The Mumbai corn removers. I was captivated by this story of the Gihari people in Mumbai, who have made a living for many years as roadside pedicure and corn removing specialists. They make all of their medicines and instruments by hand, including a “blade-like tool to chisel out the skin around the corn and a thick tweezer to pluck out the corn. A long, thin rod is used to apply the medicinal black liquid that burns the part of the skin where the corn existed.” And they treat people on the roadsides in Mumbai from all walks of life, sometimes as an alternative to foot surgery.
Photo by Devyani Nighoskar, shared here to inspire you to go check this shit out.
Devyani Nighoskar’s article and captivating accompanying photographs explores the shrunken state of the tradition, as more and more young people in the Gihari community pursue more contemporary careers and lifestyles. But there are folks choosing to join this path, so it’s a story that ends with hopefulness as much as some concern.
I expected to be reading about a people who do this out of desperation, because it’s the only way they have found to make a living, but found instead a proud lifestyle that has sustained itself and proven out for decades that there’s ongoing demand for their services. I had a good time imagining the ups and downs of what their whole lives must be like.
It’s perhaps ideologically dicey and a clichè to mourn/fear the loss of indigenous traditions like these in the face of modernity, but I can’t help but be wowed when I read of their existence and hope that humans across the world can stay as weird as this in their chosen paths.
Atlanta’s own Tall Boys. Thanks @shawncreed for pointing me to this captivating story of Atlanta’s hand in the origins of the Skydancer, or Tall Boys as they are affectionately called. This thread is worth following:
One of the stops on this journey, traced in a 2014 episode of 99% Invisible which you should listen to or at least read, is with an Israeli artist, Doron Gazit, tasked with creating something for the 96 Olympics reminiscent of how people dance in Trinidad & Tobago. This passage from the Wikipedia entry on Gazit felt like pure poetry to me:
“Gazit was the first to introduce balloons to the Bedouins, the nomadic people in the Sinai desert. The Bedouins responded to the balloons very emotionally and with laughter. This reaction was a formative event in his artistic journey. The Bedouin elders reacted to the air within the balloon, as though the balloon had its own spirit or breath and was a metaphor to us, human beings. We are all temporary on this earth.”
What managing an online community looks like. When I ran the Earthling blog at EarthLink I took my role very seriously as, at the time, one of the only places where the company and its customers and partners, had fairly open dialogue in public, in a way that persisted for others to read (until years later when it was all deleted from the web unceremoniously and replaced with something blander.) In that role, to create and maintain a place for constructive conversation, I set up ground rules and did my best to enforce them visibly, evenly, and fairly. It was very challenging but ultimately very satisfying work. I even managed to forge a lasting friendship with one customer over time, who had come to the blog with justified frustration with some changes we were making to his service. It wasn’t that I convinced him of something or was able to make happen what he was advocating for, but I think the manner in which the community operated was counter to his expectations and left ground for real give and take. That’s how I remember it anyway - he’d be in a better position to tell you.
I came across a very different kind of a dialogue between a community manager and a participant this week, but one that well illustrates what the real work of community management looks like. Tony Pierce, whose Busblog I’ve now been reading for over a dozen years now, tells the story of an encounter in the Howard Stern Facebook Group he runs. You don’t have to like Howard Stern, or Facebook for that matter, to get something enlightening out of this. More power to him for taking on the unwieldy challenge of running a large community on a platform that’s almost an afterthought (at best, hostile at worst) for community management, among all of its other more problematic policies, business lines, and actions. It’s an entertaining read and a rare bird’s-eye view into the thankless task of trying to keep a community aligned.
Those are the three bananas I found this week, a day late but no less fresh. Thanks for all of your notes. You can hit “reply” and it’ll only go to me.