THE BLOG
01/02/2009 02:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Arbiters of Taste

The unedited version of this report was sent to me a few days ago. It was published by the Washington Post and I infer from it that in their opinion they know what is "good" for people to listen to and diminish those who do not share their opinion.

My father often told me often about differing opinions held by people by saying: "Norman, that's what makes horse racing." It is amazing how much smarter he becomes to me with the passing of time.

My rude comments about the Post's attitude will follow the report.

"A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station; most of them on their way to work...

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year-old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.

Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money...

... the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?"

My comments are directed to all of the arbiters of public taste in the world in general, and the Washington Post in particular.

I have a history of being annoyed by those who like to define things as "good" or "not so good." It is not for the Washington Post or anyone else to determine what people should listen to. To "expose" people to different music is a good thing. Judging them for not choosing to like what you have presented is not a good thing.

Here are some of my "likes" that are not for everyone or anyone, just me. I have been very fortunate in having been exposed to so many things, and nevertheless I do like what I like and do not need anyone to tell me what I should like.

I like Broadway musicals particularly Stephen Sondheim among others, but not opera.

I like silly movies like Blazing Saddles and Where's Poppa but not The Godfather.

I like coleslaw, ketchup, salt, Guldens mustard, French fries, and fried onion rings. I do not like a Waldorf salad, beets, steamed artichokes, sushi, sashimi and a bunch of other things.

I like the Carnegie Deli in New York, and dislike most French restaurants in Los Angeles. I have grown to love large grain caviar, yet have never fancied crepes.

I have nodded off during concerts of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and always stayed awake at a Bette Middler or Mandy Petemkin concert.

As someone involved in the sale and production of movies and television content, I abhor (a good word that I seldom use) it when so many look down their noses at many movies and television programs and determine what is "good" or "not good" for people to eat or listen to, or watch or read.

I too probably would have walked past Joshua Bell playing in the subway, but SO WHAT! Why not hold up a sign when Bell was playing his multi million dollar violin telling everyone to listen. Had Peyton Manning been throwing a fifty dollar football in the subway you can bet many more would haw stopped to watch.

I liked to watch Mickey Mantle play baseball; Willis Reed play basketball; John McEnroe play tennis; and Sammy Baugh play football.

I also would buy Playboy and only read the articles. (Now I'm lying.)

Ever since I can remember there have been those around me who would espouse the notion of "my taste is better than your taste."

Many lauded the words of the FCC Chairman Newton Minnow who referred to Television as "a vast wasteland."

I was aware of his remarks and immediately turned on my television set and watched Yogi Bear, Bugs Bunny, and the Three Stooges, all of whom lived together in a rented house in Minnow's vast wasteland.

When my family moved to Los Angeles thirty five years ago I asked my young son if he wanted to play flag football, a "real American game." When he said no he would rather play soccer, I almost fainted. Wanting to play soccer thirty five years ago was like admitting that you were a Communist. Now having said that:

It was what he liked.
It was what he wanted to do.
It was not for me to approve or disapprove.

I need a tuna salad sandwich on rye toast with mayo, some fries, and a chocolate malted immediately.

That's all there is to it.

In my not very humble opinion, screw whomever wrote the article in the Washington Post, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Norman Horowitz
Peasant
To hell with Champagne, get me an egg cream.