Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Russia Effect


From Russia with love and positivity! lots of it! 

Let's me put it this way: I love Russia. Every time I am in Russia, it makes me feel better. Maybe it has a cleansing effect on me. The soul refreshed and my body revived, so to speak. Maybe it’s the company of great souls I have been fortunate to meet or the chance to finally enjoy the company of some special folks I hold dearly, some very dearly. Usually, its just Saint Petersburg, my fav russian city and Russia's cultural capital that I like but this trip, Moscow has been so nice and the happy shiny folks there even more nicer. In fact, I met some of my friends from the virtual space who I've known for years (online) for the first time (offline). It was surreal but very pleasant. 

It seems that whenever I am in Russia, I grow a renewed appreciation of essential virtues – courtesy, chivalry, friendship, family values... my friends find it baffling! It actually felt really good that I had always had some of these already but something I don't self-realize very often. Even my semi-close and close friends over the Internet I have learned to appreciate greatly. This newfound wisdom I’ve suddenly realized in my midlife... what's wrong with me? It's just been thirty-something years... or it's already been? It’s the Russia effect. 

Somehow this blog post was kinda difficult to write. It is always easier to think about what you will write instead of writing it. I guess the threat of a keyboard in front of you makes thinking un-easier. When you are free to think with just your brain and inspiration, it's just so fluid. I guess feeling angsty and thoughtful makes for easier writing and absurdly, smoother train of thought for me. Though I was quite pissed at a couple of people this week, the general feeling of contentment and happiness still reigned upon me. And since I am feeling good, I must conjure up ideas that are not of the normal personal sob story sort to kick start the writer inside me. And the result is this blog now. 

I just hope this new found positivity continues for a while as I do not want to take two steps backward, now that I have made this good vibe running. And It's rare that I have caught myself in these pages in a positive happy mood, so let's celebrate. This is a great day to be happy. You must be too. Happy weekend! And have a Banana!! 


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Of X Men, Y Women and Everything in Between!


Love is all about flaws and acceptance, warts and all.

Most guys my age are a confused lot. The quest for true love and companionship, or even real sex, is still in the air, it just tastes very different today. Their dilemma is that they don’t know which way to go. Should they look for girls their age, in the Generation X or Y category, or should they look for those younger, in the confused Generation Z? And what about older men still looking for love? And finally comes the unequivocally frightening question of whether or not the direction that you take makes any difference at all? 

I know a guy friend who is 35 and a total commitment phobic but that doesn’t deter him from hitting on as many girls and women he can, even though he’s seeing someone else. He is very similar to a lot of the guys. Unfortunately, they all want to have fun and do whatever they want, no strings attached. So every now and then they have to give it a shot at the women they know and another shot again (if they fail). Some succeed eventually but many fail, only to be shot down again. Women are not idiots. Its hard to believe that every Gen-X or Y guy is like this, but they pop up all over the place giving all men a bad name and woman a bad taste in the mouth, no pun intended. 

I also have a female friend who is 37 years old currently dating a boyfriend who is 25. That’s over 12 years. She highly recommends dating younger men because her boyfriend is a great guy. She feels she is fed up with changing a boyfriend every year and now believes that Generation Y men are more equipped for Gen-X women. She feels that the men in generation X are caught in a commitment phobic phase that could last the rest of their lives. Yet, she also admits if she herself is caught in a commitment phobic phase and if she subconsciously wants it to last the rest of her life. 

The worry we all have, is simply that we don’t want to get bogged down in a relationship that isn’t right. But, what the hell is right, anyway? I think that the real plaque on our relationships is that we don’t want to end up like some of our parents, married and unhappy. We search for that altruistic person that will measure up to our perfect standards, but does that person ever exist? Is there a happy medium in relationships where the two people love each other and can actually grow as people together in a committed relationship without becoming zombies that just go through the motions of everyday married life? I guess the real question then is can a relationship exist where two people are committed to each other but still retain some sense of independence and growth in their daily lives? 

I have another female friend who is 25 and her boyfriend is 35. They seem to have a good relationship, but she tends to get a little clingy with him and she wants to do everything together and he gets weird about it. The funny thing is that all of her previous boyfriends did the same thing to her and she hated it. I hate those couples, no matter what age they are. You know who I mean, they can’t go anywhere, do anything, or make any decisions without their mate’s approval or input. 

I like to call it the “honeymoon”, which usually happens at the beginning of a relationship. These two people spend every waking moment with each other because they’ve finally met someone that they think is amazing. The truth is that they’ve probably just met someone that they find incredibly attractive and hormones make them think that this person is flawless. Maybe that person is amazing, but deep down, we fail to know that the flawless person is just a person. And surprise, of course they have flaws, we all do. We need to wake up from the honeymoon because every honeymoon does come to an end and then you’re left with yourself, for better or for worse. 

Yet, so many couples continue to live in the honeymoon phase even after it’s over, but they can’t understand why that person isn’t what they used to be? They are what they’ve always been; you just had hormonal blinders on that made them look perfect. Think about it, can any person always be perfect? NO. Think about how many times you get frustrated with yourself, of course other people are going to bug you sometimes, that’s why you shouldn’t spend every waking moment with just one person. Get it? 

Don’t get me wrong, I do think that it’s wonderful to have a loving mate who will be there for you in times of need or just when you feel like talking, but the bottom line is that you have to deal with yourself, by yourself, at some point. Let’s face facts, there isn’t going to be one person in your life at every moment of every conceivable day except YOU! So we’d better learn to deal with ourselves now, right? 

Now I know you’re probably saying that this is all a bunch of pop psychology crap that you’ve heard before. You can’t love someone else until you learn to love yourself. Yadda, yadda, yadda. But, there is a ring of truth in those words, isn’t there? I’m really not as cynical as I sound. I just think that there’s more to life than one person who completes you. Or maybe I think it’s less than that, because you have to complete you. 

And of course this hasn’t answered any of your questions about X versus Y or XY versus Z or any permutation you want to try, and that’s the point. I am, as I’m sure many of you are, just looking for someone cool, funny, and secure with themselves. And, of course, if the right hormones were there, it would be helpful. They must come in all shapes and sizes, and X’s and Y’s. Why not? 

So, stop all the worrying about the generational gaps and start the living and loving, enjoy the crisp fall weather and get on an autumn date. You never know, what will happen. 


Saturday, October 6, 2018

David Bowie - Changesbowie


Probably the Best Compilation of this Musical Icon

I’m not sure if I share the following sentiment with the rest of my generation, but for some reason, I think I do. My first memories of David Bowie, the English Singer, Songwriter and Actor were when I saw him sing silly Christmas carols and even more sillier duets with the likes of Mick Jagger on MTV. For a long time, I always used to think he existed as a pretentious mainstream pop poseur for the older generation. 

Not until years later at the age of about 17, when I first heard "Changesbowie," a compilation of Bowie’s most notable work that was released in 1990, did I realize that Bowie had several incarnations prior to his 80’s self, some of which were downright brilliant and I felt like a fool not realizing this sooner.


Bowie was a legitimate fusion forerunner and probably the most enigmatic, unpredictable performer of his generation. And "Changesowie" is testimony because it includes pieces of punk, folk, jazz, straight blues, and most frequently, pure rock n roll. Listening to the album now, one can hear the origins of musicians as wide-ranging as the Talking Heads, Nirvana, Pavement, Beck, and even industrial rockers Nine Inch Nails. 

The music is mostly guitar chargedguitar-charged but in a variety of ways. On some tracks, like "Suffragette City," and "Ziggy Stardust," Bowie plays in fantastically pure punk and rock forms, respectively. On other tracks, like "Space Oddity," the Microsoft-adopted "Heroes (one of my favs)," and "Ashes to Ashes," he uses distorted guitar sounds with keyboards to create a new rock standard. Such sounds have become the mainstays of artists like Beck and Trent Reznor. 

In the days since my discovery of "Changesbowie," I have valued it as a musical foundation and pioneering piece of music. In fact, if you pay close attention, almost all pop music in the 90’s can be traced to or related through Bowie. 

Appropriately, the song "Changes" also provided authority-challenging youth one of their most poignant quotes: 

"And these children that you spit on 
As they try to change their worlds 
Are immune to your consultations. 
They’re quite aware what they’re going through.". 

If you never heard this album and in the mood for some Bowie magic, hear it now on Spotify


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Clumsy Flirting Games


Flirting is a woman’s trade, play it safe!

The crossed legs, the flip of the hair, the shy smile followed by a gentle head turn and sometimes a playful wink, the hand casually placed on the arm to emphasize a point, a subtly wicked smile. All of these things have something in common. They are things that a discerning guy can pick up from an interested woman that might mean a sensitive guy, that is you - can have a shot at her – provided - you play your cards right. But many a time, it is not. She is not interested; you are the clumsy fool, her gestures simply natural and innocuous. And therein lies the risk and a potential humiliation.


Most of you would have indulged or at least seen these subtle seduction gestures used by women who know how to lead a guy on. And, I have also seen them all presented unknowingly by beautiful women towards stupid and naive men, which in turn produced an unwanted advance by the now confused, poor guy (not to mention leaving the lady wanting to know whatever gave the guy the idea that she was interested in the first place?!). Of course, some clumsy guys do tend to jump the gun on occasion with overzealous egos and thoughtless assumptions. 

All of this, however, is part of the cat and mouse game we play as man and woman. The game we all know and love but yet, we make so many mistakes. Take for example - the simple act of a woman crossing her legs. Women do it all the time, for comfort and probably never give it a second thought and some do it on purpose. 

I do find it to be an intriguing event though. As a whole, I view women as a symbol of grace and elegance. There is nothing on this earth more beautiful than a woman. Still, I cannot deny that there is always a bit of sexual attraction at the sight of a beautiful women crossing her legs, however, it is usually secondary to the event. As you are probably more aware, most men are driven by the sexuality of the women but this is not true of all men. There are a few of us that truly appreciate the beauty of a woman. Do you believe that :) 

All said and done, the whole act of placing one shapely stem across the other still can have a whole different world of meaning to different guys. From the discerning to the sensitive, or from the brash to the overzealous guy, it can have different interpretations. If you had to ask them about their opinions on women crossing their legs, most would consider it sexy, a few would call it flirtatious and probably a very few, would consider it elegant or of no consequence. 

If someone would ask me this question, my answers would probably depend on who's legs they are. Legs are a fine feature on women and the features get better as you go up :) but it will certainly depend on the woman and how much she interests me. If in pants or skirt or dress, if the latter, most certainly. Even more so if a mid-thigh skirt is worn (go figure, the shorter the better) and leg slit seems to highlight or enhance nice legs. I like it. I would be a hypocrite if I lied. 

Nonetheless, assuming, she is interested, these subtle gestures are my favorite part of the game (besides, of course, closing the deal). These first contacts with your next possible partner need to be carefully thought out though, and if you're the girl - you hope "Mr. Right" is able to read your body language correctly and if you are a guy, vice versa. There is nothing sexist about this as long as this consensual, even if it’s a deed unspoken. But for men, its a challenge, what are we guys looking to read? And what makes us look or draws us in? 

There are no written rules here so play it very safe. If in doubt about your object of affection, wait until she makes it abundantly clear that she is interested. There are no rooms for even one false move. 

Let me end this little piece on how males process these gestures with my favorite? I've always liked the open-ended lure, the sly gaze, preferably if she has her hair untied, a gaze where she looks at me yet doesn't maintain solid eye contact, sometimes with a delicate semi-smile. As someone said, a woman's eyes flirt the most. And if she talks very little, remember, she has also probably learned to say things with her eyes that others waste time putting into words. Enjoy! 

If you have liked this, you might probably like this Flirt Guide


Saturday, September 29, 2018

What Movies I Saw This Week


Obviously not pleased with so many recent posts on women and relationships, an old-time reader wrote to me if I have stopped posting on music and movies entirely. A valid question actually. So this post is a quick fix to assuage any such doubts! 

The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy, 2016) - Never since Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2002) has any post-apocalyptic zombie horror movie got me hooked like this one. I was so enamored by it, I went ahead and bought myself the novel of the same name by British writer M.R. Carey, which in turn is based on his 2013 Edgar Award-nominated sci-fi short story Iphigenia In Aulis. I won't spoil it more for you other than the fact that the British make good zombie movies that combine style and substance, unlike their Hollywood counterparts. Gemma Atherton and Paddy Considine act solid but its Glenn Close and the little heroine - Sennia Nanua as Melanie who steals the show. A beautiful score by Cristo, the Chilean-born Canadian composer famous adds to the flavor. 


Clan Of The Cave Bear (Michael Chapman, 1986) - Not since Raquel Welch stepped on her mammoth-fur bikini in One Million Years BC (1966) has there been a piece of pre-historic nookie more enticing than blonde goddess Daryl Hannah in this epic adventure about a young Cro-Magnon woman raised by Neanderthals. Luckily, she doesn't have to handle any dialogue here, just grunt and groan (with subtitles) and look smashing in this irresistibly silly cavewoman flick with many subtle overtones to feminism. The script, believe it or not, is by the great John Sayles and music by Alan Silvestri. If you can withstand people dressed in neanderthal costumes and Oscar-nominated makeup talking in sign language, this box office bomb based on the best selling book by Jean M. Auel is actually a good time pass. 


The Boy Who Could Fly (Nick Castle, 1986) - Charming, if a tad overlong fantasy drama about a teenage girl (Lucy Deakins), whose father has recently died, and her attempts to help an autistic boy (Jay Underwood) who seems to think he can fly. Deakins and Underwood's empathetic performances keep the story grounded in reality, even when it becomes fanciful towards the end. Director/writer Castle isn't quite Spielberg, but he does a good job at capturing a similar sense of wonder. Watch out for Wonder Years' Fred Savage, Jason Priestley, and John Carpenter. Good music by Bruce Broughton. For those who don't know, Nick Castle played Michael Myers in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and also co-wrote Escape From New York (1981). 


The April Fools (Stuart Rosenberg, 1969) - Jack Lemmon is caught in a comedy of romantic errors in this bright farce about a wall street broker who falls for a stunning woman (Catherine Deneuve) who turns out to be the wife of his boss, brilliantly acted by Peter Lawford. The two try and run off together, amid all kinds of complications. Wildly out of control at times, this romantic comedy directed ably by Cool Hand Luke's Stuart Rosenberg has enough of a lunatic edge to keep you interested and give a lesson or two about being caught up in a loveless marriage. The stellar supporting cast includes Sally Kellerman, Charles Boyer, Jack Weston, and Myrna Loy. 


Equalizer 2 (Antoine Fuqua, 2018) - In this fourth collaboration between Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua and much-awaited sequel to the 2014 hit, things go quickly downhill from a rather very impressive start that promises so much potential to a faltering weak film by the time it ends. Denzel Washington's acting is top notch as usual but a stupid "in your face" unsuspenseful script, unnecessary characters, and too much sugary sentimentality robs this vigilante thriller of any redeeming factors. A stormy weather setup that's outlined right from the beginning ends up like a joke in the climax with preposterous sequences. I had a nagging feeling if the first half and second half were directed by two different individuals. Its anybody's guess, which one was Antoine Fuqua but who cares anyway, when this movie has already crossed over $184 million since its release. Strictly for Denzel Washington fans. 


How It Ends (David M. Rosenthal, 2018) - This Netflix dystopian thriller got my attention because it had a nice trailer, it had Forest Whitaker and also because I have a perennial appetite for all "end of the world" movies. I should have trusted the negative reviews though, a terrible film and a sheer waste are what many warned. I won't say its as awful as the reviews make of it, its pedestrian in the pace of course but shot very well, the acting by Theo James, Whitaker and co are also not as bad but where its utterly fails is the pacing and final pay off. The mystery of what really happened or how the world has ended or is ending is never explained. Not explained at all actually. I guess they wanted to make a sequel where the mystery will be deciphered but the way "how it ends" and the kind of negative publicity it has already received, I think that noble idea must have already been shelved. As long as you are willing to see a dystopian road movie with a sense of perpetual dread and don't mind an inconclusive ending, How It Ends is an ok watch but insipidly boring nonetheless.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Make Love, Live and Let Live


What two consenting adults do with each other is none of the world's business

Sex is good! From the smallest insects to giant whales, every living thing has sex and copulates, well almost if you exclude the types that reproduce asexually. There is something elementary about sex, it’s a need, a want and a necessity but in spite of being on top of the evolutionary ladder, we still act as prudes when we decide to discuss our attitudes towards and sexual liberation. Moral correctness some would say, others would say its indecent. In my opinion, we are hypocrites actually, ambiguously obsesssed with victorian concepts of sex and reluctant to embrace the evolution of sex. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not supporting debauchery nor do I support the hateful violent acts that are committed in the name of sex. I also respect the right everyone has to not be subjected to ideas and images that one finds objectionable. But at the same time, I hate attempts to stomp out so-called "deviant" behaviour, sometimes in the name of law and order, and other times as preservation of the species, or health education, or just because the holy books don’t advocate it. 

Time was, just the suspicion that a person engaged in same-sex activities could lead to being fired from a job, outcast from the community, and subject to harassment and persecution. It’s still happening. While many of the overt attempts to oppress (LGBTQ) sex that falls outside a strict definition of a conjugal man – woman bliss has ceased, we still feel the aftereffects of what once was. There is still a certain stigma attached to non-missionary sex between same-sex or even sex between unmarried people. While sometimes this stigma is expressed in untoward curiosity, and sometimes expressed as disdain, it is present and we feel its effects. 

We must remind ourselves that, no matter what we might hear, there are people who break through these boundaries and they must be accepted. Who decides what is really “Deviant”? Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t make it a wrong. Telling people that that certain sexual practices are unconditionally dirty, or depraved, or perverted, does not make it deviant or make those desires go away. But it can have devastating effects – can make people hide from their friends and family, can make them hate themselves, or hate others out of jealousy for others' relative freedom. It can stifle their self-expression and hinder their relationships. And most importantly, it can shut down the lines of communication and force people to relate to their sexuality in ignorance, insecurity and fear. I have gay friends who have suffered a lot and some who continue to suffer. 

If you are the types who think sex outside marriage or ‘same-sex’ sex is bad, at some point even the most self-loathing person in the world is going to have sex. Because all they have to do is cross that line. Strike up a conversation with someone attractive and before they know it, they could be having sex. As a society, we really cannot stop or control what happens between two willing humans. 

As a species, we are sadly stuck in a limbo. We must encourage these poor souls that all they have to do is cross that line and assure them that it's not a sin. A reminder that in spite of all the things that tell you not to have sex, you can still have the desire: and there is nothing wrong with exploring this desire with a consenting adult, as long as you keep your eyes open and your head clear. 

Sexual liberation or sexual license? Sex has always been meant to be enjoyable and diversionary and consensual, and to each, his or her own. Don’t let stupid bigots or right-wing religious zealots stop your carnal pursuits. Live and let live. Make love, lots of it! 


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

In Search of Great Sex


Romance is dead, sex is abundantly cheap but it's not Real

While critiquing a poorly crafted erotic novel today, I wanted to berate the author for often neglecting a simple but critical driver in his plot – that truly great sex is really great only when it’s free. When I say free, I mean free in the literal sense, meaning its really free of charge, and also free of baggage. And here was a wealthy protagonist, trying to get laid paying his way through a multitude of soulless women. If the author's intention was to amorously entice, it certainly wasn’t. Instead, it sounded more like a collection of misogynistic rape fantasies, a sad reflection of how mainstream erotica is now these days.

For me, when you pay for sex, it’s an actual business transaction. There’s no soul or drama to it, it's sadly all about the money, the time and what’s in it for you as the buyer as much as it’s for the seller. And I hate it. When you pay someone for their time, a cover charge or a per hour charge at a brothel or a per minute charge online, all you are really paying for is a time-bound limited access to an empty space -- physical or virtual - whose provider claims is a place where sex will be found or likely to be found. Its click and bait of the carnal kind for hollow sexual gratifications. 

And specifically, the Internet has provided a great opportunity for the commercialization of sex - cybersex sites, cam sites and other online businesses where one can interact in a sexual non-judgemental environment with other adults for a fee. However, when you pay for this kind of sex, there is still no guarantee that any sex will be found, and if you do find any there is no guarantee that it will be any good. And as any connoisseur of sex will tell you, sex for which one has to pay a cover charge is never as enjoyable as the sex one finds in the chance encounters experienced in the unlikeliest of places to the normal vagaries of life – with your significant other or significant others if that’s your thing. 

Despite this inexpensive availability of sex and the massive growth of the sex industry, sex is still free. It’s just that we don’t make an effort. True lustful sex, sex that is fulfilling and enjoyable and satisfying, is something that consenting adults give willingly to each other. It cannot be bought or sold. It’s a natural, passionate and impulsive response. Pity, we don’t do this anymore. 

But most men are to blame too. You are really a cheap asshole if you expect sex just because you bought her flowers or a meal for your girl. You may pay for dinner or a movie, and you might think you will be getting some when the meal is done and or when the credits roll. This, unfortunately, is not always the case and that’s uncertainty is what makes true spontaneous sex truly special. And when it’s with someone you have been thinking about or should I say, fantasizing about, this sex can be spectacular. And if the feeling is mutual, it can be outstandingly electric. Add real love and it will become fabulous. 

Romance is largely dead now. As a species, we have become lazy and self-absorbed. Too obsessed with our careers, our life problems, and insecurities that we have forgotten the art of dating and seduction. Sex is so cheap now, men want to simply pay for it. No love, no dates, no foreplay even, just pay and fuck. You can now order sex just like a meal and its delivered to your doorstep. It’s a shame and speaks how commoditized sex has become. 

It’s not much different for women too, the sheer abundance of desperate men ensures a wide never-ending choice for the woman who wants to get laid tonight. All she has to do is open any one of the countless dating apps on her phone and choose the guy she wants to be with. Unless she is searching for a soulmate, she doesn’t even have to compromise. There are always so many men in the line, eager to please that she can pick and choose. And for a momentary change, she is in control. 

Call me stupid or a purist, but sex with no soul is no sex at all. I can wait for true sex! Good sex, after all, is not just free, it's amazingly priceless.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Are you a 21st Century Woman?


Taking Calculated Risks and Returning to the Basics

I had this rather challenging assignment to finish today. How does a new women-centric publishing company define an ideal 21st-century woman in its vision statement and even if it can, is it correct to generalize it? But what is the 21st century woman? Or rather, how does one perceive 21st-century womanhood? 

If you are a woman, perhaps the biggest paradox on the horizon is the new resurgence in feminism - abortion rights, #metoo activism, corporate equality, women safety, and much, more. While many would say "we've come a long way baby", yet, women continue to be bombarded by society's continuing entourage of conflicting and mostly self-defeating messages - thin is in, fat is all that, be sexy, be modest, burn your bra, be Barbie, don’t be Barbie, get fake boobs, please your man, be your own, be perfect, be natural, be independent, make a career, stay at home, have babies, raise your kids, let someone else do it, be promiscuous, stand up, fight back, tolerate - the list is endless and ever-changing. 

This is where the risk-taking comes in - you must define who you are and who you want to be, not what society expects you to. Sometimes what you want is going to go against the grain, sometimes you'll find yourself going with it. No matter the path you choose - it is your choice and yours alone and it always must be yours. But that doesn't mean that you don't need or want a little help along the way, or maybe just some acknowledgment and understanding as you wrestle with life's choices. If you are lucky enough, a good boyfriend, a supporting husband, loving parents, helpful siblings, caring friends, all can make this journey a less complex. 

However, ultimately, life is what we make of it and when it all just seems a little too overwhelming, that's when it's time to remember that it doesn't have to be tough, that it doesn't have to be complicated, that really what it all boils down to is quite basic. 

The basics are this: Nothing much has changed - our societal values and beliefs may fluctuate over time, but the basic instincts, responses, drives and motivations of people - of men and women - remain the same - and no one can truly argue that. We all are creatures of needs, worldly wants, and vain desires - things sexual, instinctual, and even cerebral. But, whether you tout the moral majority or the bra-burning 60's, or pick your battles somewhere in between - when it comes to matters of the flesh - in the end our hearts and bodies rule our heads, it just may take some folks longer to realize or accept that than others. 

So, if you consider yourself a 21st century woman, it's all about taking risks worth taking and returning to basics, but pragmatically. So that's where you stand, for those of you who know what you want out of life, from men, from women, from relationships, from careers, from marriage, from your heart, your mind, your selves – you are your own forum, your sounding board, your recreation, your "push" when you feel you need pushing. And it is the push that is actually the pivot point here - taking calculated risks and returning to basics of being a woman. Ah yes, there's nothing more fitting for the ever-changing 21st century woman no better than a good paradox.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Turning on the Girls - Cheryl Benard


A wickedly amusing novel with a feminist dystopian premise 

I will make a confession: I didn't really want to read this dystopian battle of the sexes satire where women rule the world sometime in the future after a great revolution. A future where patriarchy and testosterone male hood has been banished, stiletto heels, romantic novels and rape fantasies banned and vegetarianism is mandatory. 

Behind its innocent looking, flowery cover, the pitch sounded so blatantly feminist, it screamed “feminazi". A bit though provoking indeed but too "pro-women, anti-men" for my tastes. Yet, the preview still piqued my interest, and I thought I'd just buy it and read a bit to confirm my curiosities. Secondhand books can surprise you a lot. 

I barely got through the very first page, it was as if Cheryl Benard knew what was going through my head because it was as if she had started to talk to me. No, I'm not exaggerating or crazy, the author literally breaks into the story to do a little explaining for us. About four pages later, I actually liked her unconventional prose and silly sense of wicked humor and continued to read. Much to my delight, I must add. 

You can read the preview or an excerpt online to find out about the outlandish Orwellian plot with a feminist spin so I won't repeat it all here. I just have to say that it’s been a while since I read a radically inventive novel quite like this in the recent years. Weird sci-fi movies yes but a totalitarian gender-centric novel laced with erotica and dark humour? no. 

It wasn't just the plot that had a remarkable twist, it was also the way the story was told. It’s almost as if Cheryl Benard forgot to read the rules of storytelling and skipped her writing classes in college watching Terry Gilliam's terrific 1985 gem "Brazil" for inspiration instead. And much to the reader's joy, it works most of the time. The way she pokes fun at the differences between men and women without taking sides or condemnation is a comic relief throughout. 

As long as you don’t take this very seriously and ignore the many silly clich├ęs and unnecessary gender arguments, the subtle humor placed throughout (like Justin sipping on a "Bloody Henry") is crafty and witty, alone makes a fun breezy read. If you thought women would make the world the better place, this bizarre novel turns this idea inside out, over its head, and still surprisingly succeeds.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Love is the Solution, Loving Yourself actually


Women, love the shit out of yourself! 

Feminism and women rights are all over the news lately. Credit Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement. And it’s good. Finally, some real chatter on sexual harassment, healthy debates on gender discrimination and meaningful discussions on women empowerment but let’s face it, will it bring about real change? How long is the buzz going to last? The corporate world just sees this a good opportunity for free PR and the most of the mainstream media, shamelessly as ever, crass and voyeuristic. 

Unfortunately, expecting men to change is still a complicated work in slow progress. In my not so unpretentious opinion, I think women don’t need men to bring about this transformation. I doubt if the whole “menkind” will ever evolve to really respect womanhood. Maybe women should stop living in this vicious blame game and move on with a real new spin on the “change is good” philosophy. 

There’s always been a straightforward solution and it ain’t rocket science. Women must start loving themselves. It's really that simple. That’s the real cure. No opportunity to be used or abused! You don’t need anybody’s approval; you don’t have to ‘fit in’, simply learn to love yourself. 

If you are a woman, I know it sounds like something you'd already heard on some TV show. Now, before you twirl barefoot under falling cherry blossoms while remembering your womanly spirit, get real. Think of how many women and girls in your life who truly love themselves? Fact is, too many girls, young 20something – 30something women, and I'm sure quite a few mature women, DON'T love themselves. It is evident in their actions, the people they chose to be with, and the way they let those people treat them. 

So is it nature, nurture or just circumstances? I'm sure we can also chalk it up to chemical imbalance and pin it to low self-esteem. However, we are also affected by what society teaches us, no brainwashes us about love and who is loveable, about being a man and being a woman. The stereotyping never ends.

If you are one of those confused women, maybe you never really thought about it and never asked the million dollar question, "do I love myself?" 

Here are some tell-tale signs that you don't: 

a. You feel good about yourself only if you are in a romantic relationship. 
b. You don't accept that you are beautiful unless somebody tells you that you are. 
c. Your self-worth is based on acceptance by your boyfriend, husband, peers, your boss… 

d. And sometimes, you let this agony get even worse – like allowing yourself to be physically exploited and harmed, getting beaten up by your significant other even if the relationship has turned abusive, doing excessive drugs, unrestrained drinking…I could go on 

Maybe you don't need to be told this - you KNOW you HATE yourself and A through D are some of the reasons. Hold on! These are NOT reasons to hate yourself. Again, they are only symptoms. You are simply all these things because you DON’T love yourself. 

So how did you get so harrowingly low? It could be anything, from the fact that you were born in a dysfunctional family and your parents ignored you, to a traumatic personal episode you had in your life to the consumerist bombardment of thin, "make up heavy" models and fashion magazines that are a parody of life where only anorexic waifs and glamorous movie stars deserve love. Perhaps you were a loner at school with no friends, maybe you were poor watching all the rich, popular kids living fabulously. Or perhaps you were really the unfortunate unlucky one. 

Regardless of how you got here, how miserable your life has been so far, you've got to deal with it. Stop this victimhood and figure out a way to love get free and love yourself. This may be a long, hard journey but a journey of discovery none the less. Your eventual goal must be to truly understand, independently of the opinions of others, that you are a beautiful happy person. Then you'll be self-sufficient and confident, you'll love yourself, and you won't need anybody to love you back (that's just an added bonus). 

In order to get to this point, you have to start with a very simple affirmation - You are a good person. Its really a simple mind - body spirit kind of happy affirmation. Everybody can find one good thing about themselves. Think of as many lines you can to fill "I'm a good person because (fill in the blanks)" . Just start from there and the rest, will follow. Have Faith. 

If you have already started this journey, remember, you’ve still got a long way to go, but savour the progress you’ve made. Maybe, you hate a less little than yesterday and some days, you like yourself independently of what your colleagues or your boyfriend or your parents think. Become an influencer. Help your sisters out to rediscover themselves. Don't get caught with petty jealousy and catty politics. You're all in it together! Girls of the world, unite, love yourself and be happy!


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cool Hand Luke (1967)


What we've got here is a failure to communicate

Paul Newman gives one of his strongest performances in this superbly acted and gripping anti-establishment prison drama that released in 1967, the height of America’s disastrous involvement in the Vietnam War. Set in the early 1950s and based on Donn Pearce's 1965 novel of the same name, Cool Hand Luke received many positive reviews during its release and catapulted Paul Newman (who was 42 years old then) to a superstar, even fetching him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. 

The selection was well deserved as Luke is unquestionably the quintessential anti-hero, a nonconformist who resists and rebels against the system. His role is also a potent character study with shades of sadism and masochism, persuasive anti-war and religious symbolism as the story consciously parallels Luke’s prison struggles with the life of Jesus Christ. Seeing how many bits of Christian imagery you can spot in this movie is one more side pleasure of this landmark film. 

George Kennedy chips in with a powerful Oscar-winning supporting role and Dennis Hopper, Harry Dean Stanton, and Wayne Rogers contribute in minor parts. You also get to see Prison Warden Strother Martin in an equally solid performance as Newman’s powerful adversary. Seeing him delivering the iconic line "What we've got here is a failure to communicate" hailed as one of the 100 most memorable movie lines by American Film Institute, is a small pleasure in itself. Lalo Schifrin adds to the drama with an Oscar-nominated lovely score. Stuart Rosenberg's direction is mostly spot on. 

In 2005, the United States Library of Congress selected “Cool Hand Luke” for the National Film Registry, calling it a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” film. It is one of the those few films to earn and sustain a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you are one of those oddballs who doesn’t know about this movie, watch it before Hollywood decides to malign it in an unnecessary reboot.



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Cured (2018)


Irish Zombie reboot of In The Flesh

The Cured (2018) is a blatant Irish rip-off of teenage zombie TV series "In The Flesh". Considering this is an Irish production and "In the Flesh" was a 2013-14 BBC TV series, it's baffling how a script with a strikingly similar storyline was greenlighted especially when they were also able to get established actors to star.

Nonetheless, The Cured holds its own as a dark zombie-themed thriller with some good scenes that remind you of "28 Days Later", and mature social commentary on issues like PTSD, class struggles and discrimination. Yet, despite all these social overtones, the fact that you know where this movie is headed dampens your enthusiasm.  

While Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Sam Keeley are the main protagonists with more screentime, it is X-men and Juno fame, Ellen Page in a supporting role who stands out with a restrained performance as a sad single mother who has lost her husband in the zombie apocalypse. 

If you haven't watched "In The Flesh", you may probably like it too but for others like me, this is a slow zombie fest which has seen better days.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

How to Go Bald in Style


A Requiem for Receding Hairlines

Today is my friend’s birthday (a very close comrade) and if I could buy him the perfect gift, I would gift him a magic potion for his MPB problem or simply ‘Male Pattern Baldness’.

My buddy started balding at the syrupy age of sixteen. In the sunshine years of his life, when we all stood before our mirrors, affectionately examining our emerging whiskers, he stood there anxiously fingering his barren temples. Like most mere mortals, his initial reaction to this impending disaster was one of immense and soul-stirring self-pity. For a time, he spent sleepless nights pondering over the whys and wherefores of his unlucky destiny, wondering why it had to be him and his poor pate alone.

Being however, a man of enormous resilience and coaxed by my inspirational hair-raising sermons, he decided that it was valor in the mind to take arms against a sea of troubles that to suffer the slings and arrows of an outrageous tragedy. He stood up to fights the menace of baldness that the flesh is heir… hair… too.

He purchased herbal hair oils, ayurvedic hair creams, and imported hair vitalizers and massaged them into his scalp each morning and night, outwards from the crown and not inwards from the forehead, as the label erringly advised - with a religious fervor that must have impressed even the man Upstairs. Come to think of it. I wonder if He ever had to face such a ‘hair-loss' situation!!!

The results were not exactly gratifying but he didn’t give up. After all, the number of hair strands in the bathroom following each bath had registered an remarkable decline of four and a half percent in a month. Besides, he could always try the other herbal brand I’d seen at the chemist's shop, the one with the glossy cover or the green concoction in the shapely bottle or… or… It took him one year and ten thousand rupees to realize the grave truth about hair oils and hair creams - they make you poor, they give you pimples but as a rule, they never give you hair.

A friend suggested seeing a celebrated trichologist at Bangkok, who had found a connection between sex and hair-loss and had become world famous reviving hairlines of the rich and famous but my friend having already spent a huge fortune vetoed this. One of his relatives recommended a hair-growing pilgrimage to a temple in Srilanka known for fulfilling all bodily needs while an Astrologer suggested getting the bald patches licked by a cow – apparently, a foolproof method for generating new hair but this suggestion too had to be discarded for want of an understanding and obliging cow!

During these days of unsuccessful experimentation, he had also honed up his skills of improvisation – he had developed strategic haircut patterns to camouflage the bald spots and give the barren thatch a ‘fuller’ appearance and if the situation demanded, he also wore a wig.

I shall be unfair if I do pause at this point of the chronicle to pay respects to his venerable 50 something barber who being bald himself understood the gravity of the situation. A word of advice to all balding brethren on the choice of a barber – the balder, the better. The barber who has all the hair on his head intact views a thinning plumage solely as a lucrative financial prospect. The bald barber, on the other hand, having himself been a victim to the vagaries of his disappointing genes beholds his customer with an air of compassion and views the task ahead of him as a philanthropic deed and not a materialistic undertaking. Well, barber or not - slowly but surely, he resigned himself to the terrible fact that his baldness had come to stay.

For those among you who find yourselves in the same boat, here are a few time-tested techniques to reduce the psychological trauma that accompanies this common but deeply affecting malady;

• Stop Worrying. Stress causes hair loss.

• Grow a beard. It detracts attention away from your head.

• Utilize remaining hair to cover maximum area of your bare scalp. Caution - while doing this, always stay away from ceiling fans.

• Stop being ashamed of your baldhead. Accept gracefully, the fact that your hairline and neckline are working towards a merger. Consider your prematurely bald head a distinguishing feature of your personality – after all, not everyone is lucky enough to have one.

• To counter acid remarks about your empty dome, have a few humorous answers handy. Try saying a bald head is like heaven – there is no dy(e)ing, Or say God created few perfect heads, the rest he covered with hair. Make sure they appear spontaneous. For best results, rehearse before a mirror.

• And when a women makes references to your bald head, put on your deadliest “bedroom-eyes” sexy look and say, “you know, bald men are different!” For all you know, she might want to verify the veracity of your declaration!

Happy Balding!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ravenous (1999)


You are what you eat! Revisiting the underrated cannibal cult classic


Plagued by controversy during the production with original Macedonian art house director Milcho Manchevski (Before the Rain/1994) walking out due to studio differences with Laura Ziskin, this hugely underrated gruesome satire starring Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle was to be then directed by Raja Gosnell who at that time only had Home Alone 3 to his credit. Ziskin's choice however, was outright rejected by the stellar cast and on Carlyle's insistence, his close friend a largely unknown British film maker Antonia Bird was eventually called in to helm Ravenous. And what a fantastic choice she was! 

A bewildering cannibalistic western that blends colonial American history with pockets of black humor and naked satire; it's one of those genre-defying strange films that make you unsure of whether to laugh or cringe, so you frequently end up doing both. Surprisingly, Ravenous largely received mixed reviews when it released and performed dismally at the US box office just scraping around $2 million against a reported budget of $12 million, but over the years, this weird little horror gem has now achieved a cult following and is getting the rightful attention it actually deserves.

Set amidst the bloody Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), the mesmerizing screenplay by Ted Griffin (Ocean 11) melds the supernatural Native American myth of the Wendigo whose appetite for human flesh is insatiable and is the source of its strength with real historical references like the Donner Party - Alferd Packer cannibalism to create an alluringly savage satire on American capitalism, colonialism, over-consumption and greed. Like the Wendigo, this is a 'on your face' bloody take on the voracious locust-like history of the America's brutal past. 

Staying true to this grim motive, the main character, Second Lieutenant John Boyd (Guy Pearce), is shown as a coward who is sent to an outpost manned by a handful of soldiers during the Mexican-American war. When a ragged man F.W. Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) stumbles in from the cold and reveals that his fellow travelers resorted to cannibalism when they became snowbound, the commanding officer (Jeffrey Jones) decides to go on a rescue mission. 

The story that follows seems almost predictable, but never stops when you expect it to, with characters popping in and out at the most inopportune times for Boyd and the most unexpected times for us. And that's where lies its magnetic (and grisly) dark charm. 

Guy Pearce is sublime as the weak but upright Boyd; he has surprisingly few lines of dialogue, but his character is intriguing and complex. Carlyle is menacingly superb while Jones and David Arquette provide adequate support. The costumes and makeup are top notch; the mood of the film palpably dense throughout and the bleak landscape shot in Mexico and Slovakia, with its dirty snow and patches of dirt, contributes to the sense of deep isolation and dread that Boyd feels when no one believes his tales of the Wendigo. There is, of course, plenty of foreboding suspense and a lot of blood and gore but its all done with great panache.

Part of the feel good credit undoubtedly goes to the haunting music that permeates throughout the movie. The evocative score, a splendid collaboration between Damon Albarn, the lead singer of  Brit pop band - Blur and Michael Nyman (Piano) elevates Ravenous to an entirely different level adding a surreal omnipresent tone to all the macabre happenings Boyd (and us) have to witness. Nonetheless, it is still appropriately weird, stunning on its own but not at all what you might expect the music of cannibalism and violent death to sound like.

Ravenous is a fantastic example of splendid movie making but horrendous movie marketing. A Hollywood paradox that's sadly yet to be fixed. Until then, see Ravenous again like I did, its still a refreshing watch and the music is a big plus. And for those of you who haven't seen it yet, the time is now especially if you like delicious blood soaked horror! Bon Appetit!  




Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Dating Advice for the Women of the World


Dating shouldn't be a guessing game. Saying a simple Yes or No is all that matters!

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So please, please, ladies when you get asked out, talk in a straight line. Say what you mean in twenty-five words or less. It's best for everybody involved. Chaos theorists say that the more moving parts in a system, the more difficult it is to predict outcomes. So sex is like math. Keep it simple.

I've been told some astonishing lies and disinformation for no reason at all.  I accept "No thank yous," with good grace, but being made to feel like Alice talking to the Caterpillar infuriates me.

For example, a common approach in my circles is to encounter a woman at a place or function, like a club, play, beach, or bar. Maybe this is the first time you've met her, maybe not. You make friends with her at the function and, when the curtain falls or last call is announced, you say, "Would you like to go for coffee? Drinks? Dinner? Ice cream?"  The idea is that you will take her off to a more intimate setting, just the two of you, where you can showcase your wit and sensuality to each other and see if this is going to develop.

Answers I DO NOT GET include, "No thank you," "I already have a boyfriend," "I'm not looking for a relationship, but thanks," "I'm a lesbian," "You hideous freak, I would rather roll naked in maggots." All these answers share the common elements of clarity and sincerity. There is little room for misunderstanding with any of these answers. If I got any of these answers, I'd walk away a little disappointed but feeling that I'd gotten a square deal.

Answers I DO GET include, "Sure! I'll just go tell my friends!" - delivered with a friendly smile. Then she disappears into the crowd and never returns.  "Oh, I have to drive my two friends home. Where are you going to be afterwards?"

I reply, "I was going to go home... but, I'll tell you what, I'll give you my number and once you get your friends home you can call me and we'll figure something out."

She never calls.

My friend told me a story where a woman accepted his dinner invitation, named a date and time, gave him directions to her house, took his phone number, gave hers. When he arrived at the address at the arranged time, the house was dark and the driveway was empty.

What's wrong with "No thanks."?

If you don't want to go on the date, just say "No."  Okay, maybe you don't want to be that blunt; you want to spare his feelings. So, you could say, "Gee, I just don't have the time."  Trust me, it's like a bullet through the back of the head.  Lights out.  Didn't hurt.  It's the best thing under the circumstances.

But saying, "Sure, just give me a call!"  And, then dodging his messages, is like sealing a bulkhead on a submarine. He gets to spend two days coming to the realization that he's a big fucking idiot for ever thinking that you were telling the truth. And furthermore, once a guy gets poked in the eye two or four times with this particular stick, it tends to make him edgy and untrusting, and some poor woman down the line who did show up for dinner and drinks is going to be saying, "Why don't you ever tell me what you're feeling?"  So, think of that future woman, at least.

Some men, of course, can't take a straight "No" for an answer, and will keep pestering you about it, turning up in your favorite bars or at your work and repeating themselves, figuring blindly that you said "No" the first five times but the sixth time you're going to crack. My advice, pepper spray that guy, then kick him in the nuts - he'll probably figure it out after that.

And by the way, if you want to go on the date, just say, "Yes! Thursday, seven o'clock?" Don't play hard to get, because anti-stalking laws prohibit us from pursuing that. And any man who thinks you're a slut for agreeing to what he just proposed is a small-minded boob. Discard him immediately. 

So this is universal masculinity (embodied by my humble pen) reaching out to you, the women of the world, with a plea to talk in a straight line, and please teach your friends and  daughters to do the same. The suffering and misunderstandings and accidental charges for criminal stalking or sexual harassment that will be saved in future generations will be immeasurable. No to mention, what a great stride this would be for ongoing diplomatic negotiations between the sexes.

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