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personal impact distance

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2008 3:59 pm
by David Flower
this one's been nagging at me for years. Submitted to Guardian but they didn't run it. Please help

you have to accept this assumption: any public event is shaped and influenced by the people involved and in the immediate vicinity, even if just watching. Take a football match. The game and events on the pitch would not be the same if there was no audience. So presumably everyone watching makes an individual contribution to what goes on and how the events unfold.

My question is how far away from an event does one have to be before ceasing to have an effect on proceedings? I don't think this is the same question as 'does something occur if I don't witness it?'

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 10:45 am
by Charlie
Very interesting concept.

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My first thought is a sort of mirror image of your idea, how somebody's non-appearance at an event might have an influence on it. Quite often, at the South Bank and the Barbican, there are conspicuously empty seats near the front, representing members of the media who have asked for tickets but then not shown up. For the performers, this must be discouraging to say the least, and for other members of the public, stuck in less expensive seats further back, it's annoying.

I perpetrated this exhibition of bad manners in a particularly excruciating way.

I made an arrangement to attend a performance by Chango Spasiuk's group at one of Wallee McDonnell presentations on a Saturday night at St Ethelburga's in the City; this must have been early in 2007, about nine months after I had stopped doing my Radio London show and was therefore available to attend Saturday night events. However, it was not yet second nature to think in those terms.

The day after the gig, I had an email from Howard Male asking after my health as he had noticed that I had not been at the event, where Wallee had assigned two front row seats to myself and Buffy. They had remained empty throughout the evening.

I had simply forgotten all about it.

I cringe every the memory returns, wondering if Chango resolved to play even better to show everybody who was there what the owners of those two empty seats were missing. Since that night, I've taken the precaution of asking Wallee if we can have seats to the side, so if by any chance we didn't show up again, it wouldn't look so conspicuous. But I haven't forgotten again.

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My second response:

Back in 1972 or '73, when Dr Hook's Sylvia's Mother was a big hit, they came over to do a UK tour which included a date in Dartford, Kent, at a much smaller venue than they were playing elsewhere.

Perhaps the promoter under-advertised it, or the local public couldn't believe this really would be the same group that had the chart hit (these were the days when you would get UK tours by the Fabulous Temptations and The Original Drifters, who had no connection to the non-adjective versions of the groups in question, tribute groups before that concept had been identified and given a name).

For whatever reason, only about twenty people paid to go in, and while they waited to see if this really was going to be Dr Hook & the Medicine Show as heard on the radio, a support band shambled on stage. They were truly terrible. The guitarist hardly seemed to know what to do with his hands, while the drummer made the kind of racket that an eight-year-old makes when he is given his first kit, flamming round and round on the snare and tom toms. If the bass player was disturbed by the noise, he gave no sign, looking intently at his fingers.

Having come in as separate people, individually or in pairs, the twenty members of the audience found they were forming a common bond whose joint mission was to force this din to end as soon as possible, and eventually their derisive jeers and boos drove the inept musicians off stage.

After an unseen DJ ad played records for a while, the main act came on. Taking a seat behind the drums was the idiot who didn't know how to play guitar. Coming up to a microphone at the front, was the support band's drummer. The members of Dr Hook had formed their own support band, contriving to play as badly as possible in order to animate the audience.

I was always impressed by this story, not only that the members of Dr Hook had taken such trouble to entertain an audience of twenty people, but that they had managed to generate a mood in which each person felt it mattered that they were there. For the rest of the night, everybody felt part of a unique event, with the memory of that spoof support band at the back of their mind throughout the main set.

I wonder if anybody can supply further details or corrections, which would include the name of the support band.

Dr Hook's distinctive lead singer Dennis Loccorriere lived in the UK for a while during the 1990s (I believe he chose to live in Kent!), and was recently spotted as one of the vocalists with the Bill Wyman Band.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 11:54 am
by David Flower
great Dr Hook story

reminds me of Django Bates and band (Human Chain maybe?) playing once in a circus tent in some London park. To open the evening they switched roles with the gymnasts and tumblers so all the musicians , about 12 of them, attempted various rolls, leaps and failed somersaults and the like, while the circus people picked up the instruments and made an unholy racket. Very funny at the time

But what about my question??

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 12:39 pm
by Charlie
David Flower wrote:But what about my question??

My first story immodestly suggested that I might have had an effect on that Chango Spasiuk gig, despite being several miles away. How far is it from Clapham to Liverpool Street? Probably six miles.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 1:07 pm
by Des
Charlie wrote:
David Flower wrote:But what about my question??

My first story immodestly suggested that I might have had an effect on that Chango Spasiuk gig, despite being several miles away. How far is it from Clapham to Liverpool Street? Probably six miles.


Charlie - your absence would have had no effect on Chango - he spends most of the gig gazing mystically at the ceiling and probably didn't notice!

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 2:46 pm
by Quintin
Very interesting David but I think this really is simply a refinement of the Schrodinger's cat hypotheseis. The question you're really asking is how far do you have to open the box to see whether the cat is alive or dead or to be more accurate how far the box has to be opened before the cat ceases to be both alive and dead?

A good Friday afternoon work displacement question though!

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 2:56 pm
by Charlie
Des Bowring wrote:Charlie - your absence would have had no effect on Chango - he spends most of the gig gazing mystically at the ceiling and probably didn't notice!

You are absolutely right, Des, and I can finally set my mind at rest. Thank you

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 3:22 pm
by Dominic
Charlie wrote:
Des Bowring wrote:Charlie - your absence would have had no effect on Chango - he spends most of the gig gazing mystically at the ceiling and probably didn't notice!

You are absolutely right, Des, and I can finally set my mind at rest. Thank you

When Chango returned to St Ethelburga's in February he was smiling between mystical gazes. I think he was happy to see you there, Charlie.

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2008 5:30 pm
by Des
In the four or five Bristol Rovers home games I went to last season they drew or lost, and all the ones I didn't go to they drew or lost. I see a pattern emerging there.

PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2008 2:07 am
by joel
Personal impact distance depends on what you hit and hard the impact is. In my case it was about 20m.