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  • This is likely to be my last story on Cowbird. The site itself closes down for new entries in a few days, and I'm an intermittent contributor at best, barely managing a story rate of about once a month.

    It wasn't always this way. In the early days of Cowbird, stories seemed to pour out of me. As they did out of many others judging from the accumulation. Cowbird had a buzz in those days.

    But the buzz, as is usually the case, wore off for me and it wore off for Cowbird.

    That's the way it is. My life is filled with enthusiasms that have grown, flowered and withered. Most are annuals but there are a few perennials. Every one has brought me enjoyment.

    So goodbye Cowbird, but before I go, let's put up this story.

    I was at a small demonstration in Belleville, Illinois, yesterday in support of the Affordable Care Act, 'Obamacare'. It may be repealed, it may be replaced. Ideally, it should be nurtured and improved. That was the message of the demonstration.

    It was a cheerful affair. Just like all the other demonstrations, the Women's March and the pro-immigrant rallies that have occupied me and my wife over the past few weekends. It was good to find like-minded people also willing to express their opinions in a visible, tangible way.

    Most of these gatherings were helped along by internet communications. Facebook, Twitter, emails. Here, I felt, much of the criticism of the internet as an isolating medium fails. Instead, it has served as an organizing principle that has brought strangers together.

    This made me think of something Jonathan Harris wrote in his notice of the ending of Cowbird: "We’ve come to realize how addictive digital technologies can be — how, by attempting to connect us, they often end up creating further isolation, trapping us in so-called filter bubbles, hypnotized by glowing rectangles, and disconnected from life."

    Yes, digital technologies can be addictive and isolating. But they can also be tools for social interaction that goes far beyond a computer or smart phone screen. They can connect.

    Perhaps I'm more receptive to this idea because I don't find the internet addictive in any real way. Certainly I use it on a daily basis. I also wash, eat, dress myself on each day, and I regard those things as simply part of the day's deal.

    But on some levels I am aware of the potential for the siren call of the internet. I refuse to get a smart phone, preferring a simple device that I talk into for communicating, and even as such I hardly use. I moved my most involving hobby of the moment, photography, away from the digital domain and instant uploads. The photographs you see here were taken with a mechanical camera (a Nikon F2) that is forty years old and on a medium, film, that I had to develop and scan before getting what you see here. I don't do that because it produces better photographs than even a smart phone does (it doesn't), but because it gives me a little piece of cellulose acetate plastic that holds the image. Tangible - again.

    These demonstrations, my photography - they all affirm that life is made of people and things. Real people and things. People and things you can hug and hold. Ephemeral objects, like this very image on my computer screen, like Cowbird itself, are missing that quality. How much that matters depends on your outlook. To me, it matters a lot. And then again, not much at all.
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