Streaming

foam leaf 3

Today I came across the term lifestream — “a chronological aggregated view of your life activities both online and offline” — and decided that I like the word but dislike the concept. The idea is to blend all of one’s separate online activity streams (Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, WordPress, etc.) into a single stream, often on a platform where no comments are permitted. I’m not sure I see the point of that. A blended feed might make sense, but is anyone really so into me that they don’t want to risk missing a single thing I do online? I sure hope not! I’d much rather have highly discriminating fans, who might only subscribe to my occasional satirical posts, for example, or who might visit my Flickr photostream or the Plummer’s Hollow blog and never even look at Via Negativa. So I’m tickled to be picking up a few unknown “followers” on Twitter who are presumably only interested in my daily quickies at The Morning Porch. In the pre-digital age, desperate poets resorted to megaphones in the public square; now we can infiltrate the mobile phones of strangers.

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Unity and consistency are temptations we’d probably do well to resist. A friend recently criticized qarrtsiluni for publishing too many hymenoptera in a row — my fault entirely. My poetry mentor, Jack McManis, edited a magazine called Pivot for a couple of decades, and one time he shared with me the secret of how they decided what order to print things in. “I take the whole stack of poems and throw them up in the air,” he said, “and then pick them up without looking at them. That becomes the order for the issue.”

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“I learned long ago that writing — the outward form of my thinking — is the best means I have for discovering how the various separate and confusing threads of my life actually relate to each other, and how they weave together to form a whole cloth,” Beth writes in the latest post at the cassandra pages, entitled Change — a stirring defense of the blog medium. My own post was already three-quarters complete when I got bored, clicked on my feed reader, and saw hers. There are always other streams, aren’t there? Why obsess over unity? Just today Peter of slow reads and John of slow reading discovered each other, and it’s like they’re long-lost blogging twins.

Beth elaborates:

The blog or journal is, actually, a mirror of that movement through life that I observe in myself — neither like the geese flying across the still photograph, nor like an individual being standing motionless while life swirls around her — but rather the sense of myself as a moving, mutable being who exists in inner and outer worlds that are also in states of constant change. Seen in that way, the “self” doesn’t exist; it cannot be fixed. We humans spend much effort trying to deal with our discomfort about that dual movement, attempting to fix ourselves in time or trying to find ways of convincing ourselves that we won’t someday stop while time continues without us. So we write books, paint paintings, take photographs, build buildings; we have children and fixate on our belief that they represent a continuation of our own animation; we construct religions and place our hope on immortality.

I couldn’t have said it better. (Be sure to read the rest.)

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Sometimes I’ll spend half an hour looking through a magazine or browsing a well-illustrated blog and find myself getting depressed, because every last picture has people in it. It’s not that I don’t like people. In fact, I believe strongly in the agora and the souk, and the ideals of conversation, hospitality and exchange that they represent. But any place where you can’t get out into the country within an hour’s walk feels very alienating to me: too much otherness, too many strangers. The streets and subways are rivers of humanity in which one can never fully relax. I find it desperately sad that, for a large percentage of the world’s population, escape from other humans and from human-dominated landscapes is nearly impossible.

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During the last half-dozen years my dad worked as an Arts and Humanities librarian at Penn State’s Pattee Library, he had the unpleasant duty of finding a certain number of subscriptions to cancel each year in order to save the library money. Librarians refer to any regularly issued publication — a journal, magazine, newspaper, newsletter, almanac, annual report, or numbered monograph — as a serial. So my dad was a serial killer. Streams do run dry.
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Speaking of the Morning Porch, I’m looking for an artist willing to colloborate on the tumblelog version, with an eye to eventual tree-flesh publication of some sort. Drop me a line if you’re interested.

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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).

12 Comments


  1. Great photo.
    And I like the dada of throwing the poems up in the air and letting that be order.

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  2. Jeez, I was just commenting on my twin’s latest post — the subject: a blog’s shelf life — and here, this. Unity happens, indeed.

    The distinction I’m reading into your excerpt from Beth’s post is between the mirror and the memorial. To the extent my blog (and my other endeavors) are mirrors of the dual movement she describes and not expressions of my ego or the disquiet she describes, long may they live. Or quickly may they die. I guess. Jeez.

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  3. hi dave,

    i enjoyed the words of this post, especially the quotation from beth and this:

    “I believe strongly in the agora and the souk, and the ideals of conversation, hospitality and exchange that they represent. But any place where you can’t get out into the country within an hour’s walk feels very alienating to me: too much otherness, too many strangers. ”

    i feel i have been neglecting some good blogs lately, feeling ‘out of the stream’ and would like to jump back in.

    guess i’ve gone off onto a ‘strange feed’ of my own – but I have been trolling distant waters and finding pearls!

    thanks also for the ‘SAWN’ photos – write to the heart!

    k

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  4. Yah, thankfully where I moved to, though full of people and all the urban amenities and cultural offerings, is close to places likely to be empty of people – the wildlife sanctuary I can walk to, for example. I often get irritated when I come across anyone else there!

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  5. Yes, that etched-looking photo is a gem. I hadn’t quite put my finger on it, but too many pictures of people gets me down too. For unimportant reasons I seem to be holding a few other lots of photos on my computer for other people; they mostly seem to be of people people people, and when they aren’t they seem aimless, uncertain, like they don’t quite know what to look at or how to look at it if it isn’t a person.
    I’m off to read at Beth’s now.

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  6. I have to agree with you on the life stream thing. Of course your blog sort of works that way. By the way I have really enjoyed your posts during the last week or so. I just have not been commenting much.

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  7. I’ve been feeling very ambivalent about blogging, but not in the “should I blog, or should I not blog” sense, but in the “I don’t want to reveal myself at all” sense, but I still want to write. I suddenly have boundaries about what is revelatory and what is revealable. I post photos of birds and insects, but I don’t want to delve any more deeply. I shake my fist at poetics. I reject the art of confession. I don’t want to tell any secrets. I’m not sure there is a way to have a presence, and still be absent. I’m working on it.

    Great photograph. We are spending a winter where there will be no ice.

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  8. This is a gorgeous post, Dave. Listen to this thing you said: “In the pre-digital age, desperate poets resorted to megaphones in the public square; now we can infiltrate the mobile phones of strangers.” It’s true that we have more avenues than ever for being heard and reaching others.

    And listen to this thing you said: “Unity and consistency are temptations we’d probably do well to resist.” I want that plastered on a wall in my study. We would all do well to remember we should not overvalue consistency.

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  9. Thanks for the comments and the kind wonds about the photo, which was one of a series.

    SarahJ – It is a cool approach, isn’t it? One reason why I chose WordPress.com for two of my online poetry collections was the “random post” feature, which lets readers encounter the text in a similarly haphazard or serendipitous fashion. We have an “explore at random” link in qarrtsiluni, too, right below the Search bar.

    Peter – Mirror versus memorial sounds like too neat of a distinction to me. But it’s hard to put into words how some people’s memoirs seem objective and lacking in self-indulgence, while others are of little interest to anyone but the author. Maybe it takes a certain degree of selflessness to write meaningfully about oneself.

    katsuri – Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been reading your posts about your possible Tuareg ancestors with great interest.

    leslee – Yes, and you actually moved closer to the urban center to find this, too, didn’t you?

    rr – Synchronicity indeed! Thanks for bringing it up.

    Lucy – But some photographers who specialize in human subjects don’t have that effect on me at all, perhaps because when they look at people they see landscapes, ecosystems — whole worlds. Which from an ecological perspective we certainly are!

    fred – Thanks. Commenting is always voluntary, of course.

    robin andrea – Well, you’ve seen how much I reveal of myself. It’s not that I have anything to hide, just that I bore myself. The best way “to have a presence, and still be absent” I find is to write about what I observe — which I don’t do nearly enough of. The Dharma Bums has always been a good example of what a nature blog should be, IMO, and I hope you and Roger are able to keep it up.

    That’s actually not ice in the photo, but very slow-moving water with a leaf floating just below the surface.

    Ceridwen – I’m glad some of this resonated with you. But if you’re going to put anything on your wall, Emerson’s famous quote about consistency from Self-Reliance might be best:

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think today in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.

    Reply

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