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What it means to be Mexican

by Christine Stoesser

“Resignation is one of our most popular virtues. We admire fortitude in the face of adversity more than the most brilliant triumph,” wrote Nobel Prize winning author and Mexican Octavio Paz in his 1961 collection of essays The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico. On a trip to Mexico this past August I came face to face with a country vastly different from my own, yet linked somehow through its inclusion in the North American continent, and its close proximity to the bombast of the United States.

After two days in Mexico City I was already trying to form a cohesive opinion of my new surroundings; they eluded me. I was puzzled, and still am. My boyfriend’s iPod was stolen out of his suitcase in our hostel in the Zocalo; his underwear neatly folded as if in apology. The Zocalo (central square of the city) was once an Aztec city of immense pyramids before the conquistadores arrived and tore them down, building stunning cathedrals where they had stood, using the rubble as building material and the Aztecs as slaves. Underneath all this history, in the Zocalo subway station, is a glass-encased model of the original Zocalo. Although underground, it symbolizes a culture that has never truly died. The subway itself is a running example of ‘fortitude in adversity’—moving approximately 21 million people around 163 stations takes a special kind of courage— the service is smooth, the price right (about $.30) and the riders extraordinarily patient, and accommodating, knowing exactly how to angle their elbows and knees in order to create just a little more space.

Remarkable as well is Mexico’s reverence for the arts—celebrated artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo adorn Mexico’s $500 peso bill, their tumultuous, affair-ridden marriage a symbol of national pride. It is interesting to note that while Rivera’s murals ensconce the interior of Mexico City’s gorgeous Palacio des Bellas Artes, and his iconic mural Sunday afternoon dream at the Alameda Park hangs still in the park of the same name, it is the self-portraits of Kahlo that hang in the houses of the people, in restaurants, shops, and cafes. In Oaxaca, and throughout much of Mexico, art is not contained in galleries—it’s everywhere, and sustains the life of the sculptors, woodcarvers, potters, and textile artists who make and sell it. Music as well is integrated effortlessly into Mexican society, and every musician is multi-talented, confident, and always ready to perform.

At the onset of my adventure I felt annoyed by what I considered an overwhelming assumption on the Mexicans’ part that I was wealthy—by the end of the trip, I had realized that, in comparison, I am. Surprisingly, however, I only saw one person in three and a half weeks who was likely homeless, and unemployed. Everyone else was at work doing something, anything, whether it was driving a Collectivo taxi, running a public washroom, or waiting at a remote gas station with a basket full of mangoes for the next vehicle to appear. One Yucatan penitentiary was actually selling hammocks handmade by its inmates.

“Our poverty can be measured by the frequency and luxuriousness of our holidays,” wrote Paz of the Mexican fiesta, which is usually a celebration for a patron saint of a city or village. “…Fiestas are our only luxury.”

I was lucky to attend a fiesta in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. There were fireworks, and food, and drinks served while people danced to a band that grew exponentially drunker. I felt out of place but not unwelcome amidst the revelry, unaccustomed to such a blatant sense of community. But if I understood for a moment what it means to be Mexican, it is now lost; thus I feel I must return, perhaps in the winter.

 

Social ME-dia (Part 2)

by Marie Nicola

The techies thought they had it made. Years of creating their perfect digital utopia nurtured a desire for convenient socialization. A world where personality usurped beauty and unseen pajamas could be as nerdy as the aliases. However, all kittens grow into cats and at some point the innocent playground of internet chat rooms and message boards would inevitably morph into neighborhoods of fame seekers, friend seekers, and fun killers. Social Media is no one’s friend. It is what it is, a catch-all dirty word that describes the death of the Information Age at the beginning of the Attention Age – but it’s what it has done to internet users that is important.

In short, I entered the online race for attention. I was a wide-eyed blogger talking about my life on Blogspot and before I knew what happened, I emerged as a cold-blooded marketer navigating the endless possibilities of self promotion on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blip.FM, and the multitude of other online technologies. I was a blogganista, a haphazard after-hours word jockey who craved comments and got hooked on the adrenaline rush of website analytics. Each time those numbers clicked upwards it was like another hit of some elicit substance coursing through my veins – it was euphoric – like a high impossible to describe to someone who doesn’t speak web. My parents? Forget it.

That’s what Social Media does to good people, it arms them with the power to have control over their own marketing. What once was reserved for the backroom operations of men in finely tailored suits looking for surreptitious methods of convincing the masses of their need for Coca-cola, McDonald’s, and cigarettes was now available to the public. Now the consumers are the content producers competing for ways to direct traffic to their blogs or online personas. Fame quickly became the “new black” and the lines got blurred on what defined a “power user” from an “expert”. Those of us who saw the forked tongue of social media hide behind the innocent face of Facebook profile pictures of new born babies realized that success wasn’t destined for those who embraced it but instead for those who were smart enough to jump out of the way early on. There’s something to be said about being a social media wallflower and for me, it’s 500 hits a day to a website I haven’t updated since 2009.

Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are the holy trinity of social media and every business needs to subscribe. The days of a one webpage homerun hit are long gone, consumers are looking to interact with their products online and they expect them to be personable, informative, and accessible. Each technology accesses a different demographic and allows you to create relationships. Keep in mind social media is a busy world and you’re not trying to fight for attention from your 14-year-old super-wiz niece and her Justin Bieber loving friends. The kids are on there, but they aren’t the only ones. If you’re doing it right and you’re doing it yourself, you’re competing with people like me, the part-time behind-the-scenes roadmen for the dogma of Tweets.

The transition didn’t simply happen, it wasn’t an epiphany or a lightbulb going off over my head saying, “You’re the one, the ‘enfant terrible’ of online interactions.” It came gradually. Somewhere around 2008, trial and error had finally manifested itself as usable knowledge from the accumulation of online marketing efforts since my first website at age 14.

Currently, social media users, driven by the depraved lows of an inner-recession boom, flocked to become self-employed consultants. Power users bought buttoned down shirts and turned into the greatest snake-oil salesmen of the Wild Wild Web. Lacking true grit, their promises often revolve around follower count and incessant jargon about how many hits their glorified diaries get. No one’s safe, especially when a click happy ingénue is at the helm of a campaign teetering a client’s brand on the precarious ledge of Social Media’s unforgivable transparency. Choose carefully, my readers, choose carefully.

This is it, the strange world of online marketing. Love it or hate it it’s time to embrace Social Media for what it can offer. It doesn’t matter if the techie utopia bred legions of try-hards, technology is not cyclical but it sure is permanent. Use wisely.

Marie Nicola is Women’s Post’s community manager.

Social ME-dia

Women’s Post’s Community Manager, Social Media Gal & Food Journalist.

The techies thought they had it made. Years of creating their perfect digital utopia nurtured a desire for convenient socialization. A world where personality usurped beauty and unseen pajamas could be as nerdy as the aliases. However, all kittens grow into cats and at some point the innocent playground of internet chat rooms and message boards would inevitably morph into neighborhoods of fame seekers, friend seekers, and fun killers. Social Media is no one’s friend. It is what it is, a catch-all dirty word that describes the death of the Information Age at the beginning of the Attention Age – but it’s what it has done to internet users that is important.

In short, I entered the online race for attention. I was a wide-eyed blogger talking about my life on Blogspot and before I knew what happened, I emerged as a cold-blooded marketer navigating the endless possibilities of self promotion on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blip.FM, and the multitude of other online technologies. I was a blogganista, a haphazard after-hours word jockey who craved comments and got hooked on the adrenaline rush of website analytics. Each time those numbers clicked upwards it was like another hit of some elicit substance coursing through my veins – it was euphoric – like a high impossible to describe to someone who doesn’t speak web. My parents? Forget it.

That’s what Social Media does to good people, it arms them with the power to have control over their own marketing. What once was reserved for the backroom operations of men in finely tailored suits looking for surreptitious methods of convincing the masses of their need for Coca-cola, McDonald’s, and cigarettes was now available to the public. Now the consumers are the content producers competing for ways to direct traffic to their blogs or online personas. Fame quickly became the “new black” and the lines got blurred on what defined a “power user” from an “expert”. Those of us who saw the forked tongue of social media hide behind the innocent face of Facebook profile pictures of new born babies realized that success wasn’t destined for those who embraced it but instead for those who were smart enough to jump out of the way early on. There’s something to be said about being a social media wallflower and for me, it’s 500 hits a day to a website I haven’t updated since 2009.

Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are the holy trinity of social media and every business needs to subscribe. The days of a one webpage homerun hit are long gone, consumers are looking to interact with their products online and they expect them to be personable, informative, and accessible. Each technology accesses a different demographic and allows you to create relationships. Keep in mind social media is a busy world and you’re not trying to fight for attention from your 14-year-old super-wiz niece and her Justin Bieber loving friends. The kids are on there, but they aren’t the only ones. If you’re doing it right and you’re doing it yourself, you’re competing with people like me, the part-time behind-the-scenes roadmen for the dogma of Tweets.

The transition didn’t simply happen, it wasn’t an epiphany or a lightbulb going off over my head saying, “You’re the one, the ‘enfant terrible’ of online interactions.” It came gradually. Somewhere around 2008, trial and error had finally manifested itself as usable knowledge from the accumulation of online marketing efforts since my first website at age 14.

Currently, social media users, driven by the depraved lows of an inner-recession boom, flocked to become self-employed consultants. Power users bought buttoned down shirts and turned into the greatest snake-oil salesmen of the Wild Wild Web. Lacking true grit, their promises often revolve around follower count and incessant jargon about how many hits their glorified diaries get. No one’s safe, especially when a click happy ingénue is at the helm of a campaign teetering a client’s brand on the precarious ledge of Social Media’s unforgivable transparency. Choose carefully, my readers, choose carefully.

This is it, the strange world of online marketing. Love it or hate it it’s time to embrace Social Media for what it can offer. It doesn’t matter if the techie utopia bred legions of try-hards, technology is not cyclical but it sure is permanent. Use wisely.

WATCH: This adorable/hilarious kid talks to himself on the potty

While every mom’s worst nightmare (or worst memories) are focused around potty training, this 3-year-old has a good head on his shoulders and uses his potty time to ponder the state of the toilet he is sitting on and everything he has consumed that day.

And while it may be embarrassing every time your parents take out your baby photos rest assured that you won’t blush nearly as much as this guy will every time his mom brings up the fact that she made a viral video of him talking to himself in the bathroom viewed by millions.

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

 

Check out:

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WATCH: Vintage 1950′s Doo Wop version of Miley’s “We Can’t Stop”

WATCH: This short doc tells the story behind the breakdancers at Yonge and Dundas

Some of you see these guys every day without knowing the story behind their breakdancing crew. Are the homeless? Why do they breakdance out there all the time? What is up with these guys who are such fixtures of Toronto’s urban landscape who we seem to know nothing about?

Filmmaker Cynthia Yeh took to the streets to find out what makes these guys tick, and once you watch this short documentary you won’t be looking at them the same way again.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Biker chick? More like biker chic

Leah Kelemen is a Women’s Post contributor and budding fashionista.

As the great granddaughter of the motorcycle legend William G. Davidson – known for the highly successful company Harley Davidson – there was no doubt that Karen Davidson would become a prodigy herself.

Being surrounded by motorcycles during her upbringing, and having prototypes of the company’s latest inventions constantly surrounding her, there was a clear path towards motor sports in her future. Beginning to ride at the tender age of nine, Karen was ready to take women’s riding to the next level.

Davidson had no plan of working for the family company until a great opportunity came knocking at her door. As a fashion design graduate and after working in the industry for many years, Karen was offered the position of Creative Director, General Merchandise for Harley Davidson Motor Company in 1989. As Karen entered the fashion scene atDavidson, she became the mastermind behind their leather collections and accessories for the newly introduced brand MotorClothes. To salute her great accomplishments, Karen was awarded an industry award by the Council of Fashion Designers of New York for her fashion influence in 1991.

The amount of women giving riding a try is remarkable. There has been an increase in the number of women on motorcycles today as compared with years ago, and Karen and Harley Davidson Motor Company are to thank. With their continued initiatives and events geared towards women learning more about riding, it grants women the ability to gain that sense of empowerment to do whatever they wish. This supports that paradigm shift – it is no longer a man’s world – and Karen surely agrees with that. She encourages women to learn more about riding and be the influencers. “It’s all about freedom and venture,” says Davidson.

When asked how she has gone about marketing Davidson towards women, Karen replies, “I wanted to reshape Harley Davidson apparel with a combination of form, fit, and function with the addition of colour and graphics.” Karen adds she is greatly influenced by women riders when designing new merchandise as these women are the ones whom represent the feminine side of the brand. “I’m also very much influenced by the more technical side of designing with new fabrications and embellished treatments,” Karen continues.

Davidson’s creations have steered clear of the typical stereotype of female riders from being “butch” and have been broadened to appeal to all women. As always, the colour pink is the definition of pure femininity and has further been incorporated into the women’s side of the brand. Pink Label was introduced as a charitable sector of MotorClothes with a percentage of all proceeds donated to breast cancer research.

The consumers of MotorClothes are 100 per cent behind the product and are very loyal to the brand, witness when in only one day, 1,800 jackets were sold; pure customer loyalty at its finest.

Not only do the consumers of Harley Davidson stay devoted to the brand, but they also continue to show support by attending charitable functions held by the company such as the upcoming 2nd annualPrecious Metal Gala. This exciting event is in partnership with Rethink Breast Cancer and boasts everything that has to do with women and riding while raising awareness and donations for the organization. This exhilarating evening allows women to learn about motorcycling from a feminine perspective and to participate in interactive activities like starring in your very own adventuring riding scene.

“I want women to be inspired by other women and for them to encourage one another to try riding out,” says Davidson. She looks at this event as being inspirational for women because it allows them to ask each other questions and socially network.

A final word from Karen, “If you’re curious about riding, there is only one thing to tell yourself: If they can do it, I can do it!”

The Precious Metal Gala will be held May 11 in Toronto’s Distillery District. Go to GarageParty.ca to learn more about this invigorating evening just for women.

Big things from little stories

By Marie “Mings” Nicola
Former Women’s Post’s Community Manager, Social Media Gal & Food Journalist.

A late rising sun lit Canada’s largest city while the constant hum of passing traffic made International Woman’s Day seem no different than any other. By mid-morning an impetuous passing thought had manifested into a trending conversation on Twitter. Before we could prepare, legions of North America’s most respected and influential women were participating in Women’s Post’s first social media experiment. In honour of women, hundreds of men and women responded to one simple question: What woman onTwitter inspires you the most.

The nominees flooded in from every possible area of interest: fashion, art, design, politics, business, writers, bloggers, travelers, philanthropists, techies, athletes, music, and moms. Consistent with the popular naming convention born of Twitter, we named this ensemble of over 100 social media savvy madams, “TWomen.” We even compiled aTwitter list featuring the tweets of the nominees. If the tweets of these women are inspirational, our list’s feed should theoretically capture the imagination of its subscribers.

However, beyond the list and the fleeting joy of seeing one’s praises exalted in the confined space of 140 characters, we at Women’s Post wanted to celebrate the top three nominees. Through careful consideration and hours of examination we’ve narrowed the list down to three stand-out Canadian TWomen who have set an example as leaders who have embraced new technology and social media.

@YummyMummyClub / Real Name: Erica Ehm / CEO of YummyMummyClub.com / Why we like her: Former MuchMusic VJ all grown up and being the National Symbol for Neo-Motherhood in Canada. / Tweets are off the cuff and often relate back to her website. Erica has an ability for communication and inspiring moms to be women first. / Notable Tweet: “Thanks for taking our Survey on Why Mother’s Day Sucks. Some great answers. If not, share your thoughts.”

@TanjaTiziana / Real Name: Tanja Tiziana / An award winning Toronto-based photographer for doublecrosse.ca / Why we like her: Her interest in past eras and how she translates that through her images. We also like her other site NotMyFathersSlides.com where she publishes found slides that once belonged to other people. / Tweets paint pictures and illustrate thoughts that relate to her art. / Notable Tweet: “On a related note, it’s a real shame cameras aren’t permitted in casinos. There is *so* much quality material.”

@MissRogue / Real Name: Tara Hunt / Considered to be one of the most influential women in technology according to Fast Company Magazine, 2009, Tara is an online marketer, author, public speaker known for engaging online communities / Why we like her: Before settling in Montreal, Tara undertook a cross North American karaoke adventure which landed her in Quebec. That’s one heck of a moving parade! / Tweets are thought provoking, human, and diverse. Tara is not afraid to call a spade a spade, including in politics. She also has some great quotes that pop up when we need motivation the most. / Notable Tweet: “It’s a sad day when ‘politics’ plays a bigger role in policy decisions than actually doing what is right for the public.”

Honourable Mentions:

@LiisW – Model and LouLou blogger. We adore her for being an advocate for diversity in fashion. Founder of Walk the Catwalk.

@AntoniaZ – One of Toronto Star’s bloggers and columnists. Best thing about Antonia: her frequently updated stream of world affairs. She keeps us informed and on our toes.

@SarahPrevette – Founder of Sprouter.com, Upinion, Wired Wednesday, Social Mastermind and the upcoming BreakOut Camp as well as being the Twestival Organizer for Toronto.

@ArleneStein – Founder of Terroir and pivotal supporter of the locavore movement.

@Susanattfi – Executive Director of the Toronto Fashion Incubator, a ground-breaking concept soon to spread across the world.

@Miss604 – Travel writer, blogger, podcaster co-founder of @sixty4media and co-author of blogging to drive business. She continued tweeting from Whistler, keeping us updated on the Paraolympics when no one else seemed to care and we loved her for it.

 

Horrible bosses: The ‘weak dictator’ micromanages while forgetting to macromanage

Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

Bob was a control freak. He was also incompetent – a “weak dictator” – the worst of all possible workplace bosses.

Bob ran a music magazine I was nominally employed at in the early 1990s after journalism school. I wrote features on non-musical subjects and helped proofread text. I was in the office quite a bit, which gave me a close-up look at how Bob operated.

As publisher of the magazine, Bob insisted that all decisions large and small be run by him. Any calls – be they advertising, editorial, circulation, promotion or marketing related – went to him directly. In the middle of production, he would stop everything to deal with extremely minor issues, such as phoning a record reviewer about what CDs had recently come into the office; duties that should have been handled by a sub-editor, leaving Bob to deal with “big picture” issues, such as paying the printer.

The magazine had no real hierarchy. Bob was the boss and everyone else was a minion, with no real job title or clear understanding of their responsibilities. The question, “Who does what?” could be answered with the refrain: “Bob does everything. We just follow his orders.”

All of this would have been tolerable had Bob been a talented publisher. Alas, he wasn’t. In fact, he was downright awful. His editorials and articles were stilted and clunky, filled with bad puns and irrelevant tangents. He treated his staff poorly and forgot to pay them and was never quite sure which advertisers owed him money. If the magazine was short on stories, Bob would publish record company press releases as original content. His publication relied on an antiquated production system; the computers he used didn’t even have Spell Check, much less graphic design capabilities.

Bob’s managerial style maximized chaos and minimized initiative on the part of anyone but himself. Why stick your neck out, after all, when Bob insisted on making all the decisions? Work was one big bottle-neck after another as Bob tried to sort out what issues required his attention.

In political circles, Bob would have been known as a “weak dictator.”

A strong dictator also rules by fear and insists on taking responsibility for all workplace decisions. If the boss is good at what they do, however, if they produce profits and results, then their awful managerial skills can at least be tolerated. A strong dictator might not be a popular figure around the office, but they can be respected, even admired.

Think of your boss as a ship’s captain.

While a strong dictator runs the ship by fear and loathing, they always dock on time and ensure a pleasant voyage for their passengers, if not the crew. A weak dictator, on the other hand, would be so intent on yelling at the stewards for mismatching serviettes in the dining room that they fail to notice the iceberg-ahead. The poor sap steering the boat knows they’re headed towards disaster but has no authority to change course. Such a decision can only come from the top. And if the man at the top is consumed with trivialities, the ship will sink.

Which is exactly what happened to Bob’s magazine.

For a variety of issues, including erratic pay, a refusal to modernize the production process and Bob’s horrid leadership, employees began fleeing the magazine like rats on a doomed liner. In the end, Bob was reduced to running the magazine practically one-handed. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to see how that situation played out. A few months after I quit, the magazine folded.

My time at Bob’s magazine wasn’t completely wasted. The magazine contained some of my earliest bylined articles outside of student newspapers. More importantly, it gave me an invaluable education in office dynamics, particularly the old workplace cliché that could have served as Bob’s epitaph: jack of all trades, master of none.

The enduring allure of romance novels

By Marcie Zajdeman
Image from Have Your Cake and Read it Too.

If we take him at his word, people once told Paul McCartney “that the world had had enough of silly love songs.” But his own observations suggested to the contrary; he “looked around [and he saw] it wasn’t so.” I think you know the rest.

What about romance novels? Has the world had enough of these? Is this genre of literature out-dated and irrelevant; or, at best, retro and ironic – like playing Twister while drunk or bowling while buzzed? (But enough about my life.) Is the educated, sophisticated 2010’s career-woman drawn to these books in the same way that the housewife of the 1950’s purportedly was? The stats might surprise you.

According to Harlequin, 53 per cent of readers of romance literature have at least some college education and 45 per cent work full time. The average reader is likely to be married or cohabitating. Although the vast majority of readers are women, just fewer than 10 per cent are men. The market for romance novels is impervious to economic recessions and, by the 2000’s, romance was the most popular genre of modern literature

Lila DiPasqua’s debut collection, Awakened by a Kiss (Penguin Group/Berkley) is romance literature that incorporates two subgenres: erotic romance (sometimes called romantica) which blends romance and erotica, and historical. It is marketed as “steamy retellings of classic fairytales Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, and Little Red Riding Hood.” And steamy it is: Who knew that childhood fairytales could have such charged subtexts?

Recasting fairytales as “fiery tales” is a clever concept. The author provides a “Historical Tidbit” at the beginning of the collection, grounding her collection in 17th century France during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Indeed, the monarch is a character in all three stories, which illustrate, as the “Tidbit” informs, that his “glittering court was as salacious as it was elegant.” Charles Perrault, who wrote Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, and Little Red Riding Hood (as well as Cinderella and other classic tales), lived in 17th century France during Louis XIV’s reign; and, as DiPasqua interprets as a lead-in to her “loosely based” retellings, wrote these stories during “this most wicked time.”

With $1.37 billion in North American sales of romance fiction in 2008 (Industry Statistics), Awakened by a Kiss will no doubt have a huge audience. So 2010’s women (and some men) are reading these novels, but why?

Perhaps it is because childhood constructs like “happily ever after” die hard. Seeking, finding, and giving full expression, erotic and otherwise, to romantic love is universal and timeless – like a classic Chanel flap bag. No matter how urbane or worldly women become, we won’t, or can’t, or shouldn’t be cynical when it comes to love.

This is the driver for reading these books, not the escape and fantasy needed as a reprieve from boredom and repression. Moreover, I am not certain that the 1950’s woman was more romantically and erotically frustrated and confined than her modern counterpart. The picture of June Cleaver vacuuming in her pearls suggests, on its face, a provincial life measured “in coffee spoons” as T.S. Eliot cautioned

against. But novels like Awakened by a Kiss show us that there is often more to childhood paradigms than meet the eye. I think our grandmothers were hipper and racier than it appeared, just more coy and cryptic about it. (Was it really the disciplining of their son that June was referring to when she said, repeatedly, “Ward, you were a little hard on the Beaver last night”?)

So is Awakened by a Kiss, and the genre of literature it represents, an anachronism? In the words of Paul McCartney, the patron saint of the sentimental, “I say it isn’t so. What’s wrong with that? I’d like to know.”