There’s One At Every Show

I’ve been going to rock shows for thirty years. Over the years, I’ve seen maybe a hundred and fifty shows in outdoor sheds, arenas, small theaters, and dive bars. At most of the shows I’ve seen, there’s always that one guy. You know the guy I’m talking about. At my first Rush concert in March 1988, a drunk kid who couldn’t have been more than fifteen decided that it would be a good idea to stagger up to the tenth row and crowd between my friends and I as the band was performing “Tom Sawyer.” We asked him to go back to his seat. He refused, so we pushed his narrow ass back into the aisle. End of dispute.

At another Rush show in 2002, my wife and I were sitting about six rows from the stage. Before the show, I noticed a guy sitting six or seven seats to our right. He was downing beers like it was Prohibition Eve. The drunker he got, the more he started messing with people in front of him, poking them, trying to convince them of his comedic genius. People laughed at him for a while, but when he didn’t stop, they began to get annoyed. This continued throughout most of the show. I thanked my lucky stars that this guy was leaving us alone…until Rush started playing their Grammy-nominated instrumental “YYZ.” At this point her made his way down the aisle toward my wife and I, and inserted himself between us. I asked him to go back to his seat. He refused, insisting that the seat was his. At this point, I moved him past my wife toward his seat. He turned around to face me, and bumped his chest into me, attempting to get past me. He was about 5’7″, maybe a hundred and sixty pounds. I’m six-foot, two-thirty. Before I could even process what had just happened, my hands shot out, and I shoved him. He went ass-over-teakettle back toward his seat, and was eventually escorted from the concert.

On Friday, March 13, 2015, I took my daughter Riley, along with her friend Jansen, to see southern rock band Blackberry Smoke at the Old National Center in Indianapolis. I purchased priority passes, which would allow us early entry into the venue, a standing-room-only affair in the Egyptian Room. We arrived about two hours before the doors opened. There were maybe twenty-five people in line in front of us. I knew that we would end up close to the stage, and was excited that the kids would get to see a great band so close up.

When we finally got into the Egyptian Room, we placed ourselves just a bit to the left of center. There was a row of people in front of us leaning on the barrier that separated the audience from the stage. We were ten feet from the stage. The first of two opening acts came on stage at 8pm, played a few songs, and was followed by a band called The Temperance Movement. The lead singer was very energetic, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the show…everyone, that is, except for a guy in front and a couple of feet to the right of us. Suddenly, he began pointing and gesturing to the lead singer, and it wasn’t to congratulate him on his fine performance. The guy’s girlfriend immediately got in front of him, because it appeared that he was going to jump the barrier and go after the lead singer. The girlfriend spent the rest of The Temperance Movement’s show trying to talk some sense into her boyfriend. I’m not sure what the singer did to draw the guy’s ire, but I am certain that the guy was drunk and acting like a dickhead. ‘There’s one at every show,’ I thought.

As it turned out, there was more than one at this show. Blackberry Smoke took the stage at around 9:45pm. Within about 15 minutes, I noticed a ruckus to my right. There was a little guy, maybe 5’6″, holding his girlfriend’s hand, attempting to push his way to the front of the crowd. He was wearing what looked like a leather biker vest, complete with a top rocker. Turns out it was a Black Label Society vest. En masse and like a well-oiled machine, the crowd pushed and shoved this guy and his lady friend back to where they came from, but not before the guy got in someone’s face for taking his beer. ‘Okay, so there are two at this show,’ I thought.

Wrong again. There were two more instances of what I described above – one to our right and one to our left. Both instances nearly led to fistfights, with drunken idiots being the aggressors in both instances. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, there were two ladies who were so drunk that they could hardly stand up, though through some miracle of physics, they were able to hold each other up.

I realize that not everyone is in agreement on what defines fun, but when you having fun is disruptive to others, potentially puts others in danger, and turns you into an asshole, do us all a favor and stay home. Most of the people at the front of the room waited in the rain for hours before the show, and held their spots up front so that they could enjoy what turned out to be an excellent concert. You, on the other hand, showed up late and thought that it was okay to drunkenly and rudely shove others out of your way to make it to the stage. Try not drinking so much next time. You might be surprised at the good time you have, and you’ll be much less likely to have conflicts with others.

In the interest of transparency, I am a recovering alcoholic. I have been drunk and acted like an asshole many, many times. I don’t have a problem with people who drink in a responsible manner. Turns out, I couldn’t. That’s why I quit drinking in 1996. I will say that I never attended a concert under the influence of anything other than the music. I always figured “Why pay good money to go to a concert and get so drunk I couldn’t remember it?”

 

 

 

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Remember When Facebook Was Fun?

imgresI figure I’ve been on Facebook for about six years now. I went through a period when I was lucky to log on once a week. For the past couple of years, I have visited Facebook on a daily basis. Many days, I am on the site multiple times. It has become my go-to way to communicate with many of my friends. I also really enjoy reading people’s updates and seeing pictures of them with their families.

However, for some people, Facebook has become a forum for their endless discontent with society. You know the people I’m talking about. Every other post consists of some meme touting their political party (or demonizing the political party they don’t like). Or maybe their discontent revolves around gay rights, racial inequality, animal rights, vaccinations for children, workers’ rights, minimum wage, women’s rights, immigration, police brutality, the 2nd Amendment, the right to say Merry Christmas, the right not to have to hear Merry Christmas, religion…the list could go on forever.

imgresDon’t get me wrong, these are all noble causes. Well, all but one. The anti-vaccination bullshit rankles my hide. I was vaccinated as a child, my children and grandchild are vaccinated per the recommendations of their doctors, and none of us are autistic or paralyzed or suffering from any mental or physical maladies that anti-vaccination proponents like to attribute to vaccinations. I get my medical advice from a person who studied medicine and received a medical degree, not some bonehead like Jenny McCarthy. Okay, enough of that.

23903663Though I identify myself as a member of one of America’s two major political parties, I am able to recognize that each political party has its own set of strengths and weakness, and that there are enough idiots on both sides of the aisle to fill a 747 or two. Every day, I see memes bashing both political parties. Many of these memes contain information that is presented out of context, or information that is simply untrue.

As for other causes and issues, remember that you don’t win people over to your cause by ramming information down their throats, particularly information that is inaccurate, or is presented in such a manner that vilifies people who may not agree with you. I am a firm believer that honest, open, and…wait for it… respectful dialogue is what leads to change, not hate and vitriol.

Far be it from me to tell someone what to post on Facebook or criticize someone else’s posts. However, just because someone took the time to make a cute little meme DOESN’T mean that the information on that meme is anywhere close to being true and imagesaccurate. What it means is that someone wants you to think a certain way, and unless you fact-checked the information on that meme before you posted it, you drank the Kool-Aid, and by extension, you are letting someone else tell you how you should think. Here’s an idea: THINK FOR YOURSELF. Folks, there are enough idiots in this world who can’t or won’t think for themselves. Don’t be one of them.

Also, I have a couple of questions for the people who spend hour after hour, day after day posting the kind of stuff I have been talking about. Do you really believe in the causes you are “promoting?” Do you believe imgresin them enough to participate in peaceful rallies or volunteer at the animal shelter (or homeless shelter or wherever)? If so, that’s great! If not, you are what’s known as a slacktivist. Slacktivism is “the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacktivism).

For the sake of transparency, I have, in the past, posted memes without verifying the information they contained. I have, in the past, been a slacktavist. Currently, I don’t make a habit of either. I try not to post stuff that is divisive on Facebook. I go to Facebook to have fun, catch up with friends, and post stuff about my family. People who I’m friends with on Facebook know that I have the world’s 10418253_10204519337050094_3840918047854906823_ncutest granddaughter, Ariana, and good kids, because I post lots of pictures and stories. And they know that I’m a big fan of the Canadian rock band Rush. And England’s Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree. And Pink Floyd. Oh, and Indiana University basketball and Indianapolis Colts football. That’s what Facebook should be: a place where people go to share what’s good. You want the bad? Just watch your local news or any of the cable news shows. There’s enough bad stuff and bullshit there to fertilize every cornfield in Indiana. Do we really need to rehash it all on Facebook? Or worse yet, present information that is false or misleading?

Yesterday, I was talking my good friend Julie Foltz about this very issue. She is passionate about helping people with HIV, and trust me, she ain’t no slacktavist. She puts her money, time, and talent where her mouth is. She said, “I think I get more depressed from looking at Facebook and the hatred that people in this world have.” I completely agree with her. I love it when someone builds up someone else on Facebook, rather than tearing them down. I love it when I see a picture of someone’s kid, happy and carefree, rather than some idiotic meme that someone else created, bashing one group of people or another.

If this blog applies to you, do me a favor and try this: Go one day, heck, even one week, without posting anything negative. Instead, focus on the positive things in your life. You’ll be amazed at how good it makes you feel. Or, if what I have said offends you, feel free to unfriend me or unfollow me or whatever. My newsfeed will immediately be less cluttered.

Keyboard Cowards

Back in late August 2013, I wrote a piece called “Think Before You Post, Because The Internet Will Expose You For The Idiot You Are” in response to the seemingly endless supply of keyboard jockeys who are content to hide behind their computer monitors and spew hate and insults toward people they don’t know – those who don’t agree with them on a particular issue, such as politics or gay marriage.  Now before you click on the little “x” in the upper corner of this particular computer window, please know that it is not my purpose here to opine on politics or gay marriage.  The gist of the article was, as the title suggests, thinking before you click on the “post” button, because once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back.  Sure, in most cases, you can delete a post, but if someone has seen it, and if it is inflammatory enough, it may just go viral.  Then you’re screwed.

The aforementioned article dealt with strangers being mean to other strangers.  But the phenomenon of keyboard cowardice extends to friends and family as well.  That is what I will discuss here.  Before I continue, I’d like to take a moment to thank “E” (you know who you are).  Your reaction to an innocuous post I made is a big part of why I am writing this.  More on that later.

As near as I can figure, I have been active on Facebook since 2008, over five years now.  During that five-year period, I’ve connected (or reconnected) with over three hundred people.  It has been nice to reacquaint myself with people that I haven’t seen in many years.

I have noticed that over the past couple of years that Facebook has increasingly become a forum for people to express their political beliefs.  I don’t have a problem with this.  Hell, I occasionally make a political post, but I find myself doing so less and less lately.  I am more inclined to respond to someone else’s post than to initiate a political post of my own.

I have also noticed that some people who make political posts on Facebook are wholly unprepared to be challenged on their opinions.  The most blatant example that I have experienced happened just recently.  An acquaintance (“E” that I mentioned above) that I had recently reconnected with posted a meme about a certain politician who has been in the news a lot lately.  That should narrow it down to about three-hundred.  The meme posited that this particular politician didn’t know what was going on in his own office.

I’d like to go back and pull up the text from my response, but alas, I can’t.  More on that later.  I said something like, “It’s too bad that [POLITICIAN] doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in his office either.”  Not my exact words, but you get the idea.  I didn’t tell “E” that he was wrong, because the meme he posted seems to have some merit.  I merely pointed out that this particular politician isn’t the only one who claims ignorance about what happens on their watch by providing an example of another politician who seems to have the same problem.

A few hours later, I went back on to see if “E” or anyone else had responded to my post.  Lo and behold, I couldn’t find “E”’s post.  I went to check my Facebook friends.  He was no longer on the list.  I did a search for his name, found it, and clicked on it to view his profile.  A message on the screen revealed that the profile was not available.   Perhaps, I thought, he deactivated his Facebook profile.  I know that people, on occasion, will do that because they’ve had enough of the social media rat race.  Just to make sure, I contacted my sister, who is also connected to “E” on Facebook.  She was able to pull up his profile, and was still among those he considered friends.  It turns out that “E” had blocked me.  And to top that off, he posted a terse response to my post after he blocked me, or at the very least, before I had a chance to respond.  Here is his response.  I purposely didn’t name the politician, political party, or news network he mentioned, not because I am ashamed of my politic beliefs, because I’m not.  I did so because this post isn’t about politics.  It’s about friends and acquaintances being able to agree to disagree, about politics, music, reality TV – whatever  –  while remaining civil, and dare I say, friendly.

“Just gotta drag [NATIONAL POLITICIAN] in it didn’t you Mark? Typical [POLITICAL PARTY NAME]. Man change the direction of what’s really going on. You must be a [NEWS CHANNEL] watcher…and then there’s right out lying and being a bully [LOCAL/STATE POLITICIAN].”

Instead of attacking my ideas, “E” chose to attack me.  Had he taken some time to get to know me a little better, perhaps he would have had a different opinion of me.  But he didn’t, so all I am to him is a [NEWS CHANNEL]-watching, bully [LOCAL/STATE POLITICIAN]-supporting, typical [POLITICAL PARTY NAME].  Had he taken some time to get to know me a little better, he would have known that I don’t define myself in such narrow terms, politically or otherwise.  But “E,” along with a lot of other people, are content to hide behind their keyboards and bash others who don’t share their beliefs.  That’s pretty closed-minded and intolerant in my book.  Sadly, all too often, these are people that we count among our friends and family.

There is hope though.  When I began to think about writing this blog, two of my friends came to mind: Micah and Rick.  Micah and Rick are on different sides of the political fence.  Anytime either of these guys posts something political, I make sure to read it.  You know why?  Because I know that I am going to learn something.  You see, Micah and Rick know how to do it right.  They use what many others do not in their political posts – FACTS.  I know that if I disagree with them, I might get set straight, again, with facts, but I’m not going to be called names, blocked on Facebook, or otherwise attacked.  So to my buddies Micah and Rick – keep ‘em coming.  We might not agree on everything, but you know what, that’s all right, because we can agree to disagree.  And, most important, we’re still friends when it’s done.

Think Before You Post, Because The Internet Will Expose You For The Idiot You Are

These days, I interact with a lot of people on the Internet. I am active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and I occasionally respond to articles posted on newspaper websites, or to people who have responded to articles on newspaper websites.  In the years that I have been active on social media, and have been opining about news articles, the political environment in the United States has become increasingly polarized.  Many, many people are content to spew hate and misinformation from the relative safety and comfort of their homes.  I’m not talking about websites that overtly promote hate and/or bullshit.  I’m talking about the average Joe, you know, the guy who reads a newspaper article, decides that his “readers” await, that people deserve to hear his version of the truth, and puts fingers to keyboard, typing his response to the article, or to the person whose response to the article he takes exception to.  Average Joe can engage in intelligent dialogue, at least for a while.  Then, at some point during the dialogue, something in average Joe snaps, and he responds, I assume, without engaging his brain, because what he writes is usually just plain ignorant or uninformed, and, less often blatantly homophobic or racist.  At this point, average Joe becomes your run-of-the-mill Internet troll, which is, according to the Urban Dictionary, “one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

I am an ardent supporter of the First Amendment.  However, there are times when average Joe is factually so far off base that I feel compelled to add my two cents.  These are the times when average Joe’s lack of intellect truly shines through.  Recently, I dared to disagree with average Joe about a highly controversial issue, providing a fact-based rebuttal to his heavily-biased bullshit.  Instead of offering anything of substance to support his view, he gained troll status, saying I was wrong, and wondered if I “had folks over to the double wide for a game of Jarts.”  Come on dude, do some research.  Don’t you know that Jarts were banned in the 1980s?  I responded to this by asking him if that was the best he could do, and again asked him for a reliable source to support his biased contention.  I gave him a chance at redemption, a chance to hit the reset button on his newly acquired troll status.  He offered no response. 

On issues of morality and opinion, I’ll happily debate someone as long as the conversation remains civil, but often, average Joe goes from zero to troll in less than one sentence.  I once questioned one of these average Joes, this one a self-proclaimed “Christian,” about his hate-filled, homophobic, gay-bashing posts, which were about as far from Christian as you can get.  Aren’t Christians supposed to love their neighbors as they love themselves?  His response?  He said that he had looked at my Facebook page, and that it was obvious I was living the gay lifestyle.  Oh, you mean my private Facebook page, the one that can only be viewed by my friends?  The one filled with pictures of me, my wife, my children, and my grandchild?  Troll.

To combat trolling, many news websites now require users to link to the “Comments” sections of articles via their Facebook pages.  True Internet trolls, gutless wankers that they are, responded by creating fake Facebook pages, using fake names, often with muscular superhero profile pictures.  Maybe they’re trying to compensate for something?

I combat Internet trolls by taking them to task.  Initially, I ask them to provide concrete proof of the “facts” they are asserting.  It is usually at this point when the personal insults begin.  When they move into the area of personal insults, I usually don’t respond.  The baseless, classless insults usually serve to let others know that there is a troll among us, and to ignore  them accordingly.  Others take a different tact, relentlessly hammering trolls with fact and figures.  I find this is typically a waste of time.  Trolls aren’t there to engage in intelligent dialogue.  Instead, they are there to harangue and harass.  It’s best just to ignore them.  Eventually they’ll go away.

We can use social media, in all its forms, to promote ourselves, our products and services, and our businesses.  Social media also allows us to instantly connect with people from around the world to share ideas and dialogue about salient issues.  Unfortunately, people can post whatever they want on the Internet, and though some comments are eventually removed because someone complained or was offended, often the damage has already been done.  Something goes viral and the offending person is subjected to an avalanche of negative press.  Just ask the Florida PR professional who filmed her own profane, racist rant at a Dunkin Donuts, all because she didn’t receive a receipt for an earlier purchase.  Whoever said there is no such thing as bad publicity never viewed this disturbing video.  This woman is still getting hammered on the Internet.

Always think before you share your opinion on a website.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotions of a moment in time, or in the mass hysteria surrounding an event.  Once you post something, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pull it back before someone sees it, so make sure what you are posting is a reflection of who you are rather than a fleeting emotion you may be feeling.  I look at some of the poor choices people make with regard to things they post on the Internet, and it brings to mind words of wisdom that were spoken by Ron White, one of the great thinkers of our time: You can’t fix stupid.