Sunday, May 29, 2016

"Headphones" (Tunnel Vision)

Square wheel syndrome: I cleaned up the scan of the original pen + ink piece, prepped it for digital shading (cleanup, formatting and adding the masthead + copyright/credit bug), and before I could finish with the grayscale, wound up doing a wash for a public demo, and thought what the hell, nevermind the other one and consequently just went with the original version.

It's evidence I'm ever-so-slowly evolving to a different routine - especially since the concept also never made from random doodle phase to getting transcribed into the sketchbook, so just half the steps of the usual process.

This image (above) recently made the rounds on the intertubes, mostly as a criticism of contemporary culture and commentary on the all-too common scene of folks focused on their mobile devices and their disconnection with their surroundings and fellow humans. Arguably there is still a connection when engaged with people who aren't "there" in the physical sense, as social media platforms do afford interaction that otherwise might not occur, but what we're talking about in this instance is it being at the expense of others in ones immediate presence. Similarly I never saw much difference between meatspace or on the phone when it comes to tolerating conversation between others in the same room: regardless of the source it's at worst an annoyance, at best, perversely comforting as at times the white noise our society constantly generates can be its own paradoxical place of peace. At least that's my experience while camping out at cafes and focused in on the old sketchbook, ensconced in the warm, fuzzy buffer zone of background noise.

Image: unknown

As of a few weeks ago I deliberately downgraded from an iPhone to a simple flip-phone. It's really been quite the humbling exercise to see how wrapped up in the umbilical cord I'd gotten, and how hard it's been becoming untethered from the teat.
I think it's necessary to some degree to have these diversions and inner places, a safe space within which to retreat, since we as a species tend to live and work in such close proximity. The proverbial rats in a cage might last a bit longer before turning on each other if they were outfitted with personal Walkmans (I date myself - whatever mobile device works be it laptop, iPhone or book). Having a pencil and some scrap paper has saved me from enduring countless meetings, and I've always maintained that students immersed in their doodles are in fact fully cognizant and tuned into whatever I might be lecturing about.

That said, I had my first encounter with a compulsive texter in class that didn't make the connection between paying attention in a critique and the corollary of carrying on a conversation while someone else is trying to talk to you at the same time. Active versus passive listening is a distinction lost to many consumers of data. And that's the rub: as evidenced by snapshots of commuters in days of yore, not much has changed, just the medium of transmission... the media isn't the message.
 “Our modern family gathering, silent around the fire, each individual with his head buried in his favourite magazine, is the somewhat natural outcome of the banishment of colloquy from the school” – The Journal of Education, vol.29 1907 (via xkcd)

"A Ride on the Subway" 1946 Stanley Kubrick via

One's upbringing presumably plays into the perception of what's polite or not: being raised an only child by a reference librarian and a bookstore manager meant that it was perfectly acceptable, if not expected, to bring a book to the dinner table. That was in essence a time of coming together and sharing the commonality of a meal - part of the menu was a love of reading.


  1. One of Laurie's brothers visited us in NH in late winter, years ago. Each of us was a veteran of living alone. In the evening we would sit round the table, playing cards and talking. We did talk to each other, but the cards consisted of individual games of solitaire for each of us. No need to have a competitive group activity interfering with our social contact.

    1. "Being alone together" - a hallmark of the very few folks I ever hiked with, if and when I wasn't solo.