Life as a News Feed

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The woman next to me is frantically scrolling down her newsfeed as more passengers put their baggage in the overhead and find their seats. As she scrolls I see the French flags, the Eiffel Tower images, and the occasional “Im ok” update. Crammed into the seatback pocket in front of her is a copy of the French newspaper, with extraordinarily large font describing the horror of last night. As the pre-recorded safety video plays, she continues to scroll, she seems unable and unwilling to stop. When the crew finally announce to switch off phones, she grabs the newspaper and starts flipping through the multiple pages with stories of carnage, again like she is searching for something specific.

7397601176_0bbe4420c1_zUpon arrival in Stockholm, every TV screen has people staring at it as images of Paris run in loop. The look on their faces seems similar to the woman on the plane. They can’t look away. Like some key piece of information is coming up, like watching the programming is an essential task they must perform in the aftermath of mass murder in a place that everyone believes they are connected to. “I’ve walked there.” “I had a drink in a cafe next door”. “I know a guy who lives on that street.” The methods of triangulation and inserting oneself into a situation are many and sometimes baffling.

From the warm safety of a welcoming home I look at Twitter, Facebook, and the occasional update from the news app on my phone. New statements keep appearing. More of those French Flag profile photos that for some reason annoy me. I don’t see value in these acts and these statements. But of course, this isn’t about what I see, people feel the need to do these things, so they do them, why should I be annoyed?  All day long people make big statements, emotional observations and argue about what has been done, what should be done, who’s at fault.. there is no end to what is being argued. Dumb people. Intelligent people. Those somewhere in between. They’re all talking. Making comments, writing poignant articles with bits of evidence and lots of attempts at convincing you of that their message really sums up the problem or the event itself.

What are we looking for with all this? Answers I suppose. We want reasons for things. We want to show others that we understand. We want control over our world. There’s nothing strange about that, I want control over many aspects of my own daily life. I incorporate all kinds of strategies and tools to gain as much control as possible over time and human reactions to my activities. I try this even though in the end I do not have as much control as I think I have.

5175576642_24a5470021_zAnother day goes by. News of the escalation of “war” in Syria. Again social media and news apps make noise. Something significant is happening, this could lead to some big change. People get emotional and excited or maybe agitated. Lots of ideas about what should happen next. Lots of criticisms, again and again.” This time it is different.” “Those people there, these people here, they didn’t die in vain,” people will insist.

But really, haven’t we seen this before? Isn’t everything just a repeat or a variation on the mistakes and misdeeds that have happened previously? rewind a year, 5 years, 25 years, 100 years, it seems to me people die in vain everywhere everyday. Humans who survive occasionally try and tell the story another way. Not unlike the writing of a text like this one; I’m no different than everyone else, especially once I push the publish button. I’m foolish. I’m emotional. But, I’m looking at what is happening and how we react to it all, and I want out. There is something broken about the whole thing. But the process just keeps repeating itself. And it is too hard or abstract of an idea to stop the cycle and be critical of our own actions. Too hard to see how complex the world is and our individual roles in making it that way. Life has become a news feed, filled with routine -as well as random- human noises. Or perhaps it was that way all along, so there’s nothing to read here.

CTRP482 Scavenging with Jay and Ryanne

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avatar Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Moderator Amazon Wishlist Icon
avatar Jay Dedman Guest
avatar Ryan Hodson Guest
avatar Macdocman Guest

Today on the program we’re scavenging in Amsterdam with Jay and Ryanne. Plus, a bonus appearance but the one and only Macdocman, as he discovers how the scavenger life works and marvels at the details. 2015-09-13 14.59.31


Relevant Links for today’s scavenging adventure:


End of Summer Update

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avatar Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Moderator Amazon Wishlist Icon

Remember when I used to record podcasts about social issues with guests from around the world? Well this is not one of those. I do discuss issues, in addition to things that have been going on; journeys, etc. All this from the comfort of my new home while making a dam fine cup of chai. If you enjoy me talking about life and the world for about 40 minutes, give this one a listen. Also you may enjoy Kate’s ukulele songs from hacker camp a few weeks ago. Well worth a listen!

Important announcement: a live podcast event this September 27th in Amsterdam! Yes. I’m launching the Realities Podcast (website almost ready), a production of citizenreporter, carrying on the tradition of this program’s candid, human conversations, only this time they will be done live with an audience! And you can be in that audience, if you can make it to Amsterdam in the coming month. Read all about it and sign up if you can be there for this most historic event.

What Remains of You

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We moved into a new apartment last month, my partner and I, in a beautiful and lively neighborhood of Amsterdam. Strangely enough on our second day in the house, as we unpacked the massive pile of boxes, a loud discussion burst out in front of our building, which included a good amount of crying by at least one female. When I looked outside to see the source of the noise, two police cars had pulled up and officers slowly put on blue surgical gloves as they tried to calm down the young woman. They seemed in no hurry to enter the building, but when they finally did I could hear their footsteps just above my head. Within minutes they thumped down the stairs and were back outside. More civilians arrived, these men and women would also join the vigil outside. An hour or two went by. A city medical examiner arrived, solemnly greeted the people, and continued up the stairs, again the action going on just above our bedroom. Hours later, in the middle of the night, a large funeral car with a team of two formally dressed individuals is outside. I’m awoken from my brief sleep to the sound of thunderous footsteps and struggling in the narrow Dutch stairwell. I peer through the keyhole just as large objects thump against the door. 3 or 4 men are  struggling with a human body. The final piece of the story, the upstairs neighbor had passed away in his own bed.

19499706524_df2d03b34c_zFor the next week(s) as family members arrived and I listened to the faint sounds of suffering and commiserating, those famous topics of death and how quickly life can change or even end rattled around in my over active brain. Here’s a man who lived alone, older but not old, loved by friends and family, yet isolated in his home in many ways. It is a common reality, in both cities and rural areas. It happens.

Twice a week in this neighborhood they have large garbage night. All month, twice a week, I’ve watched as pieces of a man’s life are painstakingly carried out to the garbage pickup spot. Trash bags. Bits of furniture. Worn carpets. “Unfortunately, my father was a hoarder,” one of his children tells me as she passes me in the stairwell carrying more trash bags. I recognize her as the daughter who stood outside all those hours when the discovery was made. She tries to laugh about it, but the sorrow and pain leaks out as she gives up on a smile.

Each night after the trash is put out, things get quiet upstairs, as family members go home. Then another kind of ritual begins, they come by car, scooter, truck, bike and on foot, to sort through the garbage pile. These are the scavengers, professionals, amateurs, random passer-by’s that see these things and decide to take them home. I watch from my window as they each show up. They scour the piles, feeling the bags, finding sets of things, occasionally accidentally dropping something that makes an attention grabbing crash. Sometimes there are 4 people surrounding the pile yet no one looks at each other, they focus on the pile and the possibility of finding what is treasure to them. By morning there are mostly only scraps and shards of broken things left. Pieces of what were once a person’s life, are sorted and transported all over the city.

It has been one month since the death of the man upstairs. A truck came to take away whatever was deemed of value for the family. His children have worked themselves to exhaustion cleaning the place. There is no more noise upstairs. Soon the landlord will come and paint, renew, whatever is needed to prepare the place for new people. Within a month new human(s) will live their lives upstairs from me. Occasionally they might throw out a large piece of furniture. A scavenger will have it loaded into a van within minutes. Life just goes on.