It’s been a while, hasn’t it ? I guess I went into a winter sleep just like Polar bears up north in the Arctic tend to do and am back to writing just as they are about to wake up. It’s been a warm winter. Now let’s cut to the chase. This is about Instagram. This is about everything you see on Instagram. It’s about how people could possibly use Instagram. I joined the Instagram wagon around 21 months ago. I was absolutely clueless. My first uploaded photo was a Tim Horton’s cup of coffee (Definitely not a StarBucks person), and then it just happened after it. It’s a bit like Twitter. You get into it more the more followers you get, you know why? Because you think to yourself, “PEOPLE CARE”. I thought my approach was the norm, but after nearly two years, I think it really wasn’t. Watching hundreds of my friends join Instagram since I have become a mainstay, I can classify them into two general groups:

Group A: They join and within their first 2 days, they upload 5 photos a day on average. It varies from selfies, to #tbt , to #wcw and so many more of those weird hashtags. They announce their presence in style. Here I am. Ever present in your timeline. Deal with it.

Group B: They join Instagram, get a load of followers, follow some, and then they disappear for ever. They are just a body with no soul. They are there, while in fact they aren’t really there. They are basically the exact opposite of Group A. You never hear from them again except that initial notification of “Your Facebook friend – ABC EDFG- has joined Instagram.” Group A become main stay and upon time adapt to the routine style. They adapt to the normal Instagram life. Speaking of Normal Instagram life, what is it? Below, I list some dominant type of people and posts you are likely to encounter on Instagram.

The Gym Rats: Once upon time, there was a girl in New York who got famous through her butt photos on Instagram. She became an inspiration to a generation and led the door for Instagram gym rats. This group tend to post mostly when at the gym while they the photo through the gym mirror and you can see their phones as they are taking it. They are never actually looking at the camera. Of course, there is always some sort of headphones in their ears as well. Every time they lose .00001% body fat, everyone and their dogs should know it. Everytime their abs start showing signs of popping up, it simply has to be posted. In my opinion, they are insufferable.

The Aspiring “Models”:  This group mostly consists of girls. They take a selfies showing some sort of cleavage or such, and tag #ootd #photooftheday in hope of someone noticing it and somehow making it to the popular page. They tend to take good care of their body, go the the gym, and have certain physical attractions. Their hashtags are nearly always the same. You know when we were kids, dreaming of being a doctor, actor, or a famous athlete when we woke up? They still have those dreams, but their version ends up on Instagram popular page. They usually have a couple of thousands of followers, who may or may not use those photos upon treating their bodies as amusement parks.

I Eat Awesome Food: They eat. They eat differently. I am a fan. They expose you to some stuff you hadn’t considered before and I appreciate that. There is always something artsy about their photos. They usually identify the location before posting their photos. They are in my good books. Keep up the good work !

The Hashtag Whores: The message is simple. Please Follow me and like my photos. It’s very important for us to be approved and liked by people who we probably don’t even know or care for. The list of hashtags under their photos goes as wide as the photo itself at times. You’ll often come across #likes4likes , #followbackfamily, and hashtags of this sort. There is nothing wrong with a few cheeky and clever hashtags, but to hashtag 30 different words for a StarBucks coffee photo is just absurd. That’d classify as a Hashtag Whore. You know what ?! They are insufferable as well.

The Poets: This thing always winds me up. The Poets don’t usually have a certain type of photos. Their range is actually quiet diverse (with more emphasis on Selfies), but it’s about the description under those photos. To demonstrate, their photo is a bathroom selfie with description of: “Without you I didn’t know I can do it, Without you I was lost. O baby glad you’re here, because for me it was love or bust”. YES, This actually happens. Unbelievable I know. A bathroom selfie where the flash is showing, brings out such poetic side of people.

Those five categories above can intervene at times. There are some perfect non-sterotypical , classy users of Instagram as well out there, but they are here and between in a sea dominated by those described earlier. Back to the main subject, what a genius idea it was. We all can take photos in blink of an eye these days, and we all like sense of sharing and approval. Those two basic human tendencies and abilities combine and create the need for “Instagram”. Well done to whoever came up with the idea, you deserve the dough you earned through it. I conclude with this genius clip that predicted today’s social media around two decades ago.

It’s been a while since the last time I posted. Quiet a lot of things can be used as an excuse such as a festive season, work schedule, or lack of internet at home. Every single one of those excuses are valid, but the bigger reason is the state of Texas. It’s just different. That’s why I decided to dedicate this post to my observations of the so called “Lone Star State”, 40 days after moving here. Texas; Just what does this remind us of: Cowboys? Poker? Drug cartels down the border? George Bush? El Paso? I guess those things quickly spring to mind, and all of them are true. In this post though, I opt to discuss other Texas-related observations than those mentioned above, including religion, lifestyle, culture, business, and did I mention driving ?!

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When I lived in Poland this past summer, I thought to myself it’d be quiet an achievement to come across a group of people as religious as the elderly Poles in the West. I was dead wrong. Texans take faith to a whole new level. It’s no surprise one has to drive to Oklahoma border to access a Casino from Texas. Observing peoples’ social profiles, there is a lot of emphasis on “god” , “Jesus” , “Bible”, and conservatism. To be fair, this is expected at a state where the Republicans are clearly dominant. I would imagine the concept of abortion is as frowned upon here as it was in Poland.  Moving on from people’ beliefs, there is a refreshing lack of multiculturalism here compared to Toronto. That sounded terrible, didn’t it?! I think I’ve had my very fair share of multiculturalism after living for close to a decade in Toronto, so it’s interesting to experience the other side of the tide. Proud Texans are of course dominant. Hispanics, unsurprisingly, have a strong representations here. Other than that, you’ll come across some Middle Eastern and Asians once in a while. Considering the monumental growth and development of DFW in the last few decades, I won’t be surprised the slightest if the level of multiculturalism gradually grow in the area. The unoccupied lands and space in the state will eventually be targeted in my opinion.

Having provided a somewhat balanced overview, I think it’s time for me to list my complaints about the Endless Roads State. Yes ! that’s what I believe Texas should be called. I can confidently say I’ve driven more miles in 40 days in Dallas, than I had done previously in 22.5 years of my life elsewhere. You either drive, or you basically don’t live. An average person has to drive close to 3 hours a day as a daily routine to satisfy the most basics human needs. The concept of public transportation is pretty much non-existent. There is no compression in the city whatsoever. Everything is spread out. There are tens of smaller towns forming the Dallas Forth Worth area, and everything is all over the place bar a small, yet non-flashy downtown area. The state’ economy is brilliant compared to majority of its peers, but that’s what basically it is; A state built for family-life and great platform for economic prosperity in auto and housing industry. As much as any one of us loves a good whinge, it’s not all doom and gloom either. The weather is absolutely fantastic in winter time, which makes a great change for someone who’s used to 6-layer dressings in -40 Winters. As I am writing this post, it’s +8 degrees Celsius (I refuse to become a Fahrenheit person), expecting to rise to 16 degrees in a few hours. Not a single sane person would complain about this weather on 14th of January. In addition to weather, people (When you somehow get the chance to meet them) are generally nice and welcoming. It may not have my ideal “cafe lifestyle” of meeting people, but you’d interact regularly with new people at work every day, and they’re almost always up for a good chat. From what I’ve heard, Texas becomes one hot mess in summer time, so I guess I shall make a escape plan in the next few months.

All in all and as cliche as it sounds, every place has its pros and cons. Those long, frustrating daily drives become easier when conducted under warm sunshine. Its extremely Non-Europeanesque nightlife  gets cancelled out by ability to pay back the student loan much faster. You can’t have the best of everything at every single stage of life. In summary, I see Dallas as your stereotypical capitalistic city. There are very few sights or interesting places to see in town. JFK assassination spot, Deep Ellum at a push, and uhm, that’s pretty much it. However, if you’re into shopping, there are countless malls that will make you all giddy inside. Sounds perfect for the American dream, doesn’t it?!

Having been a professional chess player in my childhood, I had always heard of Bobby Fischer. My teacher used to hail him as the greatest of all time. He loved Bobby’s offensive and creative playing style. At the time, I didn’t read too much into it. I was busy reading about  Alekhine as he was my favourite player. I liked Alekhine for strange reasons. First and foremost, he was a risk-taker. His combination play was absolutely fantastic. Alekhine’s repeated championships and his sudden and lonely death also increased his like-ability  in my eyes. In many ways, Fischer was the same. At the time, I remember asking my tutor: “If Fischer is so great and the greatest of all time, then why was he the world champions for only 3 years?” . He never gave me a clear answer.

I was 10 at the time. Back in the late 90s, internet wasn’t as popular for kids of my age as it is now. Years went on and I stopped playing chess professionally. It wasn’t until 2008 that I heard about Bobby again. Sadly, it was the news of his passing. I didn’t know much about his personal life, but once I saw an ad regarding a chess tournament in his memory, I didn’t hesitate. What better chance to get back into the game?! It ended up being my most productive day during my stay in Canada. I won the tournament  in 5 hours pocketing $400 in space of half a day. It’s some dream for a 17 year old, isn’t it?! I love you Bobby. That day in February of 2008 was the last I hash heard of Bobby until a few weeks ago. Packing to move south to Texas, I found the newspaper article reporting on my championship in Bobby Fischer Memorial tournament. I searched about the old man, and I came across things that I always suspected they exist. It was wonderful.

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The most popular documentary about Fischer’s life is called “Bobby Fischer Against the World”. I watched it three times in three consecutive nights. Their coverage of Fischer’s match of the century against Spassky is brilliant. A chess game, drawing attention from tens of millions of people. You don’t see it happening today, do you?? Which leaves you thinking why the stock of such a brilliant game has fallen in the eyes of public. Is it the fault of chess, or the new society ?! Fischer predicted fall of chess decades ago, but I believe he didn’t predict a tweet containing “hello” by Justin Bieber would generate millions of time more attention than World Chess Championship in 2013. This is the same game that decided the cold war back in the early 70s ! Something has definitely gone wrong.  In my experience, chess isn’t a game you can learn late on. You may be able to grasp the idea and moves, but you’ll never really understand chess if you don’t learn it early on in your life. That is one of the reasons its stock has fallen nowdays. Other activities and games have emerged and most kids find them more entertaining. A few years ago, I was working as a chess tutor for kids of under age of 10. In my first session, I immediately noticed that almost all the kids aren’t mentally there and have probably been forced by their parents to attend the classes. The myth of “Chess is boring, I’d rather watch paint dry” was in their heads. I simply had to change their mindset about the game. So I totally ditched what I was going to teach. I focused on explaining the game as a war. Something serious to generate excitement.

Chess isn’t just played on the board, it’s a psychological battle as well and so many people fail to understand it. I am sure Fischer would agree. He used a fair bit of psychological tactics in his triumph over Spassky in Reykjavik. It really is a must see documentary. In years to come, we’ll celebrate Bobby Fischer’s chess. It’s a shame that we couldn’t see more of his genius, but thanks to the Icelandic government, he at least spent the last few years of his life in peace and now rests peacefully at Laugardælir.

Ukrainian Talks

Posted: November 21, 2013 in Travel & Culture
Tags: , ,

You know when you’re searching for something on the internet, and all of a sudden you end up somewhere you never expected to end up at ?! That’s pretty much what happened to me. I was researching for possible employment opportunities in Nordic countries, particularly in Iceland, and in midst of all the search, I came across a blog which contained words that caught my attention. A few minutes later, I was exposed to the world of Roosh V. He’s a controversial fella, isn’t he ?! As I was reading his biography page, a link containing his inclusion in “Ukrainian Talks” caught my eye and this s what I want to write about today.

Before discussing the program, I’d like to shed some light on Roosh’ story. He’d travel European nations and stay there for months and then write books about how to seduce their women. He’s published multiple books reflecting on his time in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Denmark, Iceland, and more. His last published book, titled “Bang Ukraine”, described his 3 months spell in city of Kharkiv in Ukraine and how he got on with Ukrainian women. The book caused a lot of controversies within Ukrainians. He was then invited to one of the most popular Ukrainian TV shows, called “Ukrainian Talks” to discuss and answer some questions about the contents of his book.  Quiet a story, isn’t it ?!

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I watched the show twice and I found it extremely entertaining. It was in Ukrainian, and hence subtitles were needed. The nature of Ukrainian language sounded very passionate and assertive, and it perfectly suited the theme of the show. I found the show a lot purer and more real than your typical Western show. Participants were ruthless and passionate in expressing their opinions, and the debate took a totally different direction than one I initially expected. The show host himself said: “We started the program on a funny note, but now it’s not so funny.” The discussion jumped from Roosh’ book to sex-tourism. Ukrainian men had a lot of disagreements, be it about the relationship of foreigners with Ukrainian girls or the extent of disrespect shown to country of Ukraine in Roosh’ book. It was fantastic viewing in my opinion, and I felt that everyone claimed some sort of victory in the end. The approach Ukrainian TV took to address this issue was more unique than those in other countries which Roosh has written about and it was well worth it.

Eastern Europe is certainly a fascinating geographic region. You can’t help but think of relatively cheap costs of living (for a Western citizen) and stunning women when you hear of Eastern Europe. People’s culture and day to day lives is often forgotten in those discussions, whereas in reality they are full of mind-blowing trends and facts. You know what ?! I may as well go ahead and read Roosh’ book. It must contain some interesting stuff to garner so much interest and controversy, and let’s be honest who doesn’t love a good controversial theory with “Ukrainian Talks” serving as the catalyst in my interest in Ukraine. I’d definitely recommend clicking on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2INybBpXkM  if you have 30 minutes to spare. You won’t be disappointed !

Every sunday night my Twitter timeline and Facebook home page used to be filled with statuses and tweets about Breaking Bad. People would often post about their amazement at an episode’s ending, their emotional distress, and anticipation of future events. Truth be told, I didn’t care much initially. Considering how little Television I’ve watched for years, it wasn’t a big shock that I wasn’t aware of the big fuss. About a month ago, a few days after series’ finale, the temptation to check the show out finally beat me, and with Netflix being ever present, I was set. Fast forward a month, and I couldn’t be happier with the decision I made.

I don’t want to go into details of the show, but rather Breaking Bad itself. It was an absolute roller coaster. Its unpredictability and well-thought out pace throughout was pure joy. It had you on the edge of your seat in some scenes, only to provide a much needed comic relief a few minutes after. I loved and hated most characters on the Series. For me, if you love and hate something/someone, it means you actually love them. I think the more you love someone, the more you dislike them when they anger you. Throughout the movie, I found myself rooting for different characters at different times. It was near impossible to maintain some consistency. Even the bad guys mostly had something extremely likeable about them. Take Gus for example. A ruthless drug kingpin, who at the same time is the most professional and polite character in the entire series. It’s utterly brilliant, how can one not love Gus Fring ?!

Breaking bad had everything. Each character was required to provide a new dimension to the puzzle to make it all work and I think Vince Gilligan got the balance spot on. Whenever the show was getting too dark and dramatic, there was always Skinny Pete and Badger to bring the tempo down. If not them, Saul Goodman would step up. The show had pure crime and blood provided by ruthlessness of Salamanca family and Neo-Nazis. Intelligent crime management and authority by Gus and later Walt. Pragmatism and hypocrisy by Skyler and emotional drama mostly suffered by Jesse (You may consider checking a doctor out to ensure if you’re a human being, if you weren’t cheering for Jesse in the very last episode). Every once in a while, we got reminded of Jesse’s emotional turbulence and deep love for children as first demonstrated in season 2 episode “Peekaboo”. The character development was what made Breaking Bad great. You compare Jesse and Walt we knew in the pilot, to the ones we saw in “Felina” and the transition has been nothing short of spectacular.

I personally love it when an ending leaves the audience to answer some questions for themselves. I think Breaking Bad does that. Yes, we know Walt dies, but no one can certainly answer the million dollar question which is: “Is Walter White the winner/loser in the end?” There are plenty of arguments for both parties, but I believe Walt wins. His self-actualization is what makes him the winner. He realized his dream of being respected and admired. Something the Walter White we knew in the pilot was severely missing. Walt wanted legacy and recognition for his brilliant mind and expertise.  He gets those. He ensures his legendary blue meth dies with him, while he financially secures his family using Gretchen and Elliot (threatened by two and the best hit men in West Mississippi- Badger and Skinny Pete- perhaps one of my favourite scenes of season 5) . Walt takes revenge from everyone who took advantage of him at some point, be it the society, Neo-Nazis, and himself. He dies at a meth lab, where he feels most alive. In his mind, he has no unfinished business left and that’s why I believe it’s a happy ending for Heisenberg. A bit controversial after all the terrible things his loved ones have gone or will go through, isn’t it?!

Breaking Bad will go down as one of the best TV series ever produced and rightly so. If you’re feeling special and hipster by not watching it, then I suggest you change your mind. I certainly don’t regret it myself. There is plenty of stuff to look forward to. You’ll shout, laugh, and cry on this memorable journey. In case you found yourself wanting more or needing help, don’t hesitate and ……CALL SAUL !

Every four years, a spectacular occasion takes place that captures the attention of the entire world. It generates interest from all over the world, from all genders and age groups. People follow it very closely even if their country is not a participant. It simply has an irresistible universal appeal. Yes, I am talking about FIFA World Cup.

Last tuesday saw plenty of countries book their flights to Brazil. It was quite a ride. History was created, celebrations followed, drama was ever present, hearts were broken, and tears were shed. Bosnia finally edged over the line and qualified for their first ever World Cup. This achievement was hailed as one of the most important accomplishments in the Bosnian history. Sarajevo was going wild as people partied until early morning to greet their national heroes at the airport. It’s fair to assume the bar and club owners generated an all-time high midweek revenue. Iceland, isolated near the north pole, mostly known for its volcanoes and snow also created history by qualifying for their first ever play-offs. They are now 2 games away from the big stage. It’s an incredible achievement for a country with population a little above 300,000, especially if you consider how hard it is to play football there for half a year. Over 1% of the entire Icelandic population traveled to Oslo to witness history being created. Outstanding, isn’t it?

 

The biggest drama of the night, however, came from Central America. Mexico were seconds away from shock elimination whereas Panamanians were getting ready for a nation-wide party. Mexico’s only hope was a big favour from their eternal rivals, the United States who, on paper, didn’t have any motivation or interest in spoiling the Panamanian party. The reality proved otherwise though. United States equalized with seconds to go and it kept Mexico alive. Some would argue, this is probably the biggest gift the US has given Mexico since NAFTA. Panama were left heartbroken and in disbelief. Football is a cruel game and you wouldn’t see a better example of its cruelty in the near future. It’s rare to be angry at your country for scoring two goals in stoppage time in order to win a World Cup qualifier away from home, but there were plenty of Americans upset with what went on in those couple of minutes. Will Mexico return the favour one day? Time will tell.

Often international football is condemned by some fans of the beautiful game. Some dislike internationals as they see it as an excuse to practice nationalism and pour money into greedy pockets of FIFA. I, however, disagree. In the end the drama and emotions created by international football surpasses anything and that’s why we love the sport after all. The events and consequences of an important international game goes beyond football. It involves absolutely everyone, including people who don’t even follow the games. There is a group of people who every four years become football experts during the World Cup, despite not following the sport at all between those periods. There is a reason behind this. Everyone wants to be associated with this phenomenal event at some capacity. The World Cup hype is truly on its way and there is no stopping it. Countdown for the much anticipated draw on December 6th has begun and it remains to be seen whether we will see a another debutant other than Bosnia. In any case, it is bound to be exciting. There is a reason that almost half the world’s population watched the last final live. You read it correctly. Half the entire world !

Person X: “ Hey, where are you from?”

Person Y: “ American. I am from the US”

Person X: “ Hmm, No offense, but are you sure? You don’t look American.”

Person Y: “I was born and raised in Colorado. I have been contributing to the American society for decades. I’ve represented United States in many international conferences, and yet you proceed to question my answer because I happen to have small eyes and yellow skin? Unbelievable!”

Situations like the one demonstrated above happens quite often. It is exactly why “Where are you from?” is one of the most controversial questions out there. There is no set criteria for a universally accepted correct answer. It creates a battle between a person’s genes and blood ties against the environment and culture in which he has been raised. Think of a person who is born of Chinese parents in Stockholm, has gone to school in Sweden all her life, and has Swedish friends in and around her all the time. What would her answer to the infamous question of “Where are you from?” be. It has always bemused me. Individuals are usually judged, rightly or wrongly, based on their looks and behaviour. Behaviour is the work of culture and the environment one has lived in for majority of his life. Genes ultimately decide a person’s looks, but some argue one’s parental cultural influence still outweighs the influence of his living conditions. This has been going back and forth for a while now. Who is right ?

In some cases, these situations create mass controversies if the person in question is some sort of an athlete or celebrity. Speaking of sports, In the past few days there has been a lot of talk about the future of Manchester United midfielder, Adnan Januzaj. Based on FIFA rules he qualifies to play for the national team of a host of countries including Belgium, Albania, Serbia, and Turkey. In 2 years, he will be eligible to play for England national team as well. It is ridiculous. I’d love to know how Adnan will fare when asked where he is from. In my opinion, one should be qualified to play for the national team of countries in which he has either been born and raised or those which his parents are from. That’s why I find the concept of neutralization completely wrong. It’s as bad as the conversation in the very first paragraph of this article, just the opposite extreme.

Now that both extremes have been discussed, it’s time to come to a conclusion. If an individual is born and raised in a country, which differs from those of his parents’, then he is from that nation. Culture and environment beat the genes. One of my very best friends is from Korean parents, but born and raised in Canada. If you sit down and chat with him for an hour, he is a lot more Canadian than Korean. Of course the way parents raise their kid in a foreign nation makes a difference, but the influence of external factors are greater in my opinion. It is more of a telling factor to determine the national identity of someone.

Despite all the above, I absolutely despise “Where are you from?” It’s boring and unimaginative. It is too limited. My least favourite answer to that question is by those who make their nationality into fractions and end up with tens of nations. Give me a break! If I had to come up with a better question which might achieve the same aim, I’d opt for  “Tell me your story!” ; Now, This one is great. Open-ended question that leaves all the options in the world to the answerer. No reason to complain here, eh ?!