Put Your Device Away, Already

Let me preface this by saying I love my mobile devices. On an average day, I carry four — a personal tablet and iPhone and a work tablet and iPhone. Even on vacation, I’m carrying two and staying highly connected to friends and family via text messages, email and social media.

Yet, despite my appreciation for devices, I recognize there are times where they are just inappropriate and downright rude to be using them.

The other night we attended a Flamenco performance in a small venue in Madrid called Casa Patas. Throughout the venue “no camera” signs were posted, but throughout the performance in a darkened room, many smartphone screens lit up to take pictures and even record video of the performers. At certain times I noticed at least five active screens within my line of sight. Do people not realize that when you hold a brightly lit up screen in a dark room that everyone behind them sees it?

As if that wasn’t annoying enough, the couple next to us spent most of the performance texting others to make plans for after the performance. They would receive a text, chat about how to respond and then text back, continuing the cycle. All while the performance was going on.

Then there are museums. On this I feel somewhat conflicted. On the negative side, I saw people wandering through museums just recording mindlessly their route through galleries (and I’d do my best to avoid their camera line).

Then I saw someone holding his iPhone up to a painting. Initially I rolled my eyes and then I realized he was zoning into one specific element of the painting, presumably using the device to enable him to better study a technique. Essentially the digital age version of students sketching these pieces.

There is certainly something to be said for the belief that focusing on recording every activity prevents you from appreciating them in moment. Yet, that’s ultimately a personal choice. If that choice interferes with someone else’s experience, doesn’t that cross a line?

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A Day of Music

This morning, I awoke to the sounds of Fado on the street beneath my window.

As I slowly came into consciousness, though I could not understand the words of the singer, I was moved by the passion and emotion behind each note. Once I figured out what was going on, it became clear that a street performer was piping pre-recorded Fado to draw an audience in. It didn’t matter, I was hooked.

That voice and emotion became a theme for our day.

As we finally ventured out, we landed at Pois Cafe and had what perhaps may have been the best cappuccino I have ever had. But while there, we meat Santos Cabral of the band Guents dy Rincon. He hit us up to listen to his CD (on an old school bright yellow Discman, of all things). With just a few notes, we were hooked and shelled out real cash to take the disk with us.

After a long day exploring Castelo de São Jorge and the hills of Alfama, we ultimately ventured back into Bairro Alto to hear some Fado live. Following a tip from Anthony Bourdain, we ventured into Tasca do Chico and got our first taste of live Fado.

Somewhere along the way I read something that said that you could judge the quality of Fado by whether or not it brought tears to your eyes. Though we heard some lovely artists this evening, only one made me sob. Within the the first notes she vocalized, Inés Pereira surprised me and showed me the power of Fado. Needless to say, given the power of the Internet, before we even left the bar, we’d found her in Google and iTunes.

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