Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm easily entertained...

...but also easily bored.

In the presence of words (almost any book, magazine or newspaper will do but spare me the Sports section with no news of tennis and Romance novels) I am almost always be entertained. I may be distracted by something else and lose track of the reading, but I won't be bored. I read the program at concerts and events before they begin (assuming I haven't taken a magazine). I read ads. Pictures are nice, too.

Give me a keyboard and the right mood and I can type until the cows come home. My dad used to whistle for them to do that on the old 60-odd acre home place at about dusk. But I could type on until midnight. I may not say a thing but I will produce a stream of letters formed into English words but the sentences may make sense, alone or together. I will even invent initialisms like HQWF (How Quickly We Forget). Even though I hate them. Laugh out loud! Not going to abbreviate it.

I can people watch endlessly, browse the WEB and, even, read old online and handwritten journals by yours truly for hours on end.

Unless I get distracted.

I am easily bored in some ways. Playing tennis the other day with someone who never runs after an errant ball and who strolls into position to receive, back turned, holding up her hand and saying 'wait a minute' strains me. So I start observing things and entertaining myself. Noticing how the uniforms (all red outfits, all white visors) on some players down the way look, wondering what weeds have opportunistically poked through the cracks in the awful court we are using, considering the resemblance of the Lacrosse player practicing on the half court behind us to a send-up painting of a kid with a backwards cap on the cover of The New Yorker a few years back on the anniversary issue. (Supposed to be a Gen X version of Eustace Tilly he was.) And so it goes until I get a chance to touch ball to strings. Or to serve. I like serving because I get to hit more balls. Two aces Tuesday. I don't hit hard but I move it around. I've been writing a poem in my head about math, tennis and boredom. I work on it sometimes while I'm bored at tennis.

Fractal branches cast fractal shadows against the order of the lines.
Perpendicular lines and partial lines carving the court into rectangles.
Spaces of in and out and fault and ace. Rules about touching and missing.
Why twenty-seven feet? Or twenty-one? A three-foot net at the middle.
I see a pattern and yet not. Only one prime in sight. But I digress, interrupted
By caroms in three space, arcs predictable except for spin and striking
Nails in the tape to hold the lines to the clay surface. How far apart?
How distracted and yet focused the math makes the tennis and the ennui.
No, that isn't the poem. It's just random lines I constructed just now to illustrate.

I have been writing a short story in my head (although it might be a novel or a novella or a part of a novel) for a long while about a guy hitting tennis balls on the very court where I played Tuesday so I thought about that when things were going. too. slowly. I like how some online writers invented the technique of adding extra periods to slow you down as you read. The story has a bicycle rider and an SUV and so when I see a bike go by and then an SUV I visualize what the protagonist (a guy from Odessa, Texas, I'm not sure why) sees through the fence and wind screen.

Yeah, I'm easily bored and yet, sometimes, when I flip from running my iMac as an Apple to the window running XP under VMware and it has gone into a screen saver mode and is showing my own picture collection to me I just sit there, watching pictures I've already seen over and over for a few minutes. But in front of the TV with the satellite hookup and a DVR with captured episodes of this and that I can be so completely bored and unable to be engaged that I have to get up and get something to read.

I watch a lot of TV and movies at home. And sometimes they are pretty exciting and encompassing. But I get bored if I JUST watch them. And not just because of commercials which we usually skip anyway. I almost always read as well. Newspapers usually. So I'll be reading about Somalian pirates, Taliban areas of Pakistan, Obama's dog, Broadway revivals of "Hair" and "West Side Story", whatever, and sort of watching with one eye and listening. Makes sub-titled movies (which I love especially if they are French although German is sort of amusing, too) hard to follow. I also like to work puzzles while watching TV. I will learn a new word in a crossword (e.g.: marten; toque meaning a woman's hat instead of a chef's tall one) and not be able to contain myself until I look the word up in a real or online dictionary.

There is infinite entertainment in this apartment and yet I get stir-crazy to leave it now and then. Then when I'm out I get eager to come back and settle down with my computer, newspapers, books.

I stay engaged with movies, in a dark theater, although I like to have some food and I hate the food except for the Alamo where drinking beer and eating fried things and actually watching the movie keeps me there. Unless my mind wanders.

This restlessness, dare I say bordering on attention-deficit, makes me anxious. So, I guess I go from being entertained by many things to boredom to anxiety, all in the space of minutes.

When I was in school or at work in meetings with presentations by others, I had to write something to stay focused. It might be about what was being presented. It might be a 'to do' list or a grocery list or a doodle. It might be an idea only peripherally about the content the lecturer was presenting. One such segue produced an idea which is one of the few ideas that both received a patent for some of us at the company and actually made a bit of money in the marketplace.

I see people who are really focused on something. Maybe it is a very BIG thing like running a company or non-profit or a tiny thing like a very focused hobby or sport. Nothing gets my attention like that. I'm used to starting on things and never following up. Blogging and posting pictures online is something I've been pretty faithful doing (if that's the proper word) but, let's be honest, the form is constantly changing. And it isn't a thing you finish. It's the equivalent of notebooks full of non sequitur musings created during lectures and other entertainments that did not fully engage my dilettante mind.

Lately I've been watching people who focus closely on something, shutting out distraction. They are creating businesses, fighting for causes, writing books and plays. That will never be me, I guess. And my accomplishments will always be brief breakthroughs: an idea, a sentence, a paragraph, the short essay, the clever bon mot. The other day on twitter I said:

viswoman found blogging reduced her writing to a few paragraphs. Twitter to 140 characters. New service: Heartbeat. Nine letters or less.
I thought I was so clever. Heartbeat. In some techie worlds it is a notice that some process or service is there, working, alive if you will. And the word has nine letters. And yet when I tried to label this post, selecting from labels used on some of the prior 638 posts, I ended up with more than two hundred characters which, apparently, is the blogger limit.

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