Wait, is Coachella a music or fashion festival?

Source: Coachella

For the past few years, there’s been a rising trend with Coachella- most of the coverage is about what you should wear, what people are wearing, which celebs have been spotted and what they’re wearing and doing. Aside from a couple of mentions on Instagram about Alt-J’s performance and purposefully visiting Rolling Stone’s website, I saw pretty much nothing covering the actual music or art. A quick Google search on the Festival will show you a page full of this news about the stuff I mentioned earlier (plus this year’s antics of Madonna kissing Drake and leaving him perplexed on stage).

When did Coachella get taken over by fashion and celebrities attending the event? By the looks of it, it’s more like making a fashion statement than actually going to enjoy some good music and chill out. Or maybe it’s still about the music, but fashion brands (and tabloids/publications) are drowning it out with all the noise they’re making online. 

Either way, fashion killed the music star.

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On buying a bicycle (it’s complicated!)

 

my bike

Please support my journey by donating towards the cause I’m cycling for (200dhs+ gets you a postcard! Details here).

 

I finally bought a bike over the weekend so I can start training for The Great Asian Cycling Challenge. The last time I owned one was over 20 years ago in Melbourne; my dad bought it for me from a garage sale and it was green and it was awesome. I was very sad to leave it behind when we moved…

 

Anyhoo…the key word here is ‘finally’, because after browsing, researching, and consulting with cycling enthusiasts for about a month, I’ve yet to wrap my head about all of the information. But here are 6 key things I learned about bicycles:

 

1. There are different bikes for different riding purposes. Honestly I thought there were just mountain bikes, kids bikes, and the ones with the slanted triangle for women. Apparently there are road bikes (very light with slim wheels), hybrids (light and versatile), mountain bikes (the heaviest and most durable), fat bikes (scary wheels). Then there are the gear variations, suspensions, brakes (disc vs hydraulic) etc. for each type. The permutations and combinations are endless, and as a result prices can start from 500dhs all the way to 12,000dhs+!

 

2. There are sizes. Again, I thought it was like one standard size for adults, and kiddie bikes. Apparently frames range from XS all the way to XL, like clothes do, except it’s based on your height. I bought a size S; the one time I’m a small size and it’s not because of my waistline *sigh*

 

3. There are different wheel sizes. The ‘traditional’ size is 26″, and then you have 27.5″ and 29″. The 27.5″ was apparently developed after a lot of pro cyclists requested this from manufacturers, and is now more common in the newer bikes.

 

4. The seats are awful all-round. If you’ve ever gone to a Flywheel class then you know how painful it is to sit on one of those for 45 minutes. I bought a gel padded seat cover, and it was still painful. I will now be looking for a saddle that I can also take with me on the trip, because 8 hours of sitting on that thing every day for 6 days will be torture. I’ve started reading up on this, and apparently there’s a lot to consider here as well.

 

5. Buying the bike is only the beginning. Then there are all the accessories, like the helmet, gloves, padded shorts, the bottle cage, the bottle, special sunglasses (for day rides), the blinker lights (for night rides), hydration packs (for long rides), the car rack (to mount it). I only have the first two as they’re the basic essentials, but I’ll have to get the rest soon. I never realised cycling could get as expensive as photography!

 

6. Bikes need servicing. My first bike may have gotten its tires inflated, but that’s about it. Apparently it is not that simple. My bike is due for its first service in two months. This is starting to resemble owning a car…

 

The one I finally bought was the Liv Alight by Giant (pictured above). It is designed for women and considered an entry-level ‘fitness’ bike. It’s closer to a road bike than a hybrid (the wheels are slimmer than the usual; I’ll be riding a hybrid on the challenge), which is good enough for training and getting used to cycling. It cost me about the same amount it would if I kept renting a bike over the next 6 months, but now I can ride whenever I want. Coincidentally, it is also green just like my first bike! I’m still thinking of a name for it, so if you have any ideas let me know!

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On cycling for a cause

Postcards and Bicycles
Image source: Etsy

This year I will do probably one of the toughest things in my life: cycling 450km from Vietnam to Cambodia. I am both excited and terrified; 450km is a lot of ground to cover, and I’ll be cycling for about 8 hours every day over 4-5 days. I have not owned a bicycle since I was a kid, and the last time I cycled was in Downtown Dubai for like an hour (which barely counts, with all the starting and stopping). I’m doing this a few reasons (in no particular order):

  1. It will force me to commit to my fitness habits and push myself further, because this will be a physically challenging journey.
  2. It’s for a good cause, and especially because it’s for kids. It kills me to see them suffer, because they’re collateral in all the conflicts waged by grown ups. I was lucky to have a great childhood with many awesome memories, so this is my way of giving back.
  3. I get to visit that part of Asia without my parents freaking out (I’m still a little girl in their eyes *sigh*). I’ll be traveling with 28 other colleagues and the challenge is organised by Gulf for Good, who have done trips like this a bunch of times; that’s as safe as it gets!

 

My fundraising goal is 17,000dhs (which is approximately US$4629/ A$6064/ £3102/ €4249). The money will go to two charities:

 

The challenge is taking place at the end of October over 6 days, but I need to raise the money by mid-September.

All donations go straight to the charities and are not part of funding this trip (my company is covering that part, and I’ll be buying my equipment for the challenge).

 

As of writing this post, I have reached 14% of my fundraising goal (thank you to all my early supporters; it means so much!). To make it a little more fun and interesting for everyone, I’m launching an initiative called Postcards & Bicycles.

 

What is Postcards & Bicycles all about?

For every donation of 200dhs (US$55/ A$71/ £36.50/ €50) or more, you will receive a custom, personalised postcard from me while I’m cycling in Vietnam/Cambodia!

The postcard is my way of saying thank you for your support and generosity.

 

The idea was inspired by a documentary- On The Bride’s Side- that was crowdfunding to complete production last year. I received my postcard (and digital download of the film- a must-watch by the way!) from them a couple of months ago and it was awesome to get something in the mail that was not a bill or bank statement!

 

How this works

Once you’ve made a donation on this link https://www.justgiving.com/nagham/ (please make sure you enter an email address when you donate), I will add you to the list! You will then get an email from me asking for your mailing address so I can send you the postcard in November when I’m on the cycling challenge.

 

If you’ve already made a donation of that amount or more, you’re already on the list and will soon receive an email from me on next steps.

If you’ve already made a donation less than 200dhs but would like a postcard, you can make another donation with the difference and I will add you to the list!

 

I will be updating this blog often with progress on training and other challenge-related stuff over the next 6 months, so stay tuned!

Please donate, and share this post with your friends and through your social networks to spread the word. Every little bit helps. Thanks for your support!

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On changing habits

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They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. After taking a long hard look at my life, I realised all the bad habits I developed in my 20s were catching up to me and if I was going to make it to 40 or 60 in one piece I needed to make some real lifestyle changes.

 

So over the past three months, I’ve started eating clean and hitting the gym 3-4 times a week, and joined a netball league (so if I slack off the gym I at least get one evening of activity in). Food has especially been a struggle for the past couple years since I found out I was Celiac; cutting out everything with gluten in it has been quite the challenge (switching in gluten-free pizza for regular pizza is still bad for you, and it gets expensive!) and really the start of the journey to getting my health back on track.

 

I’m proud to say though I’ve stuck to my new habits so far. Have I fallen off the bandwagon? Sure. Cheat meals sometimes become a Cheat Day (and all my ‘cheats’ still need to be gluten free, for the record), but I just get back on track the next day. I sprained my ankle during a netball match and while I couldn’t do my usual workouts for a couple of weeks, this time around (this is my fourth sprain)- instead of stopping altogether- I did workouts that helped speed up the healing process (after consulting with a physiotherapist).

 

It’s interesting how the shift in mindset- from “all or nothing” to “it’s a bump in the road”- has helped me stay on track. I think that’s a really important part of developing a habit; changing the way you think about what you’re changing. 

 

Having a support group is also really important. Over time I’ve come to realise that we can’t really do everything on our own. There’s no such thing- even the people we see as successful have had help. And that’s ok! So I’ve surrounded myself with people who are positive and motivating. If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll message one of my friends and they’ll say something like, “just go, put in 30 minutes, and get out”, and that would be enough to get me going. If someone is making things harder for me- and we all have those friends who would be like “come on, it’s just one piece of chocolate”- I’ve learned to call them out on it, and they usually don’t take offense and actually become more supportive. The good ones have been so supportive that they send awesome gluten-free recipes my way whenever they come across them.

 

The past three months have also made me realise that my past attempts at this weren’t genuine. I never fully committed because I didn’t truly believe that change was possible or didn’t see instant results (which, in hindsight, is a ridiculous expectation). I’m nowhere near achieving my goal by the way- I know people who have made leaps of progress in the same amount of time- but I feel stronger and more energetic, and that’s good enough to keep me going.

 

I still have a couple more habits to change, one of which I believe I have kicked. But more on that in another post.

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A decade of blogging

 

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It’s been a decade since I first started blogging, and even though the archives only go back as far as 2008, the older posts still exist on my iMac drive but I took them down since they were written before I put my name on the blog. How much has changed since then!

 

The funny thing is, since I switched to blogging under my real name (versus an alias), the identity of my blog started fading- the irony! The nature of my work made me feel I had to constantly self-censor, and as social media has become more mainstream, people online in general have become really mean! Everyone is so sensitive, and there’s been a big shift to the ‘herd mentality’ online; like people aren’t allowed to have different opinions. So I guess I was afraid of being judged, and as a result my blog started to sound less and less like me and more ‘commercial’, and so I’ve been writing less over time. It’s been eating away at me slowly for years. 

 

Turning 30 last December has forced me to take a hard look myself and take stock of my life, and this blog. When I started out, it was my go-to place to vent and ramble and say whatever is on my mind (which is why it’s always been ‘thought transfer in progress’). I was writing for me, and I was happier for it. It’s time to go back to that!

 

I hope you stick around; there’s more to come.

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Movie Review: 300: Rise of an Empire

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Eight years after it’s predecessor comes the Gerard Butler-less sequel to the epic 300, and with a little less gore and a little more dialog.

Rise of an Empire isn’t really a sequel though; it’s more of a prequel, explaining everything that lead up to what we saw in the first movie, then showing what happened after King Leonidas and his 300 men died. So it basically completes the story’s start and end, because we just saw the middle in the first movie.

There’s a lot more narrative vs gore in Rise of an Empire, which took a way from the visual effects- there’s too much dialog in comparison to 300. It was almost made idiot-proof, so those who aren’t familiar with the graphic novels or even Greek history and mythology are able to understand what’s going on. And although I expected the story to revolve around Xerxes, you hardly see him in the movie. It’s all about Artemisia. And she is evil. Eva Green put on a spectacular performance as Artemisia (if you saw her in the short-lived TV show Camelot, you’d expect nothing less), and was the only character that really made the movie worth watching. Without King Leonidas and the infamous cry of ‘SPARTAAAAAA’ (‘Greeeece!’ doesn’t have the same ring to it), and the constant narration, the movie kind of loses its luster.

If there’s anything you should learn from this film though it’s this: never underestimate a woman (especially an angry one).

Rating: I give  it 3.5 Oi’s out of 5.

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Conversations: Oscars 2014

Oscar Ellen Selfie

Before heading to the premiere screening of 300: Rise of an Empire (check back for out the review soon), I made a stop home. Since everyone online had been talking about the Oscars, naturally it would be the one conversation I’d have with The Sister that evening…

Me: “Hey, so did you hear about the Oscars results? 12 Years A Slave won Best Picture, and Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor in Dallas Buyers Club. You should watch that by the way, it’s really good. Jared Leto won Best Supporting Actor for his role in that too. Jennifer Lawrence was nominated…”

The Sister: “Who’s she?”

“The one in The Hunger Games.”

“Oh yea. She’s good. Was The Hunger Games nominated for Best Picture?”

“No”

“Why not?! That was a good movie”

“Yea, but it’s not really Oscar-worthy”

“Why not? It has a good story and good acting and stuff”

“Yea, but the shortlisted ones are, like, different; they take it to another level”

“I feel like all the Oscar nominated movies are serious films.”

“No that’s not true…”

I then Googled ‘Oscars 2013’ on my iPad and went through shortlist on Wikipedia. Then I Googled ‘Oscars 2012’, 2011, 2010, 2009 went through those too

*5 minutes later*

Me: “I stand corrected; you’re totally right- they’re all serious movies”

The Sister: “Aren’t you going to be late to the movie premiere? The film starts in 20 minutes”

So I Googled ‘Oscar selection process’…

Me: “Ah check this out; this is how movies make the shortlist…”

The Sister: “You realise I didn’t ask for any of this, I don’t actually care…”

“It says here that there are 6000 on the committee, but they’re split into groups based on the judges’ expertise- so cinematographers evaluate the cinematography category, and so on. But all of them vote for Best Picture. Yea so that’s how they do it; maybe because they’re all experts their decisions are all sophisticated and stuff so that’s how they end up with a shortlist of serious movies every time”

“Well that’s not very fair. I really liked The Hunger Games. I don’t think the judges are very cool-they need a mix [of people]”

“Then movies like Twilight would make the list”

“That’s a stupid movie”

“Yes, but a lot of other people loved it”

“Didn’t it win something though?”

“Yea, at the MTV Movie Awards. Every single year. Ugh”

“But that has judges too…”

“Yea…teenagers. They vote for that stuff online. Do you see the difference in caliber?”

“Ha! Right…We’re The Millers was a good movie. That would never stand a chance at the Oscars either. You’re going to be late for that premiere by the way- it starts in 10 minutes!”

“Did you see the Oscars selfie?”

 

Image Credit: Ellen/Twitter

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Movie Review: RoboCop (2014)

robocop-gary-oldman
How do I put this; it’s a movie that you would probably watch on TV while you’re channel surfing and there was nothing else to watch.

If 2 sequels and a TV show since the original movie didn’t take off, did they really think a remake of the original movie- and a PG-13 version at that- would take off? Even if you haven’t seen the original movie, the storyline was very predictable and the characters two-dimensional. That would’ve been great in the 80s and 90s, but this is 2014 and I think we expect something a bit more novel with this genre (at least with the sci fi part). The only good parts in the movie were The Novak Element with Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak- who supports machines fighting crime instead of humans- and the nachos.

Rating: I give it 2 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Winter’s Tale

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I was actually really looking forward to this film, but boy was I disappointed.

The film starts 100 years ago and is about a one Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) who’s basically a thief and has a falling out with his former boss- and demon- Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe). He is then rescued by a white horse that miraculously jumps over Pearly and all of his men to take Peter to safety. He then ends up at a house whose most of its residents have left for holiday and decides to rob their house. Except he finds that the house is not entirely empty. Then he meets Beverly Penn (played by the beautiful Jessica Brown Findlay) who is terminally ill with Consumption and instantly falls in love with her. In this world, people have ‘miracles’ to perform- a purpose to their life. So when Pearly finds out about Beverly, he believes Peter’s miracle is to save her from Consumption. Of course that doesn’t sit well with him so he seeks to kill her- by pulling a favor from an angel- so Peter wouldn’t fulfill his destiny. Pearly succeeds and then tracks down Peter, head-butts him off a bridge and into the river.

Peter miraculously survives the plunge but has no recollection of who he is and what his past is. But to top it off, he roams the streets of New York city for 100 years until he meets a little girl…

then the story goes downhill from there. The ‘big confrontation’ for Peter Lake is so unexciting you don’t even know it’s happening. Peter fulfilling his true destiny also felt like a non-event. It’s rather unfortunate because all the actors played their parts really well. Also, when you have Jennifer Connelly (who plays Virginia Gamely, the little girl’s mother) and Will Smith (who plays Lucifer) in a movie, you use them; give them more depth. They have like a total of 10 minutes screen time.

I found the overall concept of the plot quite interesting though- good vs evil, angels and demons, destiny, hope vs destruction- but I think it could’ve been developed a bit more throughout the film than just subtle hints here and there.

The trailer made me believe it would be Stardust meets Kate & Leopold (without Meg Ryan), so up until Peter falls into the river, I was hoping that when he falls he would arrive to present day, and with the help of Virginia, finds a way to save Beverly. Peter would then go back and confront Pearly and Lucifer in a grand battle, and he overcomes and gets the love his life back and they live happily ever after. Ah well.

Rating: I give it 3 Oi’s out of 5.

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Movie Review: Captain Philips

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This review also appears on Movie Blogbuster.

This is the ultimate pirate movie.

It’s easy to imagine pirates wearing eye-patches, puffy shirts, having a hook for a hand and wooden stump for a leg shouting ‘arrrghhh’. But this is the real world, and Jack Sparrow’s pirate ways don’t even come close.

The film is based on the true story of Captain Rich Philips, played by Tom Hanks, who was held hostage by Somali pirates in 2009. The telling of this tale- from screenplay to cinematography- progresses at a moderate yet intense pace without being dramatic, which would have otherwise trivialized the situation. The movie also sheds light on the underlying motivation behind piracy and puts a human face to the pirates of today’s world.

Even though Captain Philips is played by Tom Hanks, you don’t feel his stardom overshadow the part, and that is only something an actor as incredibly talented as him can pull off. He seamlessly displays the expertise of Philips as a captain- the way he protected his crew, built trust to manipulate the pirates, communicated with the US Navy- while at the same time showing how the pressure was getting to him over time as a human being.

And you have to hand it to the Americans: they know how to protect their own. It’s no wonder they’re the most powerful nation on the planet.

Rating: I give it 5 Oi’s out of 5.

 

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