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In Response to Impossible Beauty Standards

My husband disagrees with my position in my previous post. He works and travels in advertising circles and doesn't think that I can say big business and marketers are responsible for the world's impossible beauty standards. He equates this with pointing my finger at something that really isn't the problem. He believes that the real issue is low self-esteem and insecurity among women...

While I agree the issue is complex, big business still bears some responsibility.

In his view, advertisers and marketers are using a vehicle/formula (read: model/particular physical attributes) to get their message out and sell their products. And when the chosen vehicle is successful, it is used again and again. He believes there is no conspiracy; these people are just doing their jobs.

I smiled when he said this because I immediately saw the solution. He did agree with me that women are targeted much more often than men are for health and beauty products and clothing. After all, a woman's appearance is always in the spotlight. No disagreement there. I also said that after years of seeing skinny models, our idea of a normal body weight is skewed, so it should come as no surprise that women might be insecure about their bodies. In other words, the insecurity and low self-esteem issues my husband raised could well be the result, not the cause of the problem. We aren't taking about a few ads here, we're taking about thousands upon thousands of hours of ads telling us, and our daughters, that we are just not the norm.

Anyway, his point was made. Advertisers use what successfully sells the products of the companies they're representing.

Solution...make their ad campaigns unsuccessful. Vote with your purchases.
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More Impossible Beauty Standards

Today on Twitter, Bitch Magazine asked the following question:

What do you think about the surgery many Asian women get to make their eyes appear rounder? Hmm... great question!

I recently blogged about impossible beauty standards, but since there are so many, I'm going to choose my favorite, being thin, to illustrate my point.

On a daily basis, we are bombarded with images of skinny women. We are exposed to marketing every day that tells us in order to be beautiful, we must be thin. However, Mother Nature has different plans for us. As we grow older, our metabolism slows down until it grinds to a near halt at menopause. In addition, as we get older, we become less active. Slower metabolism, less muscle mass and less activity...This is a no brainer. We're going to gain weight as we age, and this is true for almost everyone. There is one upside to getting older, which big business is well aware of: as we age our disposable income also increases.

Wow! Great money making opportunity here. I know! Tell women they're not thin enough...
by repeatedly bombarding them with images of thinness and then sell them something that doesn't work, so they keep buying more. Isn't this called the "diet industry?" Or you could have a medical professional drain the fat out of you or staple your stomach in exchange for a big wad of cash...

Enter Asian women who want to make their eyes rounder. Wow, sounds like another impossible beauty standard cooked up to make women spend a small fortune on being more "beautiful." I mean they are your eyes, not much you can do about them. Right? Wrong. Start with a popular actress who appears to have had this surgery done and then overexpose her. Presto, an iconic round-eyed Asian beauty. Once a few more highly visible women get it done, you have a trend. And plastic surgeons can walk outside with their pockets open, as it rains down money.

There is also the more disturbing aspect of elective surgery for rounder eyes. It reeks of ethnic self-loathing, like some women are ashamed of their Asian eyes. It's a little bit like someone with dark skin using skin lightener, except this is a lot more costly, and once it's done, it's done. Or maybe, plastic surgeons can charge another small fortune to have the operation reversed.

But should we really be surprised by this trend? China, once the world's largest untapped market, is now open for business. There are potentially billions of dollars to be made by telling women that there is something wrong with them. Not outright of course, but subliminally, by hiring only models who have surgically altered round eyes to sell everything from cars to toothpaste.

That is how thinness has been sold to us in North America. Today, even female opera singers are expected to be thin. How did we get here? By being constantly exposed to images of the impossibly thin. These images slowly eat away at our own idea of beauty until one day, we relent and buy into theirs. Big business is banking on it.

For further information on this topic go to:

The following is a video of a beautiful Asian girl gluing...yes, gluing her eyelids back to make her eyes appear rounder. Young women who do not have the money actually glue or tape their eyelids back. I had to see it to believe it.

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Oscar Favourites: Style v. Glitz

All eyes were on the Oscars last night, and although the ceremony was tedious, there were some noteworthy trends. I chose my favourites based on personal style rather than on the impossible beauty standards of Hollywood. I think a few wrinkles, muted colours and relatively inexpensive jewelry allow the actor's true character to show through, making them more human and endearing, but no less dazzling.

Penelope Cruz
The first Oscar winner of the night for best supporting actress wore a vintage dress that she saw years ago and fell in love with. The dress didn't fit perfectly, but I liked PC's attitude. I love this dress and I will wear it, damn it, whether it fits or not. And yes, the dress was spectacular.

Angelina Jolie
I didn't really notice the dress. My eyes were immediately drawn to her green earrings and matching ring. At first glance, I thought they were emeralds, but upon closer examination, I saw they were plastic?...Fantastic! The contrast with her black dress was stunning.

Marisa Tomei
Her gown was a shiny gray art deco number with lots of pleats, and it didn't look like it had been pressed properly. But I think that is what I liked the most about the gown. It wasn't perfect, and MT looked relaxed, comfortable and gorgeous.

Meryl Streep
I wasn't crazy about the colour of her dress, but the cut suited her. MS is living proof that you don't have to be skinny or young to be beautiful. A very important message for all women.

Kate Winslet
Of course, I couldn't forget best actress Kate Winslet, my husband's favourite. Why is she his favourite? "Because," he says, "it doesn't matter what she is wearing or that she doesn't have a perfect 'Hollywood' body, she feels good about herself and it shows." I think he's got something there. She was absolutely radiant. Her dress, I think, was blue and black, or was it gray and black? Doesn't matter, she looked great.

I also have to comment on the men. With the exception of Mickey Rourke, most of the men were wearing black tuxes and white shirts (Yawn, too much of the same thing is pretty dull!). I did notice that many were portly, but they still looked good. How many rubenesque women did you see at the Oscars?

Unfortunately, the double standard still exists...

Any male dazzlers? Daniel Craig looked yummy, but doesn't he always?
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On Going Green and Becoming My Mother

As a child growing up under the tutelage of a single mother, I quickly learned the value of a dollar. My mother could stretch her resources like no other. Grocery shopping with her was a lesson in purchasing the highest quality at the lowest price. There was no junk food, and pizza was not a meal!

I was very young when I took my first job because I couldn't bring myself to ask my mother for money. The concept of "I pay, I say" was clear, and I wanted nothing to do with it. When I made money, I saved some (for good measure) and blew the rest...and it felt so good. I had mistaken my mother's lack of financial means for being just plain cheap.

Financial precariousness was the hallmark of my childhood, and I swore that indigence would not characterize my adult life. I went to school and then found work. I often chose work based on salary rather than on whether I liked it or not. I soon discovered that if you don't like your work, you're not going to do it well and you won't be happy.

As I acquired some creature comforts, paid off my student loans and found a job I liked, I noticed waste all around. I sold my car and started cycling for all my errands. It's not that I dislike driving, it's the parking I hate. I started to bring my lunch to work because the food was usually served in unrecyclable polystyrene at the food court. I started to bring a commuter cup because I was disgusted by all the discarded single-use cups lying around downtown. In addition, we are city dwellers and space is an issue. My husband and I have been forced to purchase only things that are necessities. We also have limited recycling space, so when we make purchases, we often chose products with the least amount of packaging.

Are we too pious for our own good? No, we're just trying to simplify our lives. But the most surprising aspect of reducing waste is all the money we have saved in the process. In fact, this is the only money-saving method that has ever worked.

When I stopped to compare my life with my mother's, I realized there were more similarities than differences. My mother didn't buy anything she didn't need, nor do we. She brought a lunch and her coffee, so do we. However, the determining factor in her purchases was cost, whereas ours is the amount of packaging or waste our purchases create. In dollars and cents (sense?), it comes down to the same thing.

"But is pizza a meal?"you ask. Sometimes it is, but we wish the box was recyclable and it didn't take up so much space in the trash.
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Social Networking: Profile Strip Tease and Cyber Friends

I was reluctant to join Facebook, but in a way, I'm glad I did. I'm able to stay in touch with friends, and I managed to reunite with my cousins. Nevertheless, I remain leery of Facebook and its terms of agreement. Especially since I've heard that the FBI uses this social network to keep tabs on people.

Then I joined the highly amusing Twitter. Almost all my favourite news and information sources are on it, and my list of followers keeps growing. I do use my pseudonym, but again I feel apprehensive about giving too many details about my private life. But it feels odd to receive what appear to be open and frank tweets and not reciprocate. After all, you're not broadcasting, but you are giving personal information out to a large group of people simultaneously.

Anyway, I'm not alone in my concern. In this month's online issue of Wired (17.02), Steven Levy writes about his experience on Twitter.

Since I don't know many in this mob, I try not to be personally revealing. Still, no matter how innocuous your individual tweets, the aggregate ends up being the foundation of a scary-deep self-portrait. It's like a psychographic version of strip poker—I'm disrobing, 140 characters at a time.
My sentiments exactly. It's not the individual tweet that causes the harm. It's the sum of all your tweets that creates your profile. The same is true of your blog. Your choice of subjects reveals your interests to the world, and in a sense, it also creates a profile, albeit more subtle.

There's also the notion of cyber friendship that I can't quite get my head around. I spent a month posting articles on a site, and I feel like I made some enjoyable, insightful contacts. And when I decided to leave the site, I felt genuine regret and remorse about losing these people. But I don't think, you could call these contacts friends or acquaintances. I haven't seen them, or met them in-person. However, I have had some meaningful exchanges with them, and I did learn things. All in all, it was a very positive experience. Did these contacts make my life richer? Yes, they did.

I guess my concern is that I have spent a lot of time alone on my computer, but feel as though I have been socializing. And as a busy mother, partner and employee, I feel like social networking has given me the social outlet I need. But is it genuinely social? No. Would I talk to my real life friends about my cyber friends? No... I'd be afraid they'd tell me to get a life.
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Lucky Lance Gets His Bike Back!

I'm both happy for him and...envious! I had my bike stolen once, and all I heard was get over it! Now every time I see a bike I love, like a Cruiser, I think "nice," but the agony of having it stolen is just not worth it.

When it came time to buy a bike, I tried to do some thief profiling. Some just take it for a joy ride and dump it if it's not great (the petty thief). Other more industrious thieves will only steal bikes they can get a decent price for on Craigslist (the criminal in the making). I've seen a lot of Cruisers on Craigslist, but when the bike only costs $80, chances are it's hot. Hot bike...bad karma.

Two years ago, I saw a faded pink lady's bike for sale on the street. I made a call, and the "salesman" told my husband, daughter and I to come over, he had more than just the pink bike on the street. When he gave us his address, I must confess, I was confused. Not only did he live on one of Montreal's busiest streets, but he also lived in a two-bedroom third floor walk-up.

His apartment's hallway and kitchen were cluttered with bikes. They were hanging from the ceiling and stacked one on top of the other. He said he had some more on the balcony, and told us to follow him like there was actually an unobstructed path. We were running into bikes and getting jabbed by pedals and handlebars with our every step. We looked around "so to speak," and there were just too many to decide. I told him that I wanted the pink bike in the street. "Fine," he said, and we headed outside. On our way down the stairs, he told us that he had a son my daughter's age, then he confessed that he was divorced...Somehow I wasn't surprised!

I bought the faded pink beater sans crossbar so I could ride it downtown to work. Strictly from an aesthetic point of view, the bike is hideous, but that's the point. My logic was the petty thief wouldn't steal this bike without getting razzed, and the criminal in the making would see that it was worthless.

I have been told that a bike thief in Montreal will steal anything, but I've had this one for two years, and so far, so good. One day downtown I even forgot to lock it up. Miraculously, old pinkie was still there at the end of the day.

But I have to admit, I dream about, and salivate over, having a new bike. But the stress, the anguish, the fear of taking it out. Ahhhh! Then there's Lance, his one-of-a-kind $10,000 bike is stolen, and after an appeal to his fans and twitterati, someone turns it in four days later. Not only that, Sacramento PD actually "looked" for it. The ink on the police report was still wet when the bike turned up!

If I told a cop in Montreal that someone had stolen my bike, I'm not even sure he would think a crime had been committed. And if I asked him whether he was going to help me find it, I would only expect a guffaw...

A very funny video of a near naked Montrealer cycling around downtown. LOL

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Lance Armstrong Loses his Wheels

Lance Armstrong, the victim of a bicycle thief, appealed to his fans on Sunday via Twitter with the hope of getting the skinny on his black and gold racer. His bike was apparently stolen out of the back of an unmarked van carrying his ride and three other bikes belonging to his Astana teammates early Sunday morning. What a drag! The 7-time Tour de France champion had just used the bike in the (Le?) Tour of California's Sacramento prologue on Saturday. (Why didn't they just call it the California Tour?)...Anyway,

There have been reports in the press alleging the stolen vehicle has appeared on both E-bay and Craigslist, but as of today, no leads have surfaced. This one-of-a-kind time-trial bike is reportedly worth more than $10,000.

One might wonder why extra precautions were not taken. After all, cycling fans would covet this objet de désir. And I suspect that many rabid cycling fans might think watching "the bike" being loaded into an unmarked truck and following it around part of the thrill.

But what is the thief doing now? The euphoria has probably worn off, and he realizes that this one-of-a-kind bike is too hot to get rid of by the usual channels. A fence with any intuition will sense the desperation and offer him peanuts. Although he's probably dying to tell someone, he knows he can't.

(How do I know it's a man? Well the crossbar is not skirt friendly, and there's no basket for a purse, laptop or commuter cup. Besides that looks like one uncomfortable seat!)

As the bike lays idle somewhere in someone's garage, poor Lance's only hope is that this thief is also a braggart.
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Chavez Victorious with 54% of the Vote

With 54.36% of the vote, the "Yes" side in support of Hugo Chavez won the referendum today in Venezuela. This was the first official count of the day with 94.2% of the votes tallied.

National Electoral Council Chair
Tibisay Lucena made the announcement at 9:35 pm today at a press conference. The "Yes" side was victorious with 6,003,594 of the votes, while the "No" side received 5,040, 082.

Some 17 million people who registered with the National Electoral Council had the chance to cast their referendum vote on constitutional amendment. However, only 11,043,676 exercised this right.

For an excellent doc on Chavez see:

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Chavez Supporters Claim Victory Before Official Count

At campaign headquarters of the "Yes" and "No" camps in Caracas, leaders of both sides have made statements urging government supporters and the opposition to stay on alert on this critical voting day in Venezuela. The referendum is to decide whether or not the constitution should be amended to lift restrictions limiting the number of terms a President may serve.

Leaders of the Venezuelan United Socialist Party (PSUV) said they were satisfied with the vote today and pleased to have the support of Chavez sympathizers in the referendum. PSUV spokesperson Jorge Rodríguez issued a statement alongside other party members suggesting a Chavez victory and told supporters to take to the streets in celebration. Rodriguez did, however, add that they were still waiting for the official vote tally and would assume whatever the results might be.

Leader of the "No" camp Andrés
Velásquez said that the governing party used this strategy to confuse the public. He urged people to remain calm and not leave polling stations. Velásquez believes the statement made by the Chavez camp was simply a means to intimidate the opposition by having Chavez supporters take to the street in celebration of a presumed victory.

Source: http://noticiero.venevision.net/
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Staving off Panic

In a recent post, I said that patience was dependent on circumstance. I concluded that it ebbed and flowed. My husband countered that patience was an acquired skill, requiring concerted effort. Man, that requires time, and in this world I thought multitasking was the skill du jour.

My husband and I both had a few moments this week when we could have both yielded to panic. In the wee hours of Thursday, our son's laboured breathing woke us up. I was on the threshold of panic. As I felt myself draw closer to the edge, I searched for a solution.

I called the info-health line. Five, ten, fifteen minutes I waited, which meant that I had to listen to my son's every wheeze. With very breath I drew closer to the edge. I reminded myself to breathe and that I, too, had asthma as a child and knew that breathing at night is sometimes more difficult. I kept my thoughts in check. Panic zapped me when I started "what iffing." What if he dies because we waited too long for our overburdened health care system to respond? I stopped myself. That thought was too chilling.

Enfin, Allo. The nurse instructs us to wrap junior up and take him outside for a walk in the cold air. Did that. No change. Next thing, turn on the hot water in the shower. Let it run until the bathroom fills up with steam. Did that. No change. Junior still struggles to breathe.

I have a ventolin inhaler. Is it safe for a 20-month-old? The solution momentarily held panic at bay...but summoned anguish. Action. Relief for anguish: Internet research. Two sites: one says child must be 4 years old; the other says 6. Question: are ventolin inhalers calibrated differently? Why the difference in age? I see the headline, "Mother Uses Unprescribed Medication Resulting in...." Never mind. No ventolin.

I dressed Junior, prepared a hospital bag: diapers-check. Water, milk, bottles-check. Snack for hubbie-check. Panic hovers.

Hubbie arrived at Emergency at 5:45 am. I waited for a phone call. No cell phones in hospitals. Shit!

In triage, Junior was not deemed a high priority. His laboured breathing continued. My husband found the intake nurse. He insisted. Action. Junior was given cortisone. Waited an hour. Not working. Doctor tried some sort of adrenalin. Slight improvement. Then the wait in Observation.

Waiting at home, I called on patience. It was semi-reliable. Panic had subsided, but continued to return unexpectedly. I reminded myself that my daughter was about to wake up and worry about her brother and father. I was the adult here, right? Didn't feel like it.

I called on my acting skills. I reassured her that her brother was fine. But panic was still in the air. I told her several times not to worry and get ready for school.

My husband waited hours in Observation and called to see if I could take over. I showed up. We were both exhausted. I took my shift. Junior looked better, but still had a wheeze. Doctor finally appeared. He told us to return in three days if the situation didn't improve. Just laryngitis...

It is now two days later, and Junior is still sick. He has a fever. Panic is still on the not-so-distant horizon.

In retrospect, I conclude that panic, the enemy of self-control, is kept at bay through action, or finding solutions. That's what worked for me. What works for you?
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Who Tweets and Why Tweet for Breaking News

Okay, before we start this, in less than a week I have become a Twitteraddict. If you're signed on look me up: AKAmamma

Yesterday, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a study on the use of Twitter and status updating services. The study found that 1 in 10 online US adults has used Twitter or a comparable service to share updates with others. Twitter provides the prompt, "What are you doing now?" and users post their moods, thoughts, opinions or location in 140 characters or less.

The study revealed that Twitterers were mainly young adults: 20% of young adults in the 25-34 age group have used Twitter, slightly more than users aged 18 to 24 (19%). The user rate dropped sharply to 10% among the 35-44 age group and to 5% among those aged 45 to 54.

Twitter use is highly interconnected with other social media, such as blogging and social networking. In fact, the study reports that if someone blogs and uses social networking, there is a strong likelihood that s/he will also use Twitter.

In general, people who tweet tend to be social beings who seek out social forums. The status updater or Twitter set tend to be mobile and enjoy the freedom of wireless technology, such as laptops, hand held devices and cell phones, or any application that gives them more social contact.

Now you have the profile of those who tweet... but is Twitter a useful tool in finding stories?

Consider this: Using his iphone, Janis Krums posted the first picture on Twitter of U.S. Airways flight 1549 which crashed into the Hudson River. And just 34 minutes later, he was being interviewed live as an eye-witness by MSNBC.

A lucky break you say. Nope. There is an endless number of stories out there. It all depends on who you follow. On the Twitter interface, choose Suggested Users to get started, and then select the people or entities that most interest you.

As you may have guessed, I've been following a tech guru in this neck of the woods on Twitter, and that's how I came up with this story.
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