The Soapbox Archives:
During your daily commute to and from work, I'm sure you'll see hundreds of people with their heads plugged into their music collection, totally oblivious to the people and the world around them. It's as if the outside world didn't exist if they couldn't hear them. A few weeks ago, I remember a woman was trying to get off the subway car with her baby stroller (with the baby in the stroller). She kept saying "Excuse me!" and getting louder because an individual was blocking her way and couldn't her over his MP3 collection. I finally had to tap him on the shoulder to get his attention so he could get out of the way.
A friend had told me about a guy she saw who was walking his dog while plugged in. It's one thing to be deep in thought, but he was so out of the real world that he didn't realize that he was dragging his dog around instead of walking the dog.
And just the other day, I was riding home on the Red Line. I was standing in front of the door right beside the area reserved for wheelchairs. I saw someone waiting outside the door in a motorized scooter so I got out of the way of the doors and the handicap spot. When the doors opened, someone wearing his earphones walked right in front of the handicapped person and *stopped* just inside the door. The woman in the scooter kept saying "EXCUSE ME!" several times. Again, I gave the guy a nudge just so he'd get a clue and get out of the way so a handicapped person could get by.
Still, it takes some personal misfortune to even get a chance to get through to some of these people. The other day, I *heard* someone drop their Charlie card on the subway. That woman was plugged into her MP3 player and didn't realize what had happened. If I had been behind her, she would have gotten off the train without hearing me. Luckily for her, I was in front of her and was able to point to her card and get her to turn around to pick it up. Alas, she didn't learn from her experience, much less thank me, by removing her earphones. She could have easily dropped her keys or her wallet instead of her T pass.
Unfortunately, even with these bad examples, most people who go into their own MP3 world in their daily lives won't see themselves as being a social nuisance and they don't want to consider possible consequences from shutting themselves away from the real world. Sometimes even personal tragedy isn't a good teacher.
How about this, then? If you have your head plugged into your MP3 player, are you going to be more...or less...aware of someone following you to your door?
That thought went through my head when someone offered me a ticket to see Paul McCartney in concert this week at Fenway Park. The guy was already past the age when most people chose to retire. Lord knows, he's been performing longer than I've been alive and I wanted to see him in concert at least once.
It was easily the largest concert I've ever been to and it was interesting to see the different generations of attendees who knew his music. It was certainly the largest sing-along I've ever attended. When the main concert was over, you knew it wasn't over because there were too many relevant songs that hadn't been performed. The band finally performed I Saw Her Standing There, the most likely Beatles song I'd dance to during the first encore. We were wishing he would have performed all those classic songs, but the concert would have lasted four or five hours. As it was, McCartney never left the stage for the entire 2 hours and 30 minutes...and there was no intermission.
Someone has told me that when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show (I probably saw that, but can't remember it), his brother commented "Who are those long-haired freaks?" In hindsight, the Beatles were absolutely tame compared to a lot of current acts.
One thing was nice; there were all those tributes to those who were important in his life and moved on to the next life. He had written or dedicated songs for important people in his life like John Lennon, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, and, of course, Linda McCartney. I couldn't help but wonder, who was going to write for him?
I'm not all that interested in debating the moral issues surrounding gay marriage, not that there are any, but I hope people would consider the effects of this particular marriage.
Bill & Bill wanted to get married in San Francisco because it was more central to all of their relatives; it certainly would have made it more likely their friends in Hawaii could have attended. The trip from Hawaii to Boston is a long trip, especially in one day, and can wipe you out for a few days. However, California residents recently voted down gay marriage. What did California give up?
While the national economy benefited from the 100 attendees travelling to the wedding, it's Boston-area businesses that benefited from the wedding itself. 100 attendees will have to stay somewhere so those who can't stay with friends will have to stay in local area hotels and eat in local area restaurants. Even Doyle's in Jamaica Plain benefited from our mini-high school reunion the other night as a result of this event (some of us hadn't seen Bill in almost 30 years). A Boston-area hall was rented for the wedding and reception (I heard they rented all of Springstep for this event). It's local businesses that will have catered to this event. Alas, local wedding attire venues won't benefit since the Bills decided not to wear tuxedos. Hawaiian shirts are probably the attire of the day. :-)
Massachusetts is probably the primary destination for those gay couples who want to get married, even if their marriages aren't recognized back home. While many of these "foreign" gay marriages aren't valid in their home states, it gives these people some emotional and moral support.
What do I think? I want to thank all those other states for encouraging their residents to come to Massachusetts and leaving their hard-earned dollars behind.
PS: Bill & Bill are keeping track of the money they're spending, as part of an experiment, to see how much money other states are leaving on the table.
When the boss came by with some cooked steak in a plastic container and asked whose it was (from the refrigerator), someone commented:
"Red meat isn't bad for you. It's *green and fuzzy* steak that's bad for you."
Instead of getting of getting a letter of appreciation for the work I've done for dancing in New England and a promise to send easier to read emails, I got a reply that insinuated that if I was "running a serious dance calendar/web site", it was my "obligation" to make sure all of his information was entered into my website. I wonder how many dance organizers would be happy to move their information to the bottom of my emailbox just so I could devote long periods of time reading this one dancer's newsletter every week?
But if you know me well, you know I'm not just going to drop this. Here's my latest reply to this dance organizer:
I already told you...if I get a long newsletter, it goes to the bottom of the pile...because I can process 10 short emails faster than I can read the one long letter, especially if I have to search through the newsletter for the important information to use. I almost never go back to reading long newsletters with a lot of local information. That applies to *everyone*, not just you. I spend more time time updating my website than I do dancing...all of it unpaid. Note that I was working on my website tonight instead of being at the Swing night at Waterfire in Providence.Judging from the last reply to this note, we're not going to see this dance organizer's special events listed much on this website.
At first glance, *all* your newsletters look the same to me. I have about 2 seconds to look at the email before I have to go and see what else is in my mailbox. It takes me time to read your emails, pick out the useful information, and *then* figure out if it's already on my website. How the hell do I know what's new information without wasting a lot of time on it?
Please note that I make no money off dancing nor off my website. There is *no* special incentive for me to list anything in particular. Even my sponsors don't get that extra attention. I try to get in as much information from the emails I get into my website, but if I have to waste time trying to figure out what's important, I'm going to look at it *later*. Sometime I never get back to emails I skipped.
You, on the other hand, do make money off your dancing. Do you think perhaps that you might have an incentive to get that information to me in an easier way for me to decipher faster so I have enough time to get it all typed in? Do you have any interest in having other dancers find out about the events you're hosting? If you were the only dance venue around, yeah, I'd understand your point of view. However, I post information for all of New England, not just your one venue. And there's a lot more of them than you.
I don't understand why other people can format their information to me in a way that makes it easier to type into my website and you can't. Some people even send me formatted HTML code to cut & paste. I send customers to you and I don't ask for anything from it; the least you could do is make it easier to get that information to the *20,000+* different readers who visit my website every month. Is there any doubt that [this] website is the biggest dance website in New England? I don't just send you established dancers...I send you *new* customers, including dancers who might have never tried [his kind of dancing]. It's your job to make your emails jump to the top of my inbox. If you don't want access to all those readers, then by all means, continue sending your information the way you have been. I don't care either way because I don't work for you.
As I said, there are plenty of other people who manage to get their information to me in such a way that it takes very little time to process. I almost always ignore the Hop To The Beat newsletters that go out to their mailing list because...it's a lot of reading. However, Aurelie Tye always sends short notes directly to me asking to add a specific date or event to my website. Take 15 seconds to type in, if that much. Sometimes Tony Tye will send me HTML to paste into my calendars. The Boston Swing Dance Network always sends me their list of events months in advance and they keep the notices short so it takes a short time to type in. Rugcutters always includes the pages (on both the Swing and Tango pages) where I need to make changes so I don't forget. Even Jitterbug Jane's *long* newsletter has bulletted items so it's easy to find the important information and cut & paste it into the calendars. Obviously these dance organizers appreciate the effort I put into promoting their classes and events and they understand how much time I already put into this website.
Those dance organizers who want make use of this very free access to the dance community really need to think about sending their newsletters in a shorter form so that I can decide in two seconds if it's something I need to worry about. Don't just include me in the normal group mailings because it'll most likely look like the same email I got the previous week. Why would I waste my time on repeated information?
But then, I remember that I don't do this for the dance organizers. I do this for the *dancers*. I started out the original DanceNet newsletter back in 1991 because I excited about dancing and wanted my friends to know about all the dances and classes that I heard about. After sending out several email notices in the same day, it was suggested that I condense it all into a weekly newsletter. (You can all thank Mara Factor for that). The website was just an excuse to learn how to make a website from that newsletter and it was an idea that just got out of hand.
I know that a lot of people use this website (or its Tango sister site) as their default home page in their browsers. That's the website they're most likely interested in when they fire up their browsers. The numbers give me an idea that *some* people do appreciate the efforts that go into this website.
Yet, I must admit that it is gratifying to hear once in a while from someone who felt that the website was useful to them.
Just wanted to put into writing how much your web site and soap box has ment to Deb & I since we started dancing in 1999. We have found so many great dance venues..traveling far and wide (instate and out of state ) with your listings..can't express how much it has meant to us. Often at the end of my work day I like to read your back soapbox rants, etc. It is an enjoyable way to unwind after a day of work...and a great reminder of all we need to be aware of on the social dance floor.
Thank you so much.
Deb & Steve Carmel
Yeah, I think I'll keep doing this website a little while longer.
And regarding last week's editorial, it's always amazing that the ones who are doing the right thing always ask if they're the ones I'm talking about. The ones who need to read it the most either don't read it or don't think it applies to them.