Archive for April 2010

Validation and the courage to keep going

April 27, 2010

Jazz musician Bill McGee posted this on Facebook recently. I picked it up from a friend’s feed. Feel free to skip ahead if you’ve seen this article already; discussion after the jump.

Bill McGee THE SITUATION – In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. 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 are we missing as we rush through life?
(Thanks Gregory Branch for forwarding this to me – I understand THIS!)


Genre-bending works: favorites and recommendations

April 5, 2010

Last week, John DeNardo asked me to contribute to SF Signal’s Mind Meld feature, which entertains a single question with a group of genre luminaries each week. I’ve been enjoying the Mind Meld feature for a long time, so naturally I was beyond delighted to be asked to play–but what excited me even more was this week’s question: What are your favorite genre-bending works?

I’m all about genre bending. Actually rule-bending in general. Rules and definitions just make me think about what they’re designed to exclude.

But I digress, as usual. The point: I found this question so compelling that I began to talk to other people about it even before I wrote my post. Last weekend, at the book launch (actually the after-party) for Leona Wisoker’s fabulous Secrets of the Sands, the very knowledgeable cadre of fans and artists who had gathered to celebrate fielded a list of favorites that barely even overlapped mine. Though I’d intended to use their suggestions to augment my list for Mind Meld, I quickly realized John would have to give me control of the whole column to accommodate everything. So I answered his question, discussing a few of my favorite genre-bending works–and will share the responses of the luminaries who weighed in at Leona’s after-party here. Once the Mind Meld post goes live on SF Signal, I’ll link to it here.

And I’m adding the recommendations that spoke to me to my ever-growing TBR shelf on Goodreads.

Crowd favorites for genre-bending include:

Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula Series. It may be worth noting that what sprang to mind was the sixth of the series, but I have included the link to the series opening.

Mercedes Lackey/Roberta Gellis: This Scepter’d Isle

David Weber/Linda Evans: Hell’s Gate, also the first of a series.

Larry Niven/Steven Barnes: Dream Park–the first of a series.


Update: So many excellent ideas in the Mind Meld post. My to-read list has grown even longer. And when I came back here I realized I had typed “SF Site” rather than “SF Signal” in the original post.


I’ve fixed it, but I’ll be blushing about this ridiculous error for days. I am a great admirer of both sites and both editorial teams; I choose to blame post-launch fatigue for my error…but we all know that’s really no excuse.