November 7, 2015

"In the admittedly brief time that I have had this coloring book, it has filled a particular activity niche for me..."

"... which is 'something to do with my hands while I watch Netflix.' Other activities in this niche include: knitting, painting my nails, texting, putting candy in my mouth. End of list."

Writes Julie Beck in "The Zen of Adult Coloring Books/I get it now."
Why do I need to do two things at once? Why can’t I just sit quietly and enjoy a TV show? In part, it’s because I feel a little less lazy if I’m making something while I wile away the hours with Friday Night Lights. But also, I’m watching TV in the first place to relax, to quiet my mind, and often my mind is loud enough that it shouts over Coach Taylor. I really do think that a lifetime of multitasking has left me occasionally incapable of subduing the entirety of my mind with one activity. If the front of my mind is occupied by the show, and the back is focused on picking colors and staying in the lines, there’s not room for much else. It’s a sort of mindfulness that’s more like mind-fullness....
Now, I actually understand this.
I am, in the same way, incapable of just watching TV. I normally have my iPad open and would rather play a meaningless video game at the same time than have to just stare at the television. I feel as though I don't have the patience to watch television. I sometimes try to watch a movie, and after a few minutes, I have to stop. I wouldn't attribute this impatience to "a lifetime of multitasking." I've never been one to invest any of my self-esteem in the notion of multitasking. I just don't like the feeling of passivity.

It's one thing to listen to someone else when you're in a conversation and it's part of a give and take. But listening/watching when you know you're stuck on the passive side and there's no possibility of interaction — I don't like that. Now, reading is different. You control the time, and you're continually varying the pace or even stopping to make room for your own ideas and feelings. But television and movies just grind away at their own pace, and your only control is over how much attention you pay. If your mind goes entirely elsewhere, that's the end. You're not watching at all. So something like knitting or coloring can really work to focus attention.

Me, I can't knit. And I'm too proud to use a coloring book. I think it would be better to get a nice sketchbook — something like this with paper and a cover that have a pleasing texture — and some smoothly flowing black rollerball pens and draw little designs, as if you are the author of those adult coloring books. This is the age-old practice of doodling, which can accompany taking notes. An easy way to doodle while listening is to write down a word or a phrase that jumps out at you, write it in some odd way and then draw lines and patterns around it. I sometimes do notes like this when I have to listen to a long presentation. I start with one word in the middle of the page and branch out from there, as if the ideas were living and growing on a landscape.

49 comments:

Whirred Whacks said...

It's hard to do a later week NYT xword puzzle in a decent time while watching television.

Fernandinande said...

a lifetime of multitasking

I can walk and chew gum...at the SAME TIME!

Sebastian said...

"Now, reading is different"

Except when reading Tony K or John R. Then you know you're stuck on the passive side.

John Christopher said...

I don't like to watch television, but I really like to drink and watch television. Now with kids, I've paused from drinking and find I can only watch television if I'm scrolling blogs or twitter.

Laslo Spatula said...

You can masturbate while watching television.

Depends on the show.

Sometimes a rerun of "Hannah Montana" will do.

Uh oh.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

Sometimes while watching TV I read Colored Books.

Although I think the authors prefer to be called African-American.

I am Laslo.

Original Mike said...

I find it very difficult to just watch television as well. I usually read (the iPad has been a Godsend) and what I read is usually science. Intriguingly, if the TV program is a science program I can watch that solo. I guess in that case mulling over what's being presented gives my mind enough to do to keep it engaged.

Laslo Spatula said...

To be more racially sensitive I once tried to masturbate while watching the movie "Precious".

Just couldn't make that one work.

Maybe Halle Berry next time.

I am Laslo.

Sydney said...

I find I get sucked into a good television show/movie. If I try to do something that takes true concentration, I get distracted by the show. It's more like reading to me. And since I don't watch network TV, only things I can pause and come back to, it is like reading in that way, too.

Laslo Spatula said...

I wouldn't want to masturbate to Hillary Clinton on television.

Huma, maybe.

If Huma was on television naked and sucking a cock.

That could work.

I am Laslo.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I take notes like that too. I believe its called mind-mapping.

Bob Ellison said...

Interesting discussion.

Women, of course, tend to be much better than men at multitasking.

I tend to be bad at multitasking, and my best work has been mostly late-night stuff in extreme single-tasking mode, with one exception: listening to music helps me concentrate. I pick out concentration music when there's tough work to do.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Women, of course, tend to be much better than men at multitasking."

Sometimes I can masturbate to women on television that are multi-tasking.

By multi-tasking I mean that they have a cock in their vagina and also a cock in their mouth.

Of course I do.

I am Laslo.

rhhardin said...

Coloring is less fun since they got rid of Indian Red.

Carol said...

I don't like to watch television, but I really like to drink and watch television.

Yes that helps a lot. I thought it was because TV is boring, especially prime-time fare. Maybe this is something general and bad for the networks - ? I'm not sure what they could do be make TV as riveting as it seemed when I was 13.

Bob Ellison said...

Carol, I think a big part of that is that when you are an adult , you have pretty much seen and heard everything. There's nothing new under the sun.

I am looking forward to the new Star Wars movie, though.

Laslo Spatula said...

I once masturbated to an episode of "Girls".

No, no: I'm not some weird sick fuck who gets off looking at Lena Dunham.

Shudder.

It was the episode where Allison Williams gets her ass eaten out.

Like I said: not a weird sick fuck: Allison Williams is Hot.


I am Laslo.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

But listening/watching when you know you're stuck on the passive side and there's no possibility of interaction — I don't like that.

Yeah, that's how I felt when you turned off comments.

Roughcoat said...

The only movie that's held my attention in the past year is "Fury," and that's because I'm fascinated by tanks. Well, okay, "San Andreas" too, I admit it, because I really couldn't believe what I was seeing. As for television: "Fargo." That's it.

traditionalguy said...

Triple tasking is so confusing that quadruple tasking is needed to even it out. It is all about balance, as Laslo will agree,

In case you are bored CNN has a downed airplane story.

Ann Althouse said...

"It's hard to do a later week NYT xword puzzle in a decent time while watching television."

The harder puzzles are better because the easier ones are more about speeding through and they also contain themes (which rarely interest me). The hard ones are more word by word. I do skip the Sundays as I go back into the NYT archive, because they're big for no good enough reason, and since they are big, they are small (in terms of the size of the squares). I prefer the Fridays and Saturdays.

If you're playing to beat your average or record time or to get faster and faster, you shouldn't watch TV at the same time.

the gold digger said...

I watch DVDs at one click of FF, which keeps me engaged enough that I don't need other distraction.

If I watch regular TV, it is too slow for me and I have to knit to keep myself from eating.

Bob Ellison said...

That's pretty much an Angry Birds addiction.

Laslo Spatula said...

I once had a girlfriend who loved to suck my cock while I did the NYT crossword.

She said that, as a child, she loved to watch her Father do the crosswords.

I tried not to think about that part too much.

Still: all women have Daddy Issues.

But the Daddy Issues that get your cock sucked are the Best Ones.

Same goes for anal.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

I haven't even gotten started on the phrase "particular activity niche".

I am fond of women's "particular activity niches."

All three of them.

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

"Adult Coloring Books" sounds like they are Porn.

Maybe the Kama Sutra as a coloring book.

They can make sure that they include people of all races and colors in the illustrations, so that the various crayons all wear down more equally.

Still, I think the crayon box would require at least two 'Pinks"; maybe three.

Just thinking out loud.

I am Laslo.

MayBee said...

You can't knit, or you don't know how to knit?

Earnest Prole said...

I believe there's research that when you perform a mindless, repetitive physical task simultaneous with cognition, it speeds your grasp and retention of material. The idea dates to Aristotle and the Peripatetic School (learning while walking around).

Ann Althouse said...

"You can't knit, or you don't know how to knit?"

I tried to learn once, a long time ago. It was enough.

Wince said...

That had to be the most shameless Christmas gift hint of all time:

I think it would be better to get a nice sketchbook — something like this with paper and a cover that have a pleasing texture — and some smoothly flowing black rollerball pens and draw little designs, as if you are the author of those adult coloring books.

BTW Meade, did you know Althouse is an Amazon portal?

MayBee said...

I tried to learn once, a long time ago. It was enough.

Ha hahaha! It took me lot of struggle to learn. I'm still not a beautiful knitter like Irene, but I do love doing it.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Even some of the rare good television is so simple-minded that it can't command the complete attention of the viewer. I used to read magazines or hobby-related material when I watched TV, now I read Althouse or search for improbable crap on eBay. it's pretty much mental null time. Back in the '90's I inadvertently became a Kurasowa/samurai-movie fan. I'd get subtitled movies from the video store so I could watch them with the volume off as I took my turn at the midnight feelings of our babies.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

Feedings, for crying out loud.

Irene said...

"I'm still not a beautiful knitter like Irene, but I do love doing it."

Ah, thanks. I always knit when I watch television. Sometimes I do that for four to five hours per day. I've seen every episode of "Alaska State Troopers," "Locked Up Abroad," and, yes ... "Say Yes to the Dress."

I used to knit at work meetings until someone got pissed off, claiming I wasn't "engaged" in the conversation. That person did not understand that I listen and process information better when I knit. When I switched to doodling at meetings, the person did not seem to mind.

I also intersect with a lot of people who are of the "kill your television" ilk. They assume I sit mindlessly in front of the screen, eating potato chips. (I love potato chips, but they leave my hands too greasy for knitting.)

wildswan said...

Tradition in the Digital
Only tradition can make a thin skin of words or images (which is all we can take in in any present moment) interesting enough the hold all the layers of your mind. That's my theory.

If the show or book fits into a whole set of stories you already know (a tradition, the previous shows of the TV season, the surrounding events of a news story) but somehow advances the story line then you can put your whole self into the art in front of you. The wider the tradition the more of the different layers of the self that get engaged all at once and so the more "interesting." But TV these days seems disconnected from reality let alone a tradition - except trying to introduce socialism or make shocking practices commonplace. Even then you can't keep your mind on it because you know how it will come out, on TV anyhow.

Even the news, I know the end as soon as I see who's speaking. Bloggers, blog comments you can't be sure.

So to keep my mind on the screen I do mini-festivals of movies, like noir movies of the Forties, or I do a whole TV season in 3 days, staying up late to see the Sopranos or I do art shows which gather what the major modern art museums are each doing. (Not much BTW - the Impressionists to Sheeler and Hopper, over and over and over.)

Unattorney said...

Freud said knitting was unconscious masturbation. An elderly woman in the audience famously replied,"Doctor, when I knit, I knit and when I masturbate,I masturbate.

grimson said...

Althouse wrote: "I sometimes try to watch a movie, and after a few minutes, I have to stop. . .I just don't like the feeling of passivity. . .listening/watching when you know you're stuck on the passive side and there's no possibility of interaction — I don't like that."

If current television and movies required you to watch and listen to them instead of viewing and hearing them, they would no longer be passive experiences.

If you encountered "My Dinner with Andre" for the first time now, would you still grab the iPad or engage in some other activity while it was playing? The dialog is exceptional, but the visuals could not be more ordinary.

MayBee said...

I also intersect with a lot of people who are of the "kill your television" ilk. They assume I sit mindlessly in front of the screen, eating potato chips. (I love potato chips, but they leave my hands too greasy for knitting.)

We need to live near each other. Potato chips and knitting, two of my loves.

I had a friend who took her knitting to Wimbledon.

(ps, I have to concentrate on my knitting and still make a ton of mistakes. I can't believe you can make what you make while watching tv. Gorgeous!!!)

eric said...

My wife does this. She doesn't like to just sit and watch a show.

She either sews something, looks at facebook, or plays a smart phone game like plants vs zombies.

etienne said...

I still love the scene in Fargo where the wife is knitting and watching TV and laughing, when a strange man peers in through the sliding glass door.

You know she's going to die...

Smilin' Jack said...

So something like knitting or coloring can really work to focus attention.

Hee. I wonder what your reaction would be if your students brought knitting or coloring to class.

Irene said...

"I had a friend who took her knitting to Wimbledon."

Ha! I've knitted through many games at Wrigley Field.

Deb said...

I once hand quilted an entire quilt while watching Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version).

Bart said...

People say this all the time; that they need to do something while they watch tv or a movie but then spend 1/2 the time asking what just happened and how different things are connected.

Michael said...

I go to an old movie convention in Ohio every year. Part of the reason is knowing that I won't have the tools of distraction all around me like I do at home. I conquer myself and actually watch the movies.

Guildofcannonballs said...

Did the coloring book fill a niche, or did the author fill a niche using a coloring book?

"Why do I need to do two things at once?"

It is impossible for a human on Earth to only do two things at once. The mind, body, and soul are all doing things interdependently at any, and all for that matter, moment.

"Why can’t I just sit quietly and enjoy a TV show?"

Because the incentives to do other things chemically overrides the incentive to sit quietly and enjoy "a" TV show in your brain affecting your thoughts and actions.

"I really do think that a lifetime of multitasking has left me occasionally incapable of subduing the entirety of my mind with one activity."

Liar. If this was really believed by the author, it would have been written as
"I really, really do think..." Using only one "really" tells the reader the depths of passion these words are meant to invoke lacks gravitas.

"If the front of my mind is occupied by the show, and the back is focused on picking colors and staying in the lines, there’s not room for much else."

A dictionary defines mind as: A mind /ˈmaɪnd/ is the set of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, and memory—a characteristic of humans, but which also may apply to other life forms.[3][4]

I don't understand what is meant by the concept of a "front" part of the mind or a "back" part of the mind, either occupying or focusing on anything when contemplating the above dictionary definition of a mind and the "room" it uses for doing other things, and am hence unable to offer ideas exposing fallacies within this definitions's structure of a what a mind "is" and "does" when other "parts" of the mind are occupying and focusing.

BN said...

When I got nabbed,
I was sitting on the boardwalk
Watching the sunrise.

Working a crossword puzzle,
Wondering where I could run to.

Nowhere.
That's where.

tim maguire said...

She's confused mindfulness with it's opposite--distraction. There's nothing Zen in this excerpt.

Eleanor said...

I like to knit while I watch TV. I don't like to sew while I watch TV. The noise of the sewing machine makes the TV hard to hear unless the TV is blasting, and sewing through a finger can be painful. But knitting works. I've never like coloring books. Too much emphasis on staying in the lines, I guess. Other than teaching fine motor skills, I never really got the point. What do you do with the coloring book when all of the pictures are colored in? Tear them out and put them on the fridge with a cutesy little magnet?