass. It's horrifying. Absolutely sickening. I am filled with anxiety for everyone who is suffering today and will likely continue to suffer while these neo-Nazis remain in power.

when did i become #ungovernable?
I do mean to go back and re-tag all the entries in this LJ at some point. It's hard, though, because so much of what i wrote here in my 20s is cringeworthy. Some of it is painful because of how naïvely in love i was, some of it is hard to read because i was suffering from psychotic peaks and crushing lows of manic depression, and some of it is just plain embarrassing because i had a very weird blend of neoconservatism and libertarianism mixed in with my leftishness.

The moment i realized i had changed was last year when i took part in a very aggressive protest against the police oppression in my kiez. After weeks of walking home from work and being surrounded by riot police who had branded my entire neighborhood as a "danger zone", it exploded. Kids set fire to cars and smashed windows and sprayed BLM, ACAB and Ⓐ on the sidewalks. Some lit road flares and fireworks. Most of us were peaceful. The jackbooted fascists attacked us with teargas, pepper spray, flashlights and truncheons anyway. We made the front page of the Guardian - briefly - and then the conservative politician responsible for the whole mess quietly pulled back the police presence.

Yesterday i refused to watch any of the inauguration, because that pageantry would be insufferable even if the incoming president wasn't a shameless flim-flam man, but i did watch the livestreams of citizen journalists and alternative reporters who have cut their teeth covering Black Lives Matter and #NoDAPL. I cheered as a bunch of kids smashed symbols of capitalism and scampered through the American capital waving the black flag of anarchy. I don't know how they managed to stage it so well, but setting fire to a limo in front of the WaPo office was fucking genius. Meanwhile all round the world #bridgesnotwalls had been doing banner drops, and in the rest of America little pockets of anarchist youth thumbed their nose at the patriarchy and the oligarchy.

All of this gives me life. How did i go from someone who 15 years ago went on angry rants about how protestors should get the fuck off the streets and we should run them over with tanks just like at Tiananmen to someone who whoops and hollers as punx set fire to cop cars?

I mean, the issues changed, for one. I was not against the Iraq War. I still think taking out Saddam was the right thing to do for the people of Iraq, though obviously the aftermath of that war has turned the whole region into a shit-show. I am pro-globalization. I don't like out-of-control capitalism any more than the next guy, but having lived my life as a permanent immigrant, free trade and freedom of movement are two values i will never let go of. Most of the noughties were defined by anti-war and anti-globalization rallies. But the last few years issues have switched around to be more pro-environment and anti-fascism. Those are issues i can get behind.

The last major protest i could have been a part of but didn't was the G20 Summit in Toronto 2010. A lot of the people i was hanging out with at the time were going under the flag of feminism and LGBTQ rights. I withdrew from that group of friends in part because i didn't want to be associated with the anti-globalization underpinnings of the protests. At the time i wasn't working in an office job, so the only people i really interacted with besides J's upper-middle class suburban family were those working class women i boxed with. Going back to a real office job really took off the blinders. I will never forget that Christmas party of 2011 (i think?) where my colleagues hated on the "lazy" Occupy protestors but then simultaneously complained about being part of the downtrodden 99% because they were being taxed too highly on their second home.

That was when i started to hate my colleagues. Yeah. Maybe Occupy was the turning point for me. I have written before about how blessed i feel that i have a job that pays so well, but the longer i work in it the more i resent it. Even in my current company where everyone is relatively liberal and topics like Brexit, Trump and the AfD get a regular public drubbing on our chat channels, these guys are still earning a ton of money and happily putting it away in stocks and property and whatever other things they need to retire rich and happy. Meanwhile i feel ill that i currently have ~30k in my bank account. I actually feel ill when i look at it. How can anyone have that much money just sitting around? And the fact that that's not even a "lot" of money, given tons of "middle class" people buy cars and houses and other things worth far more... And then complain they are still getting a raw deal. That makes me so angry. It is not right that i have 30k in my bank account when people who fled abject poverty and war are living in tents across town. (Oh, and facing accusations of being secret terrorists too.) Seriously. Fuck that noise. It makes me so conflicted and so unhappy.

Anyway, by the time Ferguson happened it was a done deal. Black Lives Matter. #NoDAPL. Kein Mensch ist Illegal. Fuck Tha Police. Those kids in balaclavas, the black bloc, the ones brave enough to risk injury and jail to call out the apathetic masses, those kids are heroes. When i get blocked by a protest on the way home from work nowadays it's the uniformed thugs who block me, not the kids. And if some anti-capitalist protestors blocked the entrance to my office like the heroes in San Francisco yesterday, you know i would sit up and take notice. Because i have already noticed. The tech industry is a cancer on society. Gentrification is a massive problem. Consumerism is fucking awful. Venture capitalism is little more than white collar gambling. I don't know how to break out of the loop, but i acknowledge there are systemic problems here, and i am glad i am not the only one who cares.

I am generally a pretty nice and tolerant person. I don't want to sit around preaching to everyone how they should live their lives every single minute of every single day. We all have to make a living somehow, and people will choose their own hill to die on. But, at the same time, i don't feel bad cheering on the anarchists whose direct action makes people uncomfortable. There is a lot to be uncomfortable about. I get it now. It took me a lot of growing up to get it, but i get it now.


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