Thursday, November 19, 2015

Interview with Dr. Janette Habashi, Child's Cup Full; Innovative Leadership Series

Welcome to an interview with Dr. Janette Habashi, who is working to build a sustainable business that employs women and benefits families in the West Bank.
Child's Cup Full: Women Hand-Embroidering Educational Toys
What is your name and the project you're involved in?
My name is Dr. Janette Habashi and I am the founder and executive director of Child's Cup Full (CCF). Child’s Cup Full is a non-profit social enterprise that creates sustainable economic opportunities for Palestinian refugee and impoverished women artisans in the West Bank. CCF’s projects enable some of the most vulnerable women in the region to make a career of their craft and design skills, producing high quality, handcrafted pieces, which CCF markets and sells abroad, focusing specifically on the US market.
Educational Alphabet Toys to promote literacy: In English and also Arabic

As stated in the Women’s Empowerment Principles published by UN Women, “Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities” [1]. CCF’s aim is to inspire lasting economic growth in the West Bank by building upon existing skills of low-income, welfare-seeking, refugee women artisans, and providing them access to the global marketplace through its artisanship advocacy initiative. Unemployment for both men and women is high across the West Bank, and the need to focus on economic opportunities for women in particular is clear.

Women’s participation in the labor force in the occupied Palestinian Territories was estimated at approximately 17% in 2010, and men’s participation was around four times that of women (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 2013). Child’s Cup Full aims to break cycles poverty and dependency on aid by creating opportunities for women’s economic self-reliance, and opportunities for them to easily provide for their children and families. CCF’s strategy is to provide career-relevant artisanship training programs and sustainable employment to low-income women artisans who otherwise do not have sources of regular income.

2.     How did it get started?
Between 2011 and September, 2014, Child’s Cup Full ran its own artisan center as a small pilot project in Zababdeh, a village located in the northern West Bank. The program was managed under the auspices of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. In October, 2014, Child’s Cup Full received its 501(c)3 non-profit status in the US and also applied for registration with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Last October, CCF embarked on a new journey as an autonomous non-profit social enterprise, focused on building its brand in the US to one day become entirely self-sufficient through product sales.

3.     What are the main products?  Who is employed?
For the past four years, our artisans have been handmaking educational children’s toys using mostly surplus materials from local bedding and furniture companies. All of our toys are designed to support cognitive development and language learning for children ages three to seven. We have toys in English, Arabic and Spanish, as well as other toys such as memory games and puzzle balls. We well all of our toys on our online store

Starting this Fall, we also launched our new line of hand-embroidered shoes and accessories, called Darzah.  All of our shoes and jewelry are available for preorder on our online store

CCF takes a unique approach to tackling job insecurity in the West Bank by implementing a nonprofit social enterprise model that focuses on access to the global marketplace. We specifically target refugee and low-income women artisans in our training and employment programs. Our aim is to provide long-term employment so that these women have opportunities to provide for themselves and their families without having to worry about their next job opportunity.
Our team also seeks out professional design consultation along with strategic marketing techniques to ensure the CCF brand has a competitive edge. The funds generated from each sale are used to sustain and grow our artisan center in Zababdeh. CCF plans to increase its impact in the West Bank by eventually building a consortium of artisan groups across the region.

4.     What do you hope will be the final outcome?
CCF’s approach is a unique combination of artisanship advocacy, international partnership development and strategic marketing in the US, all of which open doors to the global marketplace. Once we have achieved a sustainable business model, one of our long-term plans is to allocate a portion of our sales revenue to support grassroots education programs for refugee children in the West Bank.

Interview with Dr. Janette Habashi

5.     How do you publicize and sell the products?  (please include links)
We are very active on Instagram and Facebook, where we regularly post updates about our products, promotions, and stories about our talented artisans in the West Bank.

We also sell some of our products in retail shops in the US, including:

-Middle East Books & More, Washington, DC

-Mediterranean Deli, Chapel Hill, NC

-One World Market, Durham, NC

-Lolly Garden, Tulsa, OK

-Salam Shop, Toronto, Canada [starting December, 2015]

6.  Do you have any new products?
Yes! We are very excited to announce the launch of our new embroidered product line called Darzah. In addition to our handmade children’s toys, some of our artisans in Zababdeh are also designing embroidered pieces for handmade shoes, bracelets and necklaces. We have partnered with a shoe manufacturer in Nablus, so our shoes are 100% made in the West Bank. All of our Darzah products are available for preorder on our website at

7. What are your future plans?
In 2016, we plan to increase our impact by creating a consortium of artisan centers across the West Bank. There is a huge opportunity for artisan groups throughout the region to work together to create jobs for women artisans who have a wide range of skills to offer. Our current areas of focus include Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem regions.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Interview with Patti Shank, Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Patti Shank, a learning programs innovator whose ability to bring clarity to the design and implementation process is extremely useful in a time of rapid technological change, and a context of constantly shifting knowledge needs.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
    Patti Shank, PhD, CPT.  I got into e-learning before there was an "e." ;-) We just called it using technology to support learning or digitally enhanced learning or something like that. We simply had a need (in health care) to reach people who were busy (clinicians, patients) and started using technology (mostly video, at the time) to reach them. The Internet was just becoming available but it was complex to use and not ready for prime time.

    BTW, I think it's long past time to drop the "e." The technology piece is just part of the solution. It's never the entire solution. It never should have been split out in the first place.

2.  How did you get interested in e-learning?
    When the Internet became more widely available, I started  looking into it. But in some ways, we went backwards before going forward again. The Internet was mostly text at first.

    And we're finally getting to the point where we can move social interaction into place where it should be. Learning from and with each other is a natural part of learning. I'm hoping that purely asynchronous learning will start becoming more hybrid in the near future.
3.  What are the most overlooked issues in developing good learning programs?
    Using good instructional practice is the most overlooked issue! It's sad how much "instructional content" (text, video, audio, etc.) is not sound from a learning perspective. A recent research project I worked on showed that learning sciences may not be as available or easy to read as we think. Practice certainly shows that it doesn't get used as much as we'd hope. (I hope to change that, one person at a time.)

4.  What are key questions to ask when putting together an educational program?

    The key question for organizations is:

    1. What business and human performance outcomes are needed? 

    Here are some others:

    2. How do you know this is a problem? (What are the signs and symptoms?)

    3. What would you consider a "fix" for this problem?
    These are very high level. There are ton of others and I could go on for hours.

5.  What is your latest book? What is it about?
    My last book isn't on learning so might I talk about what's coming out soon? I'm working on how to easily apply learning sciences in everyday instructional content.

    We're taking the most common problems of learning content (text, video, audio, etc.) and showing how to apply learning sciences to those problems. And we're writing it so anyone who writes learning content (teacher, trainer, subject matter expert, etc) can do it.

6.  What are some of the things that you have found out about yourself and life in writing the book?
    We found it's hard to make difficult topics easy. (Duh. We know this!) So it took us a while to figure out a good process. But it's been super rewarding with many eureka moments!

7.  How can the ideas in the book help the individual reader?
    We want the materials to help the average instructional content builder build instructional content that makes it easier to learn. A lot of instructional content doesn't, which we know by the number of frustrated people.

8.  What are the key secondary messages in the book?
    There are some key ideas in the learning sciences that when applied well, make it FAR easier for people to learn.

9. What are your plans for the future?
    Expand on what I am talking about in 5-8. I'll be rebuilding my site ( in the very near future (next 3-4 months) to make this project available to all who need it. We want to make it easy for all people who teach others to make it easier to learn. Simple as that. I feel like it's the culmination of my life's work.

        Thank you!!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Success During a Downturn: Interview with Steven Tedesco, Running Foxes Petroleum. Innovators & Entrepreneurs Series

Achieving success during downturns is a function of vision and leadership, and it requires a person to think creatively and independently. These are just a few of the insights provided by Dr. Steven Tedesco, Running Foxes Petroleum, in the two interviews presented here -- written, and also via YouTube. Welcome to an informative interview with a successful entrepreneur who has used science, technology, strategic thinking, and pro-active environmental responsibility to innovate and create a dynamic, thriving company.

1.    What is your company and its primary focus?
Running Foxes Petroleum Inc.  Our focus is shallow conventional oil and gas, waterflooding, coal bed methane and shale gas.  We focus in Eastern Kansas, Western Missouri, Southeast Colorado and in eastern central Utah.  Our goal is to target reservoirs that are simple in nature and do not require complex fracking and drilling.  Geologic risk is minimal.  The real risk is proper execution which is easier to control.

Dr. Steven Tedesco
2.    What is your background?
Geologist by training with three degrees.  BS from Northeastern University, Masters from Southern Illinois University and PhD from Colorado School of Mines.  33 years’ experience in the oil and gas business with over 2 years of experience in nuclear, mining and geotech.  I have also become very will versed doing petroleum engineering, land, marketing and contract negotiations.

3.    What are some of the lessons / insights from hard rock geology that apply to petroleum geology?
The use of technologies, such as surface geochemistry and aeromagnetics, that can be successfully applied to oil and gas.  The earth is a dynamic process and both metals and petroleum accumulations have very similar characteristics to each other.  Therefore all technologies work to some degree on an type of deposits.

4.  How would you characterize a successful entrepreneur?

 Interview with Dr. Tedesco on LifeEdge, October 15, 2015.

A successful entrepreneur has to have vision.  Seeing opportunities where others see nothing.  For example distressed gas assets can be acquired very inexpensively.  Most of the industry does not like gas.  But as history shows both oil and gas products go through cycle.  By buying gas assets now, improving them either with working over or drilling new wells at lower costs will only benefit the value of the assets when prices go higher and costs to rework and drill new wells will also rise.

5.    What are some of the opportunities that an entrepreneur would identify during a downturn?
Looking for distressed properties.  In a downturn multiple companies and individuals get over extended and this presents opportunities to acquire assets at minimal cost.  Many of these assets will be like diamonds in the rough.  With a little work their value can be greatly improved.  The difficulty is to finance these opportunities.  It requires companies to take a contrarian attitude despite the overall thought of low prices for a perceived extended period of time.  History shows those that identify the bottom of any cycle enter and exit the next boom very successfully.  Also the entrepreneur has to be committed to the vision.  People tend to follow in herds in industry.  The visionary needs to ignore to some extent the people around him or her who attempt to dissuade them from pursuing the vision.  The vision and opportunity does need to be well thought out from all angles such as geology, engineering, operations, land, regulations, costs, IRR, etc.  

6.    Do you have any books / key thinkers that you would recommend?
I believe we can learn a lot from past leaders.  I read books on George Washington, Robert E. Lee, George Mitchell, Lord Thomas Cochrane, Patton, Kennedy, General Rosecrans, Woodrow Wilson, Ho Chi Min, Churchill, Reagan, to name a few.  These are leaders despite some eventually being on the wrong side exude commitment, resolve and leadership in both good and bad times consistently.

Note:  Steve Tedesco will be presenting a paper at AAPG's Revitalizing Reservoirs Geosciences Technology Workshop in San Antonio, December 1-2. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Multi-Disciplinary Mini-Competency Certificate Programs: Unique, Customized, with Real-World Value

The problem with most degree and certificate programs is that they tend to be expensive, cumbersome, slow-to-acquire, and uniform. And, it may be difficult to show you have knowledge in a unique area, say, “Geochemistry and Corrosion Control in Carbonate Reservoirs,” or “Fire-Themed Festivals for Economic Development.”

While uniformity can be good for a general education and for obtaining grounding in basic skills, it’s not good if you’re trying to differentiate yourself from the competition, and also to showcase what makes you uniquely you.

Further, if you’re trying to create a career path that is unique and explores interesting new areas, you will need to acquire a range of skills and abilities that cross categories, and which encourage you to think of things in new ways, and to relate different areas to each other.

You’ll also need to combine traditional learning activities (courses, elearning, projects) with prior learning and what you learn in teams and by applying concepts in order to solve a problem.

A way to give individuals an edge in a competitive job market is to develop a multi-disciplinary certificate that shows multi-competencies (which is to say that these are blended competencies). Customized, personalized curriculum in more than one discipline, can help the individual  transcend the limitations of conventional education and training, and to position oneself to enter unique employment areas, and also to apply knowledge in new and satisfying ways.

By making sure that the mini-competencies are flexible and quick-to-complete (as quickly as a month), it’s possible that a person will be continually creating and recreating himself or herself in a way that could be truly breakthrough in terms of human capital and a community’s ability to achieve sustainable growth.
Combine Courses with Collaboration, Applications, Demonstrated Knowledge
Learning is more than taking courses in a face to face or online setting. However, it’s easy to lose sight of that when we confine ourselves to traditional curriculum, and only track traditional coursework.

Instead, we need to find a way to officially track the knowledge that is gained in on-the-job or mentored learning, and also in teams. We also need to track what happens when the knowledge applied and shared, as in during a presentation or demonstration of a new product or process.

So, we need to make sure that we include learning events and we do it in a systematic way in order to establish quality standards and rubrics.

Incorporate Multiple Categories of Learning
To begin, let’s create categories of learning, and assure that there are measurable outcomes in order to successfully complete each one.

1.    Training/Education: Discipline 1 – include measurable outcomes (quizzes / questions / problems)
2.    Training/Education: Discipline 2 – include measurable outcomes (quizzes / questions / problems)
3.    Experiential Learning: Supervised work / mentored experience, with measurable outcome as the end product (map, report, video, etc.)
4.    Collaborative Learning: Project-based work that addresses solving a problem or investigating an emerging topic, with an outcome that could include a portfolio (joint report, video, audio)
5.    Application / Demonstration:  A paper or product / process demonstration presented at a refereed conference, convention, workshop, or symposium

Example -- Geochemistry and Corrosion Control in Carbonate Reservoirs:

1.    Face to Face Short Course in Discipline A (Engineering):  Corrosion in Mississippian Wells
2.    E-Learning Course in Discipline B (Geology):  Geochemistry of the Mississippian Lime in Oklahoma and Kansas
3.    Internship / Research Project: Talk to oil field chemical companies and discuss the different problems that occur with produced water in the Mississippian Lime (where / how / when)
4.    Attend Conference / Discussion Group (which requires interaction):  Attend an SPE Discussion Group in which corrosion control and production problems are discussed, create a report of what was discussed, along with initial literature review
5.    Make a presentation at a conference / workshop / convention: Present a paper on “The Relation between Geochemistry, Corrosion, and Declining Production in the Mississippian Lime”

Propose Your Own Curriculum, Get Sign-Off from the Sponsoring Organization
The first step is to identify your interests, and then to select learning experiences that fit the correct categories.

The sponsoring organization will provide guidance, will help identify learning experiences, will identify subject matter experts, and will issue certificates, and will archive the records.

As you complete each learning experience, you’ll provide the required documentation to the sponsoring association and then they will review and approve them (under the auspices of a subject matter expert).

The association will issue a certificate for each learning experience successfully completed, and then a certificate for the entire mini-competency. They will also collect recommendations which you can post in social media sites such as LinkedIn.

The Flexible Future of Self-Defining Competencies and Professional Identity
Organizations that are willing to work with each other and cross disciplines will be taking the first step to helping their constituencies and their communities in the development of human capital.

Key is to this is respecting the fact that individuals must find ways to differentiate themselves from others, and to customize themselves to build on their strengths and interests.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Better Learning Analytics for Online Courses

We need new quality guidelines for career-focused, competency, technology-forward online programs. 

Existing online program quality evaluation tools serve an important role in online program evaluation, and they have been extremely important in the growth and development of online programs in the last 20 years.  They have assisted organizations in the development of consistent programs that conform to general ideas of quality / standards. They provide a very helpful tool in the updating content, tracking curriculum, training instructors, and assuring effectiveness.  The most highly regarded rubrics and instruments include Quality Matters, the Online Learning Consortium’s Scorecard, and Chico State’s Exemplary Online Instruction.

For example, the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric includes eight General Standards and 43 Specific Review Standards in order to evaluate the design of online and blended courses, and specifically addresses objectives, assessment, instructional materials, course activities, learner interaction, course technologies (Quality Matters, 2015). 

However, in a world of quickly evolving jobs, where industries have made entire professions obsolete, and have created demand for new knowledge, skills, and abilities, additional tools and evaluations are needed. Disruptive technologies and practices are also having a profound effect, which necessitates the development of a flexible workforce that can quickly be retrained.

Further, with online learning, which correlates with team-based collaborations and distributed workplaces, delivery options are also critical.  Learning analytics, which include quality assessments must now address a fairly wide range of programmatic attributes that are not addressed in the more traditional instruments such as the OLC Scorecard or QM’s rubric.  

Interestingly, there has been a renewed emphasis on education provided by professional societies in addition to colleges and universities. Part of the impetus has been due to the fact that there have been major shifts in the student population and their reasons for pursuing education. Further, there have been major changes in higher education, as for-profit providers and those with high student loan default rates coming under fire.

Finally, while online programs have been in place for 20 years, the constant development of new mobile technologies along with the expansion of high-speed internet and wifi networks has profoundly altered the way that learners pull information, interact with others, and participate in knowledge sharing. Further, it has changed how learners can approach content that requires problem-solving, creative solutions, collaboration, and hands-on projects. A renewed focus on outcomes as well as a collaborative, mobile, “information pull” (rather than “data push”) approaches have profoundly affected the learning process.

Learning Analytics

Learning analytics, which incorporate educational data mining, process analytics, and data visualization can be used to address some of the new concerns and focal areas in educational programs. An effective approach was employed by Scheffel, etal (2014) to analyze learning analytics for hybrid and online programs. In developing quality indicators for learning analytics, Scheffel etal made specific assumptions about the main elements to include in an instructional program, and they also assumed that both student and instructor perceptions were uniformly valid.  

In the Scheffel etal’s meta-analysis and ultimate determination of quality indicators for learning analytics, a matrix emerged with five criteria and four quality indicators (2014):

Five Criteria and Four Quality Indicators for Each (Scheffel, 2014):

(Awareness, Reflection, Motivation, Behavioral Change)

Learning Support
(Perceived Usefulness, Recommendation, Activity Classification, Detection of Students at Risk)

Learning Measures and Output
(Comparability, Effectiveness, Efficiency, Helpfulness)

Data Aspects
(Transparency, Data Standards, Data Ownership, Privacy)

Organizational Aspects
(Availability, Implementation, Training of Educational Stakeholders, Organizational Change)

Scheffel’s work is in an early stage, and the next step will be to apply the criteria and quality indicators to application-focused educational programs

Student-Driven Metrics:  Return on Investment (ROI)

With the increasing cost of education, combined with the profound economic changes that occurred in the years after 2007-2008, learners have focused on a positive return on investment (ROI) for their investment in education.

However, there is no clear consensus on how to measure an education ROI, particularly across disciplines.

    • Job-Focused Competency-Based (ROI for investment in education)

    • Technology for Applied Knowledge (mobile / collaborative)

New Instructional Strategy Focal Points and Areas for Quality Assessment:

The technological advances in mobile devices as well as an enhanced infrastructure have resulted in the need for ubiquitous access to cloud-based assets.

While it may not yet be possible to achieve universal and continuous access to the cloud, an increasing number of cloud-hosted applications facilitate constant updating of information, as well as collaboration and information sharing.  These often form the cornerstone of the enhanced learning opportunities for professional development and competency-building for new jobs.

Additional focal points for quality assessment.

*e-texts with Collaborative Capability.  Cloud-based access of e-texts, with focus on collaborative annotations and guidance by instructor. The relevance of the texts, as well as the robustness of the collaborative capability should be assessed.

*Applications. Mobile devices that utilize applications that facilitate information sharing. How effective are the applications being used? Do they facilitate the achievement of outcomes? Some applications foster engagement and deeper learning through immediate feedback (Kovach etal 2015).

*Learning Management System transition, with more organizations using a “light” version of an LMS, and focusing more on content management in the cloud

*Collaboration:  Competency-based education often required teamwork, and thus educational / training programs should have a capstone as well as collaborative activities that reflect the types of activity that they’ll need to perform in professional and career settings (Huss, etal 2015).

*Engagement:  Students who desire enhanced access to employment opportunities as well as the chance to diversify / expand their abilities quickly lose interest if their coursework seems irrelevant, outdated, or disconnected from the marketplace. 

*Persistence: Persistence is tied to engagement, as well as motivation. Persistence (course completion) is critical, particularly in a context where education is expensive and industries are transitioning, requiring workforces to retool themselves.

*Career Competencies: One clear measure of quality (and relevance / utility for students) has to do with competencies. Competency rubrics differ, based on the overall goals and outcomes.  The development and validation of competency models has been particularly impressive in the healthcare field (Garman & Scribner, 2011).

Single-course competencies: often developed in response to compliance needs and require an assessment at the end of the course.

Competency clusters: often tie to career paths, especially those that are being disrupted by new technologies or contexts, and thus involve multiple courses, each of which includes an assessment. There is often a summative assessment at the end (Boahin etal, 2014).

*Integrated / multi-disciplinary capstones and/or supervised practice and internships: Education programs that claim to be able to place their graduates in a viable career path generally require a problem-based capstone that is often multi-disciplinary and integrative.  Further, internships and supervised practice are also often required (McKnight, 2013).

*Project-Based / Task-Based Outcomes: Seamless incorporation of prior learning / experiential learning is very desirable in career-focused professions and higher education. Thus, a project-based activity, which requires a literature review, analysis of a problem, creative problem-solving, an evaluation of different methods.  Collaboration and teamwork are often highly desirable, particularly if the career itself involves significant teamwork (King & Spicer, 2009).

A View to the Future

It is important to continue to implement the quality assessment processes that have been implemented with success for online and blended courses and programs. The standards continue to be relevant and they allow a degree of standardization in terms of expectations and practice.

However, there are gaps in assessment thanks to the changes that have emerged due to the factors discussed earlier, which include a focus on careers and a need to incorporate new technologies.

Learning analytics can be utilized in order to assess new and emerging areas of instruction, and to assure the validity of the quality assurance process. Assessment can be performed by means of quality assurance instruments. It can also be performed by means of onsite trainers and evaluators, as in the case of ADCO’s approach to oil and gas professional training (Dawoud, 2014).



Boahin, Peter , Eggink, Jose & Adriaan Hofman (2014) Competency-based training in international perspective: comparing the implementation processes towards the achievement of employability, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 46:6, 839-858, DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2013.812680

Chico State University (2015) Exemplary Online Instruction.

Chico State University (2015) Rubric for Online Teaching.

Chico State University (2015) Online Teaching and Learning Tool

Garman A; Scribner L. Leading for Quality in Healthcare: Development and Validation of a Competency Model. Journal Of Healthcare Management [serial online]. November 2011;56(6):373-382. Available from: Academic Search Elite, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 5, 2015.

Huss, John A.; Sela, Orly; Eastep, Shannon. A Case Study of Online Instructors and Their Quest for Greater Interactivity in Their Courses: Overcoming the Distance in Distance Education.  Australian Journal of Teacher Education, v40 n4 Article 5 Apr 2015

King K. N., Spicer C. M.  (2009) Badgers & Hoosiers: An Interstate Collaborative Learning Experience Connecting MPA Students in Wisconsin and Indiana Journal of Public Affairs Education, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Summer, 2009), pp. 349-360

Kovach J, Miley M, Ramos M. Using Online Studio Groups to Improve Writing Competency: A Pilot Study in a Quality Improvement Methods Course. Decision Sciences Journal Of Innovative Education [serial online]. July 2012;10(3):363-387. Available from: Business Source Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 5, 2015.

McKnight S. (2013) Mental Health Learning Needs Assessment: Competency-Based Instrument for Best Practice. Issues In Mental Health Nursing [serial online]. June 2013; 34(6):459-471. Available from: Academic Search Elite, Ipswich, MA. Accessed September 5, 2015.

Online Learning Consortium (2015). Online Quality Scorecard.

Quality Matters (2015) Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric.

Scheffel, Maren; Drachsler, Hendrik; Stoyanov, Slavi; Specht, Marcus. (2014) Quality Indicators for Learning Analytics. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, Vol. 17, No. 4, Review Articles in Educational Technology (October 2014), pp. 117-132

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Cantinflas: Genio del Posmodernismo en Soy un prófugo (1946)

Mario Moreno Reyes, mejor conocido por su personaje, "Cantinflas," es un genio de posmodernismo. Así, sus obras contienen y demuestran una energía subversiva y interrogación de las estructuras del modernismo que existían en la primera mitad del Siglo XX con sus los vestigios del colonialismo que todavía impusieron jerarquías y límites en la sociedad mexicana. A través de su personaje, Cantinflas, Moreno privilegió la cultura populista mexicana de las clases humildes, y así mostró que el pueblo mexicano se constituyó una tremenda fuerza y fuente de vida, creatividad, ingenio, y el espíritu emprendador, y una anarquía capaz de producir una sociedad que vibra con vida.

Las primeras películas de Cantinflas ilustran muy bien una reacción al modernismo, con sus ideas monolíticas y las dogmáticas y rígidas ideas de sus líderes, especialmente los de los "cultos de personalidad" que florecieron en varias partes del mundo.

Mario Moreno Reyes, "Cantinflas"
En las películas antes de 1950, la manera de Cantinflas de subvertir todas las formas autoridad fue y sútil y multifacética. Se destacó por la yuxtaposición de caós y libertad a una epistemología del absolutismo, que se manifestó como despotismo político, elitismo cultural, y simplemente las ideas de realidad que se ubicaban en el modernismo (especialmente la tecnocracia).

El modernismo en los últimos años del siglo XIX y los primeros décadas de siglo XX se cuadró muy bien con los dictadores que utilizaron la tecnología para establecer su propio elitismo. También, el modernismo aprovechó de una ontología que incorporó las jerarquías del colonialismo.

Pero una sociedad viva y sana tiene que tolerar (hasta fomentar) la resistencia; ejemplos abundan en las épocas fructíferas de la literatura y el arte: la novela picaresca (Lazarillo de Tormes; El diablo cojuelo, Huckleberry Finn, etc.); la novela satírica (Pantagruel y Gargantua de Rabelais, Candide de Voltaire, Gulliver's Travels por Jonathan Swift). Se puede decir también que para tener una sociedad sana es también necesario que haya la presencia de lo dionisio que deja entrar la fecundidad, no sólo de lo físico sino también que deshace la idea de orden. La presencia de desorden en la literatura y cine abre nuevas posibilidades de expresión y creatividad.  Posiblemente la idea más poderoso en todo ésto es el concepto de un dialecto entre el orden y el desorden, que resulta en una desintegración de las estructuras rígidas que, si nadie las perturbe, pueden paralizar la sociedad y quitar su esencia.

Y así entra Cantinflas -- que emplea todos los tácticos y estrategias para restaurar vida y energía precisamente porque sus actos y manera de hablar precipitan una cáscada de disrupciones --


Soy una norteamericana quien acaba de descubrir a Cantinflas, la creación de Mario Moreno Reyes, gracias al hecho de que alguién mencionó su nombre en una ocasión, y se me picó la curiosidad para buscar árticulos y comentarios en línea. Después descubrí una colección sus películas disponible en el Internet y que las películas han sido restauradas y que aparecen en "definición alta." Muchas de las películas están accesible por

He empezado a mirar las películas de Cantinflas, empezando con las más viejas, que me gustan muchísimo. Pienso que él merece en absoluto su fama y buena reputación por ser un genio cómico y un gran humanista que poseía un talento de unir la audiencia a pesar de sus diferencias. También se ve que es un satirista de la sociedad, pero no conozco suficiente de la historia de México, especialmente en la primera mitad del siglo XX para comentar con mucha autoridad.

Por eso, yo quisiera comenzar por pedir disculpas en adelante por los errores que haré por no conocer muy bien el entorno de todas las películas de Cantinflas.

Pero, de todos modos, aprecio la obra de Cantinflas y quiero escribir unos pensamientos y observaciones que me surgen después de mirar una de sus películas.  Quiero comentar de su trato posmoderno y también los elementos subversivos. En este caso mi enfoque es en Soy un Prófugo  (título alternativo: Bandido a Muque) (1946), dirigido por Miguel M. Delgado.

Resumen del Complot de Soy un Prófugo:
Cantinflas trabaja en la limpieza de edificios; en este caso, un banco.  Una banda de ladrones roba el banco, pero el "crédito" del crimen llega a Cantinflas y su compañero de trabajo. Aunque Cantinflas y su compañero se niegan de haber sido involucrados, la policia los meten en la cárcel. Ahí, al conocer a su compañero de la celda, que se llama Gargantúa (una referencia a Rabelais, supongo), fastidian tanto al gigante que él les ayuda a escapar.

Pero, su escape no sirve para mucho, porque Cantinflas y su amigo son seducidos y secuestrados casi inmediatemente por una rubia en un coche con conductor (al principio, los dos no pueden creer que una rubia tan elegante les está haciendo caso). Les lleva ella a un salón de apostar que forma el sede de una pandilla de ladrones / tramposos. Se nota que los ladrones se visten meticulasamente y con nitídez y pulcritud, en una moda idéntica a los banqueros y los privilegiados, que constituye un comentario subversivo en sí; es decir que los ladrones y los ricos se parecen en cada aspecto. Los miembros de la pandilla están enojados porque quieren que el mundo sepa que son responsables por el crimen, por el crimen fue realizado con elegancia y buena técnica. 

En estos momentos, Cantinflas parece obtener el poder de hipnotisar a los de más por manipular sus ojos y cejas; y él usa su nuevo poder con mucha frecuencia.  Entrega la pandilla a la policia, que aprecian a la oportunidad de detener a los delincuentes verdaderos. La policía explica al banquero principal que Cantinflas y su compañero son inocentes, y de hecho, merecen una recompensa. El banquero llena un cheque para $5 mil pesos, pero bajo la influencia hipnótica de Cantinflas, lo cambia a $20 mil. Cantinflas está ahora con fondos suficientes para comprometerse, y invita a una bonita empleada de la tienda de la vecindad. Cuando entra Cantinflas, la bonita chica está hablando a su novio, pero Cantinflas usa sus poderes para hipnotisarles para convencer a ella (y al rival) que el rival ya está casado, con 8 hijos y una señora que necesitan sus recursos.  Al final, Cantinflas y su bonita novia estaban contentísimas, y todo sale bien.

Cantinflas y sus subversiones de lenguaje:
Cuando Cantinflas habla a su manera particular y cuando entra en una conversación extensa, él habla mucho pero no dice nada. De hecho, es una subversión de lenguaje, o por lo menos, en la idea que las palabras representan la realidad. Si es cierto, entonces la realidad no tiene forma absoluta, y que su forma preferida es de caós y desorden. Para mí, es absolutamente postmoderno, y que en un solo tiro Cantinflas subvierte y erosiona el poder de las autoridades y del poder de lenguaje de producir significado. Me hace recordar el famoso dicho de Wittgenstein: "About which we cannot speak, we must consign to silence."

Cantinflas reduce el lenguaje a una especie de silencio, y destruye el poder de que tienen las autoridades. También, su manera de hablar significa que en la ausencia de un significado seguro, existe la posibilidad de interpretar. Es decir, en la presencia de un idioma que falta la habilidad de significar, existe la posibilidad de invención y de re-invención -- de significado, de identidad, y de la realidad.

Para Cantinflas, la destrucción de la capacidad de lenguaje de producir signficado predecible es un proceso de liberación. Es posible crear y recrear la realidad porque por desatar el idioma de todos sus reglas y normas, lo pone en flujo, y el mundo es, de repente, un lugar de infinitas posibilidades.

El vestido posmoderno: La moda particular de Cantinflas y el significado

Posiblemente la primera cosa que se nota en Cantinflas es su manera de vestirse, en una camisa blanca (o que era blanca, ahora es de un color más o menos gris), un sombrero raído rollado para dar un aspecto muy sugeriente de algo indecente, y pantalones caidos con muchos remiendos, que se están cayendo hasta el punto de ser también indecente. Una soga sustituye por un cinturón, y sobre un hombro lleva algo que parece una toallita y que se llama su “gabardina.” Lleva zapatos demasiado grandes, también raídos.  No obstante, se ve muy orgulloso de su propio "uniforme" -- y hace una yuxtaposición llamativa cuando habla de personas de la clase alta or media, que se destacan por cuidar los detallitos en su aspecto.

También, se nota una gran diferencia cuando Cantinflas mismo se cambia de traje; el cambio es muy abrupto y la audiencia se consciencia del impacto de lo visual, y la importancia de las aparencias en la producción del sigificado.  En su trabajo de limpieza, Cantinflas tiene a un compañero de trabajo (un empleado y colega) y los dos se visten en harapos, pero con cierto "estilo particular."  Obviamente, la moda y la manera de vestirse es un poderoso símbolo, y aún más cuando los rangos de la sociedad son tan bien delineados, y que son impenetrables; es decir la mobilidad social no es posible, excepto en casos extraordinarios.

Al mismo tiempo, se nota que en Soy un prófugo, Cantinflas es, más o menos, un pelado (aunque se puede decir que representó más el concepto de “pelado” en la película El Portero y también en Ahí está el detalle). Le gusta su vida, y no tiene ni aspiraciones ni deseos de subir de estado social. De hecho, expresa su punto de vista cuando  explica por qué no quisiera ser banquero. Ser banquero le quitaría su libertad.  

Después de ser secuestrados por la banda de ladrones "profesionales," Cantinflas y su compañero tienen la oportunidad de conseguir nuevos trajes; el líder de la banda dirige que venga el sastre particular para vestir a los dos. La moda sugerida por el sastre no cae bien -- y dos puntos inmediatamente se surgen, por mi visto, por lo menos. Primero, Cantinflas rechaza en absoluto las normas de la sociedad, y su manera de vestirse. Segundo, un subtexto homosexual sube a la superficie; cuando el sastre menciona que Cantinflas posee un "cuerpo divino" y le toca, sugeriéndos, Cantinflas hace una mueca y lo rechaza. Encima, insiste en modificar el "esmoquin" y el chaleco para conformarse a su propio estilo.

El encuentro con el sastre, que es posiblemente, una parodia del homosexual con atributos femininos, funciona a aliviar a la audiencia, y asegurarles y afirmar que aunque Cantinflas y su compañero viven como pareja, hasta en la misma cama, y que comparten de la misma cuchara -- viviendo "como una sola persona" -- su subversión de los roles masculinos no implica que se adhiere a un estereotipo de la homosexualidad, sino que Cantinflas amplia el rol masculino para incorporar más posibilidades emotivas.  Así, el personaje de Cantinflas abre un panorama de posibilidades, y, sobre todo, remueve barreras sociales; y en cambio, en su rol de "trickster" bastante juguetón, fortalece la aceptación.

Yuxtaposiciones: Alto y bajo
Para mí, es sumamente divertido mirar todo de Cantinflas, y cómo todo sale muy cómico, no solo por su manera de hablar en absurdidades, sino también en su manera de moverse -- sus movimientos, sus acciones, su comedia física.  Surge una alegría tan profunda en mirar sus movimientos que no se puede dejar de sonreir.

La manera en que baile Cantinflas es muy divertida.  Contrasta el baile formal, con buena técnica clásica, y la yuxtaposición causa que se destaque la manera suya de ser, y es un tipo de liberación de los valores burgueses.

Por supuesto, la yuxtaposición de lo absurdo con la "cultura alta" constituye precisamente lo absurdo y el "carnivalesco" en la manera que lo describe el pensador ruso Mikhail Bakhtin. Lo más importante de todo es que significa una subversión de las normas sociales, y así libera a la audiencia.  Por mirar una versión, realizada con mucha alegría, energía, y picardía, la audiencia se siente autenticada -- es decir, valorada y legitímada.

Otras yuxtaposiciones aparecen en la obra de Cantinflas:
-- la clase alta y la clase más humilde, con el resultado que los ricos parecen absurdos
-- el trabajo de los privilegiados y los que no privilegan - siempre resulta que las personas en los puestos más humildes demuestran sus dones y habilidades; y en una manera que afirma la inteligensia de los del campo.

La Subversión de la masculinidad y la pareja convencional
En su trabajo en la limpieza, Cantinflas tiene a un compañero de trabajo (un empleado y colega) y los dos se visten en harapos, pero con cierto "estilo particular."

En su trabajo, no es de ninguna manera evidente que ganarán suficiente para sobrevivir, aunque el banco luce muy elegante, y los banqueros son evidentemente "cómodos" (es decir, ricos). Cuando el banquero pregunta a Cantinflas, cómo puede tener él un empleado, responde por explicar que están viviendo como una persona, compartiendo de todo (hasta una sola cuchara, una sóla almohada, etc.).

No sé como suena a un mexicano, para para mí, suena como una forma muy simpática de referencia de vivir como pareja, y, a la vez, subvierte los valores platitúdinos y perogrullescos del matrimonio, y también borra la definición precisa de la masculinidad.

Aunque tiene un trabajo humilde, no se porta como si aceptara su rango bajo en la escala social. De hecho, juega mucho con los privilegiados y con la autoridad.  En una escena al principio de la película, Cantinflas se seinta en el escritorio del presidente del banco, y habla en un dictafono. Su conversación tiene que ver con la compra de acciones y lo que suele hacer un jefe de una institución financiera. Cuando le pregunta su compañero de trabajo, el responde que lo hice para demostrar que él es preparado y capaz de ser el presidente del banco, pero que su vida así como es más le conviene.

Se supondría que por ponerse en una posición subversiva frente a la sociedad, Cantinflas estaría dispuesto a unirse con la delincuencia y que se uniría con una banda de ladrones a la primera oportunidad.

Pero, no puede ser más lejos de sus deseos. Al ser secuestrado por una banda de ladrones organizados (con salones de apostar, emprendimentos de robar bancos).

Siempre pícaro, siempre ajeno ...

En Soy un Prófugo, aunque Cantinflas recibe una gran cantidad de dinero como recompensa (aún más por su manera de convencer al banquero que le dirija un cheque más generoso), no se incorpora ni en el mundo de los banqueros ni en el mundo de los ladrones. Su éxito representa la afirmación de los deseos de los de un rango social bajo de subir, y efectuar la mobilidad social.
Cantinflas quede libre de las pretensiones de clase - adapta cuando le conviene, y disfruta, con gusto, las posibilidades de auto-expresión y auto-realización. Con mucho amor propio y picardía sigue siendo “pelado” y sigue subvertiendo los valores de la clase media y las actitudes burguesas.

También, mantiene su picardía, y el mundo sigue siendo un gran lugar para jugar con la expectativa social.

Aunque no he mirado muchas películas de Cantinflas, observo que en las primeras películas, mantiene su rol de "forastero" o "el ajeno" de la sociedad alta o privilegiado, y juega mucho con ellos.  En otras películas que filmó más tarde, como la película, Sube y Baja (1958), el deseo no es de quedarte aparte. En cambio, cuando teine éxito, con mucho gusto se abandona su vieja vida y abraza su entrada, sin cuestionar los valores y actitudes. En Sube y Baja, se enamora de una millonaria que es bella, a pesar del hecho de que es muy mercenaria, y abraza su nuevo rol de gerente de una compañía que vende productos para deportistas, aunque está muy evidente que menosprecian a los de orígenes humildes, y seguramente, eventualmente crearía un conflicto interior en Cantinflas, por ser de origen humilde.

La subversión y la satisfacción del lector / la audiencia:
Por eso, pienso que los desenlaces de las películas iniciales son generan una satisfacción con más concordancia a la persona que mira, especialmente en cuanto a su sentido de identidad, los sueños (auque pueden ser todavía no expresados), anhelos y aspiraciones. La manera en que Cantinflas celebra la cultura populista y honra la experiencia particularmente mexicana es y una subversión de las jerarquías colonialistas y también una afirmación del espríritu democrático. 

Article written by Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D., Tulsa, OK, September 2015
Please contact me with suggestions, thoughts, impressions.

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