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Keep your cameras in, get your metal horns out!

Metal horns

That’s the least you can do to show respect to the band you just spent hundreds of dollars to watch.

Keep calm and enjoy the show!

 

Disclaimer: The second pic (of Blaze Bayley) is obviously photo shopped… he’s an awesome guy and musician!

Photo credit: http://maidenrevelations.com

http://www.ironmaiden.es

http://www.last.fm

http://popcultureblog.dallasnews.com

 

 

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Frown lines or laugh lines?

I need a wrinkle-free breed!

Can I get some botox, please?

So the drive to conquer my fear of aging continues, and I just found the top priority item on my 30-year plan… SMILE! After all, happiness is a gift, and the best investment in ourselves. So go on, replace “I’ll be happy when…” with “I’m happy because…”

Laugh lines pay in more ways than one.

So who do you want to be, Grumpy or Happy?

A Rockstar is a Rockstar is a Rockstar

disco chick

Parties like a Rockstar

Would you call a nurse a doctor, a TA a professor or a 5k runner an athlete? Then why on earth would you call anybody who’s somebody in their respective field of Physics, Business, video gaming etc etc etc as a Rockstar?

Ok, so maybe I’m a little picky about words. But when I hear someone describe that playboy businessman, that daring stuntman or that brilliant programmer as a Rockstar, I silently summon lightning clouds to strike them down.

I can see why everyone wants to be a Rockstar. Rockstars have it all—they’re famous, they’re rich (at least back in the day), they’re sexy, they party like a… er…Rockstar and they get all the girls. But do you know how hard they worked to get there? It’s a dog eat dog world of competition, and only a small percentage of broke and starved Indie bands get a break, and even a smaller percentage get beyond their first album. And once they’re famous, they have to put in more hours practicing for bigger shows, not to mention travel endlessly that takes a toll on their health and families.

Dare devil (Not a Rockstar)

Dare devil (Not a Rockstar)

Star kicker

Star kicker (Not a Rockstar)

Yes, I take my music very seriously. Growing up to Old School Metal and 80’s rock (hairbands included), most of my music Gods were all metal-studded leather, long hair and blistering leads. The definition has changed now, at least in the sexy department, but here’s who does not qualify to be called a Rock Star—class toppers, extravagant Hollywood stars, rebellious businessmen, fearless extreme sportsmen, that cool guy with attitude… the list goes on and on. Extravagance, fame, rebelliousness and fearlessness may be the stereotypical qualities of a Rockstar and may even qualify you to be a star, just not a Rockstar.

POP star

POP star

So who does qualify to be a Rockstar?

  1. Should be a Rock musician. Duh. Not pop, not hip hop, ROCK. Get the point? Other sisters of Rock, like Metal, Punk, Grunge etc are ok too, most of the time.
  2. Should be a musician. You know, the one who actually performs on stage. Not their manager, or songwriter, or their cool hangers-on with Rockstar-itis.
  3. Should be reasonably well known. Every Rock musician knows the moment when they become Rock stars. It’s the dream when they pick up their first guitar, drum or microphone for the first time.

It’s that simple.

Rockstar

Rockstar

Music is what makes or breaks Rockstars, not their attitude or escapades. There are many Rock musicians who are gentle giants, teetotalers, vegetarians and early sleepers who are still Rockstars. Let’s respect that, and let’s respect the other exemplary persons by not making them look like wannabes. How about doing a bit of work to find other superlatives and calling them a star athlete, superstar CEO and brilliant scientist?

After all, a Rockstar is a Rockstar is a Rockstar.

Diversity is Changing Colors at Hollywood

While watching ‘Gravity’ the other day, I realized something. The main characters were all white… and brown. I then realized that brown as the color of on-screen diversity wasn’t such a new concept. Remember Ranjit in ‘How I met your Mother’? Or Rajesh Koothrappali in ‘Big Bang Theory, Fez in ‘That 70’s show’ and Aziz Ansari in ‘Parks and Recreation?’ And then there are many guest characters as well, like ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Rules of Engagement’. And although unrelated to this post, let’s not forget the many brown stand-up comedians who have made it big.

My first thought was that it’s fascinating how shows/movies about all walks of life think that Indians (or people from that general region) are now an integral part of their lives. And they don’t seem to mind it too much. I take part credit on behalf of my brethren, because we truly do our best to fit in. Although we may step on your toes in lines, we try not to do that culturally. Part of it is our cultural conditioning. Most Indians are partly proud and partly uncomfortable about their heritage. The slight inferiority complex means that we adjust to our host’s culture, and we adjust to our immigrants’ cultural differences too. This makes us excellent immigrants and excellent hosts to immigrants at the same time.

But there’s a certain cultural stereotype that the media has boxed us into:

  • Brown means brown: All Indians on TV are just the right shade of mocha, although we commonly range from caramel to espresso. All women are especially dark mocha, have long straight black hair and are composed, naïve, domesticated and have arranged marriages.
  • Thank you come again: All Indians on TV have a specific, comical way of speaking, something that is exaggerated and actually spoken by only a percentage of real Indians.
  • Social placement: Indians are generally shown as belonging to two sections of society—either as a highly educated nerd (with a funny accent) or a gas station/grocery store/taxi owner (with a funny accent).

If cultures were a book, then we are comic strips. Most Indians portrayed on screen are good-humored, somehow amusing (mostly because of the accent) and get to say very little in the screenplay. It is mostly a good thing, as all our tags are mostly positive and shows amiable acceptance by the local community. Maybe that’s why we seem to be gaining on the other overdone on-screen cultural stereotypes .

Before my fellow countrymen get all riled up about me accepting our social stereotype, may I remind them of how we treat our own cultural differences? Seen any Bollywood movies? Or Mollywood, Kollywood, etc etc etc? Let me highlight some salient stereotypes:

  • All South-Indians are ‘Madrasis’. Madrasis are dark, have a funny accent and are in general, the jokers of the movie. Madrasi women are naïve, have long black hair and are domesticated. You got it, the Hollywood stereotype for Indians is the Bollywood stereotype for South Indians.
  • In South Indian movies, North Indians mostly wear a turban, speak comically rough Punjabi and frequently say ‘Balle Balle’, and are in general, the jokers of the movie.

To be fair, contemporary Indian movies have tried to move away from this. But movies cater to real people, and cultural stereotyping is real and sometimes not funny. Just a few weeks ago, I was called a Madrasi by a friend, and I shot back, “You’re a Bihari!” Of course, both the action and reaction were outdated and prejudiced. But it happened, and it’s not uncommon.

But the point stands, we handle our own cultural differences by poking fun at them, maybe other cultures have picked up on it too.

Nevertheless, it is much better to carve a humorous niche for yourself than a violent or scary one. As we integrate deeper into the cultures where we now belong, it will go a long way into promoting enriching cultural exchanges. Never mind the media, the people of the world already know there’s more to Indian culture than Yoga, Kamasutra and Ayurveda. Soon (hopefully) the media will reflect that too.

Until then, who’s your favorite Brown?

But what is the question?

Metalhead, dreamer, animal lover

Metalhead, dreamer, animal lover

After more than a year of searching for the perfect name for my blog (which explains the previous name, “…”), I’m happy to announce that I’ve finally found The One. Looks like I was looking at answers in the wrong place, for it was the question that mattered more.

The first step to finding an answer is asking the right question.

Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? Why? Why not? These are questions that have brought profound changes into many lives.

We blog because we crave for readers to connect with us through our writings, and to accomplish that, we put in a little of ourselves into every post, every article, like some kind of intellectual striptease. This blog is no different. More eloquent in writing and a self-styled misfit otherwise, I like to look deep into life’s little things and find more reasons to appreciate them; this blog helps me find more people to celebrate them with. Rolling this out on April fool’s day is perfect too, for I believe nothing should be taken too seriously 🙂

Thanks for stopping by, Hope to see you here again.

PS: I’m still mustering up the guts to change my URL and risk losing my modest rankings/followers. One step at a time, I think, but it’s very tempting. If you did so successfully, please give me a pep talk!

Stress, gift wrapped

holiday_stressMost of us find the gifting season stressful, because it’s a battle of managing budget with expectations. But have you ever stopped to think how many gifts you shopped for the rest of the year? In an average year, we are invited to around 12 home dinners, 2-3 baby showers/baby birthdays, 1-2 weddings and 2-3 adult birthdays where we can’t pick up the tab so we carry a gift. And then there are loved ones’ birthdays, anniversaries and various occasions where we pick up the tab as a grand gesture.

Since we tackle these instances one by one, it is not as stressful as Christmas shopping. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t stressful at all.

Apart from Christmas and family occasions, there is an unspoken budget for casual gifting. The budget is normally $10-15 for a dinner invitation, $25-30 for a casual friend’s baby shower/ housewarming/ similar party, $100 or multiples for weddings, nothing for BYOBs and flowers/wine for pot lucks. But there are other nuances to gifting as well.

The biggest challenge is picking something in your budget that is right for the occasion, looks good AND will be liked by the receiver. Whew! And it becomes harder if you don’t know the person that well. Weddings and baby showers are simpler because gift-cards are more acceptable and the gift-list has been picked out, so you can’t be blamed for a useless gift. Drinkers make gifting easier too. Whether or not the gifter drinks, wine and wine accessories are the cutest and most convenient gifts. Otherwise, what do you find under $15 that is gift-able and not too preposterous? The health conscious don’t eat chocolates, fruits are boring and flowers may be inappropriate if you or the host/ess is single and not your type. Gift cards aren’t always the best option and can’t be less than $25 anyway. I tackle this by gifting a kitchen accessory—a Misto or a cool timer is always appreciated. Wind chimes and bird-feeders are nice ideas too.

Then comes the more complicated issue of meeting expectations—you neither want to appear cheap nor preposterous. It is stressful to remember who brought a wine to your holiday party and who gave a crystal stemware set, so you can return the sentiment at their party. Moreover, lavish gifters—the ones who bring along a $100 wine for a dinner party—are stressful too, because you are compelled to reciprocate on a similar scale, whether or not they expect you to. Gift unto others how they gift unto you. Women are normally great at this so either maintain a file or get a girlfriend. And my rule of thumb is that I’d rather be preposterous than cheap to keep my friendships.

Finally, there is the suspense game of whether the gift was liked. Did they return it or exchange it for something else? Did they push it off to someone else? Did they give it to charity? Do they like me a little less?

There’s stress on the other side of gifting too. After the rush of unwrapping, what do you do with all the gifts? Not all gifts are made equal. Many exchange for a better one and although I frown upon re-gifting, many do that and it’s a win-win. Some re-gifters don’t even bother re-wrapping; I received a re-gifted package at my wedding that was probably just peeked into before resealing the gift-wrap. Too bad the original gifter had left a note inside the box. I do reuse cute gifting covers, but only because that helps the environment. Whatever. After all, reduce, reuse and recycle, right?

I think the key to making gifting less stressful lies at the receiving end. You can’t always put up gift registries, but how about maintaining a public wish list that is subtle yet easily found whenever someone is second-guessing their choice of gift? Also, if you are using their gift, show it to your friends the next time they come home. It wouldn’t hurt to send a quick thank you message or email either (although thanking for wine is normally an overkill). It will help your friends relax, feel happy and it’s also good karma. Maybe someday you will receive a thank you note for spending your precious time to pick a gift, wrap it and add a personal note just to make someone happy.

So, did you thank Santa Claus yet?

You know the suburbs have got to you when…

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  1. You see a warm, sunny day in November and think, “It’s a great day to do yard work!”
  2. Your local social circles mainly include older people with kids or recently married couples secretly planning babies.
  3. You stare down fellow pedestrians at downtown, but happily wave at all passing cars on your morning walk because they just might be your neighbors. Even if they never wave back.
  4. A baby shower at your neighbor’s makes you go ‘awww’ instead of dreading sleepless nights.
  5. Costco sizes actually start making sense—no more quantity v/s guest room trade-off!
  6. You suddenly start seeing Home Depot and Lowes everywhere. After all, the top items on your Black Friday shopping list are a ladder and a lawn mower.
  7. You ‘plan’ a day in the city by packing some water bottles, snacks and extra shoes in the car.
  8. You’re always a little over-dressed when you go to the city, but you’re never wearing the ‘in thing’.
  9. You feel a bit of a fraud when you brag that you support small businesses—what else is there anyway?
  10. You prefer to call people home instead of meeting them in the city but find it mildly irritating when other suburban couples call you home, because if you’re driving, you might as well hit the city!

Welcome to suburbia.

PS: A lot has happened since I last blogged. Between helping my sister plan her wedding, getting stuck while vacationing in my own country because of  bureaucracy and moving to the suburbs for the very first time, I haven’t had time to blog because (sob) I actually had a life! Now that I’m back home and old habits are kicking in, it’s time to start writing all the blogs I’ve written in my head. Once a blogger, always a blogger. Keep checking back in!

Salon Rules 101

I pause outside the glass door with its shutters closed. Have I checked everything? I’m impeccably dressed, I am on time for my appointment, and know what I want. I enter (placing my right foot first for luck). There are three women in the room.

“Hi!” I say brightly. The first impression is the best impression, even though this is not my first visit.

A big looking woman gestures me to a seat.
“Haircut?”

A visit to a salon is NOT, as many (mostly men) believe, a vanity affair. On the contrary, it can be a quite stressful. Murphy’s laws apply all the time—if something can go wrong, it will. A chipped nail, mismatched brows, and product allergies—you name it. Everyone has their own salon horror story. Many of my friends are even superstitious about it—no cutting nails on Fridays and no hair cuts on Tuesdays, in case they anger the Beauty Gods.

Now there are certain ground rules to having a successful salon/beauty parlor/day spa experience. For this post, I will address them all as salon to make it simpler.

The first rule, look great when you walk in. Set a high bar for their services.

The second rule, always take an appointment, even if it’s only a ten-minute job. It gives you the air of someone busy and therefore, important. Talking about how stressed you are also helps.

The third rule, give the stylist a broad idea of what you want and end with “You’re the expert, I’ll leave the rest to you.” Broad, warm  smile. Trust, or even a show of it, is the best flattery.

The fourth and the most important rule, NEVER contradict your stylist. A sure fire way of making yourself a living example of Murphy’s law’s manifestation is to correct high-flown talk with reason. Give respect, and take service. An “Oops”, and a “Sorry”, and you’re stuck with a permanently surprised look on your face or look like a piece of Picasso art. So when my sweet lady, who seems to have mistaken The Onion for National news, tells me her views on politics, sports, religion, etc etc etc, I agree. Empathetically.

So here we are. My good lady is practicing politics, and I’m on automatic response mode, while I focus on counting the snips made so far—was it 3 on the left and 4 on the right?(“Absolutely!”) did I specify the right length?(“True!”) I try to look but my hair covers my eyes. Now the conversation’s shifted to some dispute involving the righteous woman. I shift gears in my auto answer and continue worrying. (“She said that?”) Well, the only reconciliation is that at least there is no pain during a haircut! (“Serves her right!”)

Finally, the curtain in front of my eyes undergoes a rendezvous with the scissors as well and after some blowdrying, a satisfied grunt wakes me from my reverie. There is silence only once during my visit—when the job is done and awaiting approval.

This is where the key rule of successful salon experiences comes in… always compliment generously. If in lofty comparison to another (obviously inferior) competitor, even better. And match a good tip with your compliments.

I don’t look like a bad hair day, I don’t look like a modern art piece, so this must be a job well done. Relief seems to justify the fees. No more worries for the next 6 months.

I step out with my right foot forward—just to be extra sure.

Seven Deadly Whines of Blogging

I’ve been blogging for 7 months now, so I think I’m allowed one PMS post.

If you think I’m complaining about you, remember, it’s not just you. I visit at least 3-5 new blogs every day, and many other blogs have similar attributes as yours. And before you hate me, remember, it’s not just me. If one reader had an issue, chances are, other readers encountered the same problem too. Bottom-line, being unique is unique.

  1. Closed Circle: You blog because you have something to say. I comment on your posts because I have something to say. When I read an awesome post but can’t compliment/discuss with the author because I don’t have a G+ or Disqus or some other kind of lame profile that I’ve tried very hard to stay away from, I growl so viciously I’d scare a bear away. Your blog is public, why not open out your comments to the public too? We Fabo-Twitto-Gpluso-phobes are people too.
  2. Insomniac’s corner: When I can’t sleep, I find blogs that take so long to load, I can count all the pixel-sheep on my screen. At other times, I growl again (bears obviously fear me) and click out vehemently. If the title is really interesting, though, I take a little nap to kill time and do some yoga to calm down while it loads. When it comes to blogs, everyone prefers the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am way. How about some spring-cleaning and downsizing?
  3. Plug-in slugs: A major cause of the insomniac’s corner, some blogs have so many plug-ins, it conjures up creepy images of the Matrix. Too many ‘efficiency boosting’ plug-ins not only load pages after eternity, but also freeze our browsers and crash it. Growl. Remember, a plug-in a day drives the reader away.
  4. Blog of no return: I’ve encountered this mostly on websites but also on some over-enthusiastic, well-established blogs. I don’t see the reasoning behind disabling backspace, because it annoys more readers than it retains. It’s a free world, and your nasty little tactic can be overcome by a simple CTRL-T, or pointedly visiting another blog. Nobody’s indispensable.
  5. Blog hijackers: I plead guilty to having done this many times. As a newbie blogger, I’d carefully read every word in a blog post, reflect on it and comment with my views/counterviews, citing examples and even adding my own twist to the article. I was often miffed that the authors only said “thanks” or didn’t even reply to my thoughtful comments. It took me fifteen minutes to just type that! Now I know why. If you have so much to say, blog about it instead and send the author the link. Or share your email ID privately and have heated intellectual discussions. Don’t hijack their post with a mini-blog in their comments section.
  6. Stiff upper lip authors: Remember, you blog because you have something to say? Well, your readers spent their precious time reading your thoughts and sharing their 2-cents in the comments section, when they could have been popping corn or jumping on bubble-wrap to unwind. The least you can do is reply. And a mass manufactured “thanks”, “thanks for dropping by” or their variations just show you’re a pizza hut in the world of hand-crafted pizzerias.

So, what’s your seventh deadly whine?

You know you’re a Seattle-ite when…

The Seattle-ite has been defined tons of times, but I couldn’t resist adding my two (or 15) cents to it.  Here’s my black and white definition of the Northwestern gray species of humans, most commonly found in urban watering holes.

You know you’re a Seattle-ite when…

  1. You think it doesn’t rain that much, and that the gray is overstated.
  2. You always keep an umbrella in the car, but never use it.
  3. You have done or are training for something superhuman, like STP, marathon or triathlon. 10k is for lightweights.
  4. You have tried at least a couple of yoga classes. Whether you liked it or not, you still think yogis are cool and spiritually elevated.
  5. You think the big hullabaloo over legalizing weed is so yesterday. Yawn.
  6. You think more highly of brands like North Face, Columbia and ASICS than Coach, Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
  7. Your idea of dressy includes chic clothes paired with stylish sneakers.
  8. Your idea of a fun weekend is a hike in the mountains followed by a picnic lunch… in all seasons.
  9. Your idea of a nice anniversary date involves your favorite brewery.
  10. You can’t remember the last time you had non-microbrew beer. In fact, you have at least one growler in your home bar, promptly refilled before any party.
  11. You start liking grunge. Listening to sad and angry music makes you happy, and happy music annoys you.
  12. Your gardening work never involves watering the garden. In fact, you can’t even find your garden hose.
  13. You don’t honk at the guy who stalled traffic by changing 4 lanes at the intersection. After that, you patiently let another driver cut in front of you.
  14. You enjoy the rare sunny, 80-degree days to the fullest. But after two days of that, you crave for the ‘perfect’ 70-degree weather, with some cloud cover.
  15. You go to Vancouver and Portland many times a year, but it’s been years since you stepped into the Eastside, because “it’s so far”!

Note:  To my best knowledge, this post comes from my own gray matter (pun intended), but then this is a popular topic and the Seattl-ite has only so many salient characteristics, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you had an eerie déjà vu about some of them… although I really hope you don’t!

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