MARTIN SHORT, Issue 11, Editor’s Letter

How do you bring up kids in this world? Seriously. Facebook bullying, instant access to every bit of media–good bad and scary, prescription meds, drunk driving, text driving, and hey, when you get out of the college that you sacrificed your childhood to get into, there are no jobs waiting for you.  We get our kids into every extra-curricular activity possible, have great academic expectations of them, drive them everywhere and still hope they will somehow find the time to develop into unique individuals.  It’s no wonder screens of all kind have captivated our youth—they are just looking to step off the treadmill for a minute.

My kids love to read, and I love that they love it.  This morning I peeked into my daughters still dark room to get them up for school, and saw an unearthly glow coming from under the sheets of my seven year old.  I pulled back the covers and found her holding a flashlight and reading a book. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, because I used to do the same thing; I was always trying to steal a moment to lose myself in a story.  It occurs to me just how valuable that time is for my kids.  Since becoming a parent, I have witnessed a strange blurring of the lines between child and adulthood: Adult couples at Disneyland, without kids, riding the rides and wearing the merch. Long lines of adults waiting to see the next installment of a blockbuster comic book movie franchise.  Adults tweeting about whether Ben Affleck will make a good batman or not.  Seriously?  When I was a kid, adults didn’t ride Dumbo or line up for Star Wars.  On the flip side, I see kids trying so hard to be so adult. They have phones, a developed fashion sense and a seriousness about their lives that makes me wonder what my generation is modeling.

What happened to kids being kids and adults being adults?  When was the last time you saw a big gang of kids in the neighborhood, completely unsupervised, playing a game of tag, or capture the flag or just hanging out, unfettered by electronics? Kids look so adult, too, seen from afar.  They’re polite to each other, but if they get a text or a call, they are just as deft as adults at deflecting the person in front of them for the person on their phone.  It seems kids have the plans and the social schedules of their parents, and they can’t wait to be their parents.  When I was young, my parents were a completely different species; and I didn’t want to be anything like them.

And we parents, it seems as though email, texts, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are enough to keep us from ever having to have a whole conversation again.  I used to really enjoy striking up  conversations in bars or waiting rooms, or airports with interesting strangers.  Now I feel like I would just be interrupting whatever it is they have going on with their phones.  Sometimes I steal a glance at what they are so engrossed in, and invariably it is something banal, like a Twitter feed that they’re rapidly scrolling through, looking for something, anything, to eat up five or ten minutes of downtime.  It makes me wonder if we are losing the ability and the desire to look around us, make a connection and live in the present.  Although I find myself doing the same thing from time to time, I fight it. I really do.  Because a world like that makes me sad.

I feel like I am old enough to know the difference between when technology is a benefit, and when it is a hindrance. When it allows us to click a link to a new toxicology study in children, that’s pretty beneficial.  I am amazed and grateful that we can instantly find each other, get directions, the weather, traffic information, or our blood alcohol level (you can do that with a phone now, right?), or access any other piece of information that enhances our lives.

But sometimes I feel lwe have lost a valuable part of our society on a core level: the connections we make with our fellow human through circumstance. You may never be bored or self-conscious again as you wait out those 15 minutes in the restaurant, phone in hand.  But you may be lonely on a much deeper level when you realize you spend most of your time interacting with a box of metal, glass and plastic connected to a cloud designed to get you to click through and buy something.

Sometimes I imagine a world where we have all become the same:  kids and adults, young and old, all getting the same information from their devices, making decisions based on what is trending or highly-rated.  The same conversations, the same references as to what is funny, what is important, what is derided.  Our devices are our parents, guiding us, making our decisions and teaching us.

What struck me about my conversation with Martin Short was his description of his childhood and his family dynamic. In this issue, he explains that he learned to be funny and had confidence to pursue comedy because everyone in his family is funny.  Well, fair enough – it’s in his genes, right?  But then he describes how he and his brothers and sisters made up shows, put on plays and created mockumentaries.  And there it is: In the Short household, they had time. Hours and days and weeks of unsupervised time, without Ipads, phones or cable.  They filled their days with creations borne solely of imagination.  And from that environment came a wholly original and spirited, minds and voices.  Jiminy Glick, Ed Grimley, Jackie Rogers Jr, and Franck were all gestating in the Short household as they entertained and tried to make each other laugh.

More than anything, that’s what I want for my kids: the time and space to develop their imaginations.  I want them to enjoy creating for the sake of creating. To lose hours at a time in pursuit of an idea, with no thought to whether it is good, bad, important or liked. Because let me tell you kids, it’s all drudgery and bourbon when you become an adult. Well, not really, but you’ve got 60 or 70 years of adulthood and only a precious few as a child, so savor them.

I found Martin Short to be intelligent, well-rounded, funny, kind and unpredictable. And he’s truly an adult–one who can think for himself and knows where he stands on what’s important to him. I think that’s because he had a childhood full of the time and space to find himself.  Oh, and not once during his visit to Off Camera did I see a phone in his hand. He gave me, and our shoot, his full attention.  I hope you find this issue worth yours.

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