Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Cellular Apocalypse

         In which your normally-affable Hollywood Juicer morphs into a grumpy old man...

The New York Times recently published an interesting piece on the disturbing ubiquity of cell phones in modern life.  This is nothing new – the media have been issuing warnings about the socially corrosive effects of cell phones (and potential links between heavy usage and various head cancers) for years now.  Closer to home, I wrote about the negative effects of cell phones on set a long time ago, and AJ has addressed the issue several times over at The Hills Are Burning.

As smart phones supersede the older “dumb” phones (gee, a phone that can only send and receive calls -- how quaint...) things are getting worse. These days, any break in the action on set prompts 80% of the crew to pull out their phones and stare into that little glowing screen, surfing the net, playing video games, or texting.

Or something.  Being the last of the Luddite hold-outs against this cellular tsunami, I have no idea what they’re really doing -- all I know is they're not paying attention to whatever's happening on set.

But if the New York Times is right, society might be reaching a tipping point with these newest and shiniest of digital baubles. According to this piece (which links to a short, dead-on video now circulating the web),  it's beginning to dawn on people just how much we as individual members of a shared social culture are losing thanks to the digital onanism fueled by our addictive obsession with cell phones.

Although I'd like to think the Gray Lady is on to something here, I take their message with a grain of salt.  As I drive, ride, and walk around LA, I see young (and not-so-young) people everywhere with their heads bent down, communing with the Great Digital All rather than paying any attention whatsoever to their surroundings -- and I detect no indications that this obsession is waning.

The technology is undeniably astonishing, allowing us to communicate across the globe at will.  From my perspective -- having grown up out in the sticks with two dial-phones in our home (both on a party-line, no less) -- this is nothing short of miraculous.  With public pay phones gone the way of the Dodo Bird and Passenger Pigeon, cell phones are now the only reliable method of communication away from home, and thus an essential part of life.  I get that, and will doubtless end up carrying my own cell phone soon enough -- and having spent plenty of time staring into this screen, I'm all too familiar with the Internet’s lure: one interesting link leads to another until I’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole and two hours are gone.  Fortunately, this laptop is too big to carry around, and there’s a limit to how long I’m willing to sit at any keyboard... but every day I see people out walking their dogs at sunset, paying no attention to their pet or the world around them (much less stopping to appreciate the multi-colored sky) – they just walk along slowly, like the zombies in The Walking Dead, fixated on that little screen.

That, I'll never accept or understand.  But what the hell – the list of things I don’t understand about modern life grows longer every day.  It is, as the saying goes, what it is.  Besides, in just over a thousand days I’ll be set free from Hollywood, inshallah, and can disengage from all this madness… because back on the sparsely-populated Home Planet, wireless service is spotty enough that only tourists bother with cell phones.

And you know what?  That’ll suit me just fine.



Anonymous said...

i know what you mean more than once have I seen a guy get whacked on set via something he should have seen coming--if his face was not on a cell phone !!!

I was personally told last time I had to get a new phone (via last one being lost) that a cell phone that just rings and talks and has no internet would not be avble after this one i am now getting !!!

amy said...

When your having a conversation with someone, and they pull their phone out and start texting as soon as they have finished their part of the conversation.

I get this all the time with friends. I find it rude but people who do it don't understand why they cant text and listen. I think we are getting used to multitasking with our technologies.
So much so that when people have nothing to do, they cant handle it so pull there phones out to distract themselves from thinking.

I often put my headphones in when I'm on a bus or walking down a street - even without them plugged in, so that I can be left alone.

Penny said...

You're not the last Luddite Mike; I can assure you of that!

A friend of mine recently published an on-line article about the importance of newbies in Hollywood to yank their necks away from their cell phones and attempt to make solid connections with the crew in an effort to be remembered as a shared experience - not just a "somebody" photo on a social networking site.

Ours is a unique business of leaving a memorable impression of our work and abilities - not a clever comment on a Facebook page with 10,000 "friends".

Thanks for a great post!

JB Bruno said...

As line producer, the photo my mentor's grown children sent upon his death was him on a pay phone. The art of producing is the art of the deal, and the art of the deal is relationships. I know when my vendors' kids graduate, parents die, etc. I remember one vendor who used to take care of me because I was cool with his irritability when he was trying to quit smoking. I know even more (if not too much, sometimes) about my crew.

You learn those things by talking to people.

Texting is fine for "On My Way," but what really bothers me is the annoyance some younger people display when you actually, Heaven forbid, call them instead of texting them. Sorry if I don't want to spend 20 minutes typing back and forth sometime I can work out in 3 minutes on the phone.

Michael Taylor said...

JB --

Interesting... I wasn't aware that using a cell phone to talk (rather than text) was considered passé among the younger generation. Thanks for tuning in.