Ideas Marinating Blog
This is a short editorial piece I wrote, which can be found on their website here.
In this day and age of the Internet, finding individuals who you share common interests with is as easy as doing a simple Google search. It does not, however, take away the uncertainties of finding yourself face-to-face with an individual or a room full of complete strangers. To some that is a concern they would hope to not have to face. But that is what I did when I decided to find someone with whom I could practice my fleeting Spanish. True, I am and was raised in a Spanish speaking country, but after more than 16 years expatriating without as much as uttering a seldom sentence, I found Darwin’s maxim: “If you don’t use it you loose it,” ringing more true everyday.
Sure, rumours abound of Internet horror stories – and we all heard of a few – and some did cross my mind, but I decided to give it a try anyway. You reap what you sow is how the saying goes. So eventually my google searching lead me to a downtown bar on Prince Arthur Street on a Monday night: The Bedford Academy to be exact.
Walked in, not knowing where to go, but after asking the friendly bartender, I was directed to go to “round table near the front window” of the bar. This seemed to be the groups ‘signature table.’ Since then the actual table now changes from time to time as it seems that as more people find out about the group, the meetings get ushered to the bigger tables at the back. Which is far from being a bad thing.
It was then when I met ”Mafalda” the organizer and the rest of the gang. Her real name is Liane, but nicknamed after Quino’s famous Argentinean comic strip character of the same name. Known for her strong opinions yet never loosing the innocence that normally comes while acquiring them. Also having a slight physical resemblance does not hurt to further the point.
Eventually you will get to meet Darwin and Joel, the two founding members of the ‘Spanish Group Matadores,’ both quite willing to tell the history behind the group which goes back to December 2003. However, I will let them tell you the story.
The meetings are amazing. The rules of the club, aside the cordialities of civilized society are pretty much open. One is free to pick a topic, and if one happens to be shy about starting a conversation, not to worry someone is bound to make feel at en su casa soon enough. The welcoming disposition hangs in the air creating a friendly English free zone, where Spanish is the only language spoken. In minutes you are part of the group and totally up to you to join in the conversations or simply watch and listen them go by like real-time collages, but without the subtitles.
It is hard to believe learning a different language would be so easy as attending bi-weekly meetings and having a drink or two. Sure one can take classes, and in no way I would dare negate their benefits. Yet there is something to be said about hearing a language being spoken natively without taking notes and the overbearing anxiety of upcoming tests.
Besides, once you come to a few nights, you will quickly discover that you are not only learning a new language you might find yourself also building new friendships. I don’t know about you, but that worth more than the price of admission. Did I mention the admission is free?
You can be part of this great group by clicking in the following link: http://speak-spanish-club.mexican.ca/index.htm
“Why do I care so much about getting your money?
Because I am a multi-billion dollar bank owner!”
Many of you may have seen – whether you like it or not – WestJet’s new “Why do we care so much? Because we are also WestJet owners” advertising campaign. Has anyone given some real thought at this mockery of the art of advertising? In one ad a lady in her early 20’s brings what could be one of her equally aged lovers to meet her parents for the first time. Right in the middle of dinner, the father noticeably concerned in the future dowry and financial well being of his offspring cuts right to the chase and asks point blank range: “What do you do?” The daughter, slightly embarrassed utters a restrained and hushed “Dadddddy?’ Does our hero –the one possible lover of many— shy away from this patriotically empowered figure? Oh no, he first gives his girl a ‘later…you and I are gonna get it on, but for now, watch suave at work,’ look and then directs his stare right at the father’s eyes and innocently states: ‘I am an owner of West Jet!’ At which point the father, obviously impressed goes saying a few great things about WestJet before gazing at what we all now know will be his new son-in law. Then he approvingly declares: ‘I like the cut of your gib, son!’ Wow, how many times could have impressed the parents of all my dates with lines like that?
But why stop there? I would have said something along the lines of:
‘Why sir, I am an owner of a multi-national, multi-billion dollar financial company! Heck, if it wasn’t for me, that 125 year institution would be crumbling apart and would not even be half the company it is today if it weren’t for my personal tutelage.’ BOOM! How is that for impressing a girlfriend’s parents?
Can you imagine? After dinner, he would be like: ‘Okay Sir, bring her back in one piece if ravage her you must, but if you decide to marry her right away, please remember that I am fond of the idea of owning a yatch some day.’
Okay, so I made that last part up, but the point it is not lost. There is nothing especial about opting to buy shares in a company. Even less so if you happen to work for said company and most likely get a discount when buying said shares. As such, one can consider the whole ad campaign a moot campaign.
If it were not, then this humble scribe would also happen an owner of multiple world-renowned companies such as Sony, Imax and even Nortel. Gosh, I hope it was not my ongoing philanthropy, constant parties and the purchasing of luxuries such as mouthwash which lead to Nortel’s 500%+ share value plunge, after all, it used to trade at over $165+ and at the time of this writing it closed at $3.24 per share. Oh, MY GOD? WHAT HAVE I DONE? Oh, woe is my power, which I have used for evil!
Talk about misrepresentation of advertising. Keep in mind 4% of West Jet employees cannot claim what their commercial states, as they are not West Jet owners. They must be like the black sheep of the company. I fear for these particular employees since probably the other 86% may have outcast them. Just don’t expect any of them to go looking for you two days after your flight to give your cell phone back and get you $50 over asking price, oh no. They might just keep it for themselves. Those thieves.
Let me tell you about the company I happen to be an owner right now. What if I were to tell you that we rip our clients off by giving them chickpeas for interest in exchange to safeguard their hard earned money so we can use it for own investing? Heck, we might as well give you thumbs tacks for interest, at least at the end of the year you could try melting them to sell the aluminium they are made of. As it stands, there are better financial institutions, one with an orange logo comes to mind, at least they are willing to keep your money from loosing too much to the most basic of all economic detractors: inflation. Which at present it stands at 2.96% percent. Am I making this up? Do you think what I say is slanderous? Should I perhaps get sued for libel? Well, I could be if I wasn’t right. Hey, why believe me? Lets see what the Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator says, try here: http://www.bankofcanada.ca/en/rates/inflation_calc.html
Check how much $100 of your hard earned dollars has lost in worth since last year in comparison to today. Oh, and there is that little thing called ‘service fees,’ that as we all know goes directly into my pocket because after all, I care because I am an owner. Does this sound like we put our clients first?
Which of course brings me back to advertising. Do not get me wrong. I am foremost a capitalist. But as time moves forward, good ideas in the world of advertising have transformed from the once art of salesmanship and persuasion to just being hit with a message over and over and over again, regardless of whether is wrong or right. It almost like a Road Runner cartoon, except that we are the coyote and the anvil that hits us on the head has the words ‘I am lovin’ it’ written all over it. The medium is the message? Sure, the problem is that before you could turn it off. Try walking anywhere in a city without having to stare to a bloody medium…Mr. McLuhan would be not pleased.
There was a time when an advertising campaign was so unique, honest, so inspired and dare I say it, brilliant that just seeing it once, just once was enough to make you think and maybe, just maybe give the brand a chance. Yes, these are very strong words indeed. David Ogilvy, considered by many as being one of the most instrumental fathers in the world of advertising would be appalled to the level at which the advertising has taken the world as it tries to sell repetition over fact. One of my favourite quotes of his – if perhaps a bit dated – is “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.” He was referring of course that an educated consumer would choose a brand for what it factually claims it can do over the image it portrays it can do. Another example, do you think wearing Juicy pants will make you slim and hip only because it is endorsed by a another by-product of our advertising crazy society: the celebrities? Not if your hips are size 18. But hey that’s not a problem anymore. Why tell kids –particularly little girls- to eat healthy when is cheaper to hire larger sized celebrities to endorse your products? The only difference is that is has been done slowly over a long period of time, but if you really pay attention you will catch it. See the difference in between now and lets say five years ago and you will know what I mean. Or why not even up the ante? Why just not resize the size of clothing altogether to adjust to fatter people? You used to fit on a size 4? Well, not since 2004, now you are a size 0! Just like that. The same thing has been done to the fellas. Yes, just like that. I feel magic in the air! But why believe me? When you can read it for yourself on this article from the New York Times: Here.
But hey, there is always hope, so what if you we are getting our brains Laundromat-ed (at our own expense, of course) by advertising? Just go buy some shares in some global company and not just hear about the Owners Club. Be a member, be an owner and feel the power! Just don’t expect to be treated like one.
First of all, bear with me while I get to it:
For quite a while now, I had been thinking of getting a new cat. Have moved from place to place throughout the years yet it never seemed like the ‘right’ time. At first I blamed it on the location: No cats allowed, place too small, too big…not big enough! No real logic, I was simply putting it off. Eventually coming to the conclusion that I had yet to find the ‘right’ cat.
I use to have one long ago. From the time he was a kitten until after one of my many moves. You see my old dear tabby took a starting role in a horrible clawing incident. He gave up on his $15 scratching post and vetoed to make some coats and most of my shoes into his new scratching toys. As such he found itself getting a one way ticket to a far better place… namely my sister’ house in the suburbs. First of all she has a bigger house and secondly she has more shoes than I do. Either way, he was out the picture and my new wardrobe would be safe from any future maulings.
However bad and costly that accident may have been, I still had my heart set on getting a pet. Another pet to be exact, for you see. I am currently babysitting a rat. Yes a ‘rat.’ Name is Cordelia and she is an escapee from a research lab. Yes, let the truth be known, she was a victim of a scientific concentration camp were experiments were performed in the name of science but has since then been liberated. The only one of her group thanks to an insider –whose name shall go unmentioned— who could not see harm come to this cute “hooded-rat” (also known as the Cadillac of rats). Otherwise she would have been terminated at the study’s end.
I know, I know what some of you may say: ‘Eeewww, but Mauricio, it is a rat! Have you seen the monstrosities that run around in the subway tracks in downtown Toronto?” Does this look like
the face of a killer?
So what if there are some ‘mild’ rumours about rats and the black plague of 1347 and six other pandemics in the next four centuries including the great plague of Vienna in 1679? So what if it wiped out an estimated 36 million people? I say let bygones be bygones For example, I have friends that owe me money, but you don’t see me getting all nervous about it and marking their doors with black paint. Besides the true culprits were the fleas some rats just happen to carry at the time.
The silly rodents are in fact pretty clean. For example, when I brought Cordelia home, in an attempt to make her feel welcome I petted her for a bit. You know, the human way of saying ‘Hi’ to an animal whose IQ is vast inferior to mine. What did the bugger do?
The moment she thought I wasn’t looking the fuzz ball started desperately licking and cleaning itself. As if saying, “Hey, I don’t know where you have been buddy and I keep hearing about this plague thing and I am not going to take any chances with you.’
I was a little insulted to say the least. Don’t believe me? Check what the Toronto Humane Society says about how clean they can be: http://www.torontohumanesociety.com/caringforPet/ratsmice.html
Once again, I have friends with questionable hygiene habits, but never have I thought would of getting the bubonic plague off them. Besides now that I have had my own hygienic practices questioned by a rodent, well, I don’t feel too concerned of the cute little fuzz ball anymore.
Okay, so finally… this brings us back to how I lost my one eyed cat. Well, a few days ago one of my best friends emails me out of the blue and says:
‘You want a cat? I have two. A playful three-month-old brother and sister, I should mention, due to an infection that although now treated, left the boy with only one eye. But you have never met a friendlier cat, I promise you.”
A five-minute taxi ride and I was there. I took a long look at this one eyed cat; now officially named Siegfried and after thanking my friend I was on my way home with my new pet. Oh, and what about depth perception? Not a problem.
This cat was one cool kat. Friendly, playful, full of life, he was a nice gray and white coat, a picture perfect cat. That is of course until he met Cordelia, I would say the meeting, or rather staring contest lasted about 1.3 seconds before Cordy ran for dear life into the house I had made in her cage out of used Vector cereal boxes. I do not know if you have ever seen a rodent petrified with fear. It was not a pretty sight. For the next 24 hours, she would not sleep, eat, drink, or move for that matter. The cat you ask? He was at Club Med for kittens. Had you walked into my place you would have thought that Siegfried had lived there for years. He slept in the same bed, was quiet, made no messes, was playful and could not have cared less for any of my shoes and ironically payed little if no attention to Cordy.
I will admit that I had made some research before hand and knew there was a very high possibility that Cordy and Sieg would not get along, but Toronto has already enough homeless animals and I was trying to do my part.
But sadly after talking to a few friends, the consensus was simply that I could not have one great pet at the expense of the misery of another. It was really sad. But I had to act fast, Cordy would not eat and had noticeably lost some weight. So in the long – I mean, short – run, my Siegfried only lasted a day and a half with me before my friend, drove over at 1:00am last week to pick him up. It was unfortunate. At least I am sure my friend will find a great home for him and someone out there is going to be very lucky cat owner.
Cordy is back to her inquisitive healthy “I am the rat of the castle,” mode and I am happy for her but it was heartbreaking when I opened my refrigerator this morning and noticed a half-eaten can of ‘Fancy Feast.’ I threw it away.
If you are interested in getting a pet, whether is a cat, dog or even a rat – for real, they are like little dogs…Just check this link here for the Toronto Humane Society:
Yes, among my many interests, I have to say that being a ‘Good Samaritan’ is more like a part-time job. Do it sometimes, but like most people out there, our day jobs take a good chunk of our possible time doing our Samaritarian calling. However, not that long ago I found this website while doing some research regarding taking some Spanish classes. The name of it is:
Now, for those who know such social sites like Craigslist.org, you will feel right at home. Basically you can create groups in which you can seek, meet, share ideas, heck even date with people you might share common interests with. And that means anything… Whether that is sports, sci-fi fans, avid readers, sewing or if you are looking to find people with whom you can practice a new language. As you can imagine, that is where I came in the picture.
Of course, nothing this good is ever for free. It is free for all members except organizers who have to pay about $20 a month for the right to be organizers. Although Craigslist.org IS FREE, that site’s more anonymous nature might scare a lot of people away. Details like posting your own pictures, name, interests, a bit if a self-description and a message board in Meetup.com make most users more credible and trusting than other sites where users are only referred as ‘User #113337526.’ The current surge of sites like www.lavalife.com easily attest to this. The more details you write about yourself, the more people you meet.
So, taking into consideration that I had not done my good deed of the month, I decided to
become an organizer. The name of my group? “The 23-35 Social Group.” The name really implies to what the main point is. Now I could write about in detail here, but if you live in Toronto, or would like to take a look at how a group in www.meetup.com is normally run, then drop by and do visit. Even better yet, join. So far, the group has been there for about a year now we are about 315 members and growing!
Oh, and in case you are wondering about what happened with my Spanish class search, well, you can easily find me in the “Toronto Spanish Speaking Group.” Just look under “Mauricio.”