A Violinist in the Metro

A Violinist in the Metro is the subject of a viral email that I received just this week. The story it tells, of renowned concert violinist playing in a Washington D.C. subway during rush hour who goes unrecognized and unappreciated, is true. The violinist was Joshua Bell and it was widely reported, by the Washington Post and NPR among others…two years ago. The event took place on on January 12, 2007 and I don’t know why this email is circulating now but it bears re-telling for it gives rise to questions that are worth considering.

The email concludes with this question:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments …. how many other things are we missing?

It’s a good question, but I would also have to ask whether the adults, who probably had no arts education or even exposure to the arts, would have had the ability to discern quality and beauty even if they did have the time to stop and listen. Some might argue that art has the power to touch all, and I might agree, but I also think that those who grew up in recent times may have had the innate ability with which we are born sucked out of them by adulthood. (The children in this story wanted to stop and listen, but the grownups pulled them away.)

It reminds me of a story I read some time ago about people are born with the ability to taste color or see musical notes as colors and shapes but the ability fades away from disuse, lack of encouragement, lack of adult understanding… It’s called synesthesia (“a rare neurological condition in which two or more of the senses entwine”) and while I am not a scientist, I do believe that we are born with way more abilities and talents than we ever imagine, let alone nurture.

What do you think?

Best interests?

The issues are no longer clear cut. Maybe they never were, but now, I think, less so than ever. For example, are unions good or bad? There was a time when unions did a tremendous service, fighting for the rights of commenfolk. But today we seem to be in an age of me, me, me, and I wonder if the demands being made to supposedly protect the worker are out of line with common sense. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an advocate of corporate greed, and I would be the first to confiscate the obscene bonuses and out-sized salaries of the suits at the top. But take a look at this video report about Ford’s manufacturing plant in Brazil and tell me what you think. Is Ford doing “the right thing”?

Sunday morning correspondence

This morning’s email brought links to three CD reviews: two about Hemispheres (Jim Hall/Bill Frisell with Scott Colley and Joey Baron) in The Independent newspaper in London and State of Mind, and the third was in JazzReview about Brother to Brother (John, Jeff and Gerald Clayton with Terell Stafford and Obed Calvaire). As you may know, I’m a fan and it just so happened that as 2008 drew to a close I had a last-minute assignment to write press releases for these two ArtistShare recordings. I have become so used to reading articles and reviews from around the world that I have to remind myself just how amazing it is that we can be so connected with the whole wide world…and how exhilarating as well as overwhelming that can feel.

Social networking is a part of that mix and as I just wrote to Orrin Keepnews this morning, “this social networking stuff is crazy and can be time consuming, but it’s fun, people post some wonderful videos and pictures, and it feels good to be connected.” I am trying to juggle the feel-good nature with the usefulness factor, exponentially confounded by three networks — Facebook more social, Linkedin more biz, and I haven’t figured out the point of Twitter yet but you can follow me. All I know is that I can now use HelloTxt to post status messages to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously…for whatever that’s worth. Does anybody really need to know, or care, that I’m about to brew a pot of coffee or head off to pilates?

What do you think? Are DevraDoWrite readers signed on to any of these networks? Why or why not? Do you read publications from afar and if so, how often? Please post your comments or email me directly.

My Two-Cents Worth

Happy New Year, one and all. Have you made your resolutions? I’ve got so many that I had to make lists of my lists. Mostly I resolved to allocate my time more wisely, eschew distractions so as to focus on my writing, and return to a consistent blogging schedule. My desires, coupled with the current state of the world, require that I make some more money and spend less of it.

I took some time this morning to clip coupons. I never used to do this with any regularity, and while the world’s economic downturn has motivated all of us to tighten our proverbial belts, I admit that my clipping fancy has more than a little to do with preventing the conglomerates from taking extra advantage of me than it does with saving 40 cents on my next four cans of soup. Coupons, and grocery club cards, are proof of the over-inflated prices on all of the products we buy. On top of the cost of making goods, manufacturers add in the cash-back values along with the advertising expenses, kitchen sink, and profit margin before settling on a retail price. If we take the time to clip, and remember to carry the coupons and club cards to the store, then we save a few cents, or even several dollars, and they still get their profits; if we forget, then they get their profits plus a cherry on top. Why should I anoint their sundaes when I can bake my own cherry pie?

And do they really believe that the availability of coupons actually alters our shopping selection? I’ve been told that I am not a typical consumer, but I wonder. The coupons never affect my taste preferences nor shake my brand loyalties that were mostly forged in childhood. Just because I can get cents off a box of Fiber One doesn’t mean I’ll buy it instead of Raisin Bran; and the only time I ever buy go-gurt is when the grand-kids are visiting. Furthermore, while I now have a large stash of coupons for products I do buy, sorted by the month in which they expire, I am not likely to buy those items right now, unless I need them right now. If a coupon expires before a need arises, too bad — no sale.

Okay, so this counts as a double check-mark on my lists: a blog post + saving cents.