Still life with a smartphone

Good people at Weekly Writing Prompts want to know if smartphones are a blessing or a curse.

The simple answer is that they are a curse in Paradise and a blessing in Hell.

Read on and it won’t seem a cryptic thought.

Smartphones make life easier.

Today, when your kid asks you, “Where do babies come from?” you don’t have to choose between the cabbage patch, the stork, or a melon seed. “They get downloaded” is the right and safe answer. Your smartphone – right in the process of downloading a map to the nearest toy store – can be shown as evidence. It is very likely in ten years your kids will be downloading baby-making instructions on their smartphones (make sure they can’t have access to the similarly instructive videos), so your answer is not only safe, but honest.

Ten years ago people thought mind-reading was at best science fiction and many a novel had been written about the way we could benefit from this faculty. Today, you use your smartphone to log on to Facebook or Tweeter and start reading other people’s thoughts anywhere anytime, without giving a minute notice to the miracle that’s in the making.

Smartphones make us all polymath. A smartphone owner can give the right answer to any question, after a brief consultation with online Wiki. Any smartphone owner is a “can-you-wait-a-moment-genius”. People had to study, read books, even write them occasionally to qualify before. Geniuses used to be one-in-a-million, now they are million-bar-few, but, well, a tad slower.

So, with smartphones we get smarter, which is a paradox as things people write and read mostly reside in the town of Crap-upon-Bullshit. Yesterday, while my steak (medium please) was cooking, I caught myself reading something about Zimbabwe internal politics. It had zero practical value, I’ve long forgotten what it was about, but remember it was somehow interesting to read. I am sure it will float up at the time of need, though I hope that kind of need won’t arise.

And here we come to the bane of smartphones.

It is increasingly difficult to tell a really smart person from someone who just owns a smartphone. Real geniuses capable of their own thinking and thoughts become lost in the shadow of people who can type really fast. The problem is that manual dexterity can’t take us to Mars (well, there are some types of massage that are believed to be able to “take you to the skies”, but I am not being metaphorical here).

Yes. Smartphones make our lives complicated.

You can’t text while holding it in your pocket. This alone is believed to have ruined a lot of otherwise happy marriages. No more “sorry (s)he’s back from biz trip day early dont come 2 my place!”.

Smartphoneophiles find it difficult to express emotions unless they can show a smiley with their hands. Grammar and punctuation become increasingly redundant, and the language gradually degrades to the times when people lived in caves and all looked like Chuck Norris.

Smartphones make our lives more dangerous than before. A safety coach today would tell you that lives are lost because instead of making it to the fire escape people keep tweeting about the fire.

Smartphone owners are insecure. When their gadget is misplaced, a part of the owner dies.

There are some people who get so hooked onto their smartphones that St.Peter felt it necessary to introduce a ban on them. “You can not take your smartphone beyond this gate”. Some righteous men went to Hell, voluntarily, because of that. Hell welcomes smartphones and promises unlimited access to the internet for the next 1000 years. You can text hell-to-hell only, but the management promises all the souls worth texting to will be there anyway.

Now you understand the simple answer at the top, right?

And, because this is a blog about art, I can not but welcome smartphones for their contribution to painting.

Yes, smartphones represent a chance for a certain revival of the still life genre in painting.

The primary law of a classic Dutch still life (17th c) says the viewer must feel the presence of people who are not to be shown. Like, the person in the painting was there a minute ago and is coming back any moment. Do you know why? Because they painted food and the viewer had to be sure the food is fresh even if the painting had been hanging on the wall for ten years. Look at this pile of food:

Dutch still life / Pieter Claesz
Dutch still life / Pieter Claesz

What makes it freshly pressable fresh? It’s the lemon. It has just been peeled, but not squeezed onto the lobster. It can’t stay looking fresh for long, it withers fast. So, those who are going to eat the lobster and the bread, are coming back.

Today, if you want to do a modern still life, what do you have to do?

You have to show a smartphone plugged into the wall.  Why plugged? Because it is the only way to show that the owner has not lost it, left it accidentally or on purpose (the latter though is highly improbable). A smartphone being charged is a sure sign that the person behind the painting is coming back any moment.

I would also like to thank addicted smartphone users. Guys, it is great to have you at neighbour tables at restaurants. It’s nice and quiet with you around.

PS If you had a laugh reading this, give me a smiley. How can I know I made you smile if you don’t post a 😉 ?


  1. Brilliant little piece. People with smartphones are displaced and absent. Most likely because they don’t want to face social situations.

  2. so funny and so true! and I really feel like I want to give you a 🙂 , can’t be helped) PS I wonder if you checked my post about Facebook, it’s not that insightful and not funny at all but both SPh and FB can provoke more or less same thoughs and feelings

  3. Very insightful. I especially liked the end about freshness and knowing someone is coming back. In the case of the still life, it allows the viewer to make up a story and engage with the painting more, rather than taking a group of objects at face value.

    1. Thank you! The 17th c still life was an icon of Protestant consumerism, and as such it was all revolving around the story of a man whose labours allow his family to have good food ))

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