Friday, December 28, 2018

Relish the Past, Welcome the Future

Remember, the past is always tense, the future perfect 

This week, I was a reluctant invitee to a glitzy Christmas party - a glorified gathering less of friends and more of snobbish acquaintances - dressed in fancy clothes, indulging in fine spirits and ‘artisanal world cuisine’ whatever that actually means. Having arrived directly from my office, I was not only late but also clearly out of place - standing out from the crowd with my disheveled hair, a wrinkled cotton shirt, and crumpled khakis. 

Seeing me obviously lost, my gracious host welcomed me, consciously ignoring my faux paus and tried her best to make me feel at home. So, with a blue cocktail in hand, I mingled a bit -meeting immaculately dressed strangers, making small talk and chit chat until I found a vantage spot to sit with a boisterous Australian middle-aged couple for friendly banter. 

Let me admit, the party was not bad. after all. The décor was flamboyant yet amazing, the floating grilled starters were delicious and the fizzy drinks concocted with consistency although a little too fruity for my taste. If there was something lacking, it was the sugary retro music from the 60s and 70s with a smattering of hits from the 80s and 90s. I wouldn’t normally complain under normal circumstances but the music was a mismatch for the splendorous aura the party was trying to create. 

Listening to some of the music, reminded me of my childhood (Lionel Ritchie, Inxs, Steve Winwood, Pet Shop Boys, a little George Michael and Phil Collins for good measure too) but the rest of it was the sort of soul music my parents sometimes listened to and for a while at least the nostalgia was comforting. But, then, gradually as one aging track faded slowly into the next, it began to dawn on me that I actually wished I was somewhere else entirely. The nostalgia, you see, had run its course and I found myself, as that realization took hold, feeling suddenly wanting and hungry - to listen to current radio hits, anxious for the here, for the now, for the present. Foster the People, Cold Play and even Martin Garrix came to mind but no more Simon & Garfunkel, please. 

Think about it, funny how this struggle often occurs within each of us. Sometimes, longing for what was, faced with what is (and occasionally overcome by dreams of what's next) and sometimes, just longing for the present, for the moment. It's not so unusual really but just illustrates for some of us the motivations behind how we choose to live our lives. 

Looking back isn't such a bad thing and as my Christmas party experience points out - often offers comfort, nostalgia, and a way to stay connected with who we are and where we came from. The danger, however, is in never learning how to move beyond the then, the then of the past. How many of you have known (or know) people like that? The ones who can't ever get over whatever it is they're so connected to, running from, or longing for? Be it work, relationships, family... Sometimes, I think I am one of them. Maybe you are also one of those people, or maybe you just pity and feel sorry for them. 

And, why is it that some of us are able to appreciate our yesterdays, no matter how bad and still move forward. How are some of us able to cull the good from the bad, and thrive in the here and the now? How do we move beyond the then? In truth, who can really say. If I were to attempt an answer of any kind it would be simply that some of us want nothing more than to live. And by live, I mean so much more than life. 

And then, there are those of us for whom life offers so much that we scarcely know where to start – so much excitement, so much exploration, so much energy, so much passion, and so many opportunities. Thus, how can we possibly afford to waste too much time reveling in (or complaining about) the past when there is so much now and so much to look forward in the future.

I guess there are no right or wrong answers but I think our experiences and memories (both good and bad) and our circumstances drive our primary motivations. Very few of us are smart enough to make conscious choices or analytically study the path we choose to explore. Food for thought right? When I look back now, it's amusing how a piece of party music that evening lead me to these complex life-centric questions and surprisingly - ridiculously simple (and probable) answers. 

Lastly, as this is most likely the last blog post of 2018, let me add that this Blog for me (as its curator) - is a labor of opinions, ideas, and passion for web wanderers like you. A little ezine curating the best I can find on the web juxtaposed with my thoughts that I have attempted to keep alive over the years. It’s my creative outlet, my solace, and my escape when nothing else can be and, if I can't do it right, it isn't worth doing at all but I reassure you, I won’t kill it as many of you think I would. And believe me, I do read all your comments (even though I don’t publish them) so don’t stop sending your comments and emails. 

And with that, I won't say anything more other than I trust you'll enjoy the New Year ahead  with postivity as much as you nostalgically savor and relish the year that just went past by and all the ones before it. As the existentialist Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once said, our life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Aloha and wishing you a happy 2019 with lotsa fun, joy and success!


Saturday, December 1, 2018

The Mad Pursuit of Happiness and Contentment

Finding Happiness needn't be that hard, after all 

It is rather ironic, that I would choose the above title for this blog post. In fact, I've had this title lingering idly on my laptop with vague views of how to title this post for a number of weeks now. Russia had such a happy effect on me but paradoxically, of late, that much needed happiness - for me - has seemed to be or become somewhat elusive again. Just like failing to post any new blogs the last few weeks after the new found rush I rediscovered in October.

The Dalai Lama wants us to believe that happiness is more than a state of mind and that it is a way of life, and so on. Of course, he mostly linked it with religion and spiritualism. For me, I have no such notions about gods or religions or getting karmic illuminations leading to divine joys. There might be a heaven and there might be a god too but like my greasy kebabs, I want my happiness, right here on earth, not in heaven after I die. 

Happiness, it seems such a simple thing but how often many of us struggle trying to desperately find it in our lives – both personally and professionally. And, often we fail to realize how tied we are to the conditioned views of happiness being so entangled and reliant on upon the close relationships we make with others around us – our loved ones, our parents, our friends, our colleagues…this list can be perennially extending based on how we perceive how important these connections matter to our happiness. 

While on the surface this may seem accurate, I have come to realize that it’s a mad pursuit when in fact, it's definitely not how you achieve a persistent state of sustained happiness. But, rather happiness and fulfillment in my opinion (based on my own costly experiences), is a combination of multiple wisdoms or realizations (and I shall borrow from the Dalai Lama again) of worldly satisfaction, wealth (and we're not just talking about the money alone), spirituality and eventual enlightenment to look beyond your flaws. And when I say spirituality I am referring to realize and analyze oneself, not necessarily getting religious. 

While all these critical elements are essential factors in the quest for happiness - it is how those factors are deployed and the state of mind of the individual wielding them that will determine whether or not a contented and satisfying life can be enjoyed. You can become a happiness magnet only when you employ these correctly. After all, ultimately, we are each responsible for our own contentment and the personal mindset how we level upon the world is the cornerstone of whether we fail or succeed in this pursuit. 

Some of you may wonder what does any of this have to do with an erratic blog like this one? Actually, a great deal. Maintaining and writing this blog brings me, much personal happiness. It is one of the many escape mechanisms I employ (besides my work, my music, and my photography) to find fulfillment when other options fail. And, while this blog may not be anyone's baby but mine, it does make me happy. And thus, that happiness eventually, I like to think - carries over to those around me and those living in the far-flung corners of the world reading this blog. 

And as you may have noticed, it would seem that I've managed to momentarily zig-zag my way back to a point as I so often do, where I can now safely say a few words about why I am still telling you all this. 

Well, much in my life today is in a state of continuous flux and I have no idea really where I might be a year from now or even a few months from now and if all my hallowed musings here on finding happiness and contentment will have amounted to anything at all. Nonetheless, there are some things I remain quite certain and hopeful of - and that is I will find my happiness wherever I may be or whatever I am doing at that time. You should too. And you should be hopeful. 

Hope is not a bitch, we simply give up sooner and just don’t try hard enough. May each of you find your happiness and whatever joys you seek. And as I read it somewhere, enjoy the pursuit to your happiness, as it just might be your greatest source of your happiness after all.

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 clichés 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.

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