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Lost In New Hampshire

[My column in the Sunday magazine. FYI you'll see in the Editor's Note at the end that my Sunday column is going on hiatus (possibly in the same way that T.rex and Triceratops et al. went on hiatus) while I saunter over to the Outlook section for 6 months.]

Among my many gifts is a sense of direction bordering on the superhuman. I'm sea-turtle-good when it comes to orientation. I read the textures of the terrain, see the drainage patterns, study the moss on the trees and the motion of migratory birds. I decline to pay attention to road signs or maps, as they are much less accurate than a star chart and a sextant.

There is abundant information about one's location that can be gleaned from a fresh specimen of roadkill, simply by examining the contents of the stomach. Many times I've concluded, "Based on what's left of the armadillo, we must be in Georgia."

My sense of direction is a source of pride in part because, over the years, I have been surrounded by the directionally challenged -- by charter members of the Disorientariat. I have close friends who, given north, south and east, could not give you west. My friend Jeff has won about 13 Pulitzer Prizes even though he can't go from his front door to his car without following a trail of bread crumbs. And Weingarten: You know why he works in that basement bunker. Can't get lost.

Whereas, you could blindfold me, take me to a strange place far from home, spin me around four times, remove the blindfold, and within 10 minutes I would still be able to find not only a Starbucks but also the anti-Starbucks groovy-person alternative coffee bistro where the barista has all the cutting-edge facial piercings.

Unless, that is, I was in New Hampshire. Then all bets would be off. New Hampshire, as I recently remembered while chasing after presidential candidates, is the You're Now Completely Lost State. To say one is lost in New Hampshire is to speak redundantly, like saying, "Recently, I was gambling in Vegas" or, "Recently, I was hanging out in cafes in Paris and pretending to be more intellectual than I really am." New Hampshire was apparently created before the invention of the right angle. The roads wriggle and dip and stagger their way through forests and small towns and places where "quaint" is another way of saying they never learned how to lay out things on a grid. It's the opposite of Iowa, where, as Dave Barry once pointed out, you ask for directions, and someone will say, "You go down to that stop sign there, take a right, go for, let's see, about 140 miles, and you can't miss it."

As a journalist, you struggle to recall how you found the important political events in New Hampshire before MapQuest came along. But even MapQuest must find New Hampshire maddening. To get to one recent event, the computer told me to take Interstate 293 to Route 101 to Route 125 to U.S. 4 to Madbury Road to Knox Marsh Road, which would become Route 9, then go right on Route 108 and right on Portland and a slight right onto Cocheco and a left onto Gulf and a right onto . . . And, of course, you get lost. And feel doubts. There's nothing out here. There's no campaign. You see a sign saying "Moose Crossing" but nothing saying "Candidate Crossing." You're far from home, in a cheap rented Malibu, with coffee cups and newspapers and MapQuest printouts littering the floor, and the windows crusty with road spray, and it crosses your mind that perhaps you're lost in some grander sense.

That maybe you took a wrong turn years ago. That perhaps . . . Wait! There it is! Up ahead, materializing by magic, are the campaign bus, the TV cameras, the responsible citizenry and even the candidate himself, radiating the confidence of a man for whom the fear of being lost has been delegated to staff.

The treeing of the fox is never so much fun as the hunt itself. When we look back on life, we remember not the arrivals so much as the journeys. We forget everything that was on the official schedule and remember the strange encounter that never was supposed to happen. We remember being lost.

If all goes as planned, the Granite State will vote early next year and try to point the country in the right direction. And the rest of us will try not to get lost again.

[Editor's note: Joel Achenbach's Magazine column is going on hiatus until fall. In the meantime, you'll find his writing on Sundays in the Outlook section and on weekdays at]

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 7, 2007; 12:47 PM ET
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Posted by: BadBoko999 | April 7, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

First? Those of us who never get lost will never understand those who do. In OCS I did half the land navigation test in the bleachers before ever setting out. We'd done the practice runs on the same course and I recognized half of the points. The rest of the time was spent enjoying a walk in the woods and watching other people who were LBS.

Posted by: frostbitten | April 7, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Not first, grumble.

Posted by: frostbitten | April 7, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Great column. I too, have never been lost -- but also, I've never been in New Hampshire.

Posted by: nellie | April 7, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

New Hampshire = hilly/mountainous
Florida = flat/really flat
You're from flatland Joel, a creature of the grid. Prairie people have the same trouble when presented with a road system containing corners less or greater than 90 degrees.

Posted by: Boko999 | April 7, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Coming from a state that was created by volcanoes and erosion, the grid thing is not a way of life for me. Our roads are controlled by the formation of the terrain, lots of curves, no sense of order in the stops and starts of streets. You learn to drive by landmarks. People get lost when a mango tree is felled or a Dunkin Donuts is torn down. "Crossroads" are elusive and you're just never sure whether the other road actually crosses the one you're on or not. I think the locals did this just to throw off the tourists. In any case, having grown up with roads like these, I used to get lost driving the grid of L.A. for 9 years. Go figure.

Posted by: Aloha | April 7, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Joel, this kit needs to be accompanied by Richard Thompson's cool map of New Hampshire at javascriptvoid(popitup('',650,850))

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 7, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I really gotta chime in here -- I went to law school in New Hampshire (never been back, even after 26 years). It's a beautiful state, near other beautiful states (one with spectacularly cheap lobster (at least it was cheap a quarter-century ago)), and I learned to drive it pretty well.

I am known to be endowed (so to speak) with a phenomenally good sense of direction -- except, of course when driving in Virginia (I live in Maryland -- other Marylanders know full well what this means without further exposition). My car will join me in stopping and scratching our collective heads (a bit "tiresome" (ouch, ouch) for my car, however) anywhere in VA. It might get better in the next few years, as Northern VA is inching a wee bit more leftward, politically speaking.

I am fascinated by the dialect up in NH, as I am generally with all languages (so many languages, so little time). My law school is in Concord, which the denizens pronounce "Kayhncud" and New Hampshire is pronounced "New Haympsha". Yep, they all knew I was a furriner straight off. Geez, I'm from Michigan (where we have no accent, of course, other than broad vowels (except for me, I suspect)). I've added onto that a smattering of French, a whole pile of Swedish, some German, and in recent years, some Kiswahili and now some Kunda (spoken in eastern Zambia).

I suspect that Joel will be turning the Outlook section on its head (as, indeed, he should). Hey, Joel, did you get around to reading my short story yet?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 7, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I lived in France one summer, in a small village about 60km west of Paris. I would start out on my borrowed bike, ride and ride in the same direction (or so I thought)... twenty minutes later I'd end up right back where I had started quite to my amazement.

Posted by: MIss Toronto | April 7, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Aloha-funny, I found driving on Oahu pretty easy, that is once I got used to exits on the freeways being about a quarter mile apart. Once I knew Mauka and makai (spelling) and to understand directions based on a destination "Ewa bound" vs north/south etc. I could get anywhere easily. I worked in Puna lu'u and loved to pop out of the tunnel over Kaneohe and have that gorgeous view. (Had I known that a 40 minute commute was unthinkable for most Oahu residents I might not have been sucked into what was one of the best jobs of my life.)

Posted by: frostbitten | April 7, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Being lost while driving is my default condition. The awful truth is that I have the spatial awareness of an inebriated dyslexic. Further, I suffer from autonomous driving, which is a fancy way of saying I zone out a lot and lose track of where I am going until I am stopped by someone asking if I wish to declare any plants or vegetable products.

So, naturally, I ended up living in an area with notoriously unforgiving roads. Now, I have never been to New Hampshire, but I do not see how it could be worse than this area. I mean, this is a road system in which the sin of missing a single stinkin' turnoff must be punished with a forced diversion through Annapolis.

Further, I have never forgiven that sadistic French guy who decided to get all creative with the roads in the District of Columbia. I have never successfully returned to Northern Virginia from downtown Washington DC without first driving past the Capitol a minimum of three times.

My driving disability annoys my wife no end. Yet she shouldn't be surprised. On our first date I got so turned around that we ended up driving, quite briefly, the wrong way on a one way street.

I mean, she *was* warned.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 7, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

firsttimeblogger- I used to have a lot of fun watching Mr. F's confusion at driving in VA. He simply refused to reconcile himself to the fact that some roads changed names for no discernable reason, while to stay on the same named road might require a 90 degree turn at an intersecti0n that anywhere else would justify giving another name to the new stretch of pavement.

I do wonder how many signals they will put on the Prince William County Parkway before they quit calling it a parkway.

Posted by: frostbitten | April 7, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I was amused by the trial by indifference that poor Joshua Bell had to go through.

L'Enfant plaza is truly one of the worst places for anybody to pay attention to a musican. There's too many exits and it's too easy to get lost if you don't focus.

It's one of the few metro stops I find a nightmare just to find the right train or exit on.

I wonder if the results would have been the same at other stops; I suspect so, and also that it might be marginally better. At Woodley-Park Zoo or the Smithsonian, he might in fact have gotten a better haul.

Had he played at any of the other stops, I might have given him a good look and paused a while- if nothing else, Wilbrodog would be fascinated by the musician making all that ruckus.

Normally though, he loses interest quickly when I start watching street musicians-- and I do... because I like to figure out if they're any good from their body language as they play and the attention they get. Unfortunately I don't give money for what I can't hear. A basic rule of mine.

But at L'Enfant? Not so sure I'd stop for long or even let Wilbrodog distract me from getting out of there ASAP.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 2:38 PM | Report abuse

My mother grew up in Baltimore and moved to the frontier (Claremore, OK) when she married my dad. One of the many stories she tells about the resultant culture shock is the one where her new mother-in-law told her to go get something in the other room: "It's in the southwest corner of the west closet of the north bedroom." In Baltimore, when people give directions, Mom says, they tell you to turn right, or turn left--but in Oklahoma it was all, "go south to the end of the fence and then west a half mile..."

Posted by: kbertocci | April 7, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Oh by the way, driving in VA is a lot easier than driving in MD.

There are fewer blind intersections, and old Rt. 123, which I suspect throws maryland drivers a lot isn't actually that mysterious. By the name changes, you know where in VA you are.

Ox Road-- Southern Fairfax and outwards to Woodbridge becomes Gordon Boulevard near its intersection with Route 95 and into Occoquan county.

Chain Bridge Road-- Northern Fairfax/Oakton
Maple Ave-- Vienna to Tysons Corner,
Dolly Madison Blvd-- McLean and outwards.

It intersects with Chain Bridge in Washington, DC.

How the BLAZES can you get lost? It's only 30 miles long, it's the same color everywhere and you see "Rt 123" quite often no matter its name.

It's not like it does a triple axel and lands down in a split as a differently named road.

Now, Seven Corners in Falls Church is indeed another story, but if you use landmarks, you'll never be lost there either.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Did she get a compass as a wedding gift, Kb? I do so hope so.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

My sister thinks I have a good sense of direction - she's older, so she drove and I was the navigator - but I think it's because her sense of direction is so bad. New Hampsha sounds like PA, where I grew up - windy roads, hills. Now there are freeways and bypasses where I grew up so I get totally disoriented.

I hate when people use north, south, etc for directions, especially inside! Tell me to take a right or a left, for Pete's sake. I've lived in Seattle for years, and hardly ever return the same way I went. I become convinced that it can't be done, so I have to figure out 2 routes.

What cracks me up (or really irks me, depending on my mood) is when people use long-gone landmarks for directions. "Go past where the Ernst used to be" - right! For years after the Kingdome had been demolished, there were freeway signs directing you to the Kingdome.

(Frostbitten, great eagle pictures. I've gone to Glacier Park and the Skagit River to see them gather - very cool they come to you!)

*looking for Scottynuke and hoping he's not lost*

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I try to use the landmark approach. When I was off wandering around Europe some decades ago (when I still had functional knees), I would find the cathedral (practically every city, large or small, had one), note where my hotel or penzione was in relation to it, and then went off wandering. As long as the cathedral was in site (or site-able after asking some locals who generally had the good-natured wherewithall to point), I felt that it didn't matter where I was. I could just follow my internal (or infernal) compass. It worked like a charm.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 7, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

While checking out the front page to see if WWIII had started while I wasn't looking, I found the Peeps Diorama contest. Too funny!

And am I the only one who keeps reading "Senior Gonzales aide" as "Senor" (with a tilde.)

Posted by: nellie | April 7, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Joel writes:
"The treeing of the fox is never so much fun as the hunt itself."
Do foxes go up trees? The term "going to ground" is used when riding to hounds (foxhunting on horseback) - as in the fox goes into a hole. Hmmm...

nellie, I read the peeps article and was going to post the link, but didn't want to go off topic, which is where I usually am! It is very funny. The Seattle Times will publish their winners tomorrow - I don't see it online yet. And yes, I was doing the same thing with Senior Gonzales!

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I read that entire Joshua Bell link, and with all due respect to Weingarten, I think his premises are seriously flawed. In fact, he needes to consider that the reason his little experiment failed so disasterously is precisely BECAUSE his preconceived notions were significantly off. It was based on at least three or four premises I find seriously wrong:

1) If you don't closely follow classical music, you have absolutely no reason to recognize Joshua Bell, and I submit, even if you DO follow it you still might not recognize him. I don't follow classical music, and until a few minutes ago I never heard of Joshua Bell in my life. If I had walked through L'Enfant Plaza that morning and Weingarten had taken me aside and said, "Curmudgeon, I'd like you to meet Joshua Bell," I'd have said, "Howdy, Mr. Bell. Nice to meet you. What do you do for a living?" The fact is, if I'd have been standing there, I wouldn't have recognized WEINGARTEN, much less Joshua Bell, because I have never in my life seen Weingarten, and except for that cartoon sketch don't have a clue what he looks like. In fact, I submit that 98 percent of all Americans have never heard of Joshua Bell. So given a littlke over 1,000 passersby, how many would be expected to recognize Bell on sight? In fact, we have an answer: one.

I submit that dozens of passersby would have recognized Dave Matthews, if he was there playing and singing. Dozens, if not hundreds, would have recognized James Taylor. 500 would have recognized Carly Simon. 800 out of 1,000 would have recognized Tony Bennett.

2) Another premise is that we are somehow supposed to recognize all famous people because they are famous. I know who Saul Bellow is, but wouldn't recognize him if he sat down next to me on the bus every morning. Why the hell should I be expected to recognize Saul Bellow? In point of fact, I like Aaron Copland's music, and listen to it very often at work. I have two or three Aaron Copland CDs with all his major works--Appalacian Spring, Billy the Kid, Rodeo, the Lincoln speech, Fanfare for the Common Man, etc. But (not withstanding that he's dead) I have no clue what Aaron Copland looked like. One of the CDs had a sketch of him--older bald guy. Swell.

Similarly, I listen to Richard Roger's Victory At Sea at work. No freaking clue what Richard Rogers looks like. I listen to the Gipsy Kings, and love their lead singer, Nicholas Reyes. But I never saw them perform, and wouldn't know Nicholas Reyes if I ran into him in the cafeteria at work. (I think I WOULD recognize his voice if I heard him singing in L'Enfant Plaza--but if you aren't a Gipsy Kings fan, would you? And if you did recognize his voice, would you know his name? Or just think, "Hey, that sounds like the guy from the Gipsy Kings."

I know who Kiri Te Kanawa is, saw her on TV a few times. Wouldn't recognize her from Julia Child. I even know who Leonard Slatkin is--mentioned in Gene's article. Wouldn't know Leonard Slatkin from Leonard Nimoy or Leonard Pince Garnell.

I've been a fan of the Kingston Trio for 40 years. Saw them on TV on one of the fundraiser shows a few weeks ago. But if Bob Shane came into my cubby and handed me a report to copy edit I wouldn't bat a freakin' eye. Older guy, slightly balding, long gray hair pulled back. Glasses. Looks approximately like a zillion other guys.

3. A third premise is that Joshua Bell's playing, all by itself, is so superior that it must bring total strangers to a stop. But in fact, the experiment shows this isn't true, because it didn't happen. So it isn't that Bell sucks; it's because the premise is wrong. Only one guy in a thousand stopped to listen--and yet we've all seen various kinds of street performers of one kind or another, which crowds of five, 10, 20, 30 people stopping and listening or watching. Is it because the quality of performance is so much better than Bell's? Obviously not. So if quality of performance is irrelevant, what's the point of the experiment?

4. Weingarten points out the importance of context, and the "frame" of art. But having made a point of it, his experiement ignores it, and in fact seriously underestimates it. As it happens, I know this very spot--I work about 300 yards away from it, and go past it once or twice a month when I'm on a long lunch hour. About a year ago, bc, yellojkt and I met for lunch right near there in the promenade. First, the experiment picked the morning rush hour. Virtually by definition, almost everybody passing by was on his way to someplace else, and clearly very few had enough time to linger or dawdle. Bell was just a guy in street clothes playing a violin--in and of itself, this was utterly unremarkable. One sees various kinds of street performers fairly often, and it is NORMAL to pay them very little attention, unless one is playing a song one especvially likes or plays an instrument one is especially interested in. How many people out of a random 1,000 play classical violin? Maybe half a dozen? So it wasn't really that 1,000 people ignored Bell--it was maybe five or six, or 10, or however many out of the mix might have been expected to understand who and what was playing. But not 1,000. If this had been a harpsichordist or a harpist--same reaction. Bell could have been the world's all-time greatest bassoonist. So what? The summary of the context is that Bell was an average guy in street clothes playing an instrument many people don't know much about, playing a kind of music many people don't especially listen to (or at least not enough to make extremely fine discriminations --note the one and only listener who noted the "fine phrasing," whatever the hell that is) and in a place were people tend NOT to linger. We know that there were four or five people in line waiting for lottery tickets. None of them are classical music fans. Are you shocked? Surprised? Outraged? C'mon. There was a shoeshine person, and a guy who buses tables. And yet contrary to expectations, the guy who buses tables actually DID listen to Bell a little bit. But without disrespecting the table-busing guy, would you have expected a fella who buses tables to be a big classical violin fan? But Weingarten's expectation is that Bell's playing is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO good that it should have overcome not one, not two, but half a dozen obstacles--misleading appearance, uncommon and unfamiliar type of music (I never heard of "Chaconne," or whatever that piece was), time of day when people are in a hurry to get someplace, etc.

To me, the experiment didn't fail at all: it proved pretty much what I would have expected it to prove. And it did. It's just that my expectations are different from Weingarten's.

If someone had TOLD me that this was Joshua Bell, would I have stopped and listened? No. If someone had told me this guy was one of the world's greatest vioilinists, would I have stopped? Depends on wehther I was late for work or not. If I was five minutes early, I may have stayed--for two minutes. Had I stopped and given Bell my full concentration, would I have known the quality of his performance? Nope. Oh, I've probably have said, "This guy's pretty good." But would I have understood it was world-class? No way. Not my field. And there's no particular reason why it SHOULD be my field of expertise. Or yours.

Let's conduct a few similar thought experiments.

1) Suppose Weingarten had set up a card table, and held a wine-tasting. Suppose he gave out samples of a $600 bottle of wine. How many random passersby out of 1,000 do you think would have the knowledge, skill and experience to know they were drinking a wine like that? Not me, not in a hundred years.

2) Suppose instead of wine, Weingarten had set out samples of caviar, and one of them was a $1,000 beluga caviar, then a middle grade $200 can, and then a $30 can. All are served on Ritz crackers. Could you tell the difference? Not me.

3) I once heard Van Cliburn perform in Philadelphia, shortly after he returned from Russia, where he had won the international competition and become an overnight boy-genius international sensation. If you sat down Van Cliburn next to Marvin Hammlish, and asked both to play "Claire De Lune," could you tell the difference? Not me.

4) Joshua Bell plays a 300-year-old Stradivari that cost him a reported $3.5 million. If he played a tune on that Strad and played it again on an "average $20,000 violin, could you tell which was which? I suppose there are people who could--but I'm sure not one of them.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 7, 2007 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Couple of quick comments:

(from the previous Boodle) Why didn't I note that Joel's Rough Draft is going on hiatus?

Would you believe I didn't notice? Actually, I didn't think it my place to say anything before Joel did, that's all.

Mudge, after reading your analysis of the Weingarten piece, I feel compelled to remind everyone that Cecil B. DeMille's classic "The Ten Commandments" is going to be on ABC TV tonight at 7 PM EST, 6 Central.

Seriously, was that lunch really almost a year ago? Dang.

No, seriously seriously, I don't know if I'd have noticed Bell wailing away there either. I would probably have walked right past, thinking about who would be playing in that weekend's NFL Playoff games.


Posted by: bc | April 7, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

RDP ... I think I met an "inebriated dyslexic" once. He was kneeling at the porcelain altar swearing "Oh Dog! I'll never drink again!"

If you really want to get lost, visit Pittsburgh. The city "grid" is a triangle and the only ways in and out are over several dozen bridges and tunnels that span the three rivers and burrow through the hills on either side of each river. To top it off, almost every downtown street is one way and most do not allow left turns. To really top it off, at any given time, at least half of the bridges are closed for construction.

Also, never ask a Pittsburgh cop for directions. If they don't arrest you for holding up traffic, they'll give you the wrong directions on purpose.

It took me two years of living there to finally figure out how to get from the Fort Pitt bridge/tunnel to Carson Street on the South Side without having to go to the Pittsburgh Zoo first.

Posted by: martooni | April 7, 2007 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Well said Mudge.

Last October Mr. F and I stayed a few nights in Old Town Alexandria. A warm Saturday afternoon brought out 3 street performers. A guy playing water glasses, with an audience participation piece from Chariots of Fire, another playing classical music on a cello (it was not Yo Yo Ma, him I would recognize) and a blues guitarist/singer with a kid friendly schtick. I thought the cellist the best musician of the bunch, and coerced Mr. F into listening for a while, but it was the water glass guy who drew the crowd and the big bucks. Would anyone standing there have paid to go see a guy playing water glasses over the cellist, or Joshua Bell? I think not.

On Waikiki's Kalakaua Ave. the street performers are not particularly talented, unless you call painting yourself silver or gold and playing mannequin a talent. Yet a leisurely Friday or Saturday night walk usually calls for parting with a buck or two for Silver Man or the guy who has trained his shar pei to tolerate having a mouse placed on its nose so tourists can take pictures. It is indeed about the frame, but hey Weingarten shows Joshua Bell is both a cutie and a good sport. (I would have recognized Bell, but only because I think he's hot.)

Posted by: frostbitten | April 7, 2007 5:51 PM | Report abuse

I've been to NH many times and never been lost. I think it's got a lot to do with where your learned to drive. Up in these parts, we don't have 'grids' at all. Most of our roads either follow old cow paths (Boston), Native American trails or topography. NH has lots of mountains and rivers, roads have to take the path of least resistance. Of course I got terribly lost a few weeks ago within 20 miles of my house. I was trying to find a store someone had told me about and I had her directions, plus Mapquest ones and I still got lost. I did finally find the place, which wasn't worth the effort but then I got lost again trying to go home (I'd gone there from work). I ended up just following the routes that said "east" because I knew that if I kept heading that way, I'd run into the ocean eventually and would have a shot at seeing something familiar. In my defense, I usually have a good sense of direction but I didn't grow up in this area so the placement of towns in relation to the one I now live in aren't engraved in my head the way the towns west of Boston are.

Hey Martooni, how's it going?

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | April 7, 2007 5:52 PM | Report abuse

RDP, loved your description of your navigational competence (incompetence)? It's classic!

I think the thing that most influenced the outcome of Weingarten's experiment was the hour at which it was conducted. When I am walking from train to work, the early hour and the singularity of my focus is such that *insert name of hunky male celebrity here* could walk past me naked and my only thought would be "bet he gets a nasty windburn on a day like this."

Posted by: Raysmom | April 7, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

I think I share Joel's navigational capabilities. I, too, grew up in a very flat, 90-degree-angle kind of place and have no problem finding my way around most places (notable exception: Northern Arlington, whose street pattern was laid out by a couple of guys with the help of intoxicating substances. "Hey, wouldn't it be fun to have two sections of the same street separated by a couple of blocks, but no actual connection?"

To those who give directions via landmarks: feh! Tell me to go down X street and turn right on Y drive. Do not tell me that on the way I will pass a fire hydrant, three Starbucks, and a deer statue.

martooni, I'm so proud of you! I hope it helps to know all of us are pulling for you.

Posted by: Raysmom | April 7, 2007 6:02 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, GeneW's experiment was:
"In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"
I loved that they thought riot police might need to be called. I think it's true that context or the "frame" is everything in art. My husband is a struggling artist, using a medium that is unique, and people seem to have a hard time figuring out what to do with it - even though many recognize the beauty and uniqueness of it.

I'd like to think that I would at least have paused a moment to listen. I've heard of Joshua Bell, love violin but I'm not too knowledgeable about classical music. I know the music from The Red Violin, partly because some figure skaters have used it (Michelle Kwan being one, I think). I love live music - but if I was in a hurry, in a crowd - I don't know if I'd stop. Interesting that kids were drawn to it.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Best directions I ever got: Take I-95 South, get off at Exit 5, turn right on Valley Road and head straight into Mianus.

Posted by: TBG | April 7, 2007 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Back to the directions - I grew up in the East, where the ocean is east. Now I'm in the West, with the ocean, which in my mind includes Puget Sound, to the West. I find that confusing when faced with a decision to go on I-90 East or West - just for a split second, I think Spokane should be to the west.

Sometimes when I visit my sister, I rent a car at the Pittsburgh airport, then have to drive across the Fort Pitt bridge. Going to her house usually isn't too bad - going back, there is a moment when I have to decide what lane to be in, so I won't wind up in downtown Pittsburgh, with its one-way streets, under construction. I always have to change lanes, at the last minute, usually in heavy traffic.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 6:23 PM | Report abuse

For those who liked the backward Bush countdown clock, as seen on the Colbert Report, here is a link for a cost of war counter.

Posted by: frostbitten | April 7, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

I've never been lost, but I've had many many interesting road adventures.

Posted by: dr | April 7, 2007 6:35 PM | Report abuse

FWIW it took my about six months to figure out my way around the D of C with it's infernal rotaries and piss-poor signage.

As a resident I do know my way around New Hampshire. I suppose it can be confusing but I wouldn't trade it for the flatlands with their boring grids in a million years.

Joel, buy a GPS Nav system and put it on the ezpense account!

Posted by: Andys120 | April 7, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Joel did mention it, but today is the Boodle's 2nd Birthday.

Happy Birthday Boodle!

Posted by: TBG | April 7, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Was that critique because you, in fact, walked by Josh Bell, Mudge? Hmm?

Are you, just a tad, defending your right to be a utter philistine?

I certainly think the setting was absolutely flawed. Weingarten picked one of the worst places and times for anybody to pay attention to music, even music that would make God weep in joy.

That was masochism. And making him play relatively obscure music? You're right-- it meant nobody had a bar of reference.

That said, I'm pretty dang sure Wilbrodog would have chosen to introduce me if I let him. A dog is easily amused.

And yes, it does take a practiced ear to realize how extraordinary the music really was. Or a kid's ear. In fact, research indicates that the beat is beat out of us in North America.

So I'll bite, this experiment proves nothing about "art hidden in mundane reality". It proves how distracted people have tunnel vision and hearing.

No doubt if it was done on a metro station with a high pleasure destination quota after work or on a weekend, he'd have had throngs throwing their thongs at him.

By the way, I also found this article giving the raspberry to memories of reincarnation. (Dreamer will be wounded).

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Mostlylurkng - Regarding those winding roads of Pennsylvania. My in-laws tell me that many of them are paved cow paths. All I know is that to drive them one needs good tires, a snug seatbelt, and a fresh batch of Dramamine.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 7, 2007 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they should try the experiment again with a guy playing a $12 harmonica instead of a $3M Strad.

Posted by: Error Flynn | April 7, 2007 7:02 PM | Report abuse

I would like to think I would have stopped to listen. I love violin, and I love Bach. If Bach were alive today I would be a groupie in a most unseemly panty tossing way. Reading the article geve me goosebumps.

Maybe what it gets down to is how open a person is to unexpected beauty. Those unexpected tiny moments where for just a second everything is perfect. Like when the light in the evening turns yellow gold, and everything around you has been tinged in perfection, or when you crest a certain hill overlooking the flats back home. I like to think that I would have heard.

Posted by: dr | April 7, 2007 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I understand the 'hiatus' thing. I figured with the JA Surge there would be talk of a Joel! Magazine, maybe folding stuff like the front page into that? That's what I'm down in the pool on.

I like the way the Times imparts meaningless drivel about their columnists. Usually they put something at the end of someone else's column. Something in italics, like:

"Maureen Dowd is bummed out"

"Frank Rich has a tapeworm"

"Tom Friedman is trying to pull the meaningless pieces of his life together"

I'm not sure why this appears at the end of someone else's column. It's like what you've just read is a 'make-up' column, something someone slapped together.

When did MoDo last have a column? Anyway? You should talk to her people.

Hiatus? Six months? And you still have to write something? Gee...

Posted by: Geeb | April 7, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Since Great Falls MT in my spiritual and geographic center:

West for me, is perenially the Rockies. East is the high-steppe prairie flatlands that stretch into Minnesota. South is the Missouri River, a scant two blocks from my growing up-back yard. North is Yoki-land and Calgary. We drove on the Alaska Highway into Canada for the Calgary Stampede every year. Yoki, the pronounciation is ever RO de o, not that Frenchified Ro DEY o.

Off to the Easter vigil soon. The huge bonfire before Mass is built upon a pagan ritual for the equinox. I like the layers in religion and liturgy. This amounts to a kind of cultural archeology. The first part of Mass borrows directly from patterns,verses, and litanies in the Synagogue.

E.J Dionne's piece yesterday about why believe in the age of unbelief or disbelief sums me up quite well. The last paragraph is pretty powerful stuff about the radical nature of Jesus' three years in public life. I try to start my new cycle each Easter with this advice from Micah in the Old Testament:
Do justice,
Love kindness, and
Walk humbly before your God.

I will pray for all you boodlers and everyone you love. I am grateful for a quirky, funny, generous bunch here to bat about ideas in civil discourse.

And, in very fervent ways I pray for those we don't love and don't understand, and hell, don't like much.

On a musical note, Handel's Messiah was meant as Easter fare. Hum a bar or two, and you will be in tune with many.

Godspeed. Travel safe.

Posted by: College Parkian | April 7, 2007 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Once again going perilously off topic, the US was defeated on the final shot and wins the bronze medal. Andy Kapp's German team goes to the final tommorrow against Canada. It was a knuckle biter of a game, but I think in the end, the American teams disadvantage was their inexperience under this kind of pressure. Andy Kapp has been on this road before, and when push came to shove, he picked and made the shots that mattered.

It's now time to go colour easter eggs. I am following my mother's traditon to try to make the perfect red, using her mom's instructions rather than a kit.

Posted by: dr | April 7, 2007 7:18 PM | Report abuse

dr-thanks for the update. I watched to the point where they were tied 3-3 and had to leave the TV for an engagement I never would have made if I'd known things would be so close. I must say I love the color commentary. How often do you hear a football broadcaster say "In my opinion..." before announcing what the competitors are thinking or feeling?

Posted by: frostbitten | April 7, 2007 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Joel's column is off on a hiatus in Mianus? Dammit, I need to start paying attention to this place again. I just miss so much.

I haven't read Weingarten's piece yet, but I imagine you could put Bell, Yo Yo Ma, and Emmanuel Ax playing piano trios in a Metro station and they'd be largely ignored. Especially in the morning when people seem to be so intent on going from Point A to Point B and the acoustics in a Metro station are just dreadful. If you reunited The Beatles you might do a bit better.

Posted by: pj | April 7, 2007 7:32 PM | Report abuse

DR -- is your mother's recipe for red colored eggs secret? Can it be sent to Yoki? Do you dare post it here?

Beet juice makes a marvelous magenta.

I love your curling reports. This was a local Great Falls, MT phenom, with sad overtones of the times: curling did not happen on the "Catholic" side of town, where the neighborhoods were ethnic and populated by families whose livings were based in the copper smelter and gasoline refineries (Anaconda ruled the town until Chile nationalized copper in the early 70s).

DR- curling "happened" on the other side of town, which was largely Lutheran and Presbyterian....Scotch-Irishness figures in here too.

Better times now!

My side of town did, however, include the homes of Charley Pride and -- dramatic pause --Evel Knievel.

Posted by: College Parkian | April 7, 2007 7:33 PM | Report abuse

The (Joshua) Bell Curve of interest in and ignorance of classical music confirms the Emersonian dictum that most men live lives of quiet desperation. At the extremes of this curve are the singular recognition and entrhallment juxtaposed to the oblivious lottery queue and annoyed bootblack. But most telling is the children. Cur's sour grapes notwithstanding.

Posted by: Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA | April 7, 2007 7:36 PM | Report abuse

CP, have a good weekend, and Happy Easter.

RD, laughed at the description of your driving abilities. I wondered while reading that comment, is his wife still with him.

Off to bed. Sweet dreams, Achenblog.

And JA does that mean you're on a vacation or something?

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 7, 2007 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Red Beet Eggs - A Pennsylvanian Dutch classic. This recipe comes highly recommended:

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 7, 2007 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra - Let me check.

Yep she's still here so far.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 7, 2007 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Shiloh - I'll have you know that the fine gentleman who offers to shine my shoes frequently hums Mozart.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 7, 2007 7:46 PM | Report abuse

No doubt, Padouk, humming "Ein Musikalisher Spass.'

Posted by: Shiloh, Otter Creek, USA | April 7, 2007 7:51 PM | Report abuse

I bet Weingarten was the one humming that tune while he watched the whole proceedings.

(Ein Musikalisher Spass translates as "A Musical Joke")

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Hi Joel:

Next time you go to Paris, here are directions for you:

You may want to pay particular attention to item #21...

(hi everybody, just stopping by)

Posted by: superfrenchie | April 7, 2007 8:10 PM | Report abuse

TBG, didja see this one?

The comment thing is just a phase. There is no way Joel keeps this going.

Posted by: Nikos | April 11, 2005 11:02 AM


Posted by: Slyness | April 7, 2007 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Hi Superfrenchie! I have great grid directions, but Boston was indeed built on cow paths. It was always a challenge. Fortunately as a law student I was too busy to get out much.

I have comments on directions in the great West, reservations, vs. cow paths, but am in haste -- roast potatoes to rescue.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2007 8:15 PM | Report abuse

What, the French haven't invented teleportation yet? Or is that swim plan for dumb Americans who lack boats?

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Great directions, superfrenchie! That's kind of what I always pictured.

And Slyness... it has only been two years after all; it may still be "just a phase."


Posted by: TBG | April 7, 2007 8:52 PM | Report abuse

The Netherlands no doubt are wondering just how they could engineer this for themselves so they could fire all the little boys with their fingers stuck in these dams.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 9:00 PM | Report abuse

As kbertocci says, growing up in Oklahoma I quickly learned north, south, east and west. Having done this, I find gated communities and subdivisions endlessly confusing. The cow paths of Boston and the meanderings of DC also pointed up the limits of grid navigation. However, calculating by miles or landmarks is the simplest way to go in the Southwest. Three of us once drove from Boston to DC -- two of us from the great open spaces and one from the East Coast. She was driving, we were navigating. We'd crossed a couple of states before we knew it. In our universe, everything on the map was MUCH farther apart.

I get lost in malls. Ivansdad can infallibly find his way.

I would have stopped for Joshua Bell because I always stop for street musicians. Would I have recognized him? Almost certainly not by sight, though I know who he is. Would I have known he played well? Yes. Does this prove anything? No.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2007 9:08 PM | Report abuse

I lived in Pittsburgh for 10 years and it was a great place to get lost. With the hills and the rivers it is a 3-D problem. Get out your 2-D map and plot a route. When you get to where you want to turn you discover you are on bridge and the road you want is 200 ft down.

Posted by: Mike Procario | April 7, 2007 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Time to start the long march toward bedtime. I will try to check in tomorrow but just in case, Happy Easter to all so inclined.

It is supposed to be a little warmer, or at least sunny, so we're hunting eggs outside after all. I wonder if 8:30 is too early for brandy in coffee.

Vaya con queso.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2007 9:19 PM | Report abuse

One of my daughters showed me those "swim 3,482 mi." directions the other day.


I don't always know where I'm going, but I make pretty good time getting there.


Posted by: bc | April 7, 2007 9:22 PM | Report abuse

I once mapquested directions to Niagara falls from here in west by god and they sent me up through PA, the most direct route. One turn said take a left at the barn with the Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco logo on it.

I never get lost, but I do get confused most of the time.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 7, 2007 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Well, Wilbrod, I probably would have to defend my (or anyone's) right to be an utter philistine. Of course, I hardly think I am anywhere close to be an utter philistine myself. As for my sour grapes--I have none. I'm just disagreeing with a false premise.

I think a lot of people are missing the point, including Weingarten. The notion is that, as dr put it, "unexpected beauty" should be instantly and universally recognized as such. But that notion is highly arguable, to say the least.

There is highbrow art, and lowbrow art, and middlebrow art, etc. And without making a judgement about which kind of art is "better" than which other kind, there's one thing everyone ought to recognize about highbrow art, whether it be classical music, ballet, opera, abstract expressionism and other kinds of painting, scultpure, or whatever. It is this: such art is NOT "accessible" to the average man/woman in the street. Most of this kind of high culture is taught in one kind of art or music appreciation class or another. Such art takes "work" on the part of the audience, and very often repeated experience and skilled instruction, just to be a viewer or recipient. If your parents listened to classical music at home, then you grew up listening to it and learning about by absorption and osmosis, and you never thought about the process. But if you DIDN'T grow up with it, then how did you learn about it?

How would anyone know that Mondrian was a "great" painter if someone didn't tell you/teach you that "fact." (If indeed it is a "fact" with some objective reality of its own.) In high culture, most people agree that Mondrian was a great artist. But ask yourself: if nobody told John Doe, how is he supposed to know? Why is a Picasso from the cubist period such great art? Who says so? Would John Doe agree if he'd never taken an art course? So John Doe goes to college, takes a required art appreciation course, and learns that it is gouche to laugh at Picasso, that the teachers tell him this is great art, among the greatest of the 20th century. So John Doe, who has been taught and is now somewhat more sophisticated, no longer laughs at Picasso. But what has changed? Certainly not Picasso, or the work. The only that has changed is John Doe.

By the same token, was it just some guy playing a fiddle in a public hallway, or was it High Art? How are we supposed to know? Is Josh Bell playing Ave Maria on a Stradivarius "better" than Ray Charles singing "Georgia" while playing an upright Steinway? Who is more accessible, Leadbelly and Muddy Waters, or Maria Callas? Who is more of a musical talent, Antonio Salieri, or Bobby Zimmerman from Minnesota?

How many people here in the boodle would recognize a piece of work by Jasper Johns? (And even know who he is? Ballet dancer/choreographer? Scuptor? Painter? Operatic tenor? Architect? Cellist? Standup comic?) If this piece of work was presented to you out of context, do you think you would say to yourself, "By God, I'll bet that's Jasper Johns!"

How many people here in the boodle recognize the work of H.H. Richardson when they see it? (As it happens, I can. I'm a big Richardson fan.) How many can identify what field Richardson works in or worked in (meaning whether you know if Richardson is dead or alive)--or even whether Richardson is/was a man or a woman? I can tell you this much: if many of you came across a piece of Richardson's work, some of you would like it a lot, some would dislike it, and the majority would say, "Yeah, I guess it's OK."

Anybody here want to go head-to-head with me on a debate over whose draftsmanship was better, Al Mason's or Bill Garden's? Which one had the better "eye"? Which one was the alcoholic with the shaky hands?

Whose work do you like better, Walker Evans or Henri Cartier-Bresson's? Why? If one of their works was hanging on the wall in the corridor outside the news stand at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Stop, right near the shoeshine stand, how many people would stop to admire it? Suppose instead it was Ben Shahn's "The Passion of Sacco and Venzetti," or Adams' "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941"?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 7, 2007 9:27 PM | Report abuse

My sense of direction is quite ok. But I have major problems with left and right. It doesn't matter what language left and right is told to me. My mind just couldn't tell which is right and which is left. I could never respond immediately to a left/right situation. The way I somewhat remedy the situation is to think of my writing hand since I am right handed. But that doesn't work if I need to act as a navigator in car when immediate respond is required. When I get to a junction, I would point instead of saying left or right. This frustrates the driver to no end because the driver needs to concentrate on the road and miss seeing where my hand is pointing. Probably a wire's not properly connected in my brain.

Posted by: rain forest | April 7, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

But, Mudge, I think you're in violent agreement with Gene W and Kant and the art museum guy who talked about plunking the $5 million painting in the restaurant. Art has to have context - that's why there are museums and concert halls, etc. That's the point. I don't think they were calling the people philistines. Or at least that's how I interpret it. And there's also plenty of art that isn't universally recognized - not always because it's not good, but because it hasn't been "discovered" - or marketed well.

I'm a nature nut, so I take note of what's in bloom on my dreary drive to work, or take pleasure in the glimpse of the lake I get, or when I see a heron or eagle. But a lot of people don't, or are busy talking on cell phones, or plugged into iPods or whatever. And maybe the article is a way to remind us to be more conscious and mindful of what we're doing, even when we're hurrying to catch the train and get to the meeting and pick up the kid.

One of the joys of having kids is being reminded of the wonders of ordinary things that as adults, we take for granted.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 9:56 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Mudge about the Weingarten experiment. I wouldn't have stopped to listen to Bell, I'd have no idea who he was nor how talented he is. I can't judge great violin playing because I don't know enough about violin music to know if it's good or not. I don't think most of us do.

You know, I'm not very discriminate about classical music. Maybe because I was raised on pop music. So, I wouldn't know if someone was a virtuoso unless I read about it or someone told me so. Actually, that goes for a lot of thing - books, movies, art work, wine, beer, etc. I think the only thing I'd be good at knowing if it was exceptional or not is chocolate. That's because I eat it just about everyday.

Posted by: Aloha | April 7, 2007 9:59 PM | Report abuse

dr, frosty, I watched the end of the curling today. (I looked for dr in the stands, but it was tough to pick anyone out.) I still don't understand the strategy or scoring - I must read up on it someday, so I know what in the heck the commentators, not to mention the teams, are talking about.

rain forest, my brother used to say "this way" or "that way" - sort of a verbal way of pointing (not very effective).

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Flipped on the TV around 5:45 p.m. to see the national news...ABC, I think it see John Yang reporting from Crawford, Texas (the Western White House) AND IT WAS SNOWING!!!

Snowflakes keep falling on my head
And I'm just a guy who gets slammed in the
op-eds, nothing seems to fit. These
snowflakes keep falling on my head
They keep fallin'

So I just did me some talkin' to Rummy
And I said I didn't like the way he fought like a
Dummy, sleepin' on the job, these
Snowflakes keep falling on my head
They keep fallin'

But there's one thing I know, the Dems they sent to beat me
Didn't defeat me, won't be long till retirement steps up to greet me

Snowflakes keep falling on my head
But that doesn't mean my Fredo will soon be exiting the
Fed, crying's not for me, 'cause I'm never gonna stop the snow by complainin'
Because I'm Prez, nothing's worryin' me.

Posted by: Loomis | April 7, 2007 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Gene's going to chat Monday about the article, by the way.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Being a nature nut I think you will appreciate this. I do an Adopt a Highway cleanup for my community. When I planned this a month or two ago, I thought April 7th, Redbuds will be blooming and it will be warm. Not 28 and snow showers. We do 2 mile section that goes by a small farm. There are horses, cows and goats. About 40 yards in front of us, near the goat pen, we looked up and saw a small mountain lion make a dash across the road. I have lived here for 8 years and have never had the pleasure of seeing one. It was quite graceful as it ran up the mountain.

Talk about simple pleasures!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 7, 2007 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Hi, superfrenchie! Love the directions. If only Mapquest was that accurate. I find their directions get you close, but not always quite to the destination.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, nice poem. Glad Georgie's getting snowed on. (Hope I won't be in a couple weeks.)

gwe, that's the best way to see a mountain lion - running away from you! Wow.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 10:27 PM | Report abuse

CP, its not really a recipe, its the search for the colour you see. My mom remembered as a small girl a real true red that was on one of her Easter eggs, and all her life she has been trying to recreate that colour, and till her death, so did grandma, and now its my turn. We came really close one year when my kids were really small, and then next year the food colouring was slightly different, and we did not even come close. We do use just basic food colouring water and vinegar.

Nowdays there is usually wine accompanying the process, so we expect to be even further away. We are also certain that should we ever get that true red, we will have forgotten to record the formula.

Mostly, I am working out that pattern for you for the handwarmers. I've not forgotten, there just seems to be curling in the way. Frostbitten, you did miss a great finish. did you see if there are replays on curlcast or some of the other curling sites?

Posted by: dr | April 7, 2007 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, dr, that would be great. I came across a book of lace knitting patterns that I didn't know I had (I was looking for a completely different book). It has some that would be quite nice for handwarmers, I think.

Good luck with your quest for the perfect red. I haven't dyed eggs in years, since the kiddo was small.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 7, 2007 10:34 PM | Report abuse

There's a research project waiting for some geography/cartography grad student in how perception & knowledge of the local space is affected by how it's presented. Walkers and bus drivers would have one perception. People in Tokyo say that A is "45 minutes" from B, because they all take the train or subway or something like that and aren't aware of the mileage or maybe not even the direction. In Sydney Oz, the highway signs identify the next suburb that's a couple of miles away; when you get there, the sign identifies the next one. That gives you the graph version of the geography -- which node is adjacent to which -- but not the geodetics. In SoCal, when you get on the 405 in Culver City, the sign says it's northbound and will take you to Sacramento, which is maybe 350 miles away. That doesn't tell you much about the graph, but tells you the compass bearing. I think the map you form in your head (or don't) is influenced by what kind of clues you are given. Personally, I can read a map and then do dead reckoning on minor winding roads, but that may result from being a cartographer way back when.

Posted by: LTL-CA | April 7, 2007 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I'm in agreement with them, mostly, up to a point. And no, I don't think he was calling anyone a philistine for not recognizing Bell or his playing. But on the other hand, it is quite clear from their reported discussions beforehand that they expected Bell--or at least the quality of his playing-- to be recognized and apparent. They even had discussions about crowd control. So it was clear that their expections beforehand were markedly different from what actually happened.

I don't think the experiment was wasted, per se. But I think they made a fundamental mistake in choosing an art form and artist who wasn't commonly "accessible" to the taste and sensibilities of John and Jane Doe. They could have had the world's greatest harpist. But suppose instead it was John Popper of Blues Traveler standing there and playing the harminica. If you weren't already a fan, would you recognize him? Would you recognize his harmonica playing as being "virtuoso" level? I submit you'd think it was just this big, slightly oddly dressed heavyset dude playing the harmonica --pretty well -- and collecting dollars in his Stetson hat.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 7, 2007 10:42 PM | Report abuse

In my 9:46pm post, I said, "where my hand is pointing." I meant "where my finger is pointing."

In Brunei/Malaysia, most people point with their thumb with the rest of the fingers curved inwards. It's considered rude to point with the index finger. However, if you are not in the company of Malays, you just use whatever finger just not the middle finger.

Posted by: rain forest | April 7, 2007 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Still the same ol', same ol' in Crawford, I see:

Tidbit 1:

With Democrats in Congress pressuring him to fire Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and scale back in Iraq, and polls registering continued low approval ratings, Mr. Bush seemed to be poking a sharp stick at Congressional Democrats from weak ground -- in the middle of a major clash over war financing, no less.

But the calculation behind the moves, White House officials said, was as plain as the logo on the coffee mugs for sale down the country road from Mr. Bush's ranch here that read, "W: Still Our President."

Tidbit 2:

The fighting spirit of Mr. Bush's core supporters was on full display here [Crawford, Texas] Friday when Cindy Sheehan, the war protester, marched near Mr. Bush's ranch. A clerk at a local gift shop told a story of the protesters flashing a peace sign at two elderly women who support Mr. Bush and had driven out to get a look at his ranch. The women responded, the clerk said, by flashing "half a peace sign."

Posted by: Loomis | April 7, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse

As it so happen, I think a lot of artistic "value" has very little to do with the actual beauty of it.

Beauty mathematically often shows itself in symmetry, which we are prewired to like.
They have found that human beauty is somewhat more universal than you'd think, given the wide variety in hair and skin colors that are considered beautiful, as well as the varying fashions. It's all down to exaggerated male/female features, appearance of youth and... symmetry.

Dancers who are rated as better also tend to be more symmetrical than the rest.

How this applies to music, I don't know, never having heard any. However, scientists have identified some aspects of music that seems to lead to chills in the spine for those who are goosebump-prone, and it has to do with transitions and contrast.. from loud to quiet, to the entrance of a solo, to contrasting voices from high pitched to low.

And yes, familiarity with the piece matters-- anticipation may heighten the sensation (sort like with so many other things which we shall not mention).

Music is certainly cultural. Yet kids responded to the classical music despite having much less of that aesthetic education you so vaunt.

As for Picasso, he's one ugly painter. A lot of 20th century art is just plain ugly. The work lacks symmetry, complexity, and motifs easily recognizable from nature.

But then, that's because painters gave up competing with the realism of photography and decided to start playing with visual effects and "expression" instead.

Still, I challenge anybody to look at Gainsborough "Boy in Blue", "Girl in Pearl Earring" and many works from those older realistic painters and not say "gosh."

If we don't say "gosh" it's because we're so jaundiced by the constant barrage of art that only the grotesque and bizaare permeates our consciousness anymore, whether it's beautiful or not.

Yes, I DO know modern art. I've seen a lot of it, and some things I "get" that most people wouldn't, but I'm just saying beauty is an completely separate issue from artistic merit at times, since we have now defined art as "creative, original, different", rather than "sublime beauty".

And thanks to "original and different" we have lots of garish commerical ads everywhere, instead of nice quiet cave paintings leading our thoughts forward to the wonders of bringing home the bacon (and the beef and the horsemeat...).

Anyway I hope Mudge gets on Weingarten's chat, let's see who gets eviscerated.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 7, 2007 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of virtuosos, one Eldrick Woods, 5 strokes off of the lead at Augusta last night, is now only a single shot behind at the end of today's (Saturday) round.

When the course and conditions wrecked everyone else, he shot par. Anyone want to bet against Tiger in the final round tomorrow? I don't.

Oh, cool - now Heston's parting the Red Sea in TTC.


Posted by: bc | April 7, 2007 11:14 PM | Report abuse

And, Mudge, from your 9:27

"it is gouche to laugh at Picasso"


Posted by: Maggie O'D | April 7, 2007 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I thought you had typed "gouache." Never mind...

Posted by: Maggie O'D | April 7, 2007 11:22 PM | Report abuse

Maggie, would you believe I had "gouache" floating around in my head at the time, and decided against it?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 7, 2007 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you shoulda given us the benefit of your floater, my friend.


Posted by: bc | April 7, 2007 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Even misspelled, it was brilliant. It made me laugh out loud, and if I had been drinking, I would have snorted it out of my nose!

Posted by: Maggie O'D | April 7, 2007 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Hi Joel,
Next time you're on Rte. 4, take a right on 108 and a right at the Dunkin Donuts, and I'll treat you to a cup of coffee. It was nice meeting you at the 100 Club Dinner. You're right about the difficulty of finding the right path in New Hampshire. The mountains, the tall trees and all the people offering advice can obscure the direction to take. The trick is to keep asking questions, listen carefully to the answers, study the map with a critical eye and use your common sense to take the right path. We find the right way often enough even if we can't convince others to follow.

Posted by: jfashwell | April 8, 2007 12:00 AM | Report abuse

Back from Cold-lanta. Thought that the Weingarten piece was, sadly, a loser. A foregone conclusion to justify an article (hard as it is to say). I like Shakespeare but I wouldn't read him on the Ravenswood line on the Chicago el going into work on a Monday. Kinda embarrassed that there will be a chat about it.

That said, music education in our schools is beyond pathetic. In Europe, young people regularly attend classical music concerts; here, for example, maybe to impress a young lady a young fellow might take her to a concert to show his alleged sophistication but that is about it.

We ain't too sophisticated over on this side of the pond.

Oh and by the way, New Hampshire ain't got nothing on Atlanta in terms of difficulty of directions to get around. Virtually every road goes 270 degrees every mile or so and the vast majority of streets include the word "Peachtree."

Posted by: bill everything | April 8, 2007 12:22 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what the El is like in Chicago. I noted you said "monday morning", so maybe its just the coffee cravings that impede your focus.

In DC, I do often see people reading on the metro, though-- Terry Pratchett, classics, political stuff, thrillers, as well as law briefs and white papers for government work, etc. And yeah, newspapers. Lots of newspapers.

Quite a few college students read their homework on their commute, ditto for gummit officials. One of those days I frankly expected to see highly classified plans over somebody's shoulder on the metro. You just know it could happen.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 8, 2007 12:45 AM | Report abuse

The thing that strikes me about the Weingarten experiment was the time of day.
Assuming that people would stop if they were sufficiently captivated would be the assumption of someone who's never worked by the clock.

My guess would be that //insert religious deity here// her/himself wouldn't be enough to compel people to stop at 7:51 a.m. on a weekday.

Posted by: dbG | April 8, 2007 12:58 AM | Report abuse

I wonder how many people would go to the National Symphony if its concerts were at 7.30 a.m. on weekdays.

Posted by: LTL-CA | April 8, 2007 1:31 AM | Report abuse

dbG, I totally agree with you on the "religious deity of your choice" stuff.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 8, 2007 1:53 AM | Report abuse

Hi, all - look at me, finally here after midnight and catching up!

Shooting a question into the great void - when did the WaPo decide that Washington D.C. is our nation's capital? As opposed to capitol? Is this an old discussion and it's all been hashed out long ago? Because I thought capitol was for both the building and the city, but this headline on the front page today is making me wonder:

Conclusion: Capital Transformed, by Robert G. Kaiser

And then I start wondering, is it a clever play on words, because it's the money (capital) that has changed everything, so to speak.

Or is it really just too late and I've forgotten which word is which?

Posted by: Wheezy | April 8, 2007 2:04 AM | Report abuse

Wheezy, I think capitol means only the building[s], and is derived from one particular building in Rome. The noun capital comes from the Latin[?] adjective for principal or chief, and has all the other meanings. Anyhow, that's what I learned long ago.

Posted by: LTL-CA | April 8, 2007 3:45 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Hello, superfrenchie, good to hear from you. Hope you, and family are doing okay. I'm up so early, don't know why.

G-girl knocked out. We will try to get dressed for church this morning, but boy, is it cold. I don't think the g-girl can wear her Easter dress, too thin. We need coats this morning.

Hope your day is good, and the food even better. Mudge, I keep thinking of you and that ham. Sounds real good. I will choose one of the invitations to dinner. My sister wants me to come out, but told me she can't feed me steak, I have to buy my own. I told her beef is not my favorite meat. My dad has his sisters, and he's cooking out too. Plus I got an invitation from a friend, and that person is cooking out too. The weather is so cold, I'm just wondering if these folks are really going to cook out. I just want to go to bed, and forget it all. I made potato salad. I'm taking that to my sister.

Morning, everybody.*waving*

On this Easter Sunday morning, I'm thinking about the love of Christ to all who call on His name in love. His sacrifice for dying man, and that love in which He loves all. I do thank Jesus for loving me when I did not love Him. God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ. Peace.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 8, 2007 3:58 AM | Report abuse

Happy Easter to all of you!

Posted by: Aloha | April 8, 2007 4:12 AM | Report abuse

It's a chilly and bright morning here, strange weather for Easter. That would be a nippy day for collecting Easter Water. So I lose my Sunday morning column reading material for 6 months, so sad. I have to agree with Martooni, Pittsburgh got to be the worst place to get lost. Boston isn't bad either, with some long streets changing name (and/or address numbering conventions) each time they cross a village/town limit. Vewy confusing.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 8, 2007 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Happy Easter, everyone... and Peace to you too, Cassandra.

Little Bean will soon be bouncing off the walls on a sugar buzz. She's been up since 6:30 and found her hidden basket about 30 seconds later -- it's like she's a glucose-seeking missile. I'm thinking we drop her off at her Grandma's for dinner and run for the hills.

At least I have an excuse to bail out early -- at some point today I have to button up the new electrical service at the house I've been working on (inspector coming tomorrow) and there's still lots of drywall finishing and painting to do, not to mention window sills to make. I usually work with softer woods because of the cost, but I get to play with real oak this time -- I just hope my tools are sharp enough to handle it.

We got about an inch of the white stuff last night and my desktop weather thingie says it's 23F out there right now. I see many of you have been blessed with the same, so I don't feel so bad. I keep telling myself winter can't go on forever, but dangit, we're into the second week of April.

bill everything... I lived in Atlanta for two years so I know what you're talking about. I seem to remember someone telling me that there were something like 127 streets/roads with "Peachtree" in their names. I don't know if it was an urban legend, but I also heard that "Peachtree" was derived from the way the locals pronounced "pitch tree". From what I remember, peach trees are not indigenous to Georgia and were introduced later, but pitch trees were/are common. Maybe Dave of the Coonties or one of the other botanically-inclined pointy heads can weigh in on that one.

btw... 12 days now and Higher Power willing, today will be lucky 13. :-)

Posted by: martooni | April 8, 2007 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Happy Easter everybody!

I'm home from a beautiful sunrise service at the beach; the view was something like this:

That's a picture of the actual lighthouse that was in sight of where we were, but we were further away and seeing more sky. Sky report: On the horizon, interesting clouds, linear and parallel to the horizon, catching the first rays of the sun, turning different pearl-colors. Otherwise, a totally clear blue sky, all the way around. It was a little bit chilly--I stayed warm by adding a light jacket and a fuzzy scarf around my neck. Some people brought blankets. The minister said, pointedly, *this* is what passes for inclement weather on Easter morning in South Florida. A lot of people undoubtedly stayed home because it was "too cold"--I think the temperature was about 55 degrees. Anyway, it's a very beautiful day and with no roof over our heads, I'm sure our prayers went straight to their target. Achenblog cohorts, individually and collectively, were included in mine.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 8, 2007 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Morning all. Martooni, 13 really is a lucky number for you I hope. Well done, sir.

I'm kind of sorry we're past the egg-hunt and easter basket phase. Perhaps the future grandchildren?

The big turkey dinner went swimmingly last evening, and today I shall not cook. Bless #1's heart, she arranged to take everybody but me to a movie after dinner, so everyone was gone by 9:00 pm. I needed that!

It is below freezing here this morning, and more snow is called for. It has snowed every day for the past two weeks, and in spite of being winter people, we are all ready to see the sun and drive dry roads.

College Parkian, RO-de-o is the only correct way to pronounce the word. I blame Aaron Copeland for the travesty that is ro-DEY-o (note neat looping-back to 'Mudge's thesis [with which I disagree, btw]).

Posted by: Yoki | April 8, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Happy Easter All!

That context is essential to fully appreciating art was made obvious to me when I visited an art museum some years ago. I had a guide who took the time to help me understand why a piece of work was significant by explaining what had come before and what would come after. Suddenly the pretty pictures, and the ugly ones too, became far more meaningful and enjoyable.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 8, 2007 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Happy Easter, everyone.

I've posted a new kit to mark the Boodleversary, as bc calls it.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 8, 2007 8:44 AM | Report abuse

btw... maybe GPS isn't the answer to getting around New Hampshire (or anywhere else, for that matter)...

Intense Solar Flare Worries Scientists
Blast of Radio Waves Larger Than Thought Possible Caused GPS Disruptions

I guess what's got the pointy heads' knickers in a twist is that we're currently at the low point of the sun's 11 year when solar flares and sunspots are least frequent and powerful. When we hit the high point, they're afraid all hell's gonna break loose.

And aren't we due for a shift/reversal of the Earth's magnetic field soon? (which reminds me... gotta buy stock in compass manufacturing companies)

Posted by: martooni | April 8, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Apologies for Boodling before reading all the comments...

So Joel, you had to go from Manchester to Durham (and perhaps all the way to Newmarket) to see a candidate pressing the flesh near UNH, huh?


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 8, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I, too, is my "sense of direction bordering on the superhuman."

I was intriugued by your decription of New Hampshire roads - a quality shared in Mew England. One old comment on Boston is that it was laid out by the first settlers when those settlers let their cows loose from Boston Common. Where the cows didn't walk, the settlers built homes.

Posted by: Alan Ehrlich | April 9, 2007 12:12 AM | Report abuse

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