Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Sex Magazine for India !

An interesting facet of my bread and butter vocation is writing Magazine critiques for publishers worldwide. For those not conversant, a magazine critique is a thorough neutral scrutiny of a magazine’s content, design and advertising with suggestions and useful advice for improvements.

Unlike the plain vanilla critique services offered by many ex-editors turned critique specialists whose commentary is usually sugar-coated in the hope of repeat business, my company offers a rather harsh and in-depth analysis that goes deep beyond editorial and design requirements to inform the Mag owner if its actually worth publishing and selling. Of course, there are numerous editors and publishers (usually those with huge vanities) who disagree with our critiques, find them biased and continue to produce worthless prose month after month until the Mag bleeds them dry.

I have to admit though that there have also been a quite few (actually a miniscule minority) who disagree with our recommendations and in reality go on to take their publications to great heights. As test subjects, these successful mags offer new insights hitherto unknown and help us save similar embarrassments in the future. There is no stop to learning, is it?

Recently, we were recently approached by a big-time American publisher at our Delaware office to do a critique of a new magazine they intend to launch in India.

Well, it was a Sex magazine. Yes, you read it right - a SEX magazine for India and they already had 3 Pilot issues ready! For starters, it was indeed about Sex but the Erotica type and not the hardcore porn variety. A magazine aimed at portraying sex as something normal, natural, healthy, celebratory and fun. With erotic/nude photography plus short stories, essays, news, poetry and everything else that had to do with sex, they claimed it would be a turn-on for both the mind and body, for both women and men, separately or together. A literary aphrodisiac for the Indian masses, a sex journal that was intellectually demanding and at the same time, physically stimulating.

Sexism and not sex degraded women, they claimed. In a way, they were right. After all, adults should be free to read about sex and view sexual imagery without consequences from thought police of any stripe. To club everything sexual together as humiliating to women implies that women DO NOT enjoy sex, that they don’t engage in it out of their own will and that something that’s intensely pleasurable to every man must necessarily be acutely repulsive to every women. This false attitude is denigrating to women.

The promotional literature that came along with the sample copy claimed it wanted to set standards for literary erotica in India – an intrepid publication aimed at the open-minded, adventurous Indian men and women craving provocative, sexually charged reading that was equally smart, bold, sizzling and entertaining. A sex magazine that was meant to be sex-positive, gender-equal and all embracing in terms of sexual orientation (read GLBT friendly) and given the numerous anatomies involved, so much fun as well.

Obviously, I had very high expectations. A true sex magazine for India would be a kicker. Until the internet arrived with its dose of free porn, Debonair with centre-spreads of buxom topless women was the only respite for an Indian male. Besides, there has never been an outright sex magazine for the Indian women. Cosmopolitan comes close but it’s not enough.

My review copy arrived in a brown cover at my desk on a Saturday evening. Anticipating a good read and wanting to scrutinize it in full, I took it home. On boy, I was disappointed and I imagine you should be too. I consciously wanted to cheer up - first issues of new mags are always terrible. They are like getting laid the first time (if you remember that is) but they improve!

Yet, I wanted to vent out my dissatisfaction. I wanted to write a letter, those damn letters to the editor where you rant and complain. I don’t know if he would have been able to endure my destructive criticism for I was on full speed 'complain autopilot'.

Frankly, I hated everything about the magazine. The cover art illustration featured an alien looking hermaphrodite duo from outer space with a bizarre Taj Mahalish background. It was truly a disgrace, no matter what other ass-kicking and empathizing friends of the editor were wishing him to believe. The sexless back cover illustration of over broad shoulders, buttocks and quadriceps was equally bad. I couldn’t decipher if it was a prelude to anal intercourse with muscular male athletes or a sublimal shock experiment to gauge reader reactions.

Contrary to all the marketing pitch, the mag content was likewise dreadful veering towards the same-sex type as if India was some kind of sodom wonderland and all Indians were closet members of the GLBT type. And when the heterosexual type was discussed, it was all about erogenous zones, foreplay and masturbatory self-satisfaction, as if Indians never like to copulate or have children. How I wish it was all true. Maybe, I couldn’t figure out the median age of the target audience they were trying to tease.

The only saving grace were the really awesome photographs – nude, erotic and beautifully composed except a few that blurred sometimes between eroticism and borderline porn, a few splendid poems on bodily love and observant articles on polygamy and AIDS in India. Everything else was glorified crap on glossy paper and artsy clothing. This was no way going to sell in India and probably get it itself banned unless you are referring to an India of an alternative universe!

I could perhaps go on with my neo-candid line by line clinical dissection and probably bore you to death. But pardon my foul language, for all the pre-launch hype, all I wanted to ask the editor was “where the ‘fuck’ is the ‘fuck’ in your supposedly ‘fucking’ sex magazine? Now, I feel much better!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Brand New Year Resolutions for a Brand New You

Simple New Year Resolutions for 2010

It's a brand new year, and while you might not believe in New Year's resolutions ("You forget them halfway through January anyway," is one friend's excuse), January always brings with it the sense of a fresh start.

Here's a list of ways to inspire you to start your year on the right note — and you'll notice that there are no references to quitting smoking and never eating chocolate again! In my view, life is all about moderation, but also being sure to enjoy all the things you love, too, whether it's that glass of wine after work every evening or a frothy cappuccino to get you started in the morning.

These are simply ideas to get you feeling on top of the world as 2010 begins, whether it's a post-festive season cleanser or ditching the gym to take up yoga!

. . . B o d y . . .

Inspire Yourself To Get Fit - Change Your Exercise Regime!

It's a new year and you're already dreading going back to the gym. Just the thought of the Gym makes you want to dive back under your duvet, even though you could really do with a post-festive season workout! If this sounds like you, perhaps it's time to change your exercise regime and opt for something that's less of a chore — something you really look forward to doing and can actually enjoy!

There are so many more exciting ways to get fit and toned, while also improving mental agility and even raising your consciousness. In the East, exercise is treated holistically, targeting not only the health of the body but also of the mind and soul, the thinking behind this being that you can't have one without the other. There's so much to choose from, too, from Kick Boxing or Kung fu (which you can now do at many gyms) to Tae Kwon Do and Karate.

The exercise of choice for stars like Madonna, Yoga is another way to get your body, mind and soul in tip-top shape. There are several different types of this ancient art form from which to choose and so much stuff on the net that you can read about the various types of yoga and also help you find instructors/classes in your area.

. . . M I N D . . .

Get Reading!

In a country where so many adults are illiterate, count yourself lucky that you've had the kind of education (hopefully - though if you are reading this, then you can read!) that allows you to access the vast, wonderful world of books, opening up infinite depths of information to you as well as allowing you to escape into distant or parallel universes through fiction, or have your soul touched through poetry and other erudite forms of prose.

If you've been labouring through that one dog-eared book for the last 12 months, either resolve to finish it (and do it) or ditch it! If you find the cost of books prohibitive, renew your library membership — you will be impressed by how up-to-date our librarians are!

If you need motivation to read more, join a book club — or start your own! This is what you do: get your friends together (and invite them to introduce someone new to the group) and plan to meet with your fellow book club members once a month, with someone different hosting at their home each time. Pool your resources to buy books (each person buys a book per month - you can get lists of new and recommended books from your local book store) which can then be shared, discussed and enjoyed within the group. Eventually, the books will become the property of individual group members.

Exercise Your Grey Matter!

Get your poor, under-used brain in shape by embarking on a little mental gymnastics! No, you don't have to start solving Mensa-style puzzles — simply start using that grey matter a little more! A fun way to get the brain cells working is by getting into crossword puzzles. Even games like Scrabble played with friends are better for your brain than staring vacantly at the telly. This level of problem solving can ultimately help you cope better with some of the other problematic stuff that crops up in our day to day lives. And what fun to be able to pepper your conversations with the new vocabulary you've picked up in your dictionary during your search for that right word!

Beat Stress!

Whatever research you do on the Internet and in health related books, you keep coming back to information citing stress as one of the most important factors influencing disease and a wide range of "modern day" complaints like panic attacks, depression and insomnia. With our work styles mostly having adapted to increased pressure to cut costs and yet produce more, we have to deal with longer hours, more demands and often less money.

Apart from work, things like finances and even family can get the blood pressure up. The only thing is, most of this is unavoidable (like that traffic jam you have to sit in twice a day!), so we pretty much have to learn to deal with stress as a part of life. Of course, even though it can be difficult, we have to learn not to let life get to us and also how to enjoy our lives more!

Luckily, there are many ways to overcome stress — exercise being one! Deep breathing is another (most of us breathe shallowly without even realising it. Stop what you're doing right now — breathe in slowly to your lungs' capacity, hold your breath for a few seconds, now gently and slowly exhale for the same length of your inhalation. Do it a few more times. Feel better?). Then, there are a host of "alternative" therapies and forms of exercise you can try, from tai chi to yoga. Get into meditating. Treat yourself to a Reiki, reflexology or long, super-relaxing aromatherapy massage session. You will feel relaxed afterwards!

. . . S o u l . . .

Resolve To Spend More Time In Nature!

Is this you? Every day you wake up, get in your car, drive to work, sit in the office (or drive around in your car) all day, perhaps taking a quick break for lunch which you eat on the run. Then it's back to the office, off to the gym and back home for supper, a bit of TV, then off to bed. By the time the weekend arrives, all you want to do is sleep late at perhaps hire piles of videos or watch movies to escape the routine.

While there's no harm in doing any of this, it can be all too easy (especially if you live and work in a large city) to "forget" to enjoy the soothing benefits of our natural world. And we happen to live in one of the finest countries in the world when it comes to natural beauty! There's something incredibly healing about being "close to" or "near" the earth; about spending time marveling at nature's magnificence and sheer perfection, whether during a walk on the beach at sunset or in the park early in the morning when drops of dew still glisten on petal and leaf.
Resolve to wake up earlier on weekends and drive to the veldt or mountains or sea to hike or picnic or simply just be, and take your supper outside on hot summer nights. Your life will be so much the richer for spending more time in nature, and for noticing and appreciating small, simple things... like the colour of the sea, the formation of a cloud, the smell before a thunderstorm...

Pray and Meditate!

Prayer and Meditation offer a way of finding inner peace in a world that sees you always occupied with one or another activity, with a mind that's constantly buzzing with thoughts, ideas and worries. For many of us, finding a retreat from the incessant "noise" in our minds seems unlikely — there's just so much going on in there!

However, it is possible to find that "inner quiet" — through prayer and meditation, which is essentially about allowing the mind to rest and go quiet. Religions around the world have used meditation for centuries to "purify the mind and body" – monks do it, the clergy do it, and now many a man-and-woman-in-the-street are enjoying the benefits of retreating inwards for a short period each day.

If you are going to try meditating, then most of the experts agree it should be performed daily (early morning is best), preferably at the same time and before a meal; the spot chosen for meditation should be quiet and used specially for the purpose (unplug the telephone!) and one should be sitting upright with the spine straight. Playing soft music also helps some people. You can open or close the eyes while meditating, but if the eyes are open it is recommended that you "gaze on a blank wall" or the object you have chosen to concentrate on. The duration of your meditation is up to you – beginners usually start with about ten minutes at a time.

Get In Touch With Your Spiritual Side!

Whether it's going back to your church or other place of worship regularly if your attendance might have lapsed, praying more, going on a Buddhist or meditative retreat, or simply taking time out to quietly acknowledge your place in the world, resolve to nurture your soul as much as you look after your body and your mind. Bringing ritual into your life, whatever your religion or beliefs carries with it a rich sense of fulfillment for the individual. The rituals can be small, and meaningless to others, whether it's lighting candles and incense when you pray or turning your daily meals with your family into a time of loving togetherness; it's essentially about making every moment of your life more meaningful to you.

Here's to a healthy, happy, brand New You!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Every Woman’s Flirt Guide

A Few Rules of Attraction That Every Woman Should Know!

Did you know that female rodents wiggle their ears, flick their noses and arch their backs to send “come hither” signals to potential mates? Well, anthropologists have researched and found that human females have their own unique signals, including sultry smiles, swaying, giggling, lip-licking, thrusting out their buttocks and chests, and even wearing high-heeled shoes.

Most of us call it flirting, but the skill is in using these little cues to notify potential mates of our interest and availability. Without permission, I plundered their fascinating non-verbal dictionary for the finer points of flirting, and discovered that there are a host of factors to take into account, that should be part of every girl’s education!

The main object is to go out there and announce: “I am here … you may approach”. To achieve this you should firstly look to your clothes - use bright colors, floral prints, bold lines and geometric shapes to attract the eye, as well as jewellery – necklaces, bracelets and anything shiny to catch the light. The reasoning is that our potential mates’ “primate eyes” are programmed to notice alluring feminine body parts emphasized with tempting bright adornments. Aroma (perfume) is a turn-on, too, and a musky “animal” smell is important.

In social situations, men tend to set up “mini-territories”. They will establish an “artifact scatter” area – plonking car keys, cell phone and other personal items around their drinks and snack plates – in order to establish a “fixed courting station” and send out the message that they are available.

Women, by contrast, go “walkabout through the party space”, skirting and brushing past the stationary men. This is when a woman uses her ability to preen and use her eyes seductively as she circulates.

While presenting herself to potential male partners, there are some very important grooming signals being sent out by women, too. Hair styles, for example, say a lot about a girl like “Our hairdo is a badge of identity reflecting membership in a group”. Some points to ponder with regards to hair: clean hair is a sign of high status, good health and careful grooming; bushy hair draws attention to the face; short cuts emphasize masculine features like bony brow ridges and large jaws; long, thick hair showcases pretty eyes and lips; long hair indicates passion and lack of inhibition, while shaved heads and short hair symbolize discipline, denial and conformity.

Men are “very visual creatures in courtship”, and therefore make-up is important for concealing blemishes and highlighting youthful features. According to research “beauty’s essential template is the ‘baby face’, with taut cheeks and prominent cheekbones”. So remember that tip next time you make up for a date!

Lucky for men, a man’s wrinkles and lines actually work in his favor, giving it the aura of strength of character – so he does not need to make up for you!

Oh yes, and a word about those aforementioned high heels! Shoes with thin, elevated heels enhance the derriere, firm the leg and showcase the feminine ankle.

The combination goes to suggesting that a woman’s feet are delicate and ethereal, destabilized and not planted firmly on the ground (i.e. you need taking care of – hope the feminists forgive me for this one!!). Also, high heels shift the body’s centre of gravity forward, causing you to lean forward and resulting in “an additional 25% protrusion of the derriere”. High heels also make legs seem longer and slimmer. So, if you want to catch a man – out with the flatties!

When it comes to the ideal body shape, it seems a woman “has it made” if her waist is visibly narrower than her hips. A “deep dĂ©colletage” is also a sure turn-on.

When using body language, the idea is not to come on too strongly, but rather to issue some subtle “welcome signs”. Tilt your head towards the shoulder on either side to indicate coyness and submissiveness; use an open, uplifted palm to indicate your friendliness and vulnerability; and above all, smile, smile, smile!

Once you have his attention, you need to use eye contact to let him know that you know he feels responsive to your “come on”. Amazingly enough your eye pupils actually dilate to unconsciously telegraph sexual interest (apparently European women once used to artificially dilate their pupils with belladonna!). Mutual eye contact is very important – “as we lock eyes with a lovely face, information flows from visual areas of the cerebral cortex to the hypothalamus, which influences our sexual behavior as a ‘prime node’,” whew!

Now you can use eyelid batting, blushing, head-tossing and self-touching as messages to respond to his interest.

After all this hard work, comes the most difficult step of all – actually talking to him! If you reach this point, it is not so much what you say, but how you say it, that is important. Conversation “locks the pair into a mini-territory”, and the focus is on each other’s lips, eyes, cheeks and brows, revealing “subtle cues with which to probe the possibility of physical intimacy”.

Guard against gazing too long or powerfully into his eyes, turning your face too far to one side while talking, or pulling your lips into a thin line – these will be received as negative cues.

It is suggested that eating while you indulge in verbal communication can reduce the stress of the situation. Chewing, crunching and grinding reduce tension. Moreover, like a drug, food engages our nervous system’s calmer parasympathetic division. Not only does eating together promote relaxation, it also stimulates bonding, he says.

So, you have broken the ice over lunch, now to move on to the “tactile stage” of courtship. Touch is one of the nonverbal world’s “most rewarding experiences”. Humans are mammals and we evolved to enjoy reassuring hugs, snuggles, nuzzles and kisses in our nurturing.

The first touch – a milestone in courtship – is likely to seem casual, unpremeditated and accidental rather than serious. Be very careful how you react to his first touch; perhaps it is just a light fingering of forearm or shoulder or some other neutral body part, but remember, it is an exploratory gesture and if you pull away or tense up, he will sense your reluctance. Rather respond positively by a gentle shoulder shrug, sideward head tilt or a return touch.

As things progress in the touch department, embracing is the evolutionary correct way to say ‘I love you’”. Holding or clinging to someone is an infantile sign of needing to be mothered, so we don’t need to do that to a potential mate! Embracing, of course, should naturally move on to sealing your courtship with a kiss!

The final phase of courtship is when intimate touching crosses over to physical bonding in the form of sexual intercourse. Now, whether this involves a serious relationship or marriage is a personal choice and I will leave you to sort out your own non-verbal dictionary on that one! However, if you have come this far, you have passed this “non-verbal courting course” with flying colours, and you should be able to cope further on your own. All the best!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Guy's Checklist for In-House Dating

Essential Face Savers Before You Invite Her In

So you've met this amazing woman and, yes, you think that this time she could, she might just be, The Special One. After days of deliberating -thoughtfully turning her business card over again and again as you toyed with the idea of just calling her, dammit! - you did just that. You called her. She put you on hold while she finished chatting to her friend ("Ohmygod, GUESS who's just called..."), and then ASKED YOU what YOU were doing on Friday night!

That was almost two weeks ago. You've almost bankrupted yourself taking her out to dinner twice in this time. And no, not to your favorite Asian joint down the road. Somewhere nice. She chose it and, uh-huh, it sure was nice. And pricey, although you did insist on paying! While the atmosphere was rather ambient, conducive to lots of lingering eye contact and hand stroking, you were still hungry afterwards because, though the food was really tasty, there was not too much on the plate to taste.

You've already been over to her place. For coffee, when she invited you up just before dawn after you'd been dancing all night at a club you both enjoy. The coffee was great - espresso; you can see she appreciates the good things in life. Then you kissed a bit, before she yawned and kicked you out. What a tease!

But you kind of like the fact that the thrill, that oh-so-tense but oooh, so delicious build-up to doing the down and dirty, is still lingering in the air between you. When you hear her voice, you feel this frisson of possibility charge through your blood. Your imagination is working over-time (which, funnily, you realize you have not been doing lately!).

You think - for the first time since you were, what, 16? - that something lasting might be nice, even good for you (your mom agrees). Too many one weekend stands can get a bit messy. And anyway, she seems like good girlfriend material, judging by the ooo-aah responses of your jealous mates. Suddenly the thought of "strings attached" seems quite appealing.

But now that you are Officially Dating, the time has come when she wants to see "where it all happens"...and YOU'RE cooking! She wants to dig into your soul by entering the secret, hallowed space that is your bachelor apartment, only recently vacated by your backpacking, world-travelling friend from your ‘varsity days’ who needed a couch to crash on while finding himself between trips. You're sure his stash of evil weed and girlie mags are still lurking somewhere in the recesses of your hideous, food and beer stained, old couch that's definitely seen better days.

You once had the services of a Maid. Your mom paid for her to clean the place when you'd just moved in "on your own", after years of living communally. Two years ago.

You think of yourself as being quite organized, actually. There's a large, hand-me-down fridge that works perfectly (except for the fact that you can't close the freezer door because it's so iced up) and a washing machine, good-as-new (read: un-used!). You have a killer sound system with kick-ass speakers, and a CD collection that's your pride and joy. There's even a colour telly, resting on an upturned box. And there's the fern one of your ex-es once gave you. Though you think it might be dead.

You're also rather proud of your most recent investment, a water bed, because a guy's gotta get a good night's sleep! It's just a pity about the fraying, red and black-striped duvet cover you've been using since you moved out of home (your mom thought it was quite masculine). Oh, and then there's the pile of comics, spanning almost a decade's worth of dedicated collecting, that also serves as a handy, if not tall, bedside table.

Face it, dude, while you and your lady friend might have hit it on really well, chances are she's not going to be as keen as you are about getting comfy on that couch for the long cuddling session you have in mind for tonight.

But perhaps I'm being too hard on you, and she's really not the type of girl who's too hung up on these sorts of things. And yes, it's YOU and not your personal space she's supposed to like!

At this stage of the dating/mating game, however, and especially if you are serious about this girl (or are at least hoping that she will stay the night), it might pay to take a long, hard look at your surroundings and put an action plan into place ahead of her visit. All women understand that men (okay, most men) are not what you might call "house proud" - you have far more important issues to worry about. But she WILL appreciate it if there are signs that you've been anticipating her arrival.

While I'm not necessarily talking about keeping a pack of tampons in the bathroom cupboard (though that would be awfully considerate!), there are a few things that'll make her feel relaxed and right at home.

Firstly, ATMOSPHERE is important. Buy scented candles, as in Lots Of. Without outlaying too much cash you'll have instant ambience that she'll find wonderfully romantic. Sort through your CDs ahead of the time and select a few that you know she'll like. Leave them casually lying by the sound system for her to "discover".

Secondly, the FRIDGE, and contents thereof, need to be addressed. While you probably won't have time to de-frost it, you certainly can ensure that it's filled with all the right things for a smooth-running evening (and/or morning/weekend/week) together.

Throw out that old smelly blue cheese (that used to be cheddar), and replace with a few bottles of fruit juice, coke cans and maybe good beer too. If you can get wine, get white and red if you don't know what she prefers (you might want to ask), but for God's sake don't get boxed wine! There's something very suave about a guy expertly opening a perfectly chilled bottle of good wine before pouring a glassful for his guest.

Since you're cooking, you'll want to make sure that you're not caught by surprise, whether it turns out you don't have the right ingredients or that you end up eating really late (and, by then, making a roast is simply out of the question). If you don't fancy yourself as a gourmet chef, then here's something easy that, while it takes really quick to prepare, can also be quite a sophisticated meal for you to claim your Italian food preferences. Pop around to your nearest supermarket and buy some fresh pasta, some tubs of good pesto and some real Parmesan that you can grate onto her plate for her. Make sure your salt and pepper grinders are full, and that you have plenty of olive oil handy (for the food, too!).

Buy some sexy, snacky things to nibble with your drinks, like chips and olives. And for dessert, if you're still eating at this stage, go for something light and simple like yogurt, fresh strawberries and cream and if you can afford it, Haagen-Dazs premium ice cream. Feeding each other dessert can be the start of a really deep and meaningful relationship, I promise!

If you're feeling hopeful, you might also want to stock up on good organic coffee, low fat milk, organic eggs, chicken sausages, etc for the morning.

Next, survey the damage in your BATHROOM. Do you have clean towels (girls HATE damp, stinky towels!)? Do you have soap (girls HATE anti-bacterial body washes!!)? While you're about it, buy an extra toothbrush - and some new toothpaste, too (you might not have any trouble squeezing the dregs out of that flattened tube!).

Now, to the BEDROOM - when was the last time you had your sheets laundered? Dirty sheets are, it must be said, an absolute turn-off! Then there's that pile of stale socks and underpants lying in the corner. Simply pop them in that washing machine that's been aching to be used! As a finishing touch, a candle or two next to the bed will solve the problem of you wanting the lights on and her wanting them off!

All that's left for you to do is pluck those stray nose hairs, put on a clean shirt and splash on some (I said SOME) of that expensive aftershave she bought you, you handsome devil, you!

Now that you are all set, good luck bro!
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