Thank heavens for boredom


You won’t find the Lake Monster Special playing locally or, for that matter, the trailer on the Internet.

So I felt privileged to see a segment of the show last weekend featuring actors I immediately recognized as my grandchildren. What I saw had the polish of Hollywood with heart pounding music, frames that faded from the scene and effects worthy of any silver screen.

Who had credited this spooky tale, nonetheless edited and put it all together?

Alex, who sat cross-legged on a chair across from the other grandchildren, didn’t even look up from her iPad. Her fingers moved quickly across the screen, her long hair obscuring what she was doing. She was working on another film.

It wasn’t finished yet and I wasn’t going to see it in the making.

Alex and her twin sister, Sydney, will be attending middle school in the fall and, like many children, spend a lot of time on cell phones and tablets. The time kids are spending in front of screens, playing video games, on social media and, in the worst cases, initiating relationships with total strangers is a growing concern.

It’s not only kids.

Studies show adults spend four hours and five minutes a day on their cell phones. That’s not hard to believe. It’s apparent wherever you go. People glued to their phones, viewing or texting messages as they stand in line, whether it be at the DMV (at least it’s time not wasted), at the supermarket checkout counter or, which really illustrates the addiction to needing to stay in touch, while waiting to pay final respects at a wake. And then there’s those who do it while behind the wheel. That’s flirting with disaster and a return to the funnel home by another means.

My son Ted has circumvented the temptation of reading texts and driving with Blue Tooth that synchs with his phone. Text messages were read to him and he is able to voice respond. All the while keeping his thumbs on the wheel.

But when his twin daughters started playing video games and wanting to know if they could use his laptop as kindergarteners, I feared they would be totally consumed. What could compete with the entertainment provided by the Disney powerhouse or the inventiveness of such games as Minecraft?

Would they miss out on boredom? Or worse yet, would they be capable of breaking away from their screens and forced to amuse themselves? I’ve wondered, for on visits they seem incapable of putting down the devices long enough to acknowledge my presence.

Miss out on boredom?

I don’t remember that as a problem when I was a kid, although none of these neat devices and their programs and games existed. There was always the outdoors, other kids to meet and things to dream up, such as building a fort, a pickup game of baseball and places to explore on my bike. We kept ourselves amused. We didn’t power up a devise or grumble when we didn’t have wi-fi, although, naturally, that didn’t exist when I was a kid.

Boredom wasn’t an issue because we never expected to be entertained. Naturally, some activities were more fun than others, but they usually required a personal investment and maybe even the learning of a skill, whether it was building a birdhouse in the basement workshop, fishing and, yes, even flying a kite. Today all kids need is to turn on a tablet device.

But until The Lake Monster Special I hadn’t thought of iPads and cell phones as creative devices. Of course, they’re used to take pictures and videos, but I never imagined kids would be doing anything more than sharing photos with friends.

Actually, as my daughter Diana and her daughter Natalie explained, it’s all relatively easy using iMovie and selecting a base theme for the show that includes music, panels for wording and the opportunity for narration.

“Tell Peppy about Camp Waffle,” prompted Diana, calling the show the creation of “gluten and sugar-deprived kids” – Natalie and her friend Mira. Diana is gluten intolerant and a stickler when it comes to letting Natalie satiate her sweet tooth.

As Natalie described it, Camp Waffle is the adventures of climbing to a camp and its waffle rewards while identifying things along the way. There’s really no plot, but I imagine the girls had fun during their ascent to reach nirvana and the waffle smothered in syrup.

As intriguing was the trailer Mina made of Natalie. Mira took a series of videos and stills of Natalie. Natalie had no idea what the film was about until Mira completed the project and shared it with her. Natalie played it for me. There she was looking purposeful. The music was suspenseful and this could have been the opening to an Indiana Jones knock-off. Then we learn what Natalie has discovered to change the world. It’s air. It was all of 90 seconds.

That’s it, but what fun.

And what I’m glad to discover, even with all the entertainment the Internet can muster, is that boredom, a motivator for creativity, survives.


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