When I reflect back on being on the web for 17 years, I feel old and pathetically nostalgic. But then, a pinch of web serendipity buoys my up past the oosphere. It keeps happening again and again, the internet feels on one hand truly infinite in breadth and odd crannies, and then pulled to human scale again by a small act of connection.


Why did I turn left and not right? why did I take the stairs and not the elevator? There’s no answer.

A few weekends ago, I was enjoying a magically beautiful weekend in San Francisco, and after a lovely lunch in Sausalito, just happened to walk out to the waters edge to see this guy:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

He was calmly doing what seemed impossible, assembling these improbable balancing acts– and under extremely windy conditions. I honestly spent about 10 minutes here, snapping a few pics, and as habitual, posted the ones I like in flickr.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Usually photos get flickr-ed and they quietly slide away in the stream as you add more. Until you see a comment like:

One more time, I quietly post my pictures, and the artist discovers my photo and tells me? Isn’t this the complete flip of the artist/performer/leader versus the audience structure? Yes, I know people spend time surfing to find when their work is mentioned, but there is something here that makes my spine tingle.

And thus, I fall down the rabbit hole clicking, going farther out into the great wide internet open… I end of on Bill Dan’s flickr page (look at him, his flickr url is “rocker”)

In there you will find photos and short videos of his work, see it done in action. I learn from captions he has a philosophy of creating these sculptures in public parks and also of not leaving them, he returns the rocks and sticks. He also freely teaches and demonstrates the power of counterbalance, the key to his work.

We glibly talk of finding “balance” in our lives, do we ever apply principles of counter balance?

From there I land on Bill’s YouTube channel, full of videos of his creations being made. I google his name and find a full site at the curious URL http://rock-on-rock-on.com/— created by someone who appears to be a fan of Bill Dan:

George Daliel Leite presents the work of San Francisco, California balanced rock sculptor Bill Dan and the art, discipline and craft of rock balancing and balanced stone stacking around the world. Included are images of Bill’s balanced stones and rocks, links to other rock balancers and examples of their work, with information about naturally balancing rocks and world-wide stone balancing and rock stacking traditions.

And so it hints at there is a number of people who do rock balancing? I then follow a ink to Bill’s blog, “The Rocker”. These are posts with more photos, but I read the sidebar and learn Bill Dan has been at this since 1994.

Even curiouser, I am looking at the archive on this blog, and the oldest indicates a first post from back in 2005. Even more odd, this post has no comment but 64 comments (like 6 times as many as I have ever gotten on a single post).

Most overtly, people are gushing glad that via a simple blog (that has a first post with nothing in it), they now have a channel to comunicate with the artist. Think of this as Before Blog and After Blog. Without a public presence, Bill would not have heard stories like:

Thanks for the inspiration! I saw you at Chrissy field a year or two ago and didn’t talk to you. Infact, I thought you were sort of strange, but yesterday, I was out there and my son was looking for you. You weren’t there so we started our own little rock formation. It was such a pleasant, almost zen-like experience to stack rocks that I’m looking forward to doing it again. Thanks for the inspiration!

We were in Sausalito and wondered what everyone was looking at across the street…and we were utterly amazed. We could barely believe our eyes but then Bill offered to take one of his sculptures apart and redo it for us. Amazing. Go and see it for yourself!!

Bill, you inspire me. I’m a confessed conpulsive stacker. If I don’t have rocks I’ll stack anything that comes to hand. My personal best was 34 plastic baby dinosaurs with my left hand only on the Victoria Clipper ride to Victoria, Canada. But rocks have always been my muse. My Native friends find me amusing. It’s OK though because they beleive me when I claim that I “hear” the rocks calling me out to play. I’m so glad there are others out there who can and will move the world in such simple and inspiring ways. Thank you!

I just picked a few comments out, and have to mention that Bill replied to many of them. This is the stuff all of the openness of the net is about- connections that would not have been possible or likely without it. And if this is some golden era before commercial entities or totalitarian governments take it away, I just want to be able to say– I was there.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey. At first I though the rocks must have been attached in some fashion until I saw the video. Every now and then you see some thing like this created by nature, rocks balancing seeming in complete defiance of nature itself.
    I loved how the simple act of taking a photo lead your on the journey of discovery online, exploring the networked connections surrounding an entry point, in this case the response of the artist. One of the great pleasures of the web.

  2. Rock Balancing seems to grasp people’s attention in very interesting and special ways…yet what I noticed as an artist of this “soul rewarding” art, is that there is a common ground of reactions and feelings worldwide.
    I have tried to capture this sense and perhaps you may as well identify such widespread sensation of ordinary people’s reactions to rock balancing in
    The work itself can also be apreciated at
    Joch – the artist

  3. Hi Alan,

    Thanks, for introducing me to Bill Dan’s work! :O)

    I used to work as a street magician and always loved to see how simple surprises could enliven the human heart. I see this kind of magic to rock ballancing. I consider the kind of magic I did to be a sophisticated form of juggling with language, expectation, and props.

    So, I’ve always admired jugglers. And this is the kind of juggling that is amazing in its stillness!

    This is as beautiful as haiku poetry.

    Yay on you & Bill, Alan! 😀

    Sunshine & Blessings,

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