This is a quick one. An efficient one if you may call it.

Sepptalks now has its own YouTube channel, providing short commentary/documentaries about issues of interest.

You can access the channel by clicking on Sepptalks TV

The first piece of content on Sepptalks TV is already up. Just like the very first post on the blog, it addresses Poland. By now, everyone and their dogs know I have a thing for that beautiful nation, so I decided to dedicate the very first video of Sepptalks TV to Poland.

I’ll try to upload a new clip every other week, and hopefully this will translate into providing more posts on the blog as well.

Next Sepptalks TV video? Well, there are rumours it may revolve around a certain Belarusian dictator.

See you all soon !

I remember watching Cast Away a few years ago and wondering how Tom Hanks (Chuck Noland) must have felt alone in that island, totally disconnected from any human interaction, discovering everything all over again. The joy in his face after realizing how to set up fire is tattooed to my brain. It was one of those moments. We all have those. I always thought, how could would it be if it happened to me one day ?! You may think I am a lunatic, but think about it. It doesn’t sound too bad, well maybe it does. It depends on what type of person you are. Why am I blabbing on this subject anyways…Well, An extremely milder, kinder, and less severe version of Tom Hank’s Cast Away story  happened to me a few weeks ago. I’ll go into more details in the paragraph below.

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When I arrived back in Toronto last month, I didn’t think I’d be staying for more than a week. It was the plan, at least on paper. I had a vacant flat available which was as bare as Adam and Eve upon their creation. You could post the photo of the flat in Oxford dictionary in front of the word “bare”. Alright, challenge accepted! For the first week, I made peace with idea of sleeping on the ground. I didn’t know if I’ll be staying or whether it’s worth to actually invest in furniture for the flat or not. There was no bed, blanket, no pillow, no nothing. I’d go to cafes during morning time and comeback after sunset, go to war with my bones until I fell asleep. It started to get frustrating after a few days, but I couldn’t be too reckless with my spending. It lasted for a good week until one night I woke up at around 4AM. My body had given up. My bones were cursing me left, right and centre. It was a sunday morning with nothing on the horizon. I couldn’t even lean on anything anymore. My bones wanted out. They passionately hated me for how I had treated them for the past week. They had had enough. I head out at night and kept running. I had to find a way to forget the pain. Finally, it was 10AM and Canadian Tire was open. Never in my life, had I been so relieved to see Canadian Tire open. I ran straight to the home comfort section and bought $200 worth of pillows and chairs. It was a glorious feeling. Upon bringing the stuff back up, I thought to myself “Now, I understand why sitting was such a big deal when I used to play Sims in my teen.” Sitting on a chair had never felt so good. Sleeping with a pillow felt as glorious as university graduation. I sat, and literally just sat for an hour. The sleep that followed, was among the best I had experienced in years. Sitting on a chair had never felt so good. Perspective, eh ?!

Going back to Cast Away, when Chuck is finally found and returned home, his friends throw him a big and fancy party where he is reminded of how easy it is to light fire with a lighter. The look on his face at that moment tells everything. It’s my favourite scene of the movie. We’ve all had our Chuck Noland stories. The depth and severity of the situation varies, but there is always this one thing that we always take granted until it becomes rare or completely vanish, only for us to appreciate it a lot more when we get our hands on it again, if lucky. For Chuck, it was the fire, for me it was pillows and comfort in “sitting”, for others it could be getting back with their significant others, Coming back from a near death experiences and many other things. It’s tough initially, but once you have it again, it feels better than you ever imagined it would.

Yes. You read it correctly! Today, I’ll be writing about my observations and experience during my 5 days stay in Iceland. In my first ever post on the blog, I mentioned the next country on my hit list is Iceland, and I stuck to my guns and made it happen. So, what’s the deal with this abandoned Arctic island in north of Europe ?!

Before I start writing about Iceland, let’s get one thing off straight away. If you plan on visiting Iceland for the very first time, fly with IcelandAir. It oozes brilliance. The plane is extremely clean and well taken care of. On back of the seats, there are some quick Icelandic lessons for you, and the entertainment package is very different to every other airline I’ve ever flown. Their prices were pretty reasonable and the flight attendants were outstanding. Having said all that, get yourself something to eat prior to boarding, because you won’t want to be paying €6 for a small pack of Pringles. It’s the story with Iceland. Everything is ridiculously expensive. I guess it shouldn’t raise too much surprise as fish and whale aside, I imagine Iceland has to import basically every other material from abroad.

Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital, only has a domestic airport which flies to other Icelandic cities and to Greenland in summer time. As a result, every single international flight lands in Keflavik, which is approximately 45 minutes away from the the capital. Upon arriving at the airport, you’ll see plenty of ads of Blue Lagoon- one of Iceland’s most popular tourist sights- which just gets you going. Tourism is becoming massive for the Icelandic economy and they are doing greatly to maximize the potential of their unique and one of a kind country. You’re likely to encounter plenty of billboards and posters displaying the picture below, which is the advertising face for both IcelandAir and Blue Lagoon.

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During the 45 minutes bus ride from Keflavik to Reykjavik, you can totally capture what Iceland is like. All you see is Ocean, and small mountains. Plenty of hidden volcanoes, and all of a sudden all we are missing from our stereotypical pre-shaped image of Iceland are sheeps and horses. It’s not a dense nation at all. 330,000, more than a third of which live in the capital. The air is silky smooth though. Once your lungs breath the fresh and clean air of Iceland, it’s as a car has just been taken to car wash. It’s wonderful. The roads are very tiny and up and down, so you’ll get your free dose of work out by just walking around the city. Who doesn’t love a city where you don’t need a car to get your grocery shopping done ?!

Speaking of shopping, let’s talk about the money side of things in Iceland. Iceland is a capitalist country unlike the other Nordic nations, so they took a big hit during the recession of 2008. They are recovering. ISK (Icelandic Kroner) currency is relatively weak, and hence plenty of Icelanders can’t wait until they join the EU and adopt Euro, so they will have more purchasing power while travelling abroad. Is it likely to happen? Yes. Is it likely to happen any time soon? No. If I had to hazard a guess on a time when Iceland joints the EU, I’d go with year 2025. With prices not being too friendly to a working person in Iceland, you could just imagine how expensive it must look to the tourists who will be spending their money there. Here is some of the notable prices converted to Canadian Dollars (CAD)

Pint of Beer = $10 , 220 ML Water Bottle = $3 , Hot Chocolate = $6, 9” Pizza = $16 ,  A classy meal at a classy restaurant = $40/50

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I came across some very interesting statistics about the Icelandic society over the past year. There has been only one case of homicide in the entire country in 2014. Only 3 people have been killed as a result of car accidents (Surprisingly the dismantled vehicles are being publicly displayed on the road as a reminder to the drivers), Under no road in the country a car is allowed to drive faster than 90km/ hour, there are only around 150 people in prisons all across Iceland, and there are no McDonald’s in the entire country which goes some way to explain why the Icelanders are generally thin. Icelandic people speak English very well and have quiet a unique accent. They have a very deep accent as if they are speaking with the very bottom of their lungs. One could say, it’s as a chain smoker is speaking English. It’s easy to distinguish it from other Scandinavian accents. They are a friendly bunch. Having said that, they like the nightlife better after 2AM when the crowd gets more local and the tourists usually give up. It’s hard to catch up to Icelanders when drinking. They are incredibly fast. They don’t even really go out before 1AM. They are the ultimate after-party type of crowd. Icelandic men like their facial hair the same way Icelandic women like the fur clothing. Everything just seems assuring and safe. No wonder the average life expectancy in Iceland is among the very highest in the world !

What was it about Iceland to always had me thinking of going there though ?! I can think of Bobby Fischer stories, That BlueLagoon ad, the fact that Iceland is just in middle of the ocean with no neighbours, the fact that when you look at the world map, Iceland is a stand out. Whatever it was, or if it was the combination of the above, it was worth it. Upon hiking my way up the mountain near Selfoss in search of a natural hot spring spot, a thought appeared to me. I think I have found the ultimate plan B place in life. You know some people at some point in their life, just wake up one morning and ponder back and think things have gone wrong ?! They want a fresh start at a fresh place. Every body has their idea of a plan B spot. I think I’ve found mine. Ocean, nature, mountains (I love mountains more than Romeo loved Juliet), and great people around. What’s not to love !

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 !