Epic, Epically, Epic, Epic, Epically, Epic, Epic, Epic FAIL…

I’ll get around to the title later but first, here’ Sofia’s kindergargen picture which is by no means an epic fail, more like an epic pass to me…

I love everything about this picture. One of the best things about it is that it represents a plan she hatched and executed without Mom or me knowing. I vaguely remember one morning that she came to me dressed like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (that was her Halloween costume) and asked, is it ok if I wear this to school? We said fine and off she went not knowing that it was school pictures day. We would have said yes anyway because it truly would have been fine and we were not intending to purchase pictures from the school as I already have 1000s of them on my computer already but she, I guess, wasn’t certain about us granting her permission. So she went, they took the pictures and there you have it. Before I get to my “rant”, here’s some of the greenware I’ve been finishing up to try to get the kiln packed a bit tighter before bisqueing…

OK, this thing has mulling around in my head for days and, although I don’t really think of my blog as the venue for these types of observations, I also felt like maybe if I typed it all out it would serve as some sort of catharsis. This may be long so if you’re into the short post stop here. I will start with a couple disclaimers. One, although I play a luddite on TV, um I mean blog, in truth the two businesses that I was involved with before I became a potter both were “high tech” businesses. I state this only to clarify that, not only do I have an understanding of technology and its role in society but I have immersed myself in it, have made a living working with it and I really am not against it. I also am on facebook, twitter, etsy and this blog and spend more time than I should considering the finite amount of time one has for ceramics production. But… I don’t have a cel phone or a watch for that matter. Lastly, I’m sure my ceramics friends don’t fall prey to what follows because if they did, they would never have learned how to make anything in the first place. So here goes. Sofia’s Mom and I went to a concert on Monday night. It was a rock concert (which I haven’t been to in many years) but that’s not what I’m on about. We were in the front row of the balcony and we dutifully listened to the warm up band which wasn’t all that great. Between the warmup band and the main show was a period of time for the roadies to break down one band’s equipment and ready the other’s for prime time. To my slight surprise, this wait turned out to be about an hour but actually seemed longer. As soon as the house lights came up after the warm up band, I peered over the edge of the balcony to see little illuminations throughout the theater… literally hundreds of them. We were on the left side of the balcony and each row there had 15 seats. So in my row of 15 and the row behind us of 15 more there were 28 people if you don’t count me and Alicia. Out of the 28 people, 25 of them immediately took out their cel phones and went into the electronic vomit gaze. At first I thought it odd and typical even. I thought OK, they’re texting whatever, “the warmup band sucked”, “I really like the buckskin jacket the guy in my row’s wearing”, “what’s the codger doing with that beautiful younger woman?”, “I bet he has cat-like reflexes”, oh I’m sure they weren’t texting about me because they were totally oblivious to the person next to them, nevermind the dude 4 seats down the row but regardless… all those things would have only taken about a minute to “text” especially using the broken english, misspelling and special characters that texting is known for. But as couples huddled together on their date to the concert and sat next to each other, both with their phones in hand, both completely ignoring the living, breathing human next to them, they did not cease. They stared and flicked their screens and checked this and that and typed with their thumbs for the entire hour. Nary a word was uttered save mine and Mom’s. Now, I understand the value of the cel phone for a business-person. I understand it for an emergency (although I’ve yet to come up with a scenario where being alerted of an emergency would allow the recipient of the distressed call to actually intervene in a significant way… I don’t know, maybe a lost hiker scenario or something). I even understand the convenience of augmenting an actual conversation with an occasional g00gle to find out what the name of that j3nnif3r l0pez movie was but… what in the hell are they doing? for an hour? What could possibly be so captivating? I really want to know, although I imagine that my worst guess is the answer. “My toes are cold… worst day ever!!!” How about, “I can’t believe he’s wearing skinny jeans!!!” Or “this closet doesn’t have enough wooden hangers, so pissed!!!” “This teacher thinks he knows everything!!! what an ass!!!” Imagine as I may, it doesn’t explain the obsession of hundreds of people there that night during that hour… and during the show too. When the main act started, then they switched from texting to taking videos of the show. Experiencing the show through the viewfinder of a cel phone is not experiencing the show. So there it is… this is how I know that I’m getting old. When I was a teen, my Dad would give me a hard time about not wearing white socks. Of course I wouldn’t have worn white socks to school for anything because this meant in some perverse teenage lack of logic that I was a sissy or a nerd or whatever it was… but it wasn’t good. My Dad and I argued about it because he was trying to let me know that it was absurd. Anyway, I distinctly remember thinking… I’m not going to act like an old dude when I get to be old. I’m gonna be cool. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m cool… man! But if I could magically go back in time and have a conversation with my young self and my young Dad, and I told them that the things that would eventually make me old were unforeseeable and those things did not include whether or not someone wore white socks or not. If I told them that most men now used almost as much hairspray and cosmetics that women do and preen as much too, if I told them that the most common cosmetic surgery for men would be calf implants, if I told them that facts had become meaningless in the political, as well as, personal arena, if I told them that the definitions of words were mostly irrelevant, and if I told them that people would be constantly in contact with each other with star trek communicator phones (by the way, Captain Kirk only used the damn thing when he was on the surface of an alien planet and between the sparse communications he actually did things in the made up real world like getting into fistfights with humanoids not really so much different than us) and they wouldn’t be talking on the phones, they would be incessantly typing fragmented, misspelled, nonsensical electronic vomit to each other and this incessant typing of fragmented, misspelled, nonsensical electronic vomit would be reciprocated with the like and would feed our collective narcissism hoping against all hope that one of our 5000 “friends” would not only read about our toes being cold but would actually commiserate with a long awaited “so sorry to hear”, confirming and affirming that each other actually exist and are part of a global electronic co-dependence… well, neither my younger self nor my Dad would have believed me. If I could convince them that this was the near future, they would have both forgiven me for how I eventually became old. Similar to the popular sayings of our day like April is the new June etc. we would have agreed that today’s old is the past’s insane. I have quite a few friends that teach college and some that teach high school. They all have stories about the inability of students not only to refrain from this obsessive phone behavior during class but of those same students’ inability to focus on the task of whatever the class is about. This is the kind of thing that starts to be a bit disturbing. The fact is that if you are sitting with someone having coffee and your texting while conversing, you are not giving your full attention to either activity. By extension, this means that these young people are living their entire waking lives not fully paying attention to any one thing ever. My personal belief is that one is not capable of accomplishing any worthwhile skill without having a commitment that would entail, at the very least, paying attention. Lest we think that this is a phase or a US phenomenon, I was having lunch with a friend yesterday who had just returned from Paris, the one in France. Coincidentally, while having lunch (this would be the two of us, sitting at a table in a restaurant, eating food and talking to each other without the aid of electricity… for instance, I would look at him and say something, then he would look at me and say something and so on, and so on), I was about to air some of this phone biz because, like I said, it’s been percolating. Before I could though and after telling me what a magical city Paris is and Louvre and the d’Orsay and the ballet and the cafe life and the food, the food, he says, well, the only thing is that the population density is much greater than NYC and it’s crowded everywhere, on the Metro, in the restaurants, and even on the sidewalks when walking… AND everyone under about 30 years old is walking… at this point he makes the gesture of someone holding a cel phone out in front of them in the electronic vomit stare. Who’d have thunk that this would be the way life on earth would turn out? So we’ve exchanged our deep meaningful relationships with a select manageable few in real time and in real physical proximity with shallow, much less meaningful “friendships” with a not-select unmanageable many in lightning speed and not limited to proximity at all. Call me old if you like but this is not a step forward, well, I’ll take that back, it’s a step forward but it’s not progress by any definable criterion. I was listening to Terry Gross the other day interviewing an author. She began her question, “now that we’re in a post-reading society”. Really? It’s a done deal? We’re already post-reading? Language was the primary driver of our species’ “progress”. Which leads me to the end of my rant and the explanation of the title if you already don’t know. Years ago, FAIL became the online “shorthand” for a failed attempt or magnificent blunder, etc., soon to be followed by epic fail, which clearly was a failed attempt or magnificent blunder but of epic proportion. The online electronic vomiters over-using the epic fail to describe everything they disagreed with led to a watered down perception of this epically cool catchall (much like the word awesome). As is apropos, instead of maybe coming up with another adjective or series of adjectives, the mindless electronic vomiters opted for the completely brainless and unsatisfactory “epically epic fail” which is simply adding an adverb to the adjective… so I thought I’d just take it to its logical conclusion and conflate the overuse of the cel phone with the total lack of creativity in coming up with an alternative to FAIL. In conversations about this subject, others have taken the position that our youth has grown up with this technology and it is a sort of cultural evolution and that I simply cannot understand it in the way they do because I wasn’t raised immersed in it. I was, however, raised immersed in television and we all know how well that turned out. Well, sayonara for now, I will end by stating that it’s really a good thing I don’t text because if I had to text this post on a phone, it would probably take me about a month. By the way, my elbow itches, I dropped an apple peel this morning, I keep yawning, my tea’s getting cold, I cracked the nail on my right ring finger, I love snowballs, my passenger door lock doesn’t work with the electronic locker switch, it’s colder in the kitchen than in the living room, I saw a fly, shoelaces are better than velcro, I wish I had a better pencil sharpener, there was no mail today, my neighbor’s sidewalk has less cracks than mine, just brushed my teeth, the movie hasn’t started yet, I used to want a fish, there were no potato chips when I went shopping today, I hate vaseline, squirrels are cute, my shirt smells funny, I slipped, ice skates are cool, I don’t like raw carrots, those birds are in my tree, the rug by the front door has a spot on it, the shower door is only 28 inches wide, my stapler just ran out of staples, this paper isn’t white enough, basketball is a weird game, there’s a horse in the country, some songs don’t make sense, my brother is tall, kids fight, I’m out of postage stamps, got to the mall ten minutes early, I smell garlic, it rained in my open window, I saw the funniest dog just now, and the mailman put my neighbor’s mail in my mailbox… WORST DAY EVER, Epic, Epically, Epic, Epic, Epically, Epic, Epic, Epic FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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18 Responses to “Epic, Epically, Epic, Epic, Epically, Epic, Epic, Epic FAIL…”

  1. Gordo Says:

    Revolting isn’t it? You see people walking down the street like that all the time here and I have a grand old time laughing at the fools who walk into someone while they’re doing it. They’re really only a danger to themselves that way. What scares me is the people who insist on engaging in this nonsense while they drive.

    It’s so bad that the provincial police here launched a two-week crackdown this week. They’re looking for “distracted drivers” and every new piece that I heard on the radio specifically mentioned texting while driving. I can’t imagine being so narcissistic that I need to be doing this all the time, never mind while I’m piloting a multi-thousand pound vehicle!

    The province passed a law targeting handheld cell phones behind the wheel a couple of years ago and I really wanted to check out of society when I heard people complaining about how unfair this was. Blew my mind.

    It’s one more symptom of a completely dysfunctional society. We’re cut off from the real world by technology and the end result is that not only do we not even know the folks living next door to us, we care so little about them that we don’t even consider their safety when we get behind the wheel of a car.

    I can only hope that these people will be so cut off from society that they won’t breed. Those of us who can actually have a conversation with a living person will win out. Evetually.

  2. Eugene Hon Says:

    Very sad, very sad indeed. It is the new generation. My students don’t go to the library, feast their eyes on images in books and magazines-they are not curios about anything unless it can be obtained fast and furiously. Hence the fact that they are not fascinated by the layout of carefully designed printed material and or the smell of the paper and the ink. No, they google everything and what is more, their ability to focus and concentrate, be solitary, is nonexistent. All the ingredients necessary to draw and learn a craft and or any skill for that matter. They spend more time on Facebook and twitter (computer room) than developing the design and craft skills. Being an academic is becoming increasing difficult – especially with regard to motivating students in basic skills development – drawing, modeling crafting etc. Drawing is becoming a tool for creative thinking rather that an art discipline.

  3. Michael Giles Says:

    Well, Jim, you’re right, it was long…and tese days my shortened attention span doesn’t usually allow me to stay with long things very often. But somehow this piece did sustain my interest, and the payoff was HUGE! I love the ending, starting with “By the way…” I laughed and laughed and Anita asked me what I was laughing at, so I read it to her and we both laughed and laughed. I never use the “lol” thing…but we did indeed laugh out loud. So, thank you, Jim, for our daily medication of laughter. Ha ha ha ha ha…out loud!

  4. Michael Giles Says:

    Oh, and by the way…I love the pots…especially the vase with the bulgy bottom.

  5. Tracey Says:

    First of all, that photo is too adorable! We don’t buy school pics since one of us is a professional photographer and the picture thing is such a rip off, they don’t give you an option for sensible package A because I don’t have money to spend on bad school pictures!
    Thank God for your rants, I don’t feel so alone out here! I have so many of these illuminated screen stories, I could fill a blog for days. It’s mindless and I have one thing to say about what’s going on: Facebook!
    Last year when I worked as a runner for Gerry at the ACC tournament, I sat behind a photographer that literally grabbed his iphone between every play to check his facebook and text someone, it was like watching a sick obsession. He missed a lot of pictures he should have been making for the employer that was paying him to sit there and shoot pictures, not text his girlfriend.
    grrr…… I just look forward to the day when everyone gets bored with this, it has to happen!!!!

  6. Marty W. Says:

    James, I never knew you don’t like raw carrots. I think they’re awesome!

  7. medrecgal Says:

    Hey, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks cell phones are a gigantic waste of time, space, and brain function! The only one I’ve got is for emergencies only, like the time my phone line got discombobulated and I had to call someone to come in and fix it. It used to drive me bonkers when I was still working retail and customers would stand in line yammering on the blasted cell phone; people seem to have generally lost any sense of common courtesy to that horrendously American phenomenon of instant gratification. I read your descriptions of what today’s youth are all about and the phrase that comes to mind is “terminal ADD”. I love my internet, but I still know how to think and type in complete words and sentences!

    And she’s so cute in her little Dorothy dress, by the way! That, as they would say in LOLspeak, is a total WIN!

  8. Michele Says:

    i don’t understand how anyone can have that much to text or talk about in a day never mind how they afford the bills that go along with these supposed “smart phones”.
    of course Sofia wanted to be photographed as Dorothy… you two have been reading the series all year, what a great memory!

  9. Sharon Says:

    The issue is, those iphones and Androids have all these Apps that do shit….some are just games and others do silly things that people get fascinated by. For example I was out with some acquaintances and one young woman showed how she has an app that distorts images. She showed how it made he look like an alien. Another similar App was the “Fat App” and made the people in the image look fat. These folks get sucked into playing with their phones.

    I have an old Blackberry. While I do like the ability to use the internet to look something up on the fly, I try to limit my use. If I’m out for dinner, I am not yakking on it or playing with it….I think that is just rude.

    The scary thing is this shit is wiring young people’s brain’s differently….there have been studies done on this. They don’t have the attention span to read longer books. After reading a story on that, I have tried to get back into the habit of reading books and spending less time on the internet. I have never used Facebook and I don’t get Twitter. And I’m under 40.

    BTW….I think the story was called Driven to Distraction. It was in a Science and Technology compilation. Google, Facebook, and advertizers are all trying to figure out how to distract folks more and get them to buy more of their products. It sure works toward making a society full of sheep who don’t use critical thinking…….

  10. Joana Says:

    This was so great, LOL! I’m 40, but I think I may be old too. I just don’t get what pleasure people find in this constant twittering and texting, and I work with computers all day.

  11. julietteisdead Says:

    Jim: My sister etsied me a bowl of yours for my birthday. I love it! πŸ™‚ Thanks very much for your hard work and for selling said work.

    More on topic: I love my Android-based smartphone. I don’t think I can still be grouped into the “young people” category (though I’m not sure where “young” stops and “not young” begins); however, I do insist that, as time goes by, technology gets smaller, faster, and more useful. I don’t need it to THINK for me, but I do want it to make my life exponentially more convenient. Why? Because it can. I’d be disappointed if the technology was out there, but was not being utilized. Preferably by me. πŸ™‚

    There are side-effects of technology that are undesirable: generations of kids who have never known what it’s like to go outside armed with nothing but a spoon and play games from sunup until “the streetlights are on”, weird bastardizations of the English language which should not be allowed, and so forth. As I see it, though, that’s the way things have always been. We always end up reminiscing about the way things were, but somehow we muddle through. I guess it remains to be seen whether our forward-moving and muddling will lead to our eventual demise.

    To quote Kang from the Simpsons: We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  12. Andy Says:

    You go boy! Get on that soap box and rant! I couldn’t agree more. I’m only 32 but feel like I missed the texting gene completely. All my friends text and I’d much rather have a conversation that spend 30 minutes sending texts back to have a conversation that could have taken 5 minutes, maybe.

  13. Patricia Griffin Says:

    we may be in the “post-reading” era, but I read your whole post… well, almost… well, OK, mostly looked at the pictures… which were epic wins, especially the Dorothy dress. Your kid is so very cool, even if she was probably wearing white socks.

  14. gz Says:

    There are times and places to use them. Times to keep them on silent.
    Cell phones/mobiles are tools, just like facebook, or cars, to be used and not obsessed by.

  15. ang Says:

    pffffft you did start to sound like an old man but then an old cool man with some valid points :)) LIKE!!

  16. Hilary Says:

    read the whole thing in one go, i must be the last 30 year old who reads books (in paper) and watches the sun go down (in real life) cooks all my own food (some of which i grow in my yard) talk to people while looking them in the eye over a slow lunch (no electronic assistance required) and i don’t have a fakkeebook or a tweeeter account and if i want to contact someone i call or email them or walk to their house and see if they can come out and play (in a park where we might geurilla plant some trees later tonight) GREAT POST, i laughed my gen x as s off and completely agree!

  17. Mike Griffin Says:

    Hey Jim….love the kindergarten pic…she is so cute…i have a 15 month old and i cant wait until she’s up and running. Im wonering how you did the shellac resist in black? Is that over an under glaze or did you color the shellac resist? Anyway….still diggin your blog thanks for posting.

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