Joan Kuhl – Dig Your Heels In

This is, unfortunately, a timeless book. I say unfortunately because there shouldn’t be a need for Joan Kuhl’s Dig Your Heels In: Navigate Corporate BS and Build the Company You Deserve in these presumably enlightened times. You would think that our modern age and society would have long since put out to pasture the workplace/professional inequality that has bedeviled women since time immemorial, but you would be wrong to believe so. Kuhl’s book and the personal experiences she shares between its covers makes clear how many of these issues are systemic and remain prevalent, though perhaps less overt than half a century ago thanks to an increased willingness from women to speak up and some laws and regulations in place to discourage such conduct. Kuhl’s book confronts these problems head on and offers solid advice for women on how to contend with these problems when they arise.


She writes with startling clarity and doesn’t mince or waste words when addressing the multiple ways workplace bias and inequality manifest themselves. Dig Your Heels In isn’t an extended work bloated with repetition or filler material and Kuhl’s presentation emphasizes an easily digestible format for her readers. This is the hallmark of an experienced writer – Kuhl has other publications to her credit and her authorial savvy is evident on each page. Despite the assertive title, the book doesn’t beat drums and call on women to storm boardrooms and offices across the land. Kuhl is never so crass. The book, essentially, promotes a simple message implied by the title – stand your ground and don’t be afraid of negative perception because dignity and professional respect is worth more than the opinion of those who do not value your efforts through no fault of your own.

As mentioned earlier, Kuhl relates her personal experiences dealing with this issue and the vulnerability of such a move further endeared me to the book. It also gives an added air of authority to her thoughts and instruction for readers – she has “been there” rather than offering a work based off research and others experiences alone. There is definitely a “how to” element defining this work, but it never undercuts its inherent quality. Instead, the instructional aspects of this book provides readers, particularly women, with an essentially step by step structure for approaching these problems in their own workplace while still exploring all of the potential pitfalls and misgivings they may experience and feel along the way.


Perhaps one day future readers or societal observers may look back on a work like this as a relic from a more complicated and less open-minded era. I definitely would like to believe that day will come. Dig Your Heels In, for now however, is intensely relevant to challenges women continue to face in their careers and professional lives, but Kuhl never talks down to the reader, holds us above those experiences, and doesn’t allow her ideas and writing to turn into a broadside against the male gender. She has, instead, produced a work any intelligent and thoughtful reader will respond to.

Scottie Carlito

New Artist Spotlight: Mas Ysa

Thomas Arsenault, known by his stage name “Mas Ysa” (pronounced “Maas Ee-sa”), is one of the most interesting and exciting presences to come through the world of pop music in recent memory. His songs are densely packed affairs, brimmed with production and instrumentation while still holding an emotional center. Originally from Montreal, Arsenault also spent time growing up in São Paulo. Based on his music, he seems like someone who takes inspiration from different locales by creating music that takes you to different spaces while listening.

Even before he had dropped any physical music, Arsenault had made a name for himself through live performances. As an opener for Deerhunter, he turned heads with how aggressive and intense his music and performance was. Considering that his music could be most easily tagged with genre description of “synth-pop,” it’s beyond impressive how much momentum Arsenault is able to get out of it.

In 2014, Arsenault released his debut EP, entitled “Worth.” It’s a nine-track work, with several of those being instrumental interludes. It’s a consistently engaging and emotive piece of work, but it’s strongest at its most turbulent. On two tracks, “Why” and “Shame,” Arsenault constructs auditory landscapes that sound like they are going to rip apart from their own design. “Why” is the more playful of the two; feeling like a dancehall number in the mind of someone ruined by self-doubt. “Shame,” on the other hand, is a complete emotional breakdown (or breakdowns) caught on audio and composed with the kind of finesse that has you returning to watch the most unnerving moments in film and television.

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The following year saw the release of Mas Ysa’s debut full-length album, “Seraph.” Here, Arsenault proved that he could handle himself across a full album. From the impassioned, violent opening title track to the emotional ode to his mother, “Margarita,” to the somber, reflective closing track, “Don’t Make,” Arsenault proved himself as someone who can convincingly juggle emotions in music the way few others can.

Arsenault might not yet be a household name, but he has been a significant touring presence over the last couple years. He has opened and toured with such notable acts as Young Fathers, Tanlines and Julianna Barwick. Arsenault makes his live sets special, unforgettable occasions. On stage, he performs surrounded by synthesizers, drum machines and samplers, all of which he programs on the fly. He throws himself into his songs as much as humanly possibly, vocalizing to full intensity. We should also mention that he is typically barefooted during live performances. It’s only a matter of time before we see him on the lineups of major festivals such as Coachella and Bonnaroo.

At times, it might seem like everything that could possibly be done with pop music has been done already. Every chord progression, every melody, every lyric has already been written and repeated. With Mas Ysa, Thomas Arsenault is challenging the notion of what exactly pop music can and should be.