Archive - Dec 2013

Date

December 31st

Wandering

And so, 2013 comes to a chilly end. As I emerged from sleep, I was dreaming about walking. We were staying at a beach house out on Cape Cod. We had presumably spent the day at the beach and were walking back to the beach house. There were a lot of people walking. There were discussions about how the roads and pathways were being developed and I walked through areas that were designed for cars but not pedestrians.

It was a far cry from Thoreau’s walks on Cape Cod, but it may be that his wanderings were influencing mine. Last night, I read Virginia Woolf’s essay on Emerson. I was tired and it felt like drudgery, a feeling I sometimes get when reading about the Transcendentalists. I can’t imagine convincing people influenced by todays media to sit down and read about the Transcendentalists. It feels a little too much like telling, not showing.

So, I started wandering online. The night before I had watched YouTube videos of poetry slams. These seemed more compelling, but I was looking for something different last night. My thoughts often come back to Lacan and I did some searching about him. I drifted into Kerouac and automatic writing, to Wilhelm Reich and orgone and back around through surrealism.

Perhaps I should work on automatic writing. Perhaps I should add touches of the surreal to my writing. It has always been appealing to me, but a bit daunting. What would people reading this think if they read some tepid attempts at surrealistic automatic writing?

It gets to another issue I face when I write for my blog. I started this blog, originally, as a place to gather together things I was writing for other online sites. Slowly, the blog started getting regular readers and I wondered, and still wonder, how much I should just focus on my writing and how much I should focus on what is being said and how my readers will receive it.

This thought has been amplified as I think more about being digitally deliberate, analyzing the intent and impact of what I post across social media. As you read the ‘experts’ on social media, many seem highly focused on audience, how to build it, how to keep it.

Yes, I would like more people to read what I write, but more importantly, I’d like more people to struggle with thoughts my writing has evoked.

I had not made it back to the beach house before I awoke, so I have more wandering to do, oth in my dreams and in my writing. Perhaps 2014 will be a year of wandering.

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December 30th

#TellAFriend #GetCovered

July 2004. By Internet standards, it was nearly an eternity ago. Facebook was a few months old. Twitter hadn’t been launched yet, and a State Senator from Illinois who was running for U.S. Senate stopped by to say a few words at the Bloggers breakfast at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. Later, State Senator Barack Obama delivered the keynote address at the convention. Up in the nosebleed section, a group of bloggers provided live updates from the convention.

Four years later, I had the opportunity to live blog on election night from NPR Studios in Washington, DC. The online conversations were mostly jubilant as people shared their experiences and reactions.

Now, it seems like everyone is online. We all livetweet important events, like the Emmys or various music award shows. We follow our favorite performers on Twitter and retweet what they have to say.

Some have complained about the banality of social media today, longing for those days when something you said online seemed capable of making a big difference in the lives of those around us.

Yet there are opportunities to share what celebrities are saying, and have a big impact on people’s lives. Covered California, along with partners including Enroll America has launched the Tell A Friend – Get Covered in collaboration with other state health exchanges with a goal of sharing the hows and whys of getting covered.

The campaign will engage celebrities, athletes, musicians, social media creators and individuals who want to tell their friends to spread the word about how to get insurance coverage.

The campaign will include an 8-hour, live-streamed event on January 16 that will include stories, tips, helpful information and other details related to national health care options.

It will be a great opportunity to livetweet, as well as share on sites like Vine and Instragram, what celebrities and others are saying about how we can get health insurance coverage. It is a chance to have a big impact on others lives. I hope to spend a bit of time sharing this event and I hope many of my friends do as well.

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A New Look at Old Journeys

Monday, December 30th, the sixth day of Christmas. It is chilly. The house hasn’t warmed up yet. According to the Weather Underground website, it is 36 degrees in Woodbridge right now. There has been traffic on this quiet cul-de-saq early this morning. The latest has been a snowplow. THere isn’t any snow on the porch, so I’m wondering if it got cold enough last night to turn yesterday’s rain into black ice.

On the rainy last Sunday of the year, I went to church. Between the rain and being the Sunday after Christmas day, it was a much smaller crowd than usual. At home, after church, I alternated between reading and sleeping and have lots of notes for my blog post.

One friend received Google Glass for Christmas. He posted a brief point of view moving of his son playing with him and pondered the utility and social costs of Google Glass.

I commented about how I’ve been wearing Google Glass for over six months now and found the social costs minimal,far less than the value I’ve found wearing glass. I haven’t been barred from restaurants. I haven’t, as far as I know, made people around me uncomfortable by wearing glass. Glass has been an icebreaker in some discussions, but it hasn’t dominated discussions.

As more people start wearing Google Glass, it will be interesting to see how it changes the media we produce and consume. While I relish the idea of the independent citizen journalist running down the street capturing video moments of a city in distress, I expect most of the material captured will be family moments. Yet perhaps that is a good thing. Despite the impasses in Washington, yesterday, my white dog snuggled up next to my black cat as I read, listening to the rain outside.

I posted a picture of the dog and the cat online and went on to read James Franco’s The Meanings of the Selfie in the New York Times Arts section so I added a selfie to my pictures of the day. Although Franco does not explicitly use the word ‘context’ in his article. It seems like that is a key idea and perhaps one I’ll be exploring more during the coming days.

I read a lot of other things yesterday, contexts for different conversations or events. They can wait for another post. It is almost time to get on with the day.

But before I do so, I want to save a fragment of last nights dream. I was traveling, similar to my journeys of thirty years ago. I was in a Northern European maritime city, hanging out by the boats. There were a bunch of us, struggling to get by. We scrounged food and found coins and lottery tickets. It was a brief moment before I awoke, without plot or context. I drew me back to my travels, as well as my journals from my travels thirty years ago, and I wonder how this image will shape my coming writing.

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December 29th

About to Turn

It is cold today, the fifth day of Christmas and I didn’t want to get out of bed, but the animals needed tending to. They have been interrupting my sleep a lot recently and I am tired. Last night, between disruptions by one of the cats, I drifted in and out of a dream about tornados. I was watching and avoiding them, as storm after storm pummeled the area I was. I took videos and ran for shelter. At times the shelter was too small and couldn’t get in.

Are the tornados to be taken fairly literally? Is my subconsciousness focused on climate change? Are they a metaphor for something else, for turmoil at home or at work? Do they tie into a religious or prophetic message?

On Christmas Eve, I sang in the church choir. We performed, Canticle of the Turning which is based on The Song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55.

How often have I said the words,

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.

Yet the words in this version are more jarring:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
ev'ry tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, ev'ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.

For the world is about to turn….Are we approaching another time in human history where the world is about to turn? From the tornados of climate change to conflicts caused by increasing income disparities, all amplified by digital communications?

Today’s New York Times has an in depth article about what happened in Benghazi. Was the fall of Qaddafi part of this turning? And what role did digital media play, both in the fall of Qaddafi as well as the attacks in Benghazi? Yet the large conservative entertainment organizations and the Congressmen that serve them, focus on one small part of the story, as they whistle past the graveyard of a world turning.

Then, there is the Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself. How does this movie relate to the rich being sent away empty?

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December 28th

Being Digitally Deliberate

Yesterday at work a coworker, feeling the winter blues, commented about how Facebook made her sad. It is a familiar topic. People read the posts of their friends and are sad that they aren’t having as much fun as others or feel guilty about not doing things their friends are doing that they feel they should do as well. For others, Facebook becomes a filter, seeing the world just through the eyes of friends who are very similar.

I also received an email from Ethan Zuckerman yesterday about a possible collaboration between CHC and some of his students. I picked up his book, Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. It explores the potential of meaningful connections while looking at how technology doesn’t always live up to hopes and expectations. He includes a quote from Thoreau,

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Thoreau recently, that 27 year old who went to Harvard and then lived in a tiny house that he had built. He was a hipster 170 years ago.

For Christmas, I received Books and Portraits by Virginia Woolf. It includes an article she wrote about Thoreau on his hundredth birthday for The Times Literary Supplement. It provides additional insights into Thoreau.

All of this comes together into an idea for the New Year. What if we chose to live our digital lives deliberately. What if we were to become a digital wandering autodidact, modifying our information diet to step out of the filter bubble and embrace the cosmopolitan attitude that Zuckerman proposes?

Perhaps this will shape some of my writing for the New Year.

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