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Photo: Anna Chojnicka via Republic World.
She bruises bananas to make art.

Connie Chang has such a funny and inspiring tale at the Washington Post! You’re going to love this one!

“Anna Chojnicka was bored as she quarantined last year in her London apartment because of a suspected case of covid-19. She was so bored that she absent-mindedly picked up a banana on her kitchen table and started running her fork along the outside of the peel.

“The dark lines that appeared on the peel looked interesting to her, and she watched as the marks gradually got darker. She continued doodling and was soon fascinated. She drew eyes, a nose and a mouth and — satisfied with how it looked — decided to see how far she could go with it. …

“Chojnicka, 35, started making pictures that were more and more intricate using the same method — only pressure, no paint — until she sketched an Ethiopian coffee pot and cup. Her new hobby was born. …

“Since that first day she figured out what she can do by bruising a banana peel, Chojnicka has been posting her daily creations on Twitter and Instagram, where she has thousands of followers. … She inspects her daily sketch, takes a photo and then eats the banana — she doesn’t like waste.

“Her popular banana art ranges from familiar cartoons such as Homer Simpson (which she cheekily labeled ‘self portrait’) to painstakingly rendered portraits of people such as Greta Thunberg. She does puns, like a zipper around a partially peeled banana. She is often inspired by current events, such as the coronavirus vaccine drive. She recently made one with the slogan ‘Empowered women empower women,’ nestled in a yin-yang of two women in profile.

“ ‘Bananas have a really beautiful way of going from yellow to black by way of gold, orange, and brown,’ said Chojnicka, who liked art as a child but hadn’t practiced it much as an adult until last year. …

“Her art comes to life by oxidization. Just like apples, bananas oxidize, or turn brown, as the enzymes in their cells are released and interact with the oxygen in the air. Cells that are damaged — because they’ve been poked with a fork or dropped on the floor — brown faster. By varying when she applied the marks, Chojnicka discovered that she could create a palette of shades, resulting in surprisingly intricate pictures.

‘I saw an opportunity to put it to some good,’ said Chojnicka, whose day job is working for a company that supports local businesses focused on social or environmental issues.

“With the help of her social media followers, she has raised about $1,600 for FareShare, a charity in the United Kingdom that provides food to people in need. Admirers, moved or just amused by Chojnicka’s art, have donated to the organization through the fundraising site JustGiving.

“Once she realized her fruity art had a following, she decided to branch out into other causes close to her heart. She helped bring attention to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which aims to address the country’s energy shortage. She felt close to that project, she said, because she worked in Ethiopia for four years and said the dam ‘has the potential to lift people out of poverty.’ …

“Among her most popular pieces was a banana she made in February scrawled with the word ‘banana’ in different languages. ‘What language(s) do you speak? Do you see your language here?’ she asked in a caption on the post. Responses flooded in from all over the world: Brazil, the United States, South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

“The post ended up ‘sparking separate conversations between people around the commonalities in their languages,’ Chojnicka said. …

“Chojnicka said she realizes that bruising a banana to make a sketch isn’t everyone’s thing. But for anyone who might want to give it a try, she has a few tips.”

The tips are fascinating. For example, she shows how to get different shades of brown by waiting different periods of time. Learn more at the Washington Post, here.

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Photo: Robert Sansom
Employees at a small bookshop in England were inundated with orders last week after a day with no sales was reported on Twitter. Pictured here is John Westwood, one of the shop’s owners.

For better or worse, the thing about Twitter is it can reach a lot of people very fast. Some people reached by tweets are not so nice. In this story, though, kindly Twitter users decided to give strangers a helping hand. Of course, it helped that one person with millions of followers took an interest.

“After more than 100 years in business,” writes Cathy Free, “the Petersfield Bookshop in Hampshire County, England, had perhaps never seen a day quite like Jan. 14.

“For the first time that anyone could remember, the independent shop on Petersfield’s Chapel Street did not have a single sale, saddening bookseller Robert Sansom so deeply he decided to tweet about his ‘tumbleweed’ day.
‘Not a single book sold today. . . £0.00,’ he wrote. …

After closing up shop that day, Sansom, 48, went home, thinking the 102-year-old secondhand shop specializing in antique and collectible books might have to close permanently, he said.

“But overnight, something unexpected happened. Sansom’s tweet went viral and was retweeted by author Neil Gaiman to his 2.8 million followers, prompting thousands of people to inundate the shop’s website with orders.

“The worst day ever quickly turned into the best day ever, said Sansom, who works at the bookstore with owners Ann Westwood, her son, John Westwood, and sales clerk Barbara Kelsey.

‘‘ ‘Just reading the messages we have received has brought tears,’ he said. ‘This was a lightning strike. …

‘’We’re now actively looking for ways to pay it forward.’’

“For the past two weeks, Sansom, his co-workers and a small band of volunteers in Petersfield — population 14,372 — have spent 14 hours a day frantically filling hundreds of orders and mailing them to customers around the world. …

‘‘ ‘One lady, recently back home in the States after a UK holiday, sent us her leftover UK currency,’ he said. ‘One couple drove 460 miles, round trip, to visit us, and many drove at least an hour or two.’ …

“On the afternoon he tweeted about his lonely day, he said, a storm had swept into town, bringing steady rain and putting a damper on customers.

‘‘ ‘There wasn’t a single penny in the till — not a book was sold to a flesh-and-blood customer,’ he said. ‘Of course we have slow days — everyone does. But that particular week, the shop was facing one of its worse crises ever. Even on a slow day, we would expect to sell 20, 30, or 50 books. We were wondering if we would have to announce the closure of the shop by the end of the week.’ …

“Now that the shop has 21,000 Twitter followers, ‘We have a voice we didn’t have before,’’ Sansom added. ‘Please, go and find your local indie bookshops, new and secondhand, and buy real books from them. If you don’t, they will just close and disappear. … You won’t even notice to start with,’ he said, ‘and then you will. And it will be too late.’ ”

How lovely that the shop is looking for ways to “pay it forward”! I wonder what they will decide to do. Encouraging followers to shop at indie bookstores is a good place to start. Personally, I avoid Amazon for books, food (Whole Foods), and other items unless I have tried and failed to get the thing somewhere else. Too much power in one pair of hands.

Although I read this story in Boston’s Sunday Globe, the article originally appeared in the Washington Post. More here.

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Photo: twitter.com
Much to her surprise, Finnish soprano Karita Mattila found a community on Twitter that helped her regain confidence after a painful divorce.

You may say that on Twitter we each live in a bubble of like-minded people and that no good can come of that. But sometimes like-minded people can support someone who is down and out. Consider the case of Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, who was suffering doubts after a painful divorce.

Joshua Barone writes at the New York Times, “At 58, [Karita] Mattila, who is currently onstage here at [France’s] Aix Festival in Weill and Brecht’s ‘Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,’ is having something of a late-career renaissance: a newly expanding repertoire and newfound celebrity on Twitter, where she is beloved by some of opera’s most ardent fans.

“And she loves them right back. …

“On Twitter — where few opera stars, when they’re present at all, are active beyond blandly promoting their performances — she posts, often with an abundance of emoji, about everything. She reacts to the news, never shying from being political; she participates in polls; she shares her thoughts (and horror stories) about restaurants in Aix-en-Provence. …

” ‘I’ve decided to be me. … I used to be so overprotective of myself,’ she said. ‘It’s time to start having faith. … Twitter was — maybe it’s dramatic — it was my lifesaver,’ she said. ‘It really became my rescuer.’

“Before the divorce from Tapio Kuneinen, who was also her manager, Ms. Mattila wasn’t present on social media. … A girlfriend warned her, she recalled: ‘There will be people who hate you. And if there aren’t, it means you don’t have enough followers yet.’

“But Ms. Mattila gave it a try. And as followers came, she began to interact with them, more and more — engaging with fans and music scholars from around the world who also repost many of her tweets.

“ ‘I “met” so many of these people, and I cried so much because it moved me, how they analyzed music and what I was doing. Of course I have that music-training background, but it had been so long since I have had conversations about music, what I do for a living,’ she said, waving her arms for emphasis.

“When she was in New York this spring for a production of Poulenc’s ‘Dialogues des Carmélites’ at the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. Mattila began to meet some of her Twitter followers in person and was, she said, ‘totally in awe.’ …

“Twitter has also redefined Ms. Mattila’s relationship with music. As a busy international artist, she had long thought she didn’t have the time to listen recreationally. But now, she said: ‘There are these guys that send me what they are listening to. It’s re-established my appreciation toward my own field.’ …

“Throughout her career, Ms. Mattila has been famous for her dramatic prowess and visceral physicality, ingrained, she said, since her education at the Sibelius Academy in Finland. But Esa-Pekka Salonen, her fellow student at the academy and the conductor of the Aix ‘Mahagonny,’ described her theatricality as more extraordinary than schooling alone could produce.

“ ‘She is totally committed to the material, whatever it is,’ he said. ‘Things can be raw, they can be intense, they can be funny. But she’s always in it, totally.’ …

“During rehearsals, Mr. Salonen said, she had a talent for energizing the musicians, which then showed once the audience was added to the mix. She even appeared in good spirits on the night of the dress rehearsal, as she posted selfies on Twitter.”

More here.

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It took me a while to get into twitter, but I’m hooked now. In fact, some readers  of this blog follow me by way of @LunaStellaBlog1 instead of signing up for e-mails. (Luna & Stella is Suzanne’s company.)

The abortive revolution in Iran showed me the power of twitter and was a turning point for me. I still know the date by heart, June 20, 2009. If you searched on #Iran, the tweets came so fast with offers of new servers when sites were blocked in Iran, with up-to-the-minute photos and recordings, with citizens getting the word out that I got hundreds of tweets per minute and the U.S. president had to ask twitter not to do maintenance one night because it was a critical time of day in Iran.

Now I learn a completely different thing about twitter. It seems that people have been writing fiction in 140-character bites and that the practice has matured to the extent that twitter fiction is ready for a festival.

Writes Jennifer Schuessler at the NY Times, “The participants, some two dozen published and neophyte authors from five continents chosen by a panel of American publishing insiders, are posting in five different languages, often with input solicited from readers. The Iowa-based writer Jennifer Wilson is posting photographs of gravestones and then writing ‘flash fiction’ in response to epitaphs submitted by followers. The South African author Lauren Beukes is writing mashups, gathered under the hashtag #LitMash, based on ‘incongruous suggestions (the weirder the better!),’ according to the festival’s showcase page.

“The French fantasy novelist Fabrice Colin is writing a serialized story of five strangers trapped on a bus. And an anonymous Chinese author is contributing ‘Censortive,’ a story exploring the limits of free speech in the People’s Republic, tweeted out in a series of late-night installments.” Read more here.

It’s not War and Peace, of course.

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