I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I like Iggy Azalea

When I evaluate a woman on a completely superficial level — which, let’s face it, is often — I typically single out her main features to figure out if I approve of them or not. Any by main features, I mean the things you notice in one glance (superficial, remember?).

Here’s one, for example:

Blonde? Great.

White? Sure. That works for me.

Australian? Crikey! Why the hell not?

Can rap? Umm, what?

Iggy AzaleaThat is Iggy Azalea. A 23-year-old Australian recording artist and model. It is quite a unique combination. She is most notable for the song “Fancy,” and for contributing a rap solo to the Ariana Grande song “Problem.”

Normally rap isn’t my thing. But if I am going to like any type of it, it’ll be from an Australian model.

Azalea, whose real name is Amethyst Amelia Kelly — which sounds like a character straight out of Game of Thrones — completely loses her accent when she raps. She channels her American white girl and sounds, well, pretty much like you’d expect an American white girl to rap. Except she has attitude. And spunk.

Plus her name is Iggy.

She currently occupies two of the three top spots on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Fancy” at #2 and “Problem” at #3 (John Legend’s “All of Me” tops the list), so, it’s fair to say that she’s “killing it” right now.

A female white rapper is always going to become a lightning rod for scrutiny. And I don’t necessarily mean in a good or bad way. But obviously there are certain stereotypes that people associate with rap artists, and white female usually doesn’t top that list — let alone an Australian one.

But there’s something to be said for someone who breaks through traditional norms and gains success. And Azalea has certainly done that. I’m not saying that her song “Fancy” is anything great, but if you don’t think it’s catchy and different, then you probably just have a really giant and ignorant hatred for rap altogether.

Here’s Iggy performing “Fancy,” which features vocals from British singer-songwriter Charli XCX, at the Billboard Music Awards earlier this month. I certainly have no qualms with their cheerleader-themed wardrobe choice.

Okay, so being an Australian model with flowing blonde hair certainly doesn’t hurt, but I also appreciate Iggy Azalea because she aspires to be different. Her music challenges us to form an opinion, and possibly alter our views of genres that we otherwise may not listen to.

Perhaps I am giving her too much credit as a musical pioneer, but, isn’t that what music is supposed to do — inspire thought? Electronic music wasn’t likely well received at first. Neither was rock and roll. But they stuck.

And now, Iggy Azalea is paving the way for young females from the land down under to come stateside and rap in cheerleader outfits.

I can accept it.

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If only life was one giant music festival

Let me tell you a few things that are regular occurrences in music festivals:

1) Loud music is typically blaring somewhere.

2) Strangers give each other high gives as they cross paths.

3) They speak with one another about why they decided to come to this place.

Boston Calling24) Most people’s brains are corrupted by alcohol or drugs.

5) Everyone is happy.

Now let me tell what doesn’t happen during the course of a person’s average day:

1) All of the above.

OK, so the world probably wouldn’t be quite a functional place if everyone was drunk or high and loud music emitted from every corner, but those two are simply side effects of the environment that comes with music festivals.

The other side effects, listed above, are ones to cherish. Group camaraderie. People genuinely being interested in one another’s lives. Happiness.

At music festivals, you get all of that in spades.

I’m not saying that we should all quit our jobs, or drop out of school, move into a man-made Utopia and become a hippy. But I think it’s important for people to step out of their daily routines every now and then and go somewhere where it’s acceptable to just be wild.

Being wild doesn’t necessarily mean tripping on hallucinogens and going ballistic, but it’s being able to scream your approval of your favorite bands, dance in a sea of thousands of people, and rock a t-shirt and shorts with goofy sunglasses while sipping on a cold beer in the middle of the day. That, my friends, is wild.

It’s liberating to be able to fully express yourself in public without being judged, and music festivals give you that very platform. I experienced it myself this past weekend in Boston for the city’s 3rd Boston Calling music festival. Featured in the event were various rock groups, a mix of current popular bands and old favorites, including Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie, the Decemberists, Bastille, the Neighbourhood, the Head and the Heart, Brand New and others.

It was a grand old time.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I think what resonates with me most when I leave a festival is how little I really pay attention to the people around me. And I don’t mean looking at people on the street and negatively stereotyping them (which we all do), but actually accepting them as a fellow person, with their own life, their own story. And wanting to know about it.

We know our family. We know our high school and college friends, as well as our co-workers. But what about other people we see every day? There’s so many people in this world, and you can try every day of your life to get to know them all, and you still wouldn’t have met 1 percent of them.

Instead, we walk around like zombies, only talking to the people we know, and disregarding every one else. And if a “stranger” does talk to us, we act like they are accosting us and deeply disturbing our flow.

At music festivals — with the added help of liquid courage and the constant closeness of people who share your own musical interests — that barrier is broken.

The intimate nature of the event helps bring out everyone’s desire to meet the people around them.

But we all forget that life is intimate, too. We’re all specks on a tiny planet in a large world.

In the grand scheme of things, life really just is one big music festival.

 

 

Everybody has their own idea of what it means ‘to live.’

All around us, people are trying to tell us how to live.

Some mean it tongue-in-cheek, telling us “you’ve never lived until you’ve tried this,” before imploring someone to try a specific food they believe is superior to anything else.

Others mean it seriously. They say, “If you haven’t seen the world, then you haven’t lived.”

Or, “Come to this party, man. Live a little.”

It’s reinforced in movies and television. The tagline to Ben Stiller’s recent movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is “Stop dreaming. Mountain climbStart living,” implying that living is synonymous with going on a great big adventure through exotic lands. It’s a little pretentious.

When Kyle Reese tells Sarah Connor at the beginning of Terminator, “Come with me if you want to live,” he meant that literally. She needed to follow him to survive since he had come back in time to save her. So that doesn’t count.

But, anyway, the point is … what if, and I know this sounds crazy, but what if each individual person had their own unique interpretation for what it is “to live?”

For some, living is seeing the world. It’s taking a vacation every month to a new place you’ve never been before. As many different towns, cities, states, countries and continents you could fit into your schedule.

For others, it’s about having fun. Going to parties, trying new experiences, meeting new people.

And for others, it’s about immersing yourself in your work and trying to make a difference with the hand you’ve been dealt. We all work in different fields, but if we try hard enough in our respective careers, we all have the opportunity to get to the top and make our mark.

Either way, what I’m trying to say is that it’s easy to get caught up in what the popular, mainstream view of “living” is. We see our friends post pictures on Facebook, about advancing in their life and careers or seeing parts of the world you never have, and we think that they are taking advantage of their worldly opportunities better than we are.

But only we know what our own qualifications are for living a good life. What anyone else says is irrelevant. It means nothing.

This isn’t meant to be an “appreciate what you have; realize how lucky we have it, etc. etc.” type of spiel, but rather, a challenge for all of us to realize what makes us the most happy, and to figure out if we’re actually doing it. In all likelihood, you are. Because human beings tend to have a natural instinct do the things that make them happy.

Having never been to Europe doesn’t mean you haven’t lived. It just means that you haven’t been to Europe.

Other people might take a look at your daily routine and say this person isn’t “living,” but, if you think you’re doing all the things that you want to be doing, well, that sounds like living to me. There is no — and there will never be a — right answer.

Unless you’re idea of living is to be on reality TV.

Then you’re doing it wrong.

A screenshot of a text message conversation might be the single most unaesthetically appealing thing on the planet

The purpose of art is to instill a sensory response that provokes intelligent thought.

Pieces like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” can be stared at and deciphered for hours by the most brilliant minds on the planet. Every crevasse of space, every splash of color can be interpreted a million ways. Even simple minds can appreciate fine art.

And yet, both brilliant and simple-minded people can still gain something from lackluster art. While it may not have any vivacious beauty or metaphorical resonance, even the worst art still challenges our brain and stimulates our senses.

iphone screenshotI’m using the term ‘art’ very liberally here. There’s Monet’s water lilies, and then there’s doodles on loose leaf paper by a bored seventh grader during algebra class. The degree of art could not be more disparate, but they’re still works of craftsmanship that demand a cognitive response.

… and then there is a screenshot of a text message.

In my opinion, there is nothing more unsatisfying then when your eyesight stumbles across a screenshot of a text message conversation. It’s not really something you think about when you’re reading your own texts, because the application is serving a practical purpose — relaying messages from one person to the other.

Whenever I see other people’s text conversations, my mind just simply rejects its existence. You know how cats get really mad when they see other cats? They stiffen, bare their teeth and start to hiss at them. That’s how my body reacts when I see a screenshot of text messages.

You may be wondering what context one may come across such a thing. There’s really only a couple of circumstances —  when somebody sends it to you for your viewing pleasure, or when it’s posted on social media, like Instagram and Facebook.

Instagram has already ruined art. So that people have begun using it as a platform in which to post screenshots of text messages is only further depreciating our culture’s ability to recognize true art.

For some reason, people think that the regular exchanges they have with their own friends are downright hilarious. That the inside jokes they share are so overcome with hilarity that they need to share it with the rest of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Private conversations are meant to be kept private. And inside jokes are barely even funny to the people who are in on them. To the outsider, it might as well be another language for all the sense it makes.

But that’s not even the issue here. When I get sent a photo message, or when I’m on a photo sharing application, I don’t want to look at words. Not a text message conversation screenshot. Not a quote from Beyonce written in fancy, curly letters.

A text screenshot makes selfies look like the Mona Lisa.

Text photos are the most surefire way to make me completely lose my interest.

That, and gay porn.

Posting an event link on Facebook and asking “Who’s coming with me?” is the ultimate act of desperation

One of the best features of having friends is that you have somebody to accompany you to things that you otherwise would not want to go to alone.

It’s easy to find a friend to go with you to a movie. Or to a bar. Or a concert. That usually requires a couple of texts, or an email, and bam, you’ve got a wingman.

But it’s the slightly irregular activities that are a much harder sell. The beer festival in some distant, coastal town. A Renaissance fair. The beach at 8 a.m.

Naturally, this is more of a problem for single people, who don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend that is willing to accompany them everywhere. It’s also less of a problem for people who have a ton of friends. Everyone wants that one go-to friend that is willing toWho's coming with me do almost anything at anytime, but it’s better to have a variety of friends with different interests, so you can have the opportunity to pick and choose who you’d like to invite to places based on who it would appeal to best. That’s the ideal.

And since you have a lot of friends, this could all be accomplished in private, via text or email. That way, you could get turned down multiple times and no one would be any the wiser. The sixth person you ask will not be privy to the fact that they were not even close to your first option.

One time, I had an extra ticket to a Sara Bareilles concert. Thinking I had to invite a girl, I texted approximately 12 females who I thought might enjoy the show. I reached way down into my address book for that one. And every single one of them said no.

Ironically, the first dude I asked to come after that … said yes. The concert still ended up being a great time. But that’s neither here nor there.

The people who have a small amount of friends, or very little friends, or no friends, don’t really have the luxury of a deep address book, and thus, must be a little more creative when trying to seek a partner in crime for the day.

But then comes the ultimate act of desperation.

You’ve all seen it. One of your Facebook friends will post a link to some event that is happening in the very near future, and caption it with “Who wants to come to this with me???” And then they’ll tag like four friends who they think could be a potential fit. Which, clearly means they’re not close enough with those people to text them, and also creates an uncomfortable situation for them, because they now must come up with an excuse.

This always makes me cringe because it never works out. Never. Not once, in the history of my Facebook life, have I seen someone try to solicit a friends on Facebook to attend something, and receive a response that said, ‘Yeah! I’m totally game to come to that with you!”

Instead, the post usually goes completely untouched for several hours. Maybe one person will like it.

It’s almost like the scene in Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise gets fired from his job, and on the way out, yells, “Who’s coming with me?!” while everyone stares at him like he’s psychotic. Except in this instance, there’s no Renee Zellweger to save them.

Out of sympathy, a friend from out-of-state will comment something along the lines of, “I would if I still lived in [location]! xo”

Finally, about 10 hours later, half of the people tagged will muster the energy to put them out of their misery with a courtesy excuse. And then it’s over.

The person never goes to the event, and now everybody knows they have no friends.

It’s one of life’s most tragic downfalls.

When you find yourself in a hot streak in life … don’t question it

We know way too often when people are having bad days.

Just look at your Facebook Newsfeed right now. I bet there’s at least three people who are complaining about how cruddy their day was.

If you lost your job and got broken up with by your longtime significant other today, then yeah, that’s a pretty terrible day. But if JGL 500you stepped in a puddle, missed the subway and had to wait six minutes for the next one, and then the local deli you go to for lunch was out of your favorite soft beverage, then that’s not really bad day.

There’s people who like to think the world is always out to get them, and subsequently, they interpret all of their small misfortunes to confirm its validity. They’re the same ones who believe they have eternal bad luck, and as a result, they’re never happy.

But when do you ever hear about someone experiencing good luck?

And I don’t mean the occasional promotion, or engagement, or any other momentous life event that brings extreme happiness. Because that’s obvious. Those are the rare moments when life jumps out at you and make even the most pessimistic person in the world happy.

I’m talking about when the little things go your way. When do you ever hear someone realize, that, for a few days, everything in their life has gone right? Everything they wanted to happen … did happen.

That, my friends, is called a hot streak.

I happen to be on a hot streak right now. I’ll admit that it doesn’t happen too often. Because in between every little success there’s usually some type of small inconvenience that breaks the stretch.

But every now and then, the inconveniences won’t happen. And when that’s the case, you just need to just enjoy the ride. Don’t question why it’s happening. Just savor the moment. Because it sure as hell is not going to last.

Between my favorite sports teams, my personal life, work, and other factors, very, very little has gone wrong for me in the last five days or so. I have half a mind to buy a lottery ticket.

I almost feel like how Joseph Gordon-Levitt did in (500) Days of Summer when he dances through the park to to “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates.

And my own happiness has got me thinking.

Too often in life, people search for the things that are going wrong. It becomes a disease. One bad instance becomes a bad day. Then a bad week. Then a bad year, and worst case scenario, a bad life.

I challenge people to start thinking more often about the good things that happen to them. If it’s bad luck when you miss your train, then why isn’t it good luck when you arrive on the platform and it comes in less than 60 seconds? Or when you hail for a cab and the first one stops for you? Or when the coffee at your local deli was brewed just right in the morning?

Life offers just as much opportunity for success as it does failure. We all experience both — but tend to notice one more than the other.

Dare to be happy, folks. It’s good for the soul.

 

27 and still living at home: a freeloader’s tale

I normally try to avoid blogging about my own personal life and experiences. Instead I try to take everyday observations and apply them in a more larger context that could be relevant to anybody. But sometimes there is a specific topic that requires a foray into my own situation in order to get the point across.

And that’s why I’d like to talk about something that’s becoming more prevalent in today’s age — young people in their mid- to late-20s, even early-30s, who are still living in their parents’ home. I fall into this category as a 27-year-old who, despite a four-Step Brothersyear blip in an upstate New York college, still lives in the very same room he grew up in.

What I want to tackle is not the logistical stipulations of why this happens. Everybody should have an understanding of why more and more people are forced to do it, given today’s economy — but the perception and stigma that comes with it. Which, I admit, is something that becomes more troubling with each passing day.

First and foremost, we all know about the recent financial crisis, which peaked in 2007 and 2008, and, though has since ended, is still impacting the global economy to this day.

Without question, people have used the recession as a crutch. When they’re unemployed, they blame the economy. When asked why they haven’t applied for a job or a pay upgrade, they blame the economy. And when we still live at home more than five years after college, we blame the economy.

It’s pretty difficult to pinpoint exactly how the recession has affected each of us individually. There’s no doubt that it’s had a domino effect, stalling the creation of new jobs and making less positions available for everyone. Less companies are hiring, and when they do, they hire within, or someone who has connections. But at the end of the day, if you’re determined to find a job, have the appropriate skill set and wherewithal to know where to look and how to get people’s attention — you’re going to find work.

So I think who the economy has affected most, therefore, is the uneducated and the unmotivated. I lie in the latter.

Uneducated goes without saying. Having a bachelor’s degree — or better — is certainly not mandatory, but is typically required for most jobs.

I’m fortunate enough to have landed a job a year and a half out of college that is in the field in which I want to make a career in. I’m not doing exactly what I’d like to be doing, but my job allows me to hone the skills that I plan to utilize for the rest of my life. So I’m really lucky for that. And I know it.

I’ve been there four years, and I have no complaints, but I’ve also had ample time to look into other available positions and dabble in other related fields, while trying to make more money, and yes … eventually move out.

But I’m unmotivated. That’s my problem. Not in the sense that I don’t want to succeed, but in that I become too comfortable with the status quo. It’s tiring searching for a new job, and when I get home at the end of the day, or on weekends, the last thing I want to think about is working. So I don’t.

I wanted to bring up my own personal situation to make a point, which is that everybody’s circumstance is different. In my case, I’m comfortably in a job where I am learning skills that I firmly believe will benefit me in the long run, and consequently Jimmy McMillanaccepting less pay than I could get elsewhere.

So the question is whether to sacrifice that and risk a job change that may not behoove my career in order to gain more independence, or to let the ends justify the means and continue to bide my time while awaiting the next move.

And this isn’t even considering any other outlying factors why one might remain at home, such as their relationship with parents, their proximity to their job, or any other personal reasons.

What people who still live at home beyond an “acceptable” age must battle, however, is the outside stigma that comes with it. And this is for anybody. Even with universal awareness of the current economic state, there’s no question that people expect a 27-year-old to no longer be living at home. And that’s always what leads to self-consciousness. How much you let it affect you, though, is up to you.

I don’t blame people for imposing judgement. What I do believe people need to rethink is their perception.

People hear “still living at home” and automatically think ‘unemployed,’ ‘unsuccessful,’ and ‘subservient.’ It’s not true anymore. Living at home into young adulthood no longer means lack of success. I can attest to that.

But don’t get me wrong — there are plenty of freeloaders out there with no real career prospects who live at home, and it’s those people who perpetuate the negative stigma surrounding the lifestyle choice.

Or, in other words, I could have summed up this entire post in six words by quoting 2010 New York gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan.

The rent is too damn high.