DoubleA Blog

January 28, 2010

Virtuoso in the subway. Or how we perceive the indigent?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Arsen @ 8:05 pm

A few years ago The Situationist blog covered the story about an experiment where Joshua Bell’s posed as a subway musician to see if anyone would appreciate his unquestioned talent in the art of violin-playing.  Bell is definitely one of the (if not the) most popular classical violinists living today. He’s featured in many popular films (e.g. he played pretty much the whole soundtrack of The Red Violin movie starring Sam Jackson), and regularly packs performance halls with adoring fans eager to hear experience his unmatched talent.

I like this piece for several reasons. One of which I should give at the outset because it is a bias of a sort. The great Bell got his music education at my alma mater, the beautiful Indiana University, Bloomington. Go Hoosiers!

But in this experiment, he was just another (appropriately dressed) subway musician. Although dressed accordingly, Bell still brought along his immense talent and ability, playing Bach’s Chaconne (one of the most difficult and beatiful pieces for solo violin).  And, of course, he didn’t forget to grab his $3.5 million Stradivarius violine (just to make sure that the quality of the instrument is controlled for). The question was whether anyone would give Bell the respect due his ability and quality of the music.  Turned out, almost no one did.  Seven people stopped for a minute, several dropped a buck into the violin case, but 1,070 completely ignored the guy (at least ostensibly).

Jon Hanson and Michael McCann used the experiment to demonstrate yet another manifestation of the robust impact “the situation” (rather than Bell’s personal abilities and talent) has on our perceptions.

No doubt the situation makes a huge difference. But there seems to be something particularly unsavory about this particular situation.  Could Bell’s “epic fail” in the subway have anything to do with our general attitude towards the poor people who ask for money?  Let’s get into this after the jump.



Undetectable influence of race

Filed under: Uncategorized — Arsen @ 5:13 pm

Last year Professor Hanson took on a New York Post cartoon in this blog post on The Situationist.  The cartoon’s premise seems harmless enough: the chimpanzee that got shot in Conecticut was writing the stiumuls bill – i.e. that bill makes about as much sense as writings of a crazed chimp.   But the cartoon drew quite the controversy:

After the jump, I try to ex


Tone deaf politics or racism? Reid vs. Lott

Filed under: Uncategorized — Arsen @ 5:11 am

In his recent post, Eric D. Knowles of The Situationist added his two cents to the pile of commentary on Majority Leader Reid’s foot-in-mouth moment while he was speaking about the then Senator Barrack Obama. The post is written as a comparison between Reid’s comment and Trent Lott’s comment for which he was politically excommunicated.  Knowles admits that the statement was impolitic, but his position is essentially a defense of Reid:

Interestingly, I haven’t read or heard a single commentator dispute the accuracy of what Reid said. I’ve heard many say—and I agree—that his comments were indelicate and his use of the term “Negro” anachronistic. Politically stupid, yes. But also true.

Reading the post, I was initially quite persuaded by Knowles’ well-chosen analogy.

Imagine a scenario. An African American lawyer, we can even call him “Barry,” has applied for a job at a prestigious firm—one that has never before hired a Black person. You eavesdrop on a couple of partners talking about the candidate. Question: Which, if either, of the these overheard comments is the more racist?

“I don’t know… Barry’s facing an uphill climb at an all-White firm like this. However, he just might have a shot given the fact that he’s fairly light-complected and doesn’t speak using African American Vernacular English.”

* * *

“This firm’s going to hell if it hires a Black guy. I wish Strom Thurmond were the head of the hiring committee.”

But let’s dig a bit deeper into the matter.  After the jump, I try to explain why I think Reid’s remark was racist.


The best mind blog ever [*]

Filed under: Uncategorized — Arsen @ 1:26 am
* As selected from a pre-provided list of 7, which was pre-derived from a list of 10 lists, each consisting of seven blogs. The headline is not in any way an objective statement as to the quality of the blog as demonstrated by its receipt of any blog award or anything of the like, other than the author’s subjective preference as among the 7 pre-selected blogs mentioned herein.

PsyBlog Home

OK, if this worked, you’re still reading. The best of seven – here comes an indefensibly unpatriotic move – is a limey blog:


January 27, 2010

Good morning, Blogosphere

Filed under: Arsen Ablaev,Uncategorized — Arsen @ 9:30 pm

And we’re off…

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