I've been keeping very low profile lately, going so far as to cancel all performances and galleries in much of the Northeast US for the majority of the year. I had written a post a few months ago explaining my absence, but had to remove it. The reason being that I have been the victim of a violent stalking incident that has only just stopped in the past four weeks. This is my story.
Originally posted 8 August, 2018:
I have been rather quiet lately on the site, and I want to write to explain what has been going on.
Beginning in December of 2017, I have been dealing with perpetual, organized harassment directed at myself, my family and my friends. This is not internet trolling or junk comments on a website. This is criminal harassment, stalking, and assault and battery. I am actively involved in a court case regarding this matter and as a result, I will only share the details that I can.
On 7 December, the local police came to my home and demanded to speak to my sister. My sister Hannah passed away on 3 May, 2004 so it was an incredible shock to be hearing this from police officers, never mind that it was in the midst of the holidays when her passing weighs heavily on me no matter how much time has gone by. The reason for the police response, I was told, was that my sister was making threats to my former high school sweetheart over Facebook, and that I had to contact the police in Chelmsford, Massachusetts to figure out what was going on.
I have not spoken to nor seen that ex-girlfriend since December of 2004. I called to wish her a Happy Christmas and her father answered, where he proceeded to call me an anti-Semitic slur word and threatened to outright murder me if I called again. That was the end of that relationship and any mutual friendships it bore.
I explained to the officers that Hannah had passed away over a decade ago, and that she never had a Facebook account because it didn’t really exist back then. She didn’t even have a MySpace page as those were fairly new at the time of her passing. The officers were very shocked that this was going on, and further informed me that they had little information other than that the Chelmsford Police had been trying to contact me all day.
I never once received a call from the Chelmsford Police that day, or anyone for that matter, meaning someone in that department was lying.
To solve this mystery, I called the Chelmsford station. I spoke to an “officer” after a long time on hold who never identified himself by name, and refused to give me his badge number when asked. He told me to stop bothering people on Facebook, and to cut out the pranks. I informed him that my sister had no Facebook and I had no means of making any such pranks using the site as I seldom use it anymore and, at the time of the incident, my account was deactivated and had been deactivated for several months while I was upgrading my studio computer system and had no time for social media nonsense.
He refused to listen to me so I told him, very bluntly, to inform my ex to leave me alone and to never bother with myself or my family again. The officer nonchalantly agreed and hung up, seemingly irked that I had him figured out as causing trouble on her behalf.
My high school ex-girlfriend, a woman whom I have not seen nor spoken to in (then) 13 years, and her mother made a false report at their local police department just to harass and upset my family. The officer was talking to me off the record, as a favour, which would explain his failure to provide his own name, and why I couldn't hear the usual beeping noises of a police phone system recording the conversation.
This woman has shown up from time to time online via this website and the social media pages I had in the past since late August of 2011. She always would appear out of the blue, asking to be friends again and when I refused, she would leave a stream of poorly spelled threats, anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs, and comments directed at my closest friends and relatives.
Each year in May and again in the November and December holidays, times when I was (and am) at my emotional weakest, she would reappear with new names, new email addresses and new social media accounts just to torment me. Her mother got involved in it, and eventually, so did her husband.
What began as an online nuisance became a real world threat last December. This is a woman who was willing to lie to the police and openly falsify police reports in order to attack me, and to attack my friends and family. If she was capable of this, and if the police were that willing to side with her just because she "knows so-and-so at the station,” it put my entire public life in jeopardy.
Just as I’m recovering from this latest reappearance, the phone calls started. I would receive dozens of calls a day, all in my ex’s name on caller ID. One day she called my cellphone 57 times in a single hour. Every day she called. She called my cell, my landline, my parents’ house and their cell phones. So far, I have received over 500 phone calls from her, and they continue to come each day. In addition, her best friend, the mutual friend who had set us up back in high school, has also been involved in calling myself and my family. This mutual friend’s father, who is (or was) a police sergeant, has also been calling which is extremely unnerving.
They never leave a message. They almost always hang up if the call is answered. If they don’t hang up they just shout slurs into the phone. Their primary phone numbers have been blocked since December and they still call, knowing that the blocked call message is enough to cause aggravation. When the primary numbers don't get through, they use a new, unblocked, cellphone to call from.
Last month, my family and I hired an attorney to handle this ongoing situation. That is all I can say about that for now. The calls are still coming in, and just today they called me four times and my parents three times.
I have been afraid of leaving my house because of their connection to the police. I fear that if I am out performing live, they will harass the venue or call the police to the location to arrest me in front of an audience on counterfeit charges. They have used these ties in the past in order to issue a false arrest warrant on my best friend, which was dropped after the police in her area realized it wasn’t authorized by a living judge (it was “signed” by a long deceased judge from Kansas).
For this reason, I have kept a low profile online. I normally see and can now expect an uptick in harassing, incessant phone calls after posting this. Every new post I’ve made since last December results in such activity.
I can only hope that the justice system hasn’t eroded completely, and that I can bring charges against this woman and receive a restraining order against her for my own protection.
Shortly after posting this, I began receiving threatening calls from a man claiming to be a police officer in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Things escalated further when two men claiming to be from the FBI came to my home. They had no badges, and did not provide names. The only thing they were interested in was the personal information of friends of mine (addresses, when I last spoke to them) which I did not provide to them before demanding that they leave my property.
My attorney called just as these men were leaving to go over the Cease and Desist notice to be issued to my stalker and her family, and a few weeks later it was mailed to them. They immediately retaliated by having the Chelmsford Police Department call my house (their number is permanently blocked due to this harassment) over Labour Day weekend, even sending the local authorities to my property. I showed them the court notice and they left it at that, knowing that they were being played and that my ex was bypassing the court order by establishing indirect contact using the Chelmsford PD for her illegal gain.
The calls started again after that, pushing the number to around 900 in total.
My stalker then hired a relative of hers in New Hampshire, near the Canadian border, claiming to be an attorney (I have never found his name in the Bar Association or any legal records to this day) who then proceeded to slander my name by publicly proclaiming myself and my family to be a danger to society. At the same time, my stalker began sending me death threats where she stated she would shoot me on sight if I left my house.
She sent several similar threats to friends and family across Canada and the United States.
This resulted in many of my closest friends discontinuing contact with me, leaving me more alone than I've ever been.
I contemplated suicide during the height of this period and was nearly hospitalized for that, for incredibly high blood pressure (that was measured at 148/102) and frequent asthma attacks.
Then all of a sudden the girl who set my ex and I up back in high school emailed me using a Tor address, and confessed to being an instigator in this entire seven year ordeal. She claimed to have moved to Europe so she felt that there was nothing we could do legally in response to her actions.
Everything stopped after that.
Some of my friends and relatives who did receive death threats from my stalker did end up pressing charges and there are now warrants for her arrest in the states of California, Pennsylvania and Washington, and in the province of British Columbia.
Right now I am cautiously optimistic that I can advertise, perform and host galleries again. I have no idea if this woman is in police custody and fear searching for it as she is crazy enough to use that against me.
For now, I'm posting this update and hopefully can return to a normal life.
I wasn’t dared, it wasn’t for money, and I certainly wasn’t on television. At least I hope I wasn’t. No, this was a case of mistaken identity. I saw the yellow and red package on my kitchen counter after coming inside from mowing the lawn. Remembering I had a few handfuls of Raisinets that morning, I thought I’d grab a few more while I cooled off from the heat of a mid-July day. I never noticed anything amiss as I reached into the plastic bag, my hands too tired, sweaty and covered in dust to care. I threw a few morsels into my mouth and only realized what had happened after I started to chew.
Instead of nice, squishy raisins dipped in chocolate, I was tasting a little bit of salmon and unfamiliar preservatives. Regardless, I still swallowed. Then I turned the pouch around and saw the Friskies logo. Without realizing it, I had accidently eaten a handful of cat treats.
I can’t be blamed, can I? The Raisinets and Friskies packages both look alike at a glance, and I didn’t realize I had put the candy away earlier and that the cat treats had taken their place on the counter. Maybe I was dehydrated, and was in some sort of a fugue state when I happily consumed the fish flavoured kitty snacks instead of chocolate? It happens. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
While others may have recoiled after realizing their mistake, I found the Friskies to have a bold, somewhat salty flavour that reminded me of the sort of grocery store seafood you’d find at an inland city like Saskatoon. You’re craving seafood but all that’s available is a frozen slab of haddock that has been on a cross country journey, but at the end of the day when dinnertime comes, it’s still haddock and that’s what matters.
Texture wise, the cat treats reminded me of a warm Starburst candy that one could find in a hot car in that they clung to my teeth and palate in a gooey mess, and required an excessive amount of chewing to fully break down. Even then, I still found bits of them in my molars, between my teeth and around the roof of my mouth which gave them a prolonged taste that took about an hour to dissipate alongside the last of the leftover granules.
In the end, I give the Friskies cat treats a solid 7/10, a rating fit for human consumption, and I would gladly eat them again.
As a descendant of Vikings, I enjoy spending a lot of my time on the high seas. While many people fear the beasts of the deep, like kraken, Nessie and dolphins, I embrace them as equals with a special Pagan bond through the guidance of Odin. By this I mean I catch and eat them all, filling my great belly with their nutrients. But not whales. No, I spare them. When the fossil fuels run out, something has to make the oil after all.
But of all the watery demons in the world, I unconditionally love sharks. Next to the horseshoe crab, an animal that has roamed the Earth since the late Ordovician some 450 million years ago, they are the pinnacle of evolution. Just one giant mouth and a stomach, and a lot of cartilage holding that together. They rule. This is why I have watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel for nearly my entire life (I’m only a year older than the marathon itself), and that is precisely what I’m doing right now. As with many weeklong events such as this, there are many shows that do not make the cut. Here are some of the shows that did not make it to this year’s Shark Week:
We’ve all seen sharks move but have rarely questioned how. For example, do the oceans move around them to their will, or do they somehow move themselves in the watery depths? In this two-hour special, scientists dive into discovery to join a group of great whites and reveal this aquatic secret. After the dissection of three sharks and the death of one human photographer, it is discovered that sharks move by swimming.
Tiger vs. Tiger Shark
A beast of the land and a beast of the sea, the hunting methods of the tiger and the tiger shark are compared. With an emphasis on the minor differences between life on land and that in the water the two predators are followed, studied and gently teased by a team of wildlife experts. The program concludes with a climactic battle between the two animals as a 600lb tiger is dumped into a tank with a hungry tiger shark as scientists watch to find out which animal is superior in the ultimate television showdown.
In 1999, a fisherman discovered something strange within the stomach of a great white. It was the head of a velociraptor, complete with fresh tissue samples. Where did this shark find a live dinosaur? Scientists track great white sharks in hopes that they will be lead to the mysterious Dino Island. Included; the government cover-up to keep the partly digested head a secret, and shocking new footage from inside Area 51 where it is generally assumed that the original shark was taken.
The Magic Healing of Sharks
Using ESP, magic crystals and astral projection, one psychic from Sedona, AZ embarks on a quest to discover the lost art of sacred shark healing. Hear the account of an amputee who was able to regrow his leg after encountering sharks that could sense his pain! Be amazed as a bull shark assists a Florida woman giving birth to triplets in the middle of the Atlantic! Relive the account of a lost 19th century whaler who was safely guided to land by a thresher shark!
Join Destination America’s Stinky Pete and Lockjaw Jim as they take you through a step-by-step introduction to dynamite fishing for sharks. The bayou is gonna burble when these two all-American patriots get down and dirty to tackle some bull sharks in freshwater! Included; the lost scene where Stinky Pete and Lockjaw Jim engage local wildlife authorities in a gunfight over a fishing licence.
Sharks of the Bible
How did Noah save the sharks? Was Jonah swallowed by a whale or by a shark? Do sharks find paradise if they refuse to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour? The answers to these and more will be revealed alongside end time prophesies made by great whites, teaching The Word to sharks, and the fact of Creation 6000 years ago. Reverend Jones takes us on a worldwide journey from The Beginning to The Rapture with a shark’s eye view.
Discover the tactics used by today’s CEOs to get ahead of the competition, to line your wallet with tax cuts promised to the working class, laundering money, and denying healthcare to the parasitic plebeians beneath you!
The Tiger Chef with Guy Fieri
Tiger sharks are notorious connoisseurs. They have been known to eat everything from fish to alarm clocks to clowns and show no sign of relaxing their palate. In this hour long special, Food Network’s Guy Fieri creates a multicourse meal for his harshest critic yet; a two ton tiger shark! Will Guy’s hard work be appreciated, or will he be fed to the beast in order to appease it? Tune in and find out!
Those were some of the shows that didn’t make it to this year’s Shark Week. With any luck, we can see them next year! Keep your fins crossed!
Oh boy, here we are again. After last year’s insanity of posting my music to YouTube where I was hit by copyright strikes (not claims, but full-fledged strikes) for having the nerve to post my own copyrighted audio recordings of public domain music, the roles have now been reversed.
For the past few years, my published albums have been available on YouTube Music courtesy of CD Baby’s digital distribution partnership. However, upon finding my “Topic” page that was created by YouTube automatically when the audio was submitted, I was dismayed to see that the page was showcasing a stoned, fake blonde dude with a slacked jaw staring into space as the profile image, desperately trying to become the next sensation on the site.
The music was fine and that’s what mattered, but this bozo’s mug created a lot of confusion amongst my fans who assumed either that this dude was a plagiarist profiting off of my work, or that I was and that he was the original creator. And while I don’t admit I’m good looking and hate everything about my body and appearance, I at least know I’m better looking than that!
Last year, in order to stop this image confusion, I contacted CD Baby and they told me I needed to file an artist separation request because the image was chosen by YouTube from their algorithms merging the wrong channel information to create the topic page for my music. I did just that and about two months later, the profile image was the same as the cover art for my debut album. Then came a few weeks ago.
I linked to the page to help spread the streaming services I’m listed on such as Spotify and Google Music, and noticed that the YouTube Music page was now displaying a cement mixer as the profile picture. I filed for another artist separation, and it was changed back to the fake blonde bozo. Frustrating, but still not the end of the world. I filed again and linked once more to my actual YouTube account to correct it, but this time YouTube fought back.
My album of Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood had been completely destroyed just for writing to report that YouTube was once again using the wrong profile image. What was once my album and artwork, with my name in the credits, was now generic artwork listing the tracks as “hip-hop and rap,” “techno” and “country” all while giving credit to artists such as “Piano – Topic” and “Café Lounge – Topic” on the same page specifically made for me. Upon listening, these were in fact my recordings of Schumann, but they were now being credited to generic relaxation topic pages, who were in turn collecting the revenue instead of me.
I promptly filed DMCA takedowns on all 13 offending tracks and am awaiting a resolution from YouTube. But because I have battled this for years, and because YouTube continues to create issues for me by linking my music to unrelated pages with different headshots, adding video folders to the topic page that include content such as violent bar fights, illegal gun modification tutorials, and racist rants, and has defamed my name and put my reputation at risk as a result of this dissociation, I have asked that CD Baby end my relationship with YouTube Music as soon as possible.
My tracks will remain for sale and for streaming on all major storefronts and services, with the exception of YouTube. It will take about 30 days for the topic page to be deleted and I have no plans on picking it up on my own through my channel as I can’t stand using that site and only use it to watch. I prefer to use Vimeo to upload and share my films due to a more creative friendly environment over "video games and privileged white boys doing dumb things" as found in abundance on the 'Tube. The reason for this is explained the last time I wrote about YouTube and copyright issues and I have no interest in going down that route again.
Oh, and screw YouTube Music once more for good measure.
Last month, the music and podcasting community began to contemplate the future of distributing our works after rumors circulated that SoundCloud was going bankrupt. The financial stability of the company is still rather ambiguous as information comes out on deep financial cuts and layoffs within, alongside news of a bright future for the site (the latter coming mostly from the powers that be suspiciously close to investor meetings). Given that even major plug-in companies like Waves and iZotope were giving instructions on Facebook on how to secure your uploads so that they could be safely moved to another platform (why don’t you have the original files? Curses!), the future of SoundCloud looked (and continues to look) grim. The constant barrage of likes, follows and reposts from the spam and porn accounts that infest the site isn’t helping their image either.
In an effort to keep my recordings streaming on my own website for fans, potential students, venues and collaborators to hear, I decided to put my entire focus on my existing Bandcamp page which, up until this time, had only been another resource to host my three albums alongside CD Baby. This was a task that took a single afternoon to accomplish, mostly in creating album images for each of the portfolio playlists as I already had the audio files in .wav format at 48kHz so that I could also add them as "art tracks" on YouTube.
A few weeks ago, you may have read a post on my blog about subscribing to my YouTube channel and how all my music would be there for primary (free) distribution. You may have even seen how YouTube playlists had replaced the Bandcamp ones around that time within my portfolio. Well, as you can see now, it’s all back on good ol’ Bandcamp and I plan on keeping it that way. Why? Well sit down, because it’s storytime with Uncle Mike.
After creating video files with all of my pre-prepared audio in Premiere, and the exhaustive task of exporting them on an aging iMac that can barely run properly for the basics, let alone video rendering, I began the long task of uploading them to YouTube, arranging them in playlists, adding tags and descriptions, you know, the same thing that every gamer on there has someone else do for them so they can focus on creating content and not metadata. This took a good week due to the constant input of information for each track, adjusting the settings on a track-by-track basis, dealing with the occasional glitched export, etc. When everything was finished, I added the YouTube playlists to my site and looked over at all my hard work, and noticed numerous copyright claims.
The Content ID system on YouTube is notoriously flawed and with classical music, it often falsely flags your own version of a piece as that of a major label’s upload. I also had claims on selected tracks from my EP, Earwig Rising, though that was due to my own copyright and only meant that any ads that played on them would be revenue for me regardless. No big deal. I filed disputes on the three classical videos that had been claimed, explaining that the Mozart recording is mine and the music itself is in the Public Domain, and then on the two Satie tracks that were hit, I explained in detail that I owned the sound recordings, performances and audio productions on them, and that they were copyrighted by the US Copyright Office under the Registration Number: SRu 1-194-109.
The claim on the Mozart track was dropped within a week. The first Satie track, claimed by UMG for Universal Music, had the dispute ignored and would likely have expired after 30 days. However, SME, on behalf of Sony Classical, actually rejected my dispute one day shy of the claim terminating due to a lack of response by the claimant and then counterclaimed, saying that my Registration Number was not proof of copyright and that they owned that particular track and had the rights to monetize it. This is when it went insane.
To reject a dispute, a physical, living person has to read the response and manually dismiss it. Someone read my protest, the included Registration Number, the link to the Library of Congress file that holds the information in regards to my copyright online, and the ISRC code that I gave for the track and still decided “No, that’s ours.” and sent me on my way despite the overwhelming proof to the contrary.
I filed an appeal, and Sony Classical threatened litigation against me for copyright infringement if I didn’t comply with their orders. That’s total BS. I gave them everything I had to legally prove my ownership of the track, and they were vehemently rejecting it, hoping to get a few more pennies in their coffers rather than admit that a Public Domain piece of music can be recorded and copyrighted by artists that are not on their label. Sony Classical was, at this point, committing copyright infringement against me as well as committing a crime known as “monetize without consent.” It’s just what it sounds like.
I had to ask for help from CD Baby as they published the record, the AFM since I’m a union member, as well as issuing notarized legal complaints to YouTube by mail and fax (you try looking up information like that), and to Sony Classical via email. None of them responded.
I had a lawyer contact the companies with the threat of filing litigation against them for infringing on my copyright, but YouTube merely sent an email back with a special dispute email to reach SME by (and it’s some crappy Gmail address, you’d think a major label would have the money to have a domain based email, even I have one!) and said they do not mitigate copyright issues before signing off for good on the matter.
We filed a notice to SME through the email address we were provided with. We gave them 10 business days to comply with our order to remove their claim and illegal monetization of my copyrighted work alongside a scanned image of my Certificate of Registration:
Personal information redacted.
They didn’t respond until the last possible day, and rather than a professional reply and apology for these criminal actions, they spouted off about how our legal notices were a form of harassment and that I was stealing work that one of their artists had made (they never gave a name because it's my property and not theirs) and that this would be the last they would hear of it. The next day, my track was deleted and I had a copyright strike issued against my YouTube account.
This was the most unprofessional experience I have ever had with a major company, both with YouTube and Sony Classical. Everyone in the AFM and with CD Baby, as well as my lawyer of course, said it was blatantly clear that Sony Classical was in the wrong and that I had more than sufficient evidence to support my ownership of that track. But because money talks, SME was able to profit off of my work for over 30 days without my permission, and then shoved a hickory stick up my bottom when they realized I wasn’t going to back down.
This is why so many new artists don’t want affiliation with major labels. They can steal from indie musicians under false pretense and have the power to win, even with plenty of evidence to prove them wrong. You want to take them to court? Good, they have the cash to sit on a case like that, delaying it and holding you back until you are bankrupt and are forced to withdraw the suit entirely. If you want to try, make sure you come from old money first.
I will keep my YouTube account as a user, but I’ll be damned before I ever upload any content there again. Oh, and because I was hit with a copyright strike, I had to sit through a patronizing Happy Tree Friends video on copyright infringement and pass a test on it. When I was the proven copyright holder from the beginning. (And you can’t tell me that Mondo Media made that YouTube Copyright School video willingly, they’re better than that.)
As I wrote on Twitter in the aftermath of all this, to hell with YouTube. They hold average users to insane requirements for advertiser friendly content, claim fair use content (such as film critiques) are infringement on a regular basis, and sometimes just delete your channel for no reason. But if you’re a major corporation you can infringe on someone else’s copyright and they’ll take the side with the bigger dollars every time. Just look where I am.
You can follow me on Bandcamp: mikesmale.bandcamp.com.