Monday, February 25, 2019

Rude Mood

Is it me, or this town, or is it getting irretrievably ruder across the country?

Last week I took my sweetie out to see one of her favorite artists, John Mellencamp, play the Lyric Theater in Baltimore. It was her birthday present and we’ve been looking forward to this night out since last October.

The Lyric is a cozy little venue, holding just over 2500 people. I used to like these small venues because they made for such a personal show. But not anymore.

Why can’t people just shut the hell up?

Right off the bat, Mellencamp told us there would be some rockin’ parts of the show and some quiet parts, and if anyone felt like yelling and screaming during the quiet parts, they should go out in the hallway.

Cut to a quiet part, where he was trying to tell a story to introduce a song, and people start yelling out songs they want to hear. He says, “Didn’t I tell you to go out in the fuckin’ hallway?

Big laugh line. He obviously set that up on purpose. So then what happened?

He tried to backtrack and continue with his story and again, he had to stop because of some people talking up front. That’s the thing with these small venues… if you’re yapping or yelling in an arena or stadium, the artist barely knows it. But here, they hear everything.

He told them again to knock it off. He said, “I’ve played over 70 shows on this tour and this is the first time this has happened to me.”

Again, he had to pick up the thread of his story, and eventually, it led right into a song. That’s the thing about performances like this… there’s a rhythm and timing to it. When it gets messed up, it ruins the intended effect.

Not that anyone in Baltimore cared… They were too busy yelling out for Pink Houses.

We were sitting in the upper tier, first row on the side, so we basically had to spend the night looking to our right to see the stage.

Unfortunately for Sweetpea, she was sitting next to a drunken spider monkey. The guy was leaning forward, leaning backward, standing up, sitting down, and thrashing about on his “air drums.”

No one else in the section was standing or dancing and given that he was in the front row, it’s not like he couldn’t see. It’s like I say in the Book of Bluz 3:24:Whether it's at a ballgame, a concert, or whatnot, if you're the only one standing up, you're an asshole.  A complete, self-centered, self-absorbed, inconsiderate, flaming asshole.  Everyone else who bought a ticket didn't pay to see your back all night.”
This was our view all night. Thanks, Asshole.

At least he took a couple of long trips to get more beer. We were hoping he’d get lost on the way back.
  
***

My working theory is that Baltimore is filled with the rudest, most self-involved people in the country. It’s not just of this show that makes me think so, but two others of which I have first or second-hand knowledge.

Exhibit B
In 2014, I went to see comic folk singer, Todd Snider, play the Baltimore Soundstage, another small venue, like dinner theater without the dinner. I’d been looking forward to seeing this guy for years.

I wrote a more in-depth post about my experience, but in a nutshell, he had the same problem that Mellencamp had. But Snider was just a one-man act, with no band to help barrel through the noise.

A table up front kept calling out songs for him to play. He handled it deftly at first… “I appreciate the energy but I got this…”

Then he tried reasoning. “I can sit here and talk to you, but then I wouldn’t be able to play some of the songs you all came to hear me play.

Shortly after that, ushers came down to remove some people from the front of the stage. Snider took a short break at that point, saying, “I can’t be a part of this…”

Even after that, people still didn’t get the message.

I had it on good authority (from a waitress) that he was going to play until 11:30 PM.  But around 10:25, he said, “This just isn’t working out very well, so I’ll just leave you with a couple more.” Which he did, and then left, with about an hour of music left unplayed and stories left untold.

I’d seen setlists from previous dates on the tour posted on Facebook. He only played about two-thirds of the songs on this night.

Now, should he have manned up and not been such a sensitive artiste? Hell yes. But how about if the crowd takes a freakin’ hint, shuts their yapping pie holes and just enjoys the show?

Exhibit C
My brother and his wife went to see James Taylor a couple years ago, in another small theater in town. Every time Taylor spoke to the crowd to tell stories or introduce a song, people in the crowd yelled out for what they wanted to hear.

My brother said he could see Taylor getting annoyed. Soon, he stopped trying to talk at all and just played the rest of his set, one after another, without further comment.

So, is it just Baltimore, is this going on at other venues across the country? Maybe it’s a local thing, or maybe it’s just a sign of a new era.

I’ve been to over a hundred concerts in my life, many at smaller venues. But until the Snider show, I’d never seen a crowd acting so rude. Usually, when a performer told a story, the place went silent, not wanting to miss a word. Now, no one seems to care about any words but their own.

Have you seen this behavior at small venues? Something to the point of distracting/upsetting/ interrupting the performer? People talking over the people they just paid $150 to listen to?

Is this a national thing, or just a sad symptom of “Charm City?”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Emergency

Our feckless “leader” has gone and done it; he’s decided to get his wall money by declaring the border situation an “emergency” and then raiding funds meant for other uses.

In no rational way is this a legitimate emergency, not unless you’re one of those ‘Murcans burrowed deep into fallout shelters, scared to death of the caravans of brown people, who in seeking a better life, want jobs picking crops, landscaping and cleaning hotel rooms. You know… the scary people.

This is a “wink and a nod” emergency. It’s just a way for the Dotard in Chief to circumvent Congress and his vanity wall.
“It’s an emerrrgency, ay? Emerrrrrrgency, ay ay? Wink wink, nudge nudge, say n’more!”

Mr. Cheeky has already admitted it out loud, on camera, saying, “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it (build the wall) much faster.”

Did you see from where he wants to pull the money? Among other things, he’s targeting funds earmarked to upgrade soldiers’ housing. Apparently, there are significant numbers of servicemen and their families living in moldy, rat-infested houses. Sure, everybody gets all weepy and patriotic about military men and women, but let’s divert the money meant to keep them from living in squalor.

He’s also moving funds from border patrol units who manage ports of entry… you know, the places where undocumented immigrants and illegal drugs most frequently cross the border. He’s taking money from units that keep us safe to build a wall which is far less effective in keeping us safe… for safety’s sake.

So far, Republicans in Congress seem to begrudgingly go along with it, but I’m not surprised. I’d be flabbergasted if these Republicans actually put the constitution and the good of the country ahead of their fears of not getting reelected.

I’m surprised that more of them aren’t bringing up their nightmare scenario of a Democrat getting elected president and then using the same executive power to address some actual emergencies.

If I were running for president, it would be part of my campaign promises… “If this emergency end-around gains court approval, on Day One I will declare national emergencies on climate change, gun-related deaths, health care, and opiate overdoses.

Guaranteed that Mitch McConnell develops a massive case of selective amnesia and decries the unprecedented massive power grab. Guaranteed that he will NOT say: “Yeah, I should have seen that coming.

On the surface, it looks like conservative hate-monger Ann Coulter has seen the light. She recently said, “The only national emergency is that the president is an idiot.”

She’s right, of course, but for all the wrong reasons. She thinks he should have kept the shutdown going, leaving millions without paychecks, rather than caving and using the “emergency” maneuver. It’s not like she suddenly developed a conscience or sense of empathy. Or human decency.

Trump is sure his power grab will ultimately be found constitutional by the Supreme Court. After all, he packed it himself!

I think the wild card here is John Roberts. He’s the only conservative who appears to give a shit about keeping the court from becoming a partisan joke. If the lower courts all line up behind calling foul, I don’t think he’ll reverse them.

Best case scenario… the whole thing takes up the next two years so we can elect a new president and he or she can shitcan the whole operation.

That’s going to be a full-time job for the next Democratic president: undoing all the atrocities performed by the current swampers.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Homeless Thoughts

This is the stuff I was going to write about last week before I decided to touch the third rail and suggest we shouldn’t judge people by what they may or may not have done 35 years ago. (And thank you to Infidel 753 for posting a link to it, even though we don’t see eye to eye on this issue.)

So forgive me if this is a wee bit past its freshness date.

Pitch a Mitch
In shooting down the idea of a federal holiday of Election Day, Mitch McConnell basically admitted that his party’s platform has insufficient support nation-wide to win elections. He called the proposition “a power-grab by Democrats.”
Well, that’s the Republican election strategy right there, isn’t it? Do whatever possible to prevent working people from voting. They know that if people ever voted for their own financial self-interest, nary another Republican would ever be elected. Hence the constant focus on wedge issues like immigration, gay marriage, and abortion.

This isn’t to say that I agree about making Election Day a national holiday. I don’t think it will have the effect intended. I mean, look at other national holidays, like MLK day or Columbus Day. How many people really get the day off? No one in the service industries, that’s for sure. Hell, they can barely get Thanksgiving off.

Best I can see, state and federal workers would be off, as well as some in the banking industry. And in many office environments, there are workplace rules in effect which allows people to take time to vote.

We also know now that Mitch received $3.5 million in campaign contributions from a Russian oligarch, who is a business associate of two other Russian oligarchs, who have ties to Putin. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham received hefty donations as well.

So is there any wonder why those sanctions against Russian oligarchs were allowed to be rescinded last month? Not only is Individual One under the sway of the Russians, so are his right-hand men.

This story smells worse with every passing day. Like two-week-old borscht.

And speaking of foul smells, did you see what Mitch tweeted last week?

As I’ve said time and time again: Mindless obstruction is unacceptable. The only way this divided Congress will be able to choose greatness and deliver significant legislation is by focusing on, as President Trump put it, “cooperation, compromise, and the common good.” 2/6/19

Are you fucking kidding me? This is the guy who practically invented mindless obstruction. Anything President Obama wanted was rejected, just because Obama wanted it. They obstructed every Democratic bill offered, from foreign policy to infrastructure repair. He held up a Supreme Court nomination just because it was Obama’s, AND was willing to hold up any Clinton nominee as well!

Mitch, do NOT lecture us on obstruction. You, my man, are the poster-boy for obstruction, like a triple-decker cork and cheese sandwich.

Fox on the Run
A couple weeks back, a reporter for Fox “News” tweeted out a return-fire slam on their deity, President Trump, after he criticized a couple of their reporters for not understanding his handling of The Wall.

By going on Twitter and insulting two of our journalists, @realDonaldTrump is putting a target on their backs. In turn, his followers will then attack @johnrobertsFox and @GillianHTurner in support on Twitter. Bullying journalists is not Presidential. Period.”  Julie Banderas 1/28/19

That’s all well and good, but where the hell has she been for the last two years, as reporters from CNN, NBC, CBS and the rest have been getting lambasted from the presidential pulpit?

I guess the fun and games are over once der Trumper turns his wrath on you, huh? Up until then, it’s just evening the score against the “liberal media.”

Journalists should stick together in the face of presidential devaluation of the fourth estate. It’s just too bad Fox waited 2 years to start and acted only after their own self-interest was threatened.

Threatened Self-Interest Part 2
Speaking of threats to the status quo, you can probably expect the full-on Fox media assault on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to last until the next election. Seems she’s even passed Elizabeth Warren as Republican Enemy Number One. Why? Besides the fact that she’s a Latina and a woman? Because her economic populism scares them.

She has the charisma and intelligence to ask the questions about why so few have so much. And she asks why we don’t assess higher taxes to the rich. I mean, that’s where the money is, isn’t it?

That scares the shit out of the rich, who want to keep their tax rates right where they are… either low or non-existent (after all the loopholes and tax shelters are used.) The only way to head off this class warfare revolution is to have their lapdogs at Fox “News” and talk radio to throw as much shade on AOC as possible, questioning her intelligence, her background, and going through every statement with a fine-tooth comb to look for inconsistencies.

The knives are out for her, big time, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

Reefer Madness
Here in Baltimore, state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby announced last week that she would no longer pursue charges for marijuana possession, regardless of the amount one is found holding. The reasoning, “We need to get serious about prioritizing what actually makes us safe and no one who is serious about public safety can honestly say that spending resources to jail people for marijuana use is a smart way to use our limited time and money.”

I completely agree. Now if only they could get the Baltimore police to stop arresting people for pot possession. That’s right, the cops say they’re going to continue to enforce the laws as written. I’m sure they want to be able to use pot possession as leverage or as an excuse to look for more incriminating evidence.

But that’s how it goes in Baltimore…one step forward, then two steps sideways.

Rather Interesting
Back during the Great Shutdown of 2019 (Part 1), I saw a post by Dan Rather that made tremendous sense. I don’t know if it was on Twitter or Facebook… I searched both but can’t find the original post.

The gist of it was him wondering why they can’t address the border wall issue the way these issues used to be handled. Draft a bill, send it to Congress, hold hearings, bring in witnesses, look at the evidence, lobby for votes and then hold the vote. It either passes or it doesn’t.

Demanding money for a wall and holding the government hostage is not the way to get grand things done.

Staff of Life
Have you read the latest book from inside the White House? Cliff Sims’s book “Team of Vipers” came out a while back with lots of sneak peeks from advance copies. I haven’t read this one yet, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t paint any different of a picture than the last two books, “Fire and Fury,” and “Fear.”

The reaction I saw from the White House was low key… just painting the author as a nobody… some low-level staffer.

From the Washington Post excerpts, this “low-level staffer” was writing copy for Sean Spicer, helping the president with his hair products, and generally spending a lot of personal time with Trump.

Here’s the thing: I trust the word of a low-level staffer more than some of the other heavy hitters in the administration. These are the guys that get overlooked in a crowded room. They’re ignored by the upper-level staff, but that doesn’t mean they don’t see what’s going on. I’d trust the gofers to have a better handle on the general atmosphere than the big shots because they’ve got less skin in the game… or at least less ego on the line. John Q Public doesn’t know who they are.

I mean, had you ever heard of Cliff Sims before he wrote the book?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Touching the Third Rail

I had a bunch of other stuff I was going to write about but the lingering story about Virginia governor Ralph Northam has me in a stew.

First of all, the story is all over the map. Is it him? Is it not? Is it not, but he appeared in blackface at some other point?

His med school roommate doesn’t think it’s him at all, per USA Today.

The Governor’s ever-changing story/apology is not filling anyone with confidence or forgiveness.

Now, I agree that appearing in a picture like that is pretty loathsome. It’s not something I would have done in 1984 (when I was one year out of college). (I did plenty of other offensive stuff.)

It bothers me that we're trying to end someone’s career for doing something culturally insensitive thirty-five years ago, that wasn’t widely perceived as culturally insensitive at the time. Do you know how to tell it was a culturally insensitive time? Because they put a photo like that in the goddamn high school yearbook!

You can’t judge 35-year-old actions by the standards that apply today. That’s not a fair beef. If that was a picture from last year, or three years ago, or ten years ago, I’d also join the chorus calling for his resignation.

Was the action stupid? Absolutely. White-privileged? Absolutely.

But Jesus Christ, we all did stupid shit in the 80s. I remember my college self and my friends as desperately trying to break conventions and be as irreverent as we could. Our knowledge of the world was a mile wide and an inch deep. We just wanted to stick it any public convention that was standing in the way of our having fun.

Shortly after 1984, Sam Kinison and Andrew “Dice” Clay set the landscape on fire with their outrageous and offensive stand-up comedy shows and albums. It’s just the way things were back then.

My friends and I rarely thought about race. In fact, out in the sticks where I grew up, we were pretty isolated from any other cultures, aside from a smattering of Mexicans. We told jokes that would be offensive to pretty much every ethnic category, but we didn’t mean anything by it. They were just jokes.

To us.

In our early 20s, we were not yet fully developed people. I would hate to be judged today by the things I did when I was a boy.

For instance, I used to have a rebel flag. My dad brought it home for me from the Atlanta airport. I had it tacked up in our barn where we partied, and then on my apartment wall when I moved out. To me, all it meant was Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Charlie Daniels Band, and southern rock. That was it.

I know it’s in the background of some old pictures laying around in dusty desk drawers and I’m disturbed to think that if one of those went public, it would probably disqualify me from holding for public office today. All because I loved “Gimme Three Steps,” and the sound of a southern drawl.

Thirty-five years is a lot of time to grow up. You learn more about the world and about other people who aren’t like you. You mature. You empathize. And the culture changes to become more inclusive.

When judging Governor Northam’s situation, I think the important thing to know is who the guy is now and what he is trying to accomplish. We have outright racists in government, saying offensive things and pushing racist policies today. Those are far more important targets for our cultural wrath.

Republicans never kick their own people out over stuff like this. They just demand that we do, then laugh as we follow through while they just consolidate their power.

If we continue down this path, who are we going to get to run for office? The talent pool of good candidates for top (or lower) government offices is thin enough as it is, without requiring that they have to have been perfect throughout their entire lives. And not just perfect at the time; perfect in retrospect.

And what about 30 years from now? What kind of stupid shit are we doing now that’s going to be offensive then? (Besides wearing MAGA hats.) Maybe in 30 years, we’ll have decided that staring at your phone while in the presence of others is a high insult.

If that happens, the robots will have to govern themselves.

In this country, we prize the ability to learn and grow. Governor Northam should apologize and take ownership of whatever it was he did in 1984, photographed or not. And then we should judge him by his actions as governor, not for failing to live up to standards that didn’t exist yet.
DVD Director’s Commentary: I have no actual plans to run for office. I’m just sayin… the flag thing would be a problem if I did. It’s not like I’m bulletproof like Mitch McConnell.