C/O Yoohyun Park

Technology is taking over creative fields and classic media is fading 

Newspapers are known as digital subscriptions, books are known as Kindles and art is all about graphic design and digital forums now. Instead of flipping a page, we swipe a screen. Instead of a flick of a brush or the drag of a pen, we are tapping and swiping. 

Everything is digital now and it does not sit well with me, especially as an english and communications major. I love the smell of a new book, the way your fingers slowly turn black due to the ink from flipping through the articles of the day and the excess paint left under your fingernails once finished painting. 

I love the smell of a new book, the way your fingers slowly turn black due to the ink from flipping through the articles of the day and the excess paint left under your fingernails once finished painting.

Although the digital world makes it a little easier when compared to the preparation of physical crafts such as lugging around materials, I still love the process of it all.  

And do not get me wrong, I am not undermining the energy and time it takes to write an article, book or create a drawing virtually. It just feels as though we have lost the true purpose of the craft. 

Obviously, things are destined to evolve and change, but to have these artistic expressions shift completely to another realm tends make certain pieces lose their meaning.  

Being a child of early generation Z, I still had the opportunity to live a childhood that wasn’t ruled by technology. I never have a phone and my only source of technology was my television.  

All I knew was how to use my creativity to do something or make something. Despite the freedom from technology in my early years, I’m still annoyed at the fact that we as a society were introduced to iPhones and iPads when I was in middle school. 

Despite that experience, I cannot even fathom being a young child with an iPhone or using Instagram so young. Even in my classes growing up, I had already started noticing the impact media had on our generation specifically.  

Presentations started turning into slideshows, photography became incorporated in art class and even music class came with a focus on creating and editing music videos.  

Don’t get me wrong, all of these new technologies have led to immense progress. Just look at the innovations in fields such as diagnostic radiology. But I still miss the craft

I miss the rawness. I miss picking up the thick rolled-up newspaper on my driveway. I miss the excitement that came with writing. I miss looking at a painting and hearing the stories behind them and studying the brush strokes.  

I say I miss it as if it is non-existent anymore and even though I know it isn’t, I feel it slowly fading. Who knows? Maybe physical books won’t be a thing soon, maybe paintings won’t either and Google and Photoshop will be the only avenues to follow. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before we live in an entirely digital world.  

What exactly does an in-person experience mean after months of remote education?

In March of 2020, students at McMaster University watched their academics get shifted to a virtual landscape. Now, after almost a year and a half, virtual learning appears to be coming to an end. On Oct. 21, Susan Tighe, Provost and Vice-President (Academic), announced that McMaster is currently planning for an in-person winter semester in 2022.

“As I announced at our Back to Mac town halls in June, McMaster is currently planning to resume in-person classes in the winter term with very limited exceptions. Teams across campus are also planning to ramp up on-campus student life activities so they are closer to, if not meeting, pre-pandemic capacities. This includes services and resources, events and student study and social space,” said Tighe.

On Nov. 18, Tighe will complete a State of the Academy address, a virtual event where students will have the opportunity to learn about the current state of McMaster University regarding academics and other matters.

Talking about how the decision of an in-person winter semester came to be, Tighe shared that the process had begun in February of 2021. Moreover, she explained how, as January neared, the McMaster community was on its way to be fully vaccinated. 

“We were fairly confident that by the winter semester we’d be able to have vaccinations in place. We were recognizing they were on the rise and that we’d be able to return to an in-person [semester]. I really want to reinforce it was a collaboration with many people across campus and external to the institution to really help us with the planning,” said Tighe.

Tighe further explained that the mandates that McMaster had put in place were crucial to getting back to an in-person climate. This included the mandated use of MacCheck by students, faculty and staff. This digital tool enabled the McMaster community to log the presence or absence of COVID-19 symptoms in addition to their vaccination status. As of now, most areas on campus require clearance via MacCheck’s COVID-19 symptoms questionnaire. 

“Health and safety have been the priority from the beginning. So I think that, what was a real differentiator for McMaster, we didn’t want to bring people back on campus if we weren’t confident that our structures and procedures and policies really promoted a very safe environment,” said Tighe.

While speaking about the way in which planning for an in-person winter semester panned out, Tighe explained how she heard from many students that they’d missed campus and in-person social interactions. 

Although returning back to in-person classes may have its benefits, it can also pose barriers for students, especially international students who are currently not in Canada. Acknowledging how hard it’s been for these students to adjust, Tighe explained how the university is trying to support international students amidst the announcement.

“In order for us to get in front of this, the International Student Services and School of Graduate Studies have been working individually with our international students to assess when they are coming to Canada, how they plan to arrive and if they need to quarantine . . . So what we’ve actually encouraged, and suggested, is that all of our international undergraduate students are required to sign up for the iCent, to make sure they have the proper information to support them for their unique circumstances,” explained Tighe. 

She explained further the ways in which McMaster has prepared to accommodate these students with services such as the vaccine clinic and quarantine spaces within residences. She also emphasized that McMaster ISS personalized support for immigration so that students can settle in better. 

If a student is truly unable to come to campus, Tighe explained that professors are encouraged  to use programs like Echo360 for lectures and to allow for virtual completion of courses. Moreover, she urged students that are facing barriers relating to the in-person switch for Winter 2022 to contact their academic advisors to get the support they need. 

Jane Lee, a fifth-year commerce student and the Social Media Coordinator for the Silhouette, spoke about her own experiences with this transition. Lee currently has almost entirely remote courses, with one in-person lecture for one of them. She explained that when school does become in-person, it will take her over 40 minutes to commute to school. Lee was quick to admit that for her such a transition isn’t that much of a hassle, but for her peers, it could really be stressful.

“I really don’t know how [international students] are going to prepare on such short-term notice. Especially because I have a friend even down in Toronto, which is not even a whole country away and she is scrambling to try and find a house for winter term. You see the housing groups. There are so many posts with people . . . It’s not a good market to be in right now,” said Lee. 

As a fifth-year student, Lee’s classes aren’t as frequent so she only has to go on campus once a week for three hours with 30-40 students. Lee explained that she was pretty shocked at how few regulations, including the use of MacCheck, were thoroughly enforced while she was there. 

“Even though I’ve had one in-person class this fall, it’s very interesting to see the different attitudes people have towards safety regulations . . . I go to class and there’ll be people [with their] mask on with their nose sticking out or people eating food in class,” explained Lee.

No matter what safety regulation McMaster implements, it is the responsibility of students to follow guidelines thoroughly. 

As McMaster begins to prepare for an almost entirely in-person winter 2022 semester, the community is adjusting as well. Not all students may be able to return to campus with ease, but campus support services are available for those who require assistance. 

By adhering to all necessary health and safety precautions, the university is hopeful that the community will do their part to return student activities to pre-pandemic capacities. 

C/O Kyle Head

Clubs reflect on the previous year and prepare for a new year as students are welcomed back on campus

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and conditions rapidly change, students have also been doing their best to adapt their extracurricular activities. Starting Sept. 9, 2021, McMaster Students Union clubs are to follow a new set of guidelines tailored to in-person events. 

Although in-person events are permitted, events are limited to 100 people outdoors or 25 people indoors. Students must always adhere to any physical distancing or room capacity limits as well. 

Following the same format as the year before, MSU Clubsfest took place online. For the virtual Clubsfest, MSU Clubs features a variety of clubs from the five divisions—academic, cultural, recreational, religious and social issues — across their social media. 

With over 300 clubs under the MSU, many clubs do not require students to gather in person. On the other hand, there are also clubs that operate heavily with in-person events. 

Absolute Pitch, McMaster’s show choir, is one such club. As a show choir, the club involves singing and dancing for live performances. This year, Hayleigh Wallace, Absolute Pitch’s president, said that all auditions and rehearsals will be done in person. 

However, the club will still be following all protocols and thus, the cast may be smaller than usual in order to abide by the 25 person gathering limit. 

For performances where the club can’t have a live audience, such as their annual coffee house performance in November, those will be recorded beforehand. 

Looking back on how the previous year went for the club when everyone had to be done online, Wallace said the club learned a lot about being flexible. 

“I think we also just learned a lot about flexibility and we’re going to try not to enforce really hard deadlines this year, or like, we need to have this number perfected by this day. We understand that it’s okay to be flexible,” said Wallace. 

“I think we also just learned a lot about flexibility and we’re going to try not to enforce really hard deadlines this year, or like, we need to have this number perfected by this day. We understand that it’s okay to be flexible.”

Hayleigh Wallace, Absolute Pitch President

Auditions for Absolute Pitch are being held Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 for both the vocal and dance cast. The club is also currently recruiting band members. 

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Similar to Absolute Pitch, the McMaster Musical Theatre is another club that bases its operations heavily on in-person gatherings. This year, the MMT will also be having their rehearsals in person and will be recording any performances that cannot have a live audience. 

Due to the fact that MMT’s cast and crew will likely be over the 25 person limit, Isabel Diavolitsis, MMT’s president, expressed that the club plans to split up the cast and crew for rehearsals in order to follow the protocols. 

Last year, with everything being done online, MMT asked club members to record individual videos of themselves reimagining and reenacting songs or scenes that they love. 

Although there were some challenges, Diavolitsis said the club was able to learn from the experience. 

“[There] definitely was a learning curve I'm sure like at the beginning of the year just sort of getting into it how are we going to do this and I’m sure lots of clubs had that sort of awakening. But then, after that, things started to run a bit more smoothly. I think folks have now learned that there are some things you can teach virtually which is kind of cool and maybe will reduce the amount of time we have to spend in person, especially if we want to keep limiting contact,” said Diavolitsis.

"I think folks have now learned that there are some things you can teach virtually which is kind of cool and maybe will reduce the amount of time we have to spend in person, especially if we want to keep limiting contact.”

Isabel Diavolitsis, Mcmaster Musical Theatre President

Mac One Act, a club that offers students the opportunity to participate in a variety of short plays, is also planning on incorporating in-person performances this year. 

Toluwalase Awonuga, president of Mac One Act, said that the club plans to do in-person plays, but will also have some virtual plays to allow those who can’t make it in person to join. 

Each play involves a group of typically no larger than six, so Awonuga believes the club should have no difficulty adhering to the COVID-19 protocols during rehearsals. 

The club is looking to include both virtual and in-person plays in their final showcase in the Winter semester. Awonuga expressed that their hope is to offer the showcase to a live audience, but also online as well. 

Currently, the club is reviewing scripts for their plays this year and auditions will begin at the end of October.

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Aside from performance-based clubs, other clubs such as the Mac Soup Kitchen, also involve in-person activities. 

Mac Soup Kitchen is a club that advocates food security, fundraises for various food accessibility programs and helps organize volunteers for local food banks and soup kitchens. 

Vanessa Wong, one of MSK’s co-presidents, said that last year, the club shifted from volunteering and fundraising to more advocacy-related activities. This included online events such as a games night and coordinating a virtual food drive. 

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A post shared by Mac Soup Kitchen (@macsoupkitchen)

“Asking students to provide monetary donations is kind of [something] we didn't feel like was the right thing to do, knowing that everyone was you know going through hardship last year, so we wanted to just shift our focus to spreading awareness of food insecurity,” said Wong. 

“Asking students to provide monetary donations is kind of [something] we didn't feel like was the right thing to do, knowing that everyone was you know going through hardship last year, so we wanted to just shift our focus to spreading awareness of food insecurity.”

Vanessa Wong, Mac Soup Kitchen Co-President

Arushi Wadhwa, MSK’s other co-president, said that a positive from last year was being able to reach out to a wide range of people through social media. However, conducting synchronous online events posed a challenge at times as the club is used to advertising for events on campus through posters or drop-ins to classrooms. 

“[T]here were definitely some drawbacks, but given all of that we've definitely learned a lot [from] hosting like completely online events last year and we're really excited to implement new changes and see where MSK goes this year,” said Wadhwa. 

This year, due to the difficulty of contact tracing, Wong and Wadhwa said they plan to remain mostly online. 

“Keeping everyone safe is our number one priority, so we are going to remain mainly online, explained Wadhwa. 

However, the club will be facilitating some in-person volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens if any club members express interest in doing so. MSK will not be heavily involved in the entire volunteering process but will help inform volunteers of when food banks or soup kitchens need volunteers. 

Struggling to connect with one another through virtual classes, first-year students found community on social media

After four months of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, McMaster University students can finally say that their first semester of online learning is behind them. Some students, however, have only ever experienced McMaster online.

Since September, first-year students at McMaster have experienced a virtual transition to university. As residence is closed for the majority of first years, most have had to meet their peers virtually. However, the opportunities for socialization are different and more limited in an online classroom setting.

Navya Sheth, a first-year arts and science student from Oakville, Ontario, reflected on her first semester. For her, the hardest part of online school was forming connections with her peers through the screen, rather than the new academic challenges.

For Navya Sheth, the hardest part of online school was forming connections with her peers through the screen.

In anticipation of the social challenges that come with an entirely remote school year, McMaster tried to foster community among first-year students by adapting orientation to fit the online environment. This orientation involved a virtual Welcome Week and a new program called Archway, which was designed to help students access resources and meet new friends.

Saumyaa Rishi, a first-year life sciences student from Ottawa, Ontario, was grateful for the effort put into Welcome Week. Nonetheless, she found it difficult to connect with other first-years in that setting. 

“When you do these online [social events], there’s always a bigger group of people. It’s not like in-person where you can just talk to the person standing next to you,” Rishi said. 

“When you do these online [social events], there’s always a bigger group of people. It’s not like in-person where you can just talk to the person standing next to you,” Rishi said. 

Sheth expressed a similar sentiment when discussing her experiences with McMaster’s online social events, in particular, the Archway program. While she did enjoy the Zoom events hosted by the Arts and Science program, she found Archway wasn’t a conducive platform for her to make social connections.

Aniruddh Arora, a first-year international student in the computer science program, found that Archway was most beneficial at the start of the semester. “It was helpful for the first one or two weeks,” Arora noted.

“I had my own friend groups on WhatsApp and Instagram,” Arora explained. 

Arora then added that he later stopped attending meetings. Not only did he no longer have time in his busy academic schedule to attend Archway meetings, he also didn’t find it necessary anymore.

“I had my own friend groups on WhatsApp and Instagram,” he explained. 

Arora is not the only first-year student who has found community on social media. Over the last few months, some first-year students at McMaster have relied on social media to connect and communicate.

“When you talked to people [on social media], you knew that they were sort of going through the same thing,” said Rishi.

Rishi described social media as being a positive force in her first semester. “When you talked to people [on social media], you knew that they were sort of going through the same thing,” said Rishi.

According to Rishi, the impact of social media on her first-year experience has been far-reaching. Not only has social media been instrumental in the formation of friendships, as Rishi noted, but it has also helped first-year students to feel connected to the McMaster community in other ways.

Social media been instrumental in the formation of friendships.

Arora, who is attending McMaster from his home in Punjab, India, pointed out the academic benefits of social media on first-year students. As timezones often prevent him from being awake during the same hours as his professors, Arora has found the group chats created on various social media platforms to be a valuable academic support system.

“It really helps if you’re stuck on an assignment,” Arora explained.

As timezones often prevent him from being awake during the same hours as his professors, Arora has found the group chats created on various social media platforms to be a valuable academic support system. “It really helps if you’re stuck on an assignment,” Arora explained.

Social media has helped first-year students get involved with extracurricular activities as well. As an active member of the McMaster Moot Court, Sheth noted that she found out about the majority of extracurricular opportunities through Instagram.

On the impact that social media had on her first semester, Sheth believed Instagram links people to places where they feel connected albeit virtually. However she noted the challenges of a virtual first-year remain significant on students as some feel isolated to figure out how to adapt to online university.

“[Some] upper-years are living together in houses and can see each other, and I’m at home, trying to figure this out on my own,” Sheth said. “And I think that might be something that all first years are struggling with.”

A guide to staying connected during these trying times

As Hamilton moves into the heart of the winter months and a stricter lockdown removes the option to have socially-distant visits or other outdoor activities, many are looking for new ways to stay connected with loved ones.

Over the break, my siblings and I spent a lot of time thinking about other ways we could safely spend with our loved ones, beyond the typical Zoom call. Below are a few fun activities that we came up with that will hopefully help us all get through these next few difficult weeks.

BOOK CLUBS AND EXCHANGES

Many book clubs have moved online over the last few months, while new ones have also been popping up. If you don’t want to join an established book club, you could also start your own with your family or friends, giving you both something to do and talk about the next time you chat.

Similarly, you could also participate in a book exchange with a loved one. You each send the other a book that you’ve enjoyed recently. To make it more personal, you could maybe include some notes inside sharing well wishes or your thoughts on the story. 

Additionally, this kind of exchange could work for almost anything else that you and your loved ones enjoy as well, such as music, podcasts and recipes. 

GAMES

Online games, such as Among Us and Codenames, have become incredibly popular over the last year. Implementing a game night, or even perhaps a tournament can be a nice alternative to the typical Zoom call as well as something a bit more light-hearted and fun.

Trivia nights can be fun as well. There also a number of trivia games that you could play over Zoom, or you could create your own tailored to the interests of you and your loved ones!

LEARN SOMETHING NEW

Many have used their new-found time during the pandemic to learn new skills, but why not do this with a loved one? Maybe your friend is excellent at coding, or your grandmother is an amazing knitter and you’ve always wanted to learn. You could each teach one another something or learn something entirely new together! 

Many local libraries offer resources for learning a variety of skills. Depending on the skill in question there are also a number of specific resources readily available online. Some local crafting businesses, such as Handknit Yarn Studio offer resources and tutorials on their websites as well.

Language learning especially can be a great option as it requires minimal tools and you’re able to practice together.

PEN PALS

Change up the method of staying in touch! Zoom calls can become draining after a while and most everyone loves to receive letters.

Or instead of sending letters, send postcards either through a service such as Postcards From Anywhere or by creating your own using online templates. While the former can make a great talking point, the latter can be especially nice for grandparents and far away relatives who may not have any recent photos of you. 

SHARE A MEAL

Order some food, potentially from the same restaurant, and eat together. As well, some local businesses, like Tea Amo, offer small platters or “lunchboxes” that can be ordered ahead of time and then enjoyed together during a call.

You could also cook or bake something together over a call. You could each make your favourite dishes or exchange recipes. Maybe try teaching a friend to make one of your favourite desserts or ask your grandmother to teach you some family recipes.

Regardless, whatever ways you find to keep connections with loved ones, be creative and considerate. Just as much as you think about things that you enjoyed together before the pandemic, try to think about new things as well. It won’t necessarily be the same as before but that doesn’t mean that it can’t still be something good.

The ultimate gift guide for the pandemic

I have always taken gift-giving very seriously. Even before I had money to spend on gifts, I was finding ways to celebrate my loved ones. I spend a lot of time thinking about what to get people and nothing makes me happier than seeing the look on someone’s face when a gift I’ve put a lot of time into makes them truly joyful.

This year, there are several people who I would normally buy holiday gifts for that I will not get to see. As we continue to hold birthdays and other celebrations in the pandemic and as we go into a holiday season where you might find yourself distanced from those you normally celebrate with, here are some gifts you can send through email that aren’t e-transfers.

GIFT CARDS

I couldn’t write a list of gifts to give faraway loved ones without including gift cards, even though sometimes they can be boring gifts. However, depending on the gift card, your recipient will really enjoy it. Find a gift card that helps them buy an item that they’re saving up for or get them a gift card to cover their Spotify subscription, groceries, or other bills for a little while.

 

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A post shared by WaySpa | Spa Gift Card (@wayspa)

Also consider finding a gift card that pays for your recipient’s splurges. Do they regularly get facials? See if their favourite spa is on Wayspa. Do they typically spend too much money on concert or sports tickets? Gift them a Ticketmaster or StubHub gift card so they can be the first in line when venues open back up. Are they always ordering takeout? Get them a gift card to their favourite restaurant. Or, pick a gift card to their signature stores or stores that sell products only they would buy.

But it is the most entertaining as a gift-giver to surprise them with an out-of-the-box gift card. Consider options such as gift cards to businesses that sell photobooks and other personalized goods. Is there a store your friend loves, but they can’t afford their products? Give them a gift card that makes it easier for them to get that item they’ve been wanting. Are they looking for a particular product? Find a small business that sells what your friend is looking for and get them a gift card from there.

You can find local small businesses at sites and Instagram pages such as Not-Amazon, Hamilton Supports Local and Blk Owned Hamont. You can also give Etsy gift cards, which allows your recipient to pick the item they want from a small business that’s local to them.

 

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A post shared by BLK OWNED Hamont (@blkownedhamont)

Lastly, never underestimate the power of an I owe you gift certificate. Especially with the cancellations and changes caused by the pandemic, their perfect gift may be something you can’t give them now but want to promise to get them in the future. You could also gift free items — a hug for when COVID-19 is over or a regularly scheduled Zoom call with them.

PRINTABLES

Printables are paper products that your recipient can print out themselves. You can find several gift-worthy printable items for free or you can buy one from a small business. Many printables are also easy to DIY.

 

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A post shared by The Witch’s Fix (@thewitchsfix)

Book lovers may enjoy printable bookmarks, such as these ones from Hamilton-based shop The Witch’s Fix or printable reading journals such as these I found on Etsy. For the cook in your life, you can get printable recipe cards like these ones from The Witch’s Fix.

Consider sending crossword and sudoku puzzles to those in your life who like a challenge or a personalized calendar to those who like to keep track of things. You can also grab art lovers a print or poster, which several small businesses also create custom.

SUBSCRIPTIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS

There is truly a subscription box for everyone, from fitness to escape room lovers. For both the cooks and kitchen hazards in your life, consider a short-term meal kit subscription. For the readers in your life, consider book subscription boxes like Raven Reads, which ships Indigenous literature both in Canada and abroad.

Know someone who is always hunting for the best beauty products? Try a subscription box like Curls & Confidence, which sends a quarterly hair regime for curly hair. Hoping to get a loved one to slow down and take some time for themselves? Try a self-care subscription box like Pampered Post.

 

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A post shared by Raven Reads (@raven_reads)

Many subscription boxes are pricey — or at least add up quickly — but don’t think that there isn’t a subscription-based service in your price range. Treat your loved ones to a short-term subscription (or gift card) to a streaming service that they’d love but don’t have yet, like Disney+ or Crave TV (the new home of Friends).

For the audiobook and podcast listeners you know, consider getting a subscription for services such as Audible. Know a theatre lover? The Stratford Festival is selling Stratfest at Home subscriptions to their digital content, which includes the films of their classic productions. Know someone who loves to make things? Check out Hamilton-based design studio Okay Shoe’s digital portal on Patreon. If they follow creators with Patreon accounts, consider getting them a membership so they can enjoy bonus content.

Another interesting avenue is discount-related subscriptions and memberships. For the person you know who’s always ordering out, check out Uber Eats’ Eats Pass, which gives subscribers free delivery over $15. Know someone who is obsessed with buying books? Get them an Indigo Plum Plus Card, which gives them an extra 10% off and free shipping. Know an avid shopper? You could purchase or sign them up for an SPC or other discount card for them.

 

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A post shared by Okay Shoe (@okayshoe)

Several discount cards and memberships don’t cost money. Make a new email account for them and sign them up for the reward program at their favourite store or restaurant. Also, check what services are offered through your library and sign them up for free audiobooks or a language learning program.

VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES

Just like subscription boxes, there’s a virtual experience for everyone. These gifts are particularly special because you may be able to do the activity with your loved one. You could do virtual paint nights, plant nights, cooking classes or exercise classes. Many of the places that originally offered these events have moved them online in the wake of the pandemic.

Airbnb is also offering many virtual experiences with hosts around the world, from history and nature tours to concerts and dance classes. Also check out local businesses and creators for virtual events, such as Goodbodyfeel’s virtual yoga classes or Hamilton tarot reader, Clairandean Humphrey’s virtual tarot readings. If you have any skills you’d love to share with others, you could also gift an event led by you.

 

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A post shared by CLAIRandean (@clairitytarot)

Another unique virtual experience is Cameo, where everyone from TikTok creators to legendary athletes to cute animals make personalized videos that can be gifted to adoring loved ones. You can also book live chats. While these can be extremely expensive, if you know someone who’d love a message from Santa or was obsessed with a one-off character in an old teen drama, this could make a great and inexpensive gift.

DONATIONS

Donate money to organizations on their behalf. Pick an organization that is involved in a cause they truly care about or donate to an organization that they’ve supported for a while. Also, don’t forget to include individuals as possible avenues, be it a creator whose work they love or a stranger in need that you know they would love to help.

 

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A post shared by GivingTuesday Canada (@givingtuesdayca)

DIGITAL FREEBIES

Gifts don’t have to cost money! As I’ve mentioned with some of the free options above, you can use your skills and creativity to craft free meaningful gifts. Piece together your memories with them in a slideshow or video.

Write them a poem or a story. Share with them your favourite memories of them or things you love about them. Ask their close friends and relatives to write them a letter or an email with their best wishes or a special memory. You could also get their loved ones to send videos with personalized messages.

 

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A post shared by Greetings Island (@greetingsisland)

If they love cat videos or pictures of dogs, send them a compilation that they can scroll through when they’re down. You could do a similar thing with anything that makes them happy, be it inspirational quotes or watching all the best episodes of Insecure.

Make them a playlist of music or podcasts or audiobooks that they can reference throughout 2021. Put together a list of things that happened on that day in history or, especially for the birthdays of the seniors in your life, a list of things that happened the year they were born.

And last but not least, send an e-card (my personal favourite site is Greetings Island). It’s an awesome feeling to know that people are thinking of you and wishing you well. So show your loved ones that they’re on your mind as they celebrate holidays and milestones. You can do that with any of the gifts above or you could simply send an e-card.

The Hamilton-based project Filipinas of HamONT is using interviews and surveys to find and connect the community

There are not enough spaces in Hamilton where BIPOC feel that they belong. BIPOC in the Steel City often feel disconnected from their heritage, their history and their community.

This is a problem that Anabelle Ragsag and Jessica Vinluan are hoping that folks in Hamilton with Filipino heritage will one day no longer have to face. They are helping to tackle the problem with their community-engaged project, Filipinas of HamONT.

Ragsag is an author and educator with a background in politics who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 2009. Vinluan is a teacher, the founder of BIPOC youth organization Redefine Twenty and a second-generation Filipina-Canadian who was born and raised in Hamilton.

 

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A post shared by Filipinas Of HamOnt (@filipinasofhamont)

With their different backgrounds, they have made their project Filipinas of HamONT for all Filipinas in the city of Hamilton, whether they were born and raised in the city, a naturalized citizen, a long-timer, a newcomer or just passing by as is the case for many students.

They have made their project Filipinas of HamONT for all Filipinas in the city of Hamilton, whether they were born and raised in the city, a naturalized citizen, a long-timer, a newcomer or just passing by as is the case for many students.

The pair met in early 2020 at a Reaching for Power workshop, an initiative that teaches BIPOC women and non-binary individuals how to make a positive change in their communities. After the workshop series ended, Ragsag and Vinluan began in June 2020 to think about creating a project for the Filipina community. In fall 2020, they received a microgrant for the project and began sharing it with the larger community in November.

The project initially consisted of a survey designed to map where Filipinas in Hamilton are located. The survey asks for participants’ demographic information including: their highest completed education level; the province in the Philippines that any member of their family is from; if they are working, the industry in which they are employed; and the effect that COVID-19 has had on their livelihood.

 

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The survey results will be shared to show where Filipinas in Hamilton are. As Filipinas began immigrating to Hamilton in the 1960s to build the health sector, Ragsag and Vinluan anticipated that many of the Filipinas that participate in their survey will work in this area. However, they began to find Filipinas outside of this sector when they decided to complement their survey with interviews with Hamilton-based Filipinas.

“[E]specially being born and raised in Hamilton, I didn't really think that I could see Filipinas in different spaces and I think to be able to see that . . . like, “oh, you're not just in the health sector, there's other avenues that maybe I can take if I see myself in them” . . . [The project is] validating that it's not just in the health sector, but like other aspects as well and other spaces that Filipinos are taking up,” said Vinluan.

"[The project is] validating that it's not just in the health sector, but like other aspects as well and other spaces that Filipinos are taking up," said Vinluan.

Ragsag and Vinluan have completed eight of the 10 interviews that they aimed to do. They shared the first interview on Nov. 13, 2020 and will continue to share them until March 2021. The interview series neatly exemplifies the intention behind the project: they want to share stories of leadership, empowerment and living between two cultures.

“I grew up and it was very white-dominated spaces. I think that, as a Filipina, I felt like I didn't belong in a lot of the spaces . . . I felt like I couldn't have these kinds of conversations around dual identity and things that I feel like I had difficulties navigating.  So, when Anabelle brought up the idea of starting Filipinas of HamONT through the YWCA project, I was so excited because I know there's a lot of these kinds of community collectives in Toronto . . . but I also feel like I don't belong because it's Toronto and I'm from Hamilton,” explained Vinluan.

Based on the feedback from some of their interviewees, Ragsag and Vinluan are working towards running online events that will enable them to continue the important conversations they began in the interviews. They are considering running a book club where they would read works by Filipino authors and hosting workshops on the history of the Philippines.

“I saw that a lot of second and multiple generations of those with Filipino roots have this thirst to know more about what it is like. What does it mean if I don't speak Filipino, if I don't speak Tagalog, am I still Filipino? Because of my teaching background . . . I thought that's something that I can do. That is something that I can contribute to the community,” said Ragsag.

“I saw that a lot of second and multiple generations of those with Filipino roots have this thirst to know more about what it is like. What does it mean if I don't speak Filipino, if I don't speak Tagalog, am I still Filipino?" said Ragsag.

However, in starting this project, Ragsag and Vinluan do not intend to take away from the work done by established Filipino organizations in Hamilton. They recognize the importance of churches, cultural gatherings, all-Filipino sports tournaments and student organizations such as the Filipino McMaster Student Association. They aim to work alongside these organizations to connect the Filipina community.

Despite the name, Ragsag and Vinluan are not completely closing the project to woman-identifying individuals. The project is intended to evolve with community needs.

“We see that our being here in Canada is rooted to that history of a feminized migration . . . So I think it started from there but at the same time, the project is an evolving one – it's not set in stone — and we are aware that identities are fluid, as well . . . the role of those who don't identify as male or female have been there in history but they [were] erased by colonization. That is one of the topics that we want to discuss: what is it in our history that was erased? Can we uncover them?” said Ragsag.

Ragsag and Vinluan hope that this project will enable them and other Hamilton-based Filipinas to continue learning more about their history and heritage. By having these conversations with their community and connecting with established organizations, the project will help ensure that every Filipina in Hamilton feels they belong.

Fifth-year men’s basketball player Kwasi Adu-Poku shares how he created his own business to motivate others

As the fall 2020 semester comes to an end, students continue to struggle with finding the balance between work, school and extracurriculars, all the while keeping themselves safe from COVID-19. Fifth-year McMaster University student and men’s basketball player, Kwasi Adu-Poku has been through his fair share of ups and downs this year. From all the experiences he has gathered, he felt that it was a time to give back to the student community.

Adu-Poku created The Reach Series after coming across an idea from Vince Luciani of Legacy Coaching. From the guidance and mentorship that Luciani gave Adu-Poku, he felt that it was his time to share a message and help uplift individuals. 

“It gave me the confidence to make a business with the goal of empowering people,” said Adu-Poku.

The Reach Series is where Adu-Poku turned his real-life experiences into relatable lessons. From these lessons, he develops motivational workshops. His first goal was to run the workshops for four weeks in two formats: group settings and one-on-ones

A benefit of the group workshops that Adu-Poku realized was that attendees could relate to each other and thus the workshop itself became more interactive. In terms of the one-on-ones, he believed that it would provide individuals with more time and space for reflection, with some personalized guidance. 

“The big thing was that it was a constructive and organized way to uplift people through online workshops,” said Adu-Poku.

“The big thing was that it was a constructive and organized way to uplift people through online workshops,” said Adu-Poku.

Each workshop would be a safe space that was based on an experience of his own life. Although they are somewhat structured, Adu-Poku encourages all discussion within the space. For example, during the third week, his workshop dove into the issue of mental health, where he touched upon some of his own personal struggles during his past couple years of undergrad. 

“It is ok to have these problems and I hope to provide them with various outlets and resources,’’ Adu-Poku emphasized.

As Adu-Poku explained, the premise of The Reach Series is to relate to what is going on in the world and help uplift people to the best of his ability. One such example is a charity drive Adu-Poku co-created, in which they were able to raise $360.

“Why not support these causes but help the world on a larger scale?” said Adu-Poku.

Despite working for his older brother’s business in the past, The Reach Series is the first entrepreneurial endeavour Adu-Poku has embarked on. As a student, he understands the need to manage his time while also staying on top of school responsibilities.

“When I started to make [The Reach Series], it was a four-week blitz before school got heavy. It takes up my time with extracurricular activities and graduate school applications . . . Time and stress management [have] been key,” said Adu-Poku. 

“When I started to make [The Reach Series], it was a four-week blitz before school got heavy. It takes up my time with extracurricular activities and graduate school applications . . . Time and stress management [have] been key,” said Adu-Poku. 

From a business perspective, he has not suffered like many other small businesses have due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Adu-Poku is a student with career aspirations in the field of economic policy, his business likely will not be his main career when he graduates from McMaster. Yet, he continues The Reach Series in order to continue spreading messages of positivity. 

“Even with the prices I was recommended to charge, I lowered it and made it more affordable for people to [attend] these workshops. From a financial point of view, I charge a bit to value my time but ensure it’s worth it and accessible for [the attendees],” said Adu-Poku. 

“Even with the prices I was recommended to charge, I lowered it and made it more affordable for people to [attend] these workshops. From a financial point of view, I charge a bit to value my time but ensure it’s worth it and accessible for [the attendees],” said Adu-Poku. 

He is currently looking at making his business a non-profit organization.

Despite running the workshops by himself, he has hosted guest speakers in the past. His first guest speaker, Mussa Gikineh, was the 2020 valedictorian for the DeGroote School of Business. They both participated in a panel after which they discussed a possible collaboration that surmounted in the charity drive, which was actually created by both Adu-Poku and Gikineh. 

Just recently, Adu-Poku hosted the Hoopers Talk, an event where they looked at athletes from outside the court. The event acted as a space to support Ontario University Athletics basketball players after the cancellation of their season due to the pandemic. 

As of now, the workshops only run virtually. Despite it being convenient due to no transportation, Adu-Poku says he would like to bring people close in person, but only when it is safe to do so. With that being said, the feedback he received has been exceptional, with attendees feeling a new sense of community.

As Adu-Poku plans to graduate in April 2021, The Reach Series is something he hopes to continue on the side.

“I feel like using this platform to genuinely uplift others and interact with them can not only get me some income but also provide me some sort of fulfillment,” says Adu-Poku.

“I feel like using this platform to genuinely uplift others and interact with them can not only get me some income but also provide me some sort of fulfillment,” says Adu-Poku.

The Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Festival moves online amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

By: Samantha McBride, Production Assistant

Every year film enthusiasts and creatives alike descend on Hamilton for the Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Festival.  This event promises local and international feature films, short films, competitions and other programming. The festival is also an opportunity for the Hamilton community to support independent artists and engage with an international circle of storytellers.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s festival has undergone major changes. The festival is currently running from Oct. 16-25, 2020 and is entirely online using the platform, Eventive. Most of the films are available on-demand but there are also live online events.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGScCQwgtyy/

“It's very important for us to continue to support the creators as well as help the community to see new films that they might not see anywhere else . . . [Films are] a window into someone else's world and someone else's experience and it's an important medium for us to understand the world around us and the experiences other people have in our world,” said Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Curator Ryan Ferguson. 

“It's very important for us to continue to support the creators as well as help the community to see new films that they might not see anywhere else . . . [Films are] a window into someone else's world and someone else's experience and it's an important medium for us to understand the world around us and the experiences other people have in our world,” said Art Gallery of Hamilton Film Curator Ryan Ferguson. 

One of the more notable live events is the festival’s youth film challenge, an opportunity for anyone under the age of 25 to submit their short film to the festival. The youth challenge is a chance for young filmmakers to showcase their work to the community and beyond. One film from the category will be selected to receive the audience choice award for standout film. This year’s youth and family film challenges will be livestreamed on the last day of the festival. 

The festival’s 21 short films are being offered at no cost in categories of six to seven films. These short films are eligible for the audience choice award, given to the film voted best by the audience. 

The festival also includes a number of works from local and Canadian filmmakers. One of these works is the world premiere of La Toccata created by Hamilton interdisciplinary artist Radha Menon. La Toccata is set in Sicily and explores the Western obsession with youth and beauty. It is particularly fitting at this time when the pandemic has exposed the individual and systemic lack of care for the lives of elderly individuals. 

“[I]t’s all about beauty so [the film is] made to look beautiful . . . because we are obsessed with beauty and it's that beauty that draws us in . . . [I]t has been created in our mind that the ageing process is something to be feared, mine included, everybody, it's so drilled into our psyche . . . [I]n my culture elders – well especially used to be, not so much maybe anymore because Western influences – were revered and the grey hair meant wisdom. But now, we shove our elderly behind closed doors, segregate them so we don't have to see them or be with them and it’s quite foolish because we could be learning from all the wisdom that they have,” Menon explained.

Menon was excited to premiere this work in the city that she calls home, even if it is only online. While she knows audiences will be missing the experience of being in a theatre, she thinks it is valuable to have the opportunity to see what creators are working on during this time. 

Ordinarily, the festival is geared toward the Hamilton community but as it shifts to an online event, other audiences have the opportunity to partake in the diverse programming lineup offered by the AGHFF. The move to online creates a more inclusive festival for those who would not ordinarily be able to visit the Hamilton area.

“It's exciting for us to have the opportunity to share what we do every year here in Hamilton with people all over the province," said Ferguson. 

“It's exciting for us to have the opportunity to share what we do every year here in Hamilton with people all over the province," said Ferguson. 

Overall, the festival promises an interesting online experience for audiences with exciting ways to get involved. Although audiences are not together to watch the films, the community remains united by the stories told.

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