Our Attention has been Diverted

Lucky for you readers I suppose. My head is now in loftier places.

I had a real bitch session blog entry in the works this morning. Living in Mexico has some very confusing situations thrust on this poor gringo. You dear readers are only subjected to but a few of the many complaints registered via blog entries that never see the light of the Information Highway.

Of course much of value of said complaining is the catharsis of simply putting pen to paper (or in this case tapping out a collection of words via my computer system – venting away – steam emanating from my brow.

This morning’s complaints are filed away and now we write about a brighter note(s). While seeking short-relief from my consternation, I visited my daughter’s Facebook ramblings discovering this rather interesting story.  Interesting enough that the author received a Pulitzer Prize back in 2008 for the very story I am about to share.

As a social experiment The Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, asked the famous violinist Joshua Bell to don a baseball cap and play as an incognito busker at the Metro subway station L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. on January 12, 2007.

The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera; of the 1,097 people who passed by, only seven stopped to listen to maestro Bell, and only one recognized him. UTube link here.

For his nearly 45-minute performance, Bell collected $32.17 from 27 passersby (excluding $20 from the passerby who recognized him).The night before, he earned considerably more [average ticket price $100 usd] playing the same repertoire at a concert.

You might recall back in March one of my grousing commentaries wherein I detest being force fed “street” entertainment (or lack thereof) [Read “Just Say No” Here].

So here is a world class violinist in a subway strumming on a 3.5 million dollar instrument, playing one of the most intricate musical pieces ever written, that is chiefly ignored – because what – we don’t take the time to smell the roses, or we just cannot grasp that there could be an opportunity for fantastic entertainment actually being made available in a subway?

From that experiment‘ it is suggested we consider our perceptions, taste, and priorities. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

We are asked to consider “If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

Frankly I could easily explain away why such a ruse suggesting it has little to do with my pace in life or my musical appreciation – but then that’s just me; remembering that this all started out as a total bitch session. And now I feel better thanks to my daughter’s Facebook ramblings and links.

Now my attentions from complaining have been diverted to enjoying listening to the great musical talent of Joshua Bell by way of a CD I have titled, “Short Trip Home.” This not exactly Carnegie-Hall stuff as well; but it plays to my eclectic musical tastes.

Have a GREAT day! And please Stay Tuned anyway.

  • norm

    I would compare the Bell experiment to my own need to “get there”, I pass by the kindly placed turnouts on my travels more often than is logical. I pay big bucks to fly somewhere, rent a 4×4 for more money and then pass by what I came for because I set a travel time table and I’m one determined fella…The subway is used to “get there”.

    Last weekend we stayed at the Ashtabula house, it is not far from the Lake Erie shore.There was a young women playing a sax along side a small campfire on the beach as the sun was setting, there were maybe 50 beach walkers gathered by the time the sun went down. The Bell experiment may have had different results topside down by the wall.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Good point Norm – it seems like all the chips were stacked against someone with some music appreciation genes. If Bell had been on a beach in Puerto Escondido – I am pretty sure he would draw an appreciative crowd.

  • Kim G

    Most people can’t tell the difference between good and bad anything. This is why people occasionally are able to buy things for a couple of dollars at a garage sale that later on “Antiques Roadshow” are valued at tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Or another example, when my brother got married, I got involved in my sister-in-law’s (“stag?”) party (because it was California, and everything was gender neutral). One of the games was to guess what unlabeled spices were.

    I guessed about 3/4, but was thrown by blends (which in my opinion don’t belong in such a game). But many of the folks couldn’t guess a SINGLE spice by smell. Few guessed more than a third correctly.

    Three, this is why clothing retailers spend so much on store ambiance. Most people can’t tell the difference in quality between a Wal*Mart shirt and and Abercrombie shirt, at least not initially. So the retailers need to create an ambiance that fills you in what you’re supposed to expect. Abercrombie makes terrific stuff, but they also spend a ton on a store environment that makes you feel comfortable believing that.

    We live in a world where at best, the well-educated know a lot about some esoteric thing that they do for work, and little about much else, and the poorly educated can’t tell the difference between chalk and cheese.

    That’s why so much poor-quality crap gets sold. People really don’t know the difference.


    Kim G

    Boston, Ma

    Where, as someone who often does know the difference, we are accused of being “picky.”

    PS. I also agree with Norm’s evaluation. Mostly in subways, especially in the morning, people are just rushing about, getting to where they’re going.

  • Dana Jennings

    Would it be undiscerning and common of me to want to hear about what ticked you off?

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Nah – It is OK Dan. I was on a rant about the complications currently occurring due to the permanent resident status we and many others have acquired. It seems our U.S. plated vehicles are persona non grata in Mexico – this was not determined or revealed before we made the decision to go for RP (Residenete Permanente). Now all our U.S. cars may be here illegally. Then a bunch of people have been stung by ‘brokers’ nationalizing these vehicles and it goes on and on – quite complicated actually. At least we have the Jetta which is a Mexican plated vehicle. But, the BIG white Ford truck is with expired U.S. plates having been here about 5 years and never has left Mexico. I have to wonder just what goes on in the minds of the Mexican government – or what doesn’t?

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Being picky is a sign of being a person with taste – nothing wrong with that ;-)

  • Tancho

    Interesting experiment, I would think that because people are focused on getting on the train and not being late for work, they have little time or patience to stop and smell the coffee, as you would say….

    Generally, I find that talking to friends, artists whether it being musicians or painters are not very well appreciated by the general US population. Americans are not taught very thorough history of their own country or any appreciation for the finer arts……kinda sad, I would say. Let alone the world in general.

    The only positive extra education I see is families where the parents expose the children to music, like piano or violin, where some carryover exposes them to the classics.

  • http://vivaveracruz.com/blog John Calypso

    Judging by the musical tastes here in Mexico (Lila Downs withstanding) there must be little music appreciation?