Do smartphones make people more shallow?

I probably shouldn’t post this blog. I share some of the guilt. After all, I’m a producer of internet content.

During my walk through Balboa Park today, I felt creeping despair.

Balboa Park is an amazing, wonderful, special place. Lifted eyes see a world that is infinitely interesting and beautiful.

About one third of the people I observed had their eyes absolutely fixed to the tiny screens of their smartphones. They were too obsessed to notice the vast world around them. Nor other people around them.

Of these, many were grown adults searching for a virtual Pokemon, a game fit for the simple mind of a child. At least these people looked up from time to time.

Yes, I know some people were busy communicating with friends, or perhaps looking up information, or a map of the park.

I also know that our lives are complex and so is human psychology. Everyone is different. I, too, have my silly, simple pleasures. It’s hard to draw firm conclusions. Technology changes. The culture changes. People change. Fads come and go.

But it does appear that humans are powerfully drawn to stimuli on isolated screens.

And, of course, the wonderful thing about smartphones is they can make life so much easier. Eye-to-eye politeness is no longer required. The potential for vulnerability in spontaneously spoken words is thankfully avoided. Problem solving is automatic. Critical thinking is less and less necessary. Simple and self-comforting ideas flood social media. Self absorption is made as easy as pie. Narcissism is rewarded.

I often wonder, as virtual reality becomes increasingly prevalent, whether people will permanently insert their whole selves into shallow, shrinking virtual worlds. The Matrix, of our own calculated making.

If it feels good, why fight it?

Survey of racial identity, feelings at MCASD.

People walk past the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's gallery at America Plaza.
People walk past the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s gallery at America Plaza.

I recently noticed new thought-provoking graphics in the windows of the MCASD gallery at America Plaza.

Last year, a survey was taken of 100 people passing through America Plaza. Questions were asked about racial and ethnic identity. Today an exhibit at downtown’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego expands on the results and explores the complicated subject.

The window graphics are designed to catch the eye and draw visitors into the gallery.

This project was produced by artists with students from local colleges in San Diego and Tijuana who participated in Transnational Seminar 1, lead by Collective Magpie.

On April 20th, 100 pedestrians took a survey here in America Plaza about race and ethnicity. Self-classification data was compiled.
On April 20th, 100 pedestrians took a survey here in America Plaza about race and ethnicity. Self-classification data was compiled.
Of the 100 surveyed, 83 answered mixed race; 14 white people; 3 people of color.
Of the 100 surveyed, 83 answered mixed race; 14 white people; 3 people of color.
Feelings about racial identity can differ from person to person.
Feelings about racial identity can differ from person to person.
One of two panels containing some of the racial or ethnic classifications that one might choose.
One of two panels containing some of the racial and ethnic categories that a person might choose.
A splash of words, asking passersby what the ultimate definition of race is.
A splash of words, asking people walking down Kettner Boulevard what the ultimate definition of race is…
People might feel differently about their racial identity depending on a range of factors and circumstances.
People might feel differently about their racial identity depending on a range of factors and circumstances, from their appearance…to their dreams…to their immediate environment…to the way they live.
Thought-provoking graphics in the windows of MCASD's downtown gallery at America Plaza.
Thought-provoking graphics concerning race in the windows of MCASD’s downtown gallery at America Plaza.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A day full of dreaming by the water.

Dreaming together by the sparkling water.
Dreaming together by the sparkling water.

A slow, lazy day. One last November day of unseasonably warm weather. Like many, I had the day off from work.

A quiet stroll along San Diego Bay.

A day for dreaming by the water.

Reflected light is all we see. A dream of light flows from the hand of painter Paul Strahm.
Sitting in sunshine above the water. A dream of light flows from the hand of the always friendly painter Paul Strahm.
The undefinable essence of dreams.
The undefinable essence of dreams.
A vision beyond the reach of a pier.
A vision beyond the reach of a pier.
Light on water invites meditation.
A firm foundation and quiet moment. Light on water invites meditation.
More quiet time by the water.
Time vanishes near the water.
Ripples in a strange reality.
Ripples in a strange reality.
Moving together past a burst of beauty.
Moving together in the walk of life, past a burst of beauty.
Almost like a dream within a dream.
Almost like a dream within a dream.
Enjoying this magic, wonderful life together.
Enjoying this magic, wonderful life together.
Reading words by the tranquil water. Sensing deeper truths.
Reading words by tranquil water. Perhaps sensing deeper truths.
Another day of dreaming by the water.
Another day of dreaming by the shining water.

Today two ideas for short stories came to me like a dream. As I sat on a bench by beautiful San Diego Bay, I penned a few passing words.

I believe the titles will be The Failed Heart and A Dangerous Noise. When these stories feel finished–if that feeling ever comes–I’ll publish them on my writing blog Short Stories by Richard.

Three dystopian short stories.

Perhaps you’ve noticed I love to write fiction. I love to combine words. Words are tools that can dig toward truth.

I’ve recently written three short stories that are absolutely dystopian. Not that I’m a pessimist. I prefer to smile and generally try to find and highlight good things in life. But I also strive to be intellectually honest. I recognize that the human world contains both light and darkness. And some of my stories can be quite dark.

These three dystopian stories are: Life Made Easier, A Ship Without Ghosts, and What the Giant Saw. Click the links if you’d like to read them.

It’s funny–the latter, most recent story was written yesterday as I sat beside the small river in Balboa Park’s beautiful Japanese Friendship Garden. Looking down at the living water, I felt strangely like a giant. Perhaps my stream of thought emerged from that feeling.

All of my modest works of fiction can be found at my website Short Stories by Richard.

Photos of Donal Hord’s iconic sculpture Aztec.

Face of iconic sculpture Aztec, presented to SDSU in 1937 by artist Donal Hord.
Face of iconic sculpture Aztec, presented to SDSU in 1937 by San Diego artist Donal Hord.

An iconic work of art can be found at San Diego State University. The diorite sculpture is considered by many to be a modernist masterpiece–some have called it one of the finest stone figures ever sculpted. Its renowned artist, Donal Hord, who lived most of his life in San Diego, referred to his creation as Aztec or The Aztec. He presented the amazing sculpture to SDSU in 1937 during a Founder’s Day celebration.

I headed over to SDSU yesterday to see the sculpture for myself and hopefully take some photos. I was struck by the quiet strength, nobility and simplicity of the work. I could have rested my eyes and mind upon the Aztec for a very long while. It touched my innermost feelings about humanity–elevating those feelings. Art done well cuts deeper than philosophy. It reaches deep inside like potent magic.

Donal Hord with Aztec, 1937, at San Diego State University. Public domain image from the collection of the Archives of American Art.
Donal Hord with Aztec, 1937, at San Diego State University. Public domain image from the collection of the Archives of American Art.
The sculpture's base, which was presented to SDSU by the graduating class of 1937, has a plaque with the title Montezuma. The artist himself called his piece the Aztec.
The sculpture’s base, which was presented to SDSU by the graduating class of 1937, has a plaque with the title Montezuma. The artist himself called his piece the Aztec.
A tranquil, bold sculpture that evokes feelings of nobility.
A tranquil, bold sculpture that evokes feelings of human nobility.
Side view of the Aztec shows gracefully folded hands and strongly planted feet.
Side view of the Aztec shows gracefully folded hands and strongly planted feet.
The diorite sculpture seems to be carved from the eternal substance of the black, star-filled cosmos. Light upon its curving surface is like gentle light on rippled water.
The diorite sculpture seems to be carved from the eternal substance of the black, star-filled cosmos. Light upon its curving surface is like gentle light on rippled water.
An expression of strength, thoughtfulness, humility. An iconic image one will not soon forget.
An expression of strength, thoughtfulness, humility. An iconic image one will not soon forget.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to share and enjoy!

Life in downtown San Diego is dynamic!

A mural with a bold message. Be dynamic. Be downtown.
A mural promoting San Diego has a very bold message: Be dynamic. Be downtown.

I can’t argue with the new mural at Sixth Avenue and Ash Street. It was painted a month or two ago and states: Be dynamic. Be downtown.

I’ve made my home in downtown San Diego for about 16 years and I still enjoy the experience: the liveliness, the color, the convenience, and of course the ability to easily walk all over the place–to the Embarcadero, Little Italy, Balboa Park, Petco Park, a trolley station, the ferry to Coronado, wherever my mood directs me. Even after all these years, new discoveries await around every corner. Yes, street parking on Cortez Hill has become almost impossible, and the homeless problem downtown is getting really bad and depressing–at times even a bit scary. But I still love this place. I try to convey that feeling with my blog.

I’ve got several more posts concerning my weekend walk in National City coming up. Plus maybe some other stuff mixed in.  Stay tuned!

Young man in business suit rides a scooter to work early one morning in downtown San Diego.
Young man in a business suit rides a scooter to work in downtown San Diego.  A dynamic photograph taken early this morning as I walked to the Little Italy trolley station!
Mural at Sixth Avenue and Ash Street promotes living, working and playing in downtown San Diego.
Mural at Sixth Avenue and Ash Street promotes living, working and playing in downtown San Diego.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A mighty Poetic Expeditionary Nation of Semanticists!

The five members of The Mightier P.E.N.S. perform poetry in Balboa Park's Zoro Garden during this summer's 2016 Garden Theatre Festival.
The five members of The Mightier P.E.N.S. perform poetry in Balboa Park’s Zoro Garden during this summer’s 2016 Garden Theatre Festival.

Look what I stumbled upon this afternoon during my stroll through Balboa Park! The Mightier P.E.N.S. (Poetic Expeditionary Nation of Semanticists) was performing poetry in the Zoro Garden. Balboa Park’s butterfly-filled stone grotto is the venue for a variety of poetic and theatrical performances during the Garden Theatre Festival, Saturdays and Sundays through August 21st.

I listened as the five members of The Mightier P.E.N.S. filled the air with mightily expressed emotion, striking deep chords with their words. As butterflies flitted about the garden, like beguiling not-quite-touchable-truths in the shimmering air, their spoken words conveyed an entire range of deep feeling, including human desire, elation, frustration and despair.

This energetic group of performance poets can be heard around San Diego from time to time; they appeared at the most recent San Diego Fringe Festival. They’ll be performing twice more this summer in Balboa Park. Interested? Swing by the Zoro Garden on August 14th and 21nd at 2pm. Their poetry is mightier than the sharpest sword! For further information, you can call (619) 569-4922.

While I innocently sit back and listen, I'm suddenly accosted by unabashed truths spoken during an innovative poetry performance!
While I innocently sit back and listen, I’m suddenly accosted by unabashed truths spoken during an innovative poetry performance!
Visitors to Balboa Park pause near the top of Zoro Garden and listen to The Mighty P.E.N.S. conquer . . . for a fleeting moment.
Visitors to Balboa Park pause near the top of Zoro Garden and listen to The Mightier P.E.N.S. conquer the world . . . for a fleeting moment.
One of the dynamic poets expresses innermost thoughts, desires and anguish with strong words and images pieced brilliantly together.
One of the dynamic poets expresses innermost thoughts, desires and anguish with strong words and images pieced brilliantly together.
A small crowd gathered where I was seated. As each poet completed a segment of the performance, applause erupted.
A small crowd gathered where I was seated. As each poet completed a segment of the performance, applause erupted.
The Mighty P.E.N.S. appear to be mighty friends. No words required.
The Mightier P.E.N.S. appear to be mighty friends. No words required.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you love Balboa Park? Follow my special blog which I call Beautiful Balboa Park!

To read some philosophical short stories that I’ve written, please click Short Stories by Richard.