In 2007, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten and Grammy Award-winning classical violinist Joshua Bell teamed up to play a prank on commuters in Washington, DC’s public transportation system. Weingarten’s account of what he called “an experiment in context, perception and priorities—as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste” appeared in a Post article called “Pearls Before Breakfast.” It describes how Bell stood in the L’Enfant Plaza Station posing as a subway busker, and performed a selection of classical pieces typical of his concerts. He played them on his Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius—a 300-year-old piece of wood that is valued at $3.5 million.
November 8, 2011. I was shooting pool at State College’s best dive bar when the bouncer came running in, his face flushed with excitement. According to TV news, he told us, the Penn State Board of Trustees had just fired football coach Joe Paterno. Though Paterno had already declared his intention to retire at the end of the season, after allegations that he had condoned an ongoing pattern of child molestation by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the trustees decided they couldn’t wait. Paterno would not be coaching that Saturday’s home game.