Sunday, November 20, 2011

Swimmin in Skittles

Didn't I see that violin on Antiques Roadshow?
On a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin, played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes at Washington DC's Metro Station,. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

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 ever made . . ..

How many other things do we miss as we rush through life?  Lord, I know I have.......

"Damn, I knew the answer to that question!"
That trend will only continue as smart phones & tablets continue their advancement with folks fixated on some version of Angry Birds (& even scarier......some will be behind a steering wheel doing 60) and not the more simple joys of life......which are open, tactile and often free!  On Saturday afternoon....... I watched from the bluff, for several minutes, the wonder of a slow moving coal barge chugging down the Mississippi on it's journey to New Orleans.  Can't you just see it???  It was quite delightful!
Frampton Comes Alive now & 35 years ago

Even better was the sound of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra later that evening.  While I'm a rock & roller at heart, almost nothing beats that sound & those Rock Stars! Think about it.......almost every Hollywood movie has an orchestral background but to see & hear an orchestra up close & personal..... Oh Lord!

Each one of us is on a roller coaster ride through life.  Granted some are a little further along than others & some soon pulling into 'The Station' (maybe with a sudden stop & before they wanted to).  As adults, we're all past the Big Hill.  It's just how many loop de loops & twisty curvies you have left because tomorrow is promised to no one.   So promise yourself this:  Even as the world whips by at its frenzied pace, enjoy the simpliest things that life has to offer:  the beauty of a sunset, the wonder of a bird in flight, a walk in the park or by the river, the joy & innocence of a small child  (even better if their yours 8-) & that lone virtuoso in the subway station.  If you take the time to listen to the sound and enjoy the moment, you'll be swimmin in skittles!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Thud Factor

Um.....Good place for one.....
There was an article on Bloomberg (a business and financial website) this past week that hard copy newspapers will be gone by the year 2040.  I suppose, that as sad as that sounds, the death knell of newspapers is eventually inevitable....... by that time the baby boomers, of which I thought I was one, will either be gone or on respirators.

Growing up in an era when the local newspaper was King has made me a bit nostalgic.  I was a paper boy (still am for that matter).  My son was too.  It taught a good sense of responsibility at an early age.  Now 'paperboys on bikes' whose routes covered nearly every house on the block have been replaced by 'contractors in trucks' who often drive 70+ miles to deliver 300 papers.

Philly telling it like it is
I have a Smart Phone, which I confess, makes me feel none too smart a good deal of the time and an iPad2  but it's just not the same loading up the digital edition as having that big old fat Sunday paper waded & thrown up there on the sidewalk.  There is that anticipatory excitement and 'the ritual' with the Sunday paper...... 
I wake up, after resisting for a bit, throw on my Ole Miss hat, turn on the TV and start the coffee.  Then it's out the front door to pick up the 2lb. blue sack which I already know is there from hearing it hit the ground the night before.  This varied activity is played out in neighborhoods across America.  Today, I take a quick survey of my 'hood' and of the 16 houses on the block, 5 take the Sunday paper (roughly a third).  I suppose I should take this survey a little deeper and go bang on some doors, iPad in hand, & find out what generation each belongs to: Boomer, Generation Jones, Gen X or Gen Y and what makes then tick.  However, I can't.  I am currently in a state of daze.  All these years I thought I was a Boomer and, come today, I find out there is some made up new category (I'm a Joneser....WTH) and they shelved me in there!  Ugh....need coffee & the comfort of my paper!

My hometown Squeeze
After fixing my coffee, it's back to the coffee table to unwrap my prize and spread the sections out all over.  I seldom read the front page first unless there is something sensational or of compelling personal interest.  Today is no different.  Instead I opt to freelance the sections out of order, because I'm a rebel (in my own mind anyway),.....often going, strangely enough, to Op-Ed, to see what my colleague OS has on his mind today........and whether I will agree with him.  More times than not I do.  After that it's book reviews & the New York Times Bestsellers list. Then I usually like to see what's happening in Business, especially the local scene & hoping for good news.  In years past, being from Philly, I would have gone straight to Sports first but that section usually falls to third or fourth on my list now unless the Memphis Tigers or the Grizzlies are playing.  Neither is.....nor is there hope the Griz will be playing anytime soon.   I can't avoid them tho!  That impact lands them in Business
A Rite of Passage
About this time I am wondering if I should even get up today......  I grab the M Section (A&E) & turn to my horoscope.  Good fortune!  I'm a Moon Baby & it's 5 STARS!   Joy.....I can leave the house & I am thinking my Eagles will trounce the Cowboys tonight too!  About this time I catch a peak at the Classified Section and there is an article in Careers on of my favorite pastimes.  I am there.  After that, it's off to Local News, My Life & a quick glance at the Obits just to make sure I haven't 'deadlined' & made that column.

Statistics still say newspapers are the Number One destination for advertising.  I agree.  Everything else is about ad avoidance except for 'search' and Super Bowl Sunday.  Today I'm thinking the extreme couponers are happier than an F5 whittling through an Arkansas trailer park because there are over $200.00 worth!  Me, I look for my Walgreens circular to see what's on sale.  Like churches, there's one on every corner in Memphis and it's my favorite store! I usually peek at most of the circulars especially my favorite French store Target' & Best Buy for stuff I don't need but must have....   

At $2.00, the Sunday paper is both a bargain and an institution.  If you get home delivery, it also comes with the full suite of digital products....and 'breaking news'!  I like to tease a good friend in MS.  We had to sell him the digital edition a few years ago when we cut back delivery to his area.  Every once in awhile, I send him a hard copy.  He pitches a tent by the mailbox, loads up on sun screen & bug repellent and waits on the mailman.  Then he likes to tell me he rolls around the newspaper naked when he's done reading, a vision I'd like to avoid.  Or when I get an e-mail from my favorite radio DJ pleading with me to 'water board' or, at the very least, perform an acid drip on a carrier because he didn't get his paper that morning.......
That's the kind of passion that loyal readership exudes!

No, I don't believe that newspapers will be extinct by the year 2040.....not even close!  Newspapers will morph into something else..... much like the 2002 Tom Cruise film Minority Report
depicting the year 2054.  It featured eye-sensor behavioral targeting and a USA Today digital e-paper with BREAKING NEWS.  Both technologies already exist! 

The future, as is often said these days, is here, but for now enjoy 'the thud factor' & the wonder of the daily, toil & newsprint and keep your smart phone handy for the updates.
In 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a day. The worldwide recession of 2008, combined with the rapid growth of web-based alternatives, caused a serious decline in advertising and circulation as many papers closed or sharply retrenched operations.  While there are many less daily broadsheets & tabloids today, many newspapers have seen resurgence in both areas as they further define the business model.