I Overshare

“You overshare,” she said.

She was a fairly recent acquaintance, someone I’d met through work. Although she was outwardly reserved, I’d hoped we were kindred spirits under the surface, but it turned out I was wrong. We’d met for coffee and I’d asked her for help dealing with a difficult situation with another work colleague. And that’s when she said it.

It turns out my issue with the other work colleague probably has something to do with my oversharing, too. “It’s not professional,” I can picture her saying, perhaps wagging a finger.

Over the past year, I can think of at least six people who’ve been unhappy with my level of personal disclosure online. Strangely enough, every single one of those people is from an English or Scottish background.

I’m Irish. In my childhood home, arguments were normal. One of my dearest memories of my parents is of me storming off to my room in the middle of an argument, and them gently knocking a few minutes later. They didn’t let me run away from my feelings. We sorted stuff out, sometimes messily, but in the present.

We’re often told not to “bottle up” our emotions, that it might lead to “explosions” of feeling, or maybe violence. But I think I have a better metaphor. Sinkholes are formed when water accumulates under a land surface and the soil underneath erodes, leading to a sudden collapse.

A sinkhole is a good representation of what happened to my marriage, I think.

I’ve always needed an outlet for my emotions. I don’t consider myself an extravert, so often I’ve dealt with things by writing about them. When personal online publishing became a reality in the late 1990s, the issue of oversharing became inevitable, although not many people would have foreseen it at the time. As someone who began keeping a homepage in those days, and then starting a personal blog, I’m bound to be stuck in my idealistic, perhaps naive, way of thinking. We didn’t do it for “hits” or traffic. We did it to find connection, to make some friends who might understand us, even though we didn’t live near each other.

Fourteen years ago this week, I attended my very first SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. The personal weblog I’d started the previous year, the one you’re reading this on right now, had led to the establishment of a few tentative friendships. As I got off the plane in Austin, I was nervous. Would these people like me in real life? Would we be the same people we portrayed ourselves as online? It was a real concern. Imagine my relief when people I’d only known as text on a screen came up to me and hugged me. We’d found our “tribe,” we’d say, and years later, many of those people are still very dear to me.

So when my life began to come apart last year, I turned to a group of people who are spread out all over the world. I don’t see many of them often, we don’t even speak on the phone very much. This is the new reality of connection. I shared my life struggles with these people, on this blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, wherever else my real friends might be. Sure, lots of other people can see what I’m writing. I’m not ashamed. I wear my heart on my sleeve whenever possible, and I’m freer because of it.

I may lose people who don’t like that. I won’t say friends because how could they be friends if they’re embarrassed by me? I may lose potential jobs or work opportunities because of that. To that, I’d offer that my online presence was formed in the years before “social media” was something for my resume, when it was a way for me and millions of others to find our voices and use them. When the web was more about personalities and less about commerce. I’m not using a bullhorn to talk about myself, but I won’t be shushed, either.

In an age when the notion of “privacy” is under attack, I overshare. My government and several other governments, along with most of the world’s largest corporations, know so much about me already. What I buy, what I read, how I vote, where I go, what websites I visit, what I search for. Why not show them and the rest of the world the real me? I’m so much more than my data points. I’m a glorious ball of contradictions, stumbling through this life making mistakes and finding joy and enduring pain and loving and being loved, being misunderstood and ignored, and maybe hated, too.

I’m a human being. And I overshare.

SXSW 2010: Compilation Champs

It’s hard to believe that this year will mark a decade for me of attending the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. I started in 2001 by attending just the Interactive festival, and that’s still the core of what interests me, but over the years, I’ve extended my stay and now take in film screenings and panels and as much free music (along with beer and food) as I can squeeze in. One of my traditions has been to make a mix CD each year of songs that have meant something to me in the previous 12 months. I used to make about 20-30 copies on CD and then give them out in person each year. It was a nice way of reinforcing the connections I’d made and giving a small token of friendship to some of my new pals. But each year, it got more onerous to create something that most people would end up ripping to their hard drives anyway. The only place most people play CDs these days is in their cars, and I expect that’s changing, too.

So, this year, behold the mighty .m4a compilation! It has album artwork and everything. All that’s missing are the liner notes, which I’m going to provide for you right here. You don’t need to be attending SXSW to download and enjoy this 10th annual SXSW edition of Compilation Champs. But if you are, make sure you say hello if you see me. In any case, please let me know what you think about the songs. I love putting this together each year and writing a little bit about music, which I don’t do often enough.

You can stream the whole thing by hitting the play button, but it works best as a download, so go ahead and click that link (or the image).

SXSW 2010 Compilation Champs

Duration: 48:00
Download .m4a file (67.8 MB)

  1. Intro – The XX (2009, from the album XX): I named this my Album of the Year for 2009 and this song does indeed make for a perfect “intro” to the rest. The XX sound to me a bit like what would have happened if Young Marble Giants had listened to more James Brown growing up. Minimalistic dance music that’s both cool and hot at the same time.
  2. Shadow – Delta 5 (c. 1979-1981, from the album Delta 5: Singles and Sessions 1979-1981): I only recently discovered the amazing Delta 5 after watching a documentary about the history of Rough Trade Records in the UK. This unique band had two bass players and were at the forefront of the feminist and anti-racist movements. Plus they’re from Leeds, home of one of my all-time favourite bands, The Wedding Present.
  3. Blessed Brambles – Múm (2007, from the album Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy): My fascination with Icelandic music continues, and with Múm’s in particular. There’s a mechanical sound to their music that reminds me of sewing machines: industrial and yet homey at the same time.
  4. My Love Life – Morrissey (1991, from the EP Morrissey at KROQ): An old favourite from the tail end of my college days. A plaintive plea for sympathy, and who couldn’t use “a little something” for our love lives?
  5. Overground – Siouxsie and the Banshees (1978, from the album The Scream): Stark and cool, this song is from the band’s very first record. Despite being criticized at the time for their lack of musicianship, I find the stripped down sound energizing and kind of epic, actually.
  6. I’m Confused – Handsome Furs (2009, from the album Face Control): In a lucky accident, I stumbled into a show by this husband-and-wife duo at last year’s SXSW. I couldn’t believe how energetic they could be with just a guitar and a keyboard. It pleased me that they’re Canadian, from Montreal, but it’s strange that I haven’t really listened all that much to Dan Boeckner’s other band, Wolf Parade.
  7. Time for Heroes – The Libertines (2002, from the album Up the Bracket): Another discovery from the Rough Trade Records documentary. I’d only ever heard of Pete Doherty as the drug-addled boyfriend of Kate Moss. His most recent band, Babyshambles, never crossed my radar at all, but listening to The Libertines makes his subsequent troubles all the more sad.
  8. Hell Yeah (Pimp the System) – Dead Prez (2004, from the album RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta): Dead Prez impressed the hell out of me in the film Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, and so I went looking for more from them. This song is powerful enough to both frighten me and make me see things from the other side. Muggings and fraud are survival tactics, but there’s also a thrill, that of “pimping the system” that tries to keep you down.
  9. The Major Lift – Years (2009, from the album Years): Years is a side project from the impossibly-named Ohad Benchetrit, multi-instrumentalist for Do Make Say Think. It was the horn section in this particular song that grabbed me, especially the tuba, which is a bird seldom-heard in most of my music.
  10. A Prophecy – Close Lobsters (1987, from the album Foxheads Stalk This Land): Scottish band Close Lobsters were part of the C-86 “movement” spawned by a compilation put out by the NME. Though they weren’t prolific, this entire album is a treasure chest of jangly goodness. I have no idea why the song speeds up at the end, but I sort of like that it does.
  11. Footsteps – Bricolage (2009, from the album Bricolage): This Glasgow band seem to be mining the same territory as Postcard Records acts like Orange Juice and Josef K, which is just fine by me. If I had actually heard this album last year, it might have been my album of the year. Also, what is it about Scottish bands that compels them to make electric guitars sound like something else? First it was Big Country making guitars sound like bagpipes, and now on this song, Bricolage give the guitars a steel drum feeling. Or am I crazy?
  12. Broken Rifle – Evening Hymns (2009, from the album Spirit Guides): Closer to home this time. Evening Hymns is essentially Jonas Bonetta, from tiny Orono, Ontario. Over the years I’ve introduced a few people to some great Canadian music, and I hope this year it might be this lovely song that reaches you.
  13. Peach, Plum, Pear – Joanna Newsom (2004, from the album The Milk-Eyed Mender): I had heard OF Joanna Newsom for quite a while but had never heard her music until the closing credits of a short film called City Paradise, which featured “Peach, Plum, Pear.” It worked so well there that I’m stealing the idea here for my own “closing credits.”

I have no way of determining how many people download the compilation this year, so if you’ve read this far, would you mind just dropping a comment to say Hi after clicking the download link? Of course, it would be great if you came back to tell me what you thought of the music, too.

Rain Can Make Brothers Out of Strangers

Rain Can Make Brothers Out of Strangers - SXSW 2001

This photo was taken at the end of my very first South by Southwest Interactive in March 2001. A few of us had decided to walk to Katz’s deli late one night and during our walk it began to pour.

By the time we’d made it to the restaurant, we were drenched but laughing like idiots. I’d made some genuine friends.

Today I found out that Brad Graham (at the far left in the photo) has passed away. He was 41. Brad was one of the funniest, smartest and warmest people I have ever met. It seems unbelievable that he is not in the world anymore, and that I won’t hear his laugh again.

I used to joke with him that he reminded me so much of comedian Paul Lynde, the old centre square on the game show Hollywood Squares. I hope that when I die, he will be sitting in the centre of the Bloggywood Squares and that he’ll be saving a seat for me.

Godspeed, my friend…

SXSW 2008: Social Networking Indeed

I’m here in Austin for my eighth consecutive South by Southwest Interactive conference. I’ve come to look at this week as an essential creative reboot each year. The weather in Toronto combined with the months of near darkness always leave me drained in inspiration. And then I come to Texas and spend a week with a few thousand of my closest friends.

I didn’t plan well this year. And work got crazy. And I foolishly solicited SXSW filmmakers to send me screeners. So the leadup to this year’s conference was a flurry of late nights and trying to compile a super-calendar of Interactive, Film and Music events. Now that I’m here, it’s clear that I just can’t do it all.

In fact, my normal “shy extravert” personality has taken a hit and I am finding myself cocooning in my hotel room, which is unusual for me. I think part of it might be that I’m a bit nervous about trying to meet new people (ie. Film people). On the one hand, I’m a lazy man and don’t mind hanging around with my old Interactive tribe. But I feel like I might be missing an opportunity to learn something new and talk about another of my favourite things with like-minded people. But I’m also afraid of being embraced by the Film people and then missing out on all the stuff I’ve come to love about the Interactive conference. This conflict over different social choices as well as scheduling options has left me even more paralyzed than usual. And I don’t like feeling like this.

I’m hoping that staying a few days extra to see free Music day shows and hang around with my Austin pals will sort me out. I’ll post an update in a few days.

GodTube.com Growing Fast

GodTube.com is growing fast and now offers social networking and live streaming, in addition to Christian-themed videos

This is interesting in light of some of the issues we discussed at our panel at SXSW Interactive this past spring. You can listen to the podcast here. I wonder if there’s a way to measure if more people are actually “attending” church online than offline. They certainly seem to be indulging their curiosity at this new site.

Of course, my fear is always that online “community’ is often just an invitation to flame others with views different than your own. The internet makes it much easier to express views you wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing to a stranger IRL, but it also makes it easier to trash someone else’s views without getting to know them first.

Must keep an eye on this GodTube thing…