An essential extension

Just yesterday I was deliberating over what to call a new section of links in my sidebar. Should I feature “Most Commented-Upon Posts” only, or go in a more subjective direction with “Most Interesting Comment Strings”? I’m not sure why I chose the former; it certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue.

And then last night comes this addition to the so-far brief comment string for Animal presence – as eloquent a demonstration of the virtues of quality over quantity as you’re ever likely to see:

Reading your words brought me back to the time I was still living in the States. Animals were a part of my daily existence even in the heart of Boston. I remember pipistrelle bats flying up and down my Boston apartment, the musk of skunks along the side of the Charles River as I bicycled home from work, the furious bumble bee banging its head against my bedroom window screen, night hawks croaking as they soared over the setting sun, and humpback whales, fin whales, and a thousand common dolphins breaking the copper water out in the Stellwagon Banks one utterly magical afternoon.

Can you imagine what it is like living in Tokyo where animals are more or less incidental? All my life animals have been an essential extension of myself, a language of movement and expression of place-integrated other-self (is there a word for that? well, I guess “animal” is it, in’it?) that have all but disappeared since moving here. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so poverty-stricken with money all around. A world almost exclusively human (albeit with genetically altered, deformed creatures called “pets” that live out their lives as possessions).

The thunderclouds are rumbling though, for me. Big changes have already begun. And I don’t intend to ignore the call this time.

The author is Butuki of Laughing~Knees blog. (Feel free to join the conversation.) Among all the possible kinds of comments, most of them welcome here – including both constructive and destructive criticism – those that could make complete and poetic blog posts in their own right are always my favorites. It’s the ultimate compliment for a writer, I think, when someone responds at that  level. I should leave more such comments myself at other blogs.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

17 Comments


  1. You’re right about some comment strings amounting to “complete, poetic blog posts in their own right.” Perhaps your new links will begin to give some of these strings the attention they deserve.

    By the way, I think you have a great record of thoughtful comments on other blogs. You never seem to force it, and you give almost post-like thought and detail when it seems the mood strikes.

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  2. After that Good Friday comment thread, I decided it might be best to remain as silent as possible. Now look what you’ve done… invisibility, I see, is not an option.

    :) No, no complaints!

    Butuki’s writing here profound and poetic. There are many people who screech and try to pull themselves away even from our domestic animals, claiming allergies (& how many ‘allergic’ people do I know who have pets anyhow? who simply work with it?). To live in a world entirely devoid of animals, to see animals as alien, unwanted, harbingers of poison to the immune system, oh, it’s more than sad.

    I still miss the Zambian jungle of my childhood, where herds of zebras and giraffes and elephants freely roamed, lions roaring at night, cheetahs and rhinos, the Zambesi river with its hippos and crocs, and the snake population, now there was fear, boas and black mambas, and more insects than can be imagined. Such a rich, rich world we’ve overtaken with our cities, our manicured parks, our vast tracts of cultivated farms…

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  3. you rock, Dave, and your brain is a fitting filter for Blogospheric issue, methinks. I’ve been enjoying the sidebar but don’t really like either of the 2 titles you’ve suggested. Maybe just “elsewhere” would describe it.

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  4. wait a minute…you mean to re-title “smorgasblog”?

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  5. sylph – No, I’m talking about a new grouping of internal links (only visible from the main page). I’m glad you like my selections for the smorgasblog, though; I’m certainly getting a kick out of the daily treasure hunt!

    Brenda – I didn’t mean to make you self-conscious. Maybe I’ll drop the link to the Good Friday post if you’re embarassed by it.

    I hope you’ll write further about your childhood at Rubies in Crystal.

    Peter – Thanks. I’m still thinking about ways to draw attention to good comments and good comment threads. Initially, when I moved to the new blog, I wanted to have one of those “Recent comments” plugins in my sidebar, but now I’m not so sure. It seems like just another part of this whole emphasis on the latest thing that so plagues the blog world.

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  6. focus on comments and commenters might clam up.

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  7. Hmm. The self-conscious ones, at any rate. Good point.

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  8. Well, the two different titles mean two different things. One means you selected by how many comments there were in the string, and the other means you selected by how interesting you found the string. Or is that what you mean, that you’re hesitating between different ways of choosing?

    In that case, I’d vote for selection by what you found interesting; I think that would be better indicator of whether *I’d* find them interesting than the quantity of comments.

    By the way, I love the idea, and I love your smorgasblog, too.

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  9. Yup, that’s what I meant. Just trying to decide how much effort I want to put into it. Thanks for the input – and I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the smorgasblog.

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  10. Not embarrassed about it at all, just felt it was an amalgam of misunderstandings. But, then, religion… so surely an interesting thread.

    I did do something on my childhood here a few years ago. When inspiration strikes again…

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  11. Sylph (and anyone else), I want to hear more. If someone wishes to make a comment to a post with his or her name (or with a pseudonym the person has invested in) at the bottom, how would the possibility of a link to, or other attention given to, the string in which it would be placed deter the person from commenting? Perhaps the person would think (reasonably, I guess) that comments are almost never read after the post it is associated with hits the archives. In other words, if posts are impermanent, then comments are really impermanent. They go almost as fast as our words do after we hang up the phone. I’ve never considered that impermanence may be a virtue of anything of quality on a blog. Might the idea of a link to old comment strings make some people feel the need to be more polished or guarded before commenting because of the possibility of a greatly increased shelf life?

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  12. Good questions, Peter. You know we are of one mind on this.

    *

    I just decided to re-name the new links secion – Favorite Comment Threads – and made one substitution of a shorter for a longer thread, replacing “Good Friday Moment” with “On Target,” which is more entertaining. If anyone has other suggestions of stuff I should include, now or in the future, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. (“Favorite” is, after all, kind of ambiguous: whose favorites?)

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  13. Many years ago my Dad made the observation, at his Sunday dinners, where the family congregated weekly, that we’d all be eating dinner, not really talking about anything much, and I’d make a comment, perhaps a book I’d been reading, or an item in the news, and within minutes everyone’d be hotly discussing. I can’t take responsibility for any discussions, not at all, but even 30 years later am trying to understand what it was my Dad was saying. Perhaps best to simply accept whatever it is, and go with the ride. So don’t take down any comment threads on my account – not “self conscious” at all – you couldn’t possibly hear the laughter in my voice, despite the :-) I placed at the end of the original comment.

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  14. So don’t take down any comment threads on my account

    Oh, I didn’t. But this will have to be a fairly selective list to avoid becoming too long, and when I re-read the “Good Friday” thread, though many interesting points were made, it wasn’t as entertaining as it could have been.

    not “self conscious� at all

    You don’t say.
    ;)

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  15. Peter, I think the relative impermanence of this medium is a virtue. I’m not sure why I think it. And now, I’m starting to ponder the semantic link…virtue and virtual reality.
    Hand me a microphone and I’ll get nervous, guaranteed.
    My own taped words also give me the creeps. I often re-read my outgoing email just to check for tone, email can be cold, occasionally is mis-interpreted. I find it comforting to know that email won’t last more than a coupla years in recipients’ boxes. I guess I comment in the present moment, I accept that life is constant change, re-visiting isn’t that much fun for me. (I ‘ve never attended a high school reunion) I’m also the most inconsistent person I know. Anonymity offers a bit of relief from “the playing of the tapes”…in my head. I guess I don’t mind a permanent archive for comments because deep down, I believe that nobody’s going to read them.

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  16. Sylph, thanks! It was kind of you to respond. Again you raise something I never thought of (or, if you won’t claim the thought, at least you made me think of it): the impermanence and the “present momentnessâ€? of comments are perhaps related. (I was going to say “the spontaneity of comments,” but it didn’t ring true.)

    Sometimes I think my desire to keep things for posterity resembles the eruption of Mount Vesuvius: I smother the present moments I preserve. I’d like to be more like the way you describe a part of yourself here, but so far I’ve managed only to write about such people. More lava!

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  17. I didn’t know whether to make a comment here or not when I first found my words quoted in your post. I was flattered and embarrassed at the same time. Er, I guess “thanks” is in order? All I was doing was responding to how your post affected me.

    The impermanece of blogging probably resembles oral storytelling in many ways, but the thing that I find disconcerting about it is the way the people whom you speak with cease to exist when you stop coming online, unlike a tribal group or a group of friends with whom you share more than just the connection of spoken words. Or even books for that matter, which you hold, real, in your hand, long after the reading is done. For that reason I often feel that the words you read in a blog carry no weight whatsoever, so airy and ephemeral that the slightest breeze can blow them oblivion. I keep returning over and over again to the same blogs every day, keep plugging away at my own blog, looking for… something. But what? I can never quite put my finger on it.

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