The End

Stephen Hill

Stephen Hill by April Smith of AHA Media

The world has lost a great man. Well, two counting Nelson Mandela, but you’ve already read his obituary somewhere, so there’s no need to review.

I’m talking about my friend Stephen Hill.

When I was 16 my sister burst into my bedroom first thing one morning and announced, “Wake up. John Lennon and Grandpa are both dead.” This feels much like that day.

You most likely don’t know Stephen. Yet. And if you don’t know Stephen, there’s one thing I know about you: You are not from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

Neither was Stephen, actually, as you can tell from the below video, where he introduces the film With Glowing Hearts (of which he was a major financial supporter) to an audience comprised of motley crew of digital rock stars, renegade filmmakers, citizen journalists, activists, and the homeless (dress code the same for all of the above, except the activists are the ones wearing Blundstones). He did make it his own. He was One of Us.

Sounds like Alan Fucking Rickman addressing Noah’s Ark.

Only in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside could a white heckler interrupt a white speaker in front of a 90% white audience in a university named after a Scot to insist that the speaker acknowledge the speech was taking place on stolen First Nations land, and only Stephen Hill could roll with it like that.

Speeches are not easy to write or deliver, and very difficult to write and deliver well.

Eulogies are harder.

Here’s a good one. Stephen wrote it.

Here is another, about a different man. Stephen‘s brother wrote it. Stephen would expect me to snark at the fact that it’s not on WordPress; he’d be disappointed if I didn’t. I don’t like to disappoint Stephen, so: Blogspot? Really???

To get to know Stephen on paper, which is where he’d be more comfortable being known, is impossible now thanks to disposability, but you can come to know him in pixels, which always made him nervous, by looking through his CV, which he made in the (telling) form of a Community Walk map, a format which combines spatial relationships with textual and visual context. He believed very strongly that we exist at all times in intimate relation with our surroundings, and that our physical paths and environments are our life’s journey in more than merely the mundane way. His bone-deep connection to the concept of community was apparently nurtured in his school; they were both lucky to find one another.

On the Downtown Eastside Stephen worked as an employment counselor in his official capacity, and as an inspiration, firebrand, organizer, activist, and icon in his real life. He was everywhere, behind the scenes, generally helping those behind the scenes prevent the scenery from falling over. If I was at a protest or large event and I couldn’t find him, I’d just ask if anyone had seen “the posh Englishman,” and they’d all go “Oh, Stephen‘s over there!” and there he’d be, directing a crew of neophyte sound engineers plucked from the lunch room of the Carnegie or listening to an Elder tell stories of her childhood in a residential school, stories she’d never told a white man before.

Speeches are hard. I’ve made many speeches myself, often about the successes of my students from the Downtown Eastside, but I have a confession to make: they were all Stephen‘s protegees first. Citizen journalist April Smith was part of the Fearless City project which Stephen more or less badgered me into joining (so blame him, Irwin!). Henry Doyle the poet was a regular at Gallery Gachet, and a client of Stephen‘s at the Job Shop. All I did was provide a sort of finishing school for the forces of nature which they are, and which Stephen had helped them to recognize and harness. He was the one picking winners or, to be honest, building them seemingly from scratch sometimes, and convincing them they could win if given the right tools, which he taught them how to build or obtain for themselves. Not for nothing did he win Mentor of the Year from his peers.

He was also a terrific music snob, and I mean that in both senses of the word. No matter what your insidery music story, he could generally casually top it, trying not to show that it mattered to him, but the stories were so good they simply mattered intrinsically. The time Elvis Costello played an acoustic set in his living room, for instance. One wall of his office was covered with a web of steel wires and in this web hung a grid of albums: vinyl only, of course, for visual impact and also because vinyl > CD 4 eva. I knew I’d registered with him in more than a dutiful counsellor way when I rambled on about Year Zero in a meeting and the next week he had removed an old Blues album and put NIN in its place.

He hated NIN, really. That’s how I knew for sure.

In his eulogy for his friend Nigel he said:

Half my vinyl record collection is still made up of often obscure titles which Nigel liked and therefore I did too.

I’d be embarrassed to tell you how many of my albums were given to me by Stephen, who would not rest when he found out I had only Elvis Costello’s Greatest Hits and not Spike or any of the other “good ones, the ones you can’t buy here.” Or how many I bought because he’d mentioned the bands and how many hours I spent on YouTube particularly, trying to do my musical homework before the next meeting. He supplied the best songs on the Soundtrack for Occupy Vancouver, and I know that he donated at least two tents and two sleeping bags, which he’d gone out and purchased new just for Occupy.

God damn him, he even made me like twee hipster troubadors Arcade Fire, although it was their acoustic version of Guns of Brixton, and of course he told me all about the concert hall it was recorded in, as he probably spent more time there than at home for much of the 70’s. We spent a good hour or so discussing this song in the context of Boris Johnson‘s previous essay in which he pined for actual riots instead of quiet ones, now that BoJo had become mayor of London and had gotten (got?) his riots after all.

This, though. This is the most typical Stephen Music Story. It comes from the eulogy that he wrote for his old school friend Nigel Graves.

Then new wave appeared just before we began to part – a Christmas Eve Roundhouse concert featured ‘Eddie and the Hot Rods’ and we were so drunk and otherwise empowered by ‘Do anything you wanna do’ that on the way home we gave all our money to the striking firemen; working class politics indeed.

Here’s his musical scrapbook for July of 1969 alone. God, doesn’t that look exhausting?

This way of being we were creating included embracing contradictions and not toeing any one line. It was indeed possible to love Beowulf and Steppenwolf at the same time and with the same intensity.

You didn’t have to believe that you had to be this or that, you could be this and that. I carry this catholic view of passions, beliefs and ideas with me still, and in a world with increasing pressure to conform I will always be well pleased and plain relieved that early in our lives, with each others help, we were able to be true free thinkers.

I suppose one thing we learned together was to be ourselves; it’s funny how you often need someone else to help with that.

And that’s what he made his life’s work: to help others to find, and be, themselves.

I’m tempted, very tempted, to make a comparison between the Old Boys of his school, who are called Old Gowers or OGs for short, and the more widespread contemporary understanding of “OG” but I won’t, because it is just one of those overreaching, ridiculous, vulgarly amusing things that would bring the familiar pained, forbearing expression to Stephen‘s face and the eyes rolling heavenward, and we all do hate to disappoint Stephen.

He knew. He knew and he didn’t tell us, any of us.

He left Vancouver a year and a half ago, saying that he was going back to London to be with his mother while she was still here, and I had a few email conversations with him after that: he was living on a converted barge, tied up on the Thames somewhere far out of the centre of things for cheap moorage, which was the only way civilized people Bohemians could afford to live in London any more. I saw him just before he left, running into him at the Waves which served as a sort of community centre for everyone who was just well off enough not to have to hang out at the Carnegie, or on the sidewalk. We talked for a bit, and although we never talked about trifles (we usually talked about music, literature, politics, or other people) just what we talked about escapes me, but there is one thing I remember. He was silent for a moment, which is how you knew something big was coming, and then he looked at me and said, “There are a lot of people who you meet, and you get on fine and eventually go your separate ways, and that’s that. You don’t think anything about one another after that. But there are some people who go further. Some people who really care. People who give you the sense that you really matter to them, they’ll remember you, and you them. They stick with you. And that matters.” And then he couldn’t say any more but just hugged me. And I thought he was just going back to London and I’d see him for the Million Mask March on November 5.

I wonder if he made it to the march.

He died of scleroderma at the end of November.

Now is the time for that overreaching, ridiculous, vulgarly amusing thing without which this eulogy would not be complete. Because I could never stand to leave a meeting without giving Stephen a chance to show off his long-suffering basset hound look (it was a thing of beauty and a joy forever, and that’s another thing we took great pleasure in disagreeing about; my persistent dismissal of Byron and Shelley as second-rate pained him, but he had to admit he couldn’t trump my pair of Wordsworth/Keats).

This comes from a letter from the American political prisoner Jeremy Hammond, imprisoned for the next ten years for performing the Stratfor hack, releasing to WikiLeaks thousands and thousands of emails which came to be known as the Global Intelligence Files, and shining a light on the dark underbelly of the for-profit infosec world. It reminds me of Stephen for many reasons. He knew I drank coffee, he knew that I loathed the standard weak, cheap office coffee that his office supplied, and he believed, as all Englishmen do, that all right-thinking people should drink tea, preferably without milk. Stephen‘s esteem mattered so much to me that in meetings with him over the years I must have drunk enough black tea to float the Bluenose, even though black tea without milk gives me nausea. I never mentioned it. I would never have disappointed him by asking for milk. Four years, five years, how many years, and I never mentioned it.

Here is the kicker, courtesy of Jeremy Hammond, Prisoner #18729-424, MDC Brooklyn. In the last email exchange we ever had, I told Stephen that when he was being sworn in at his plea hearing, Jeremy had raised his hand in a power salute instead of laying it on the bible. And at roll call at lockdown, when his name was called instead of saying “Yes” or “Here” or whatever people in prison usually say, Jeremy yelled out, “LET MY PEOPLE GO.” Got solitary for it, too. I bet Stephen liked that story.

Come to think of it, I wonder if my Julian Assange crush springs from the fact that for years he had exactly the same hair as Stephen. Hm.

But to the punchline!

Why do anarchists drink instant tea?

Why do anarchists drink instant tea?

Actually, I think I heard that from Stephen first.

Stephen Hill doesn't let it get him down

Stephen Hill doesn’t let it get him down

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#OpFrackOff takes on racist cop, #OpSWN takes on energy conglomerate

Mikmaq stop sign

Frack off First Nations land!

When the RCMP confronted the First Nations fracking protesters at Elsipogtog late last week and things turned violent, Anonymous got involved almost immediately, announcing #OpFrackOff. Now they’ve gone farther, a lot farther.

When an unidentified RCMP officer shouted, “crown land belongs to the government not to fucking natives,” he probably didn’t expect Anonymous to issue a call to action inviting the public to help ID him. He probably should have.

In a pair of documents released on Pastebin today and a video, Anonymous and their allies have announced they intend to carry their investigation much further. In the newly-announced #OpSWN they intend nothing less than laying out all the corporate, political, and social connections for SWN (Southwestern Energy), the American gas company at the heart of the conflict.

“Why is Canada attacking it’s First Nations population with a self-described paramilitary force? To protect the right of a Texas oil company’s fracking ambitions?  And what do Wendy’s french fries have to do with fracking? “

They then answered that question at length and in detail, using the online mapping tool Pearltrees to lay out the links between Cavendish Farms, Wendy’s, and SWN. And the New Brunswick political establishment. And the Irving family, a local corporate and media power clan whose influence extends internationally. And then called on Anonymous and supporters to fill in missing connections as well.

The point of all of this, according to one of the investigators we spoke with via Twitter, is to enable people to protest the RCMP response at Elsipogtog by demonstrating at their local Wendy’s, instead of trucking all the way to the Texas headquarters of SWN. The goal is to show that the events taking place on unceded Mi’kmaq territory are connected in a very real dollars and cents way to consumer choices that everyone makes in their day to day lives, and to show that other choices are possible.

Since SWN and the RCMP are hitting the Mi’kmaq where they live, Anonymous has decided to hit them where they live: right in the bank account.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Jean: You’re a Horrible Person

Abandoned puppy

Abandoned puppy

No doubt about it, Jean [Redacted] is a horrible, horrible person. How do we know that?

Lunachyq told us.

Lunachyq, a pet-centric blogger at WordPress.com, told us all about how Jean abandoned Cocoa, her sweet-natured pet of 12 years, at a kill shelter rather than drive 20 minutes to drop her off at a no-kill shelter. How Jean claimed she was giving her up only because of limited funds and a move to a no-pets apartment.

How Jean left out the bit about the tumors.

Here’s the thing, Jean.  Oh, I didn’t ask if I could call you Jean but I’m going to.  Or I could call you a number of other names, none of which you’d like very much.   When I saw Cocoa’s picture on the animal control website, when I saw that grey muzzle and read the description stating that her people of 12 years, her family, had surrendered her to the pound, it broke my heart.

Jean, I once had a dog that was so ornery she got in trouble for biting a kid on the butt because he’d been tugging her ears.  When the city quarantined my dog for 48 hours, I was fully prepared to leave my home, leave school, leave everything in the dead of night, everything except my dog.  I was going to Thelma and Louise our asses right out of town.  I wasn’t playing.   Because that’s how I roll.  No dog left behind, Jean.

So when I saw that picture of Cocoa, I just couldn’t understand why someone would dump a family member.   And my empathy for that dog consumed me, until I made yet another rash decision and I rushed to the pound to adopt her.

If the Google-Maps-Finds-Stray-Dog-a-Home story has you sniffling, prepare to lose your shit entirely at the rest of the letter. I’m afraid this story doesn’t have a happy ending, but if the Internet gets its way, there won’t be one for Jean either.

Posted Sept. 10, Lunachyq’s letter has already been shared more than 10,000 times to Facebook, has 475 comments, and 165 Likes on WordPress. The Internet may be made of cats, but it’s clear that dogs are also very close to its heart.

Photo via Mario Klingemann/Flickr

Operation Global Media Domination: The Barrett Brown Situation

Barrett Brown Busted

Barrett Brown Busted

That glum-looking fellow is Barrett Brown: author, journalist, YouTube extraordinaire (really), Anonymous member, and fameball. At that moment, he had plenty to look glum about, having been arrested on a small sampler pack of charges which quickly grew into a basket-crushing potential 110 years in prison for, essentially, shooting off his mouth on YouTube and passing along a link in an IRC. He’s been in pretrial custody with no bail for nearly a year, and he’s about to go to actual real trial as opposed to pretrial hearings, about which we’ve all heard too much lately, particularly if we’ve also been following Jeremy Hammond and Sabu, which we have. For a living.

Yeah, not exactly what the guidance counselor suggested in high school as a career choice, but oh well.

I’ve covered his case(s) several times for the Daily Dot and this blog, and today there was a hearing to decide if the actual trial would be the subject of a media blackout; in other words, Barrett is prevented from speaking to the media about any aspect of his case, or even any topic that might touch on it. Of course it went through, but of interest to certain inwardly-focused-lately bloggers the defence presented a strong rebuttal which included a list of the influential articles by and about BB.

And guess who wrote two of them?

Arrested Anonymous Activist Barrett Brown Sends Letter from Prison

Anonymous Spokesman Barrett Brown Faces New Charges

So, on the one hand it’s good to be a part of this. On the other hand, it sucks that the motion was successful and that BB now has to live in the most unnatural-to-him condition of all; the condition of not conveying information. A lot of people have wanted to silence him for a very long time.

Coincidentally (???) WikiLeaks released new SpyFiles, carrying on Brown’s Project PM work of watching the watchers. Nice timing there, Assange.

In unrelated-but-still-work news, it appears that the Syrian Electronic Army isn’t happy just going after news organizations, but is now going after individual reporters who report on them, even favorably. I got a solid tip that a journalist whom I will not name has had some trouble with relentless attempts to control his Twitter account, and of course I’ve been getting increasing numbers of phishing emails for months now, along with the occasional romantic advance from an African woman on Facebook. Today I found some spammer had managed to put yet another Event on my Gcal, which is just, let’s face it, annoying even when a) the time for the pseudo event (“lets be freinds”)  is already past b) I’m a Vancouverite and therefore my solid commitment to attend an event is zero indication of whether or not I will actually attend.

And, just to up the wordcount, I’m going to copy/paste some material that was cut from my article today. Gee, can’t think why.

Anonymous is having a Hamlet-like crisis of conscience over OpSyria, and there is a significant chance that it will end up costing actual human lives, however it’s decided in the end. We spoke to blackplans, a spokesperson for OpSyria, about what Anonymous has, what it will use, and why (for once) they are sitting on something which could very well literally destroy their enemies.

NYPA. The four most important letters in Anonymous stand for: Not Your Private Army, and they remind everyone that the so-called Internet Hate Machine is an unruly, anarchic collective that cannot be pointed like a gun at any target that takes someone’s fancy. Any Operation has to attract and retain enough committed, talented, and energetic people to accomplish its goals, which is why “totally getting back at that kid who was, like, mean to me once” is never going to become an Op.The decision-making process at Anonymous is messy, time-consuming, and self-selecting; if not enough good people show up, the Op fizzles and subsides and the people move on. It’s a natural, if messy process. But once you’ve got good people, they’ve staked out their targets, they’ve made their attacks, and you’ve got the MacGuffin (documents proving identity, control of a database, a botnet that can DDoS a website into oblivion, or as in OpSyria’s case: all of the above) there is rarely a moment of hesitation. You dump that file, you paste that dox, you fire your lazorz, and then you stick a press release on Pastebin and sit back and laugh as the victim flails helplessly.

Not this time. Here’s what is going down, and why, at OpSyria.

As we reported Tuesday, OpSyria, the anti-Assad operation which includes members of Anonymous along with some non-Anons, claims to have proof of the identities of five key players in the Syrian Electronic Army. Exposing those people, particularly if they happen to be located outside of Syria, would almost certainly mean their targeting and eventual death at the hands of anti-Assad forces, whether the rebel Free Syrian Army or a foreign government that involves itself in the Syrian civil war (as the US may do).

This isn’t hanging out with your friends in front of a Scientology center singing “Never Gonna Give You Up.” It isn’t sitting in your Mom’s basement DDoSing the Pope’s website.

Shit is very, very real.

[at this point you can go to the article to see the majority of the interview. The below and the above were not included]

Blackplans: I have been told to tell we also have evidence of collusion between personnel of the Syrian Embassy in Bucharest and a member of the SEA who resides in Romania. We have found statements by him online to this effect. “I work most of the interrogation .. figures Syrian embassy in Romania in front of you online. Call and ask.” Apologies for the poor translation, this was in response to allegations of disloyalty from another senior SEA member.

Oh, and I will just leave this here…

http://twitter.com/blackplans/statuses/374984867995717632

[presumably they don’t feel so bad about alerting Romania to the possible presence of the SEA operative(s) in their midst. I asked for more details and was told no, they couldn’t give them to me without completely doxing the person, and they didn’t want to do that. I suppose they just wanted to fire a shot across the bow of the SEA as a show of power]

————————————————————————————————————————–

There you have it: An Operation combining Anonymous and anonymous non-Anons is in possession of information that governments around the world have been pursuing for months. If they use it, those people will almost certainly die. If they don’t use it, what was the point of the Operation? To get to the point of pulling the trigger, and then to walk away instead? In a world at war, whether officially or unofficially, that is power beyond that of the state, of any Nation State. Are they ready for it? Is the world ready for it? Is this the end of the SEA as an entity, or will they double down on Assad and strike back somehow at a headless, faceless, stateless anti-organization? And what will they, or their enemies, do to those whose exposure has threatened the SEA itself, whether that information is revealed publicly or not?

It’s not too much to say that the fate of this not-officially-declared-yet cyberwar rests in the hands of Anonymous and its allies. And they do not leave fingerprints.

THEY WALK!

We are fucked, my friends

We are fucked, my friends

What did I say? WHAT DID I SAY?

I said, “We’re all fucked.”

We just got 25% more fucked.

Orcas can fly. Cougars can swim. Meerkats can operate AK-47’s. Raccoons have taken up swordfighting. And now, sharks can walk.

Good luck trying to get back to sleep tonight. THAT is in the ocean off the Moluccas. I swam in that water. That’s what’s down there. And you wonder why I don’t go in the ocean anymore.

Keep Calm and Hail Cthulhu

Keep Calm and Hail Cthulhu