First Take on the Great #TwitterMigration

You’re online and reading a blog, so I’m going to assume you know that a multi-billionaire has purchased the microblogging site Twitter. This has caused great controversy and anxiety among the Twitter community. Some people seem to have left immediately, a couple of corporations have (temporarily?) suspended advertising on Twitter, and many people are flocking (pun absolutely intended) to other social media and microblogging sites.

The most popular of those is Mastodon, which is not actually a website itself; it’s open-source software used to build individual sites, called “instances,” that are run by volunteer administrators. Some instances are open for people to create accounts, a few are limited to certain users (the most famous of which is probably the European Union‘s instance), and a few more are personal instances with a population of one.

If you use WordPress for your own website or blog as well as reading here you’ll understand: WordPress is software that is used to create many individual sites. There’s also a website called WordPress, but it is far from being the whole of WordPress. Mastodon (the software) is similarly used to create social media platforms; some actually have the word “Mastodon” in their name but most don’t.

Although I don’t plan to quit Twitter any time soon, I have had a Mastodon account since 2018 and I just created another one on an instance dedicated to writers. So if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you can find me on Mastodon, too. By all means, give it a try and say “hello.” And if you have any questions, please leave them in the Comments; I might put together a longer post on how to get started on Mastodon if there seems to be interest.

Mastodon

Forced from Home

All four of my grandparents were immigrants. They arrived in New York City in the 1920s, in their late teens or early twenties, seeking better jobs, adventure, or true love. (Or so my grandmother thought, until she met and married somebody other than her brother’s best friend.) They all wanted lives that were better than what they experienced between the World Wars in their native countries.

Yet things weren’t all that terrible back home. Difficult, yes; but not life threatening.

Today we see the largest number of displaced people since the Second World War: 60 to 65 million (depending on which statistics you read) people fleeing war, oppression, even genocide. They risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats, or travel long distances on foot. In their eyes the risk is worth it, because to stay where they are is even greater risk of death.

figuresataglance-16jun2016
Credit: UNHCR website, http://www.UNHCR.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html

Continue reading

They Swarmed Us: What Would Happen if the Wealthy Rebelled?

A remarkable thing happened recently. The Oxfam Action Corps in New York City hosted a Hunger Banquet and things didn’t go according to plan.

That’s a good thing.

Spoiler alert: The best way to understand a Hunger Banquet is to actually attend one, no expectations. It’s a participatory event to make issues of hunger and poverty real, and words can’t do it justice. So if you’re planning to attend one in the near future, I recommend you wait to read this after the event. But if you’ve attended a Hunger Banquet before, of if you’re not sure where or when you might be able to, read on!

We had a good turn-out at St. Lydia’s in Brooklyn on October 14, about 50 people in a venue that supposedly holds 70, but still it seemed crowded.

As guests enter a Hunger Banquet they are asked to pick a ticket from a basket. Those tickets describe hypothetical people all around the world, divided into the high-income group (about 15-20% of the total), the middle-income group (about 30% of the total), and the low-income group (about half the participants). These represent the global demographics of rich, middle and poor. Continue reading

Eh, Canada: A Love Story (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Monday’s post, recalling a visit to Québec in March 2002. Hope it’s a lot warmer in Toronto for tomorrow’s #UsGuys Toronto meetup!

ART + HISTORY + CUISINE = CULTURE

One more day in Québec: I wanted to squeeze in as much as I could. I started with breakfast at a little restaurant across the Place d’Armes from the Chateau Frontenac, another discovery that wasn’t in the tourist guides. The waitress greeted me with a flood of French; I understood only the first and last words, “bonjour” and “cafe.” That was enough.

CC Some rights reserved by OZinOH

By the time I’d finished eating, the Musée d’Art Inuit Brousseau was open. After being in Québec a few days, I was used to everything being labelled in French and English, but here there were also notations in an unfamiliar alphabet—Inuit, I suppose? Really, I didn’t need label copy; just looking at the smooth stone carvings was enough. After the galleries, there are a video tape and a smaller room with a temporary exhibit. And then the shop! This was not your typical museum gift shop; it’s an art gallery in its own right. The saleswoman found me eying an ulu with wistful desire. How would I ever get an Inuit knife past the metal detectors at the airport?? And the statues? Just too expensive! She asked if I’d ever seen any Inuit art before, and I said I had (the Museum of Natural History had a small gallery on Inuits, though I think they still used the word “Eskimo”). She then pointed out that Inuit carvings were only just becoming popular, and few pieces in the museum dated back more than a few decades. “Anything before 1960 is considered quite old,” she said.

Continue reading