dance

Rock Is Back. Rediscovering The Art Of Making Music.

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By Daniel Parker

Reprinted with permission from NewsWire

The world is familiar with the celebrity musical icons of the day, so much in fact that they don’t even need to be named here.  Even a five-year-old Indonesian girl living in nipa hut on a remote island can tell you exactly who is dating who and trivial information such as what their last relationship fallout was all about.  The difference between the musical icons of today, and those of twenty years or so ago, is the reason for their celebrity status, which does not necessarily have to do with songwriting ability or musicianship.  Back in the day, a popular artist would write songs, record albums, perform in front of thousands of fans and, of course, host notorious backstage parties that sometimes leaked to the tabloids. But they also had private lives and were able to take vacations away from the public eye.  Although the paparazzi have existed since the birth of Hollywood, the power of the media has grown exponentially with the advent of the Internet, social media, smart phones and entertainment programs that cater to people’s vicarious instincts.  The result is that the lives of these ‘artists’ are often continuously on display for the public to see, observe and judge. Yet, aside from technological advances, there is a darker reason for this trend.

However, before we go there, there is another phenomenon worth examining: The average age of music performers has dropped considerably over the past few decades. No doubt, record companies have found it far easier to exploit young performers in the 15 – 21 age group. And why not? They have not lived long enough to cultivate a strong artistic drive, experiential base or standard of reference for what constitutes a healthy adult life. That also explains why most popular performers behave like such oddballs in their private life. They react similar to toddlers who do things that they know are wrong, blatantly in front of their parents, in order to test their boundaries.  They want to be free from the confines of people’s expectations of what they should do and, as a result, they behave recklessly.  Up until now, the public has remained plugged into to the lives of music celebrities much like one would follow their favorite soap opera or sports team.  Furthermore, it appears that the people were more interested in news regarding club altercations or DUI’s rather than the actual music, a telling acknowledgement that the person lacked any lasting artisitc merits worth discussing.

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter. There are a growing number of people who recognize that something is missing from the modern music performer.  Most people are now aware of the hidden assembly behind a commercial singer, including songwriters, artist & repertoire staff (A&R), producers, engineers, marketers and others who work together to create the commercial product.  Independent songwriters write the songs, A&R managers find those songs by posting notices in industry trades, the producers pick the best ones (often out of thousands) and together with an engineer, record the singer’s version. If the instrumentation of a song is out of date, they throw in some slick new electronic sounds and make sure the vocal tracks are pitch-corrected to perfection. Many commercial artists refuse to allow anyone except the engineer in their recording sessions. It’s little wonder why. The whole machinery depends upon the illusion that this ‘artist’ somehow lived the experiences, passionately wrote about them, sat with a piano or guitar to compose the song and then sang it. The precise opposite is now true. Some unknown songwriter out there lived the experience, wrote about it, composed the music and even sang it first. But that unknown songwriter, daunted by the risk of failure and the overt corruption of the industry, decided they were too unattractive, too poor a singer, too obese, too remote, too something to ever be liked by people. So they sold their song and their life experiences to someone they had never met in exchange for rent money.

The modern record company originated in the 1970’s as middle men between real artists and the public. In that era, before modern recording technology, the integrity and musicianship of these artists was self-evident. While the companies brought some business acumen to the table, the artist’s vision was, for the most part, respected and protected. In the decades that ensued, as profit became the main objective, corporations mistakenly began to think of themselves as the creative ‘tastemakers’ of modern music. In reality, they scrambled to chase down and capitalize on each musical trend, becoming little more than glorified banks, They muscled in on artists’ careers and demanded an ever-increasing percentage of returns.  By the turn of the century, they had completely seized control of the production process from start to finish and the product quality began to suffer noticeably. Real songwriting and musicianship has all but vanished from commercial music. Judging by the decline in music sales and the declining interest in commercial radio, the pendulum is now beginning to swing back. People are taking back their music, realizing that corporations were never, and never will be, well-suited to creating art.

An increasing number of people are shunning the roster of corporate artists in favor of high-quality, independent artists who write, produce and perform their own music. Though the number of these musician/songwriters has shrunk, thanks to nearly two decades of artistic decline, they do still exist. And they are uniquely positioned after years of songwriting and musical training to give people what they now seek- great songs played with live instruments.  Fans of these songs are not interested in perfection – they are merely asking for something real.

We caught up with Stryker, one such songwriter/musician from the group Millennium to get his thoughts:

Tell us a little about yourself and Millennium.

We’re a four-person band (bass, keyboards, guitar and drums). Our music is pop rock with both acoustic and electronic influences.

Let’s get right to it.  Do you have a bone of contention with some of today’s pop artists?

Well, I wouldn’t say that. I’m just not personally interested in listening to music that doesn’t come directly from the artist. I think that connection is everything in music. The Japanese have a word for everything else. Karaoke.

What do you do differently from the other artists?

Nowadays, it seems like everything we do is different. For starters, we write, sing, record and produce all of our own songs. I can’t name a single major label artist that does that. Also, we’ve never sold our songs to major label artists, even though we’ve had some offers.

But you do admit to using electronic software to enhance the sound of your music?

Absolutely. There have been some great advances in sound and recording technology. We love rock, but none of us are interested in recreating the rock era exactly as we remember it. We’ve changed and the world has changed too. Rock is coming back, but it’s not going to look and sound the same as we all remember it.

Is that what made you and Sapphire shift from the wireless mic’s and dancing to picking up instruments?

Oh, you’re gonna call us out like that! (laughing) Well, we’re both classically trained musicians. Sapphire played piano and I grew up playing piano, cello and bass. As Millennium, we explored the electronic pop element out of genuine artistic curiosity. But because we produce our own music, we had the freedom to shift gears when that approach was no longer hitting the mark in terms of our desired sound. Lately, with me returning to bass and Sapphire returning to piano, it just feels better musically.

Who are the other members of Millennium?

We’re fortunate to work with two other very talented and hard working musicians, drummer Brad Dawson and guitarist Gaku Murata. Brad is the sort of drummer every group wants- impeccable timing and an impressive command of different musical styles. Gaku is a quiet guy who let’s his guitar do the talking and he can solo forever.  Both of these musicians have the type of raw talent and technical ability that sets a high bar for all of us. Damn them (laughing).

How can we get a taste of how you might sound live and completely acoustic?

That’s easy. We just released a video of us performing our new single ‘When We Walk In The Place’ live. Considering we recorded one live take (and a second pass for vocal harmonies only), I’m surprised it sounded half-decent. This is the simplest song on the album, as it is built around a single concept or feeling. Interestingly, when we translated it live with fewer instruments, it achieved more sonic complexity than the dance version. There’s something to that.

What do you think is the future of modern music?

I can’t say for sure. I just know that music is something we do purely for the love of it. I’m sure modern music will continue to change and evolve and, hopefully, we’ll continue to evolve with it. If we’re lucky, what we’re working on will resonate with people at the time. If not, I’m okay with that too. I’m not interested in fame for its own sake. I just want to be able to look in the mirror at night before I go to bed and know that I’m being true to myself.

 

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The Swagging Remix – When We Walk In The Place

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By Millennium

Millennium Releases ‘When We Walk in the Place’ Official Music Video

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By Werner Caspar

 

I must have impressed Stryker and Sapphire with my mad swagging skills during our last interview because shortly after, I was invited to the Millennium music video shoot to watch them in action.  Swagging, I learned, is pimp walking with a swagger and is a heavily used theme in the video for their debut single ‘When We Walk in the Place’, a slightly narcissistic dance song about the importance of embracing one’s own personal style.  This was going to be a two-day video shoot and they had a lot on the agenda. 

Day One:  The first day of the shoot was set in an intimate Hollywood club where roughly a hundred crew and cast members gathered shortly after sunrise.  In the midst of all the commotion, it felt like being at a casting call for Moulin Rouge.  This outlandish circus included a black opera carriage driven by a rather buxom brunette on a sleek motorcycle, a gold-suited pimp, an Asian dominatrix with her muscular man-slaves, an alien, a toddler with her bottle, a drummer boy, an astonishingly rotund woman, Iron Man and more.  Wave after wave of extras filed in and while helping themselves to coffee, were met by an affable and efficient woman with a clipboard who quickly signed them in as club dancer, VIP patron, skeleton gang, etc.  I swear to you that the pizza we ate during lunch break did not have any special mushrooms in it and this was all actually happening.

The gold-suited pimp was Stryker, who brandished a leopard print cane and matching leopard print shoes.  His pimp hat precariously held a three-foot long black feather that poked everyone in the eyes every time he turned around.  The Asian dominatrix was none other than the blue-haired Sapphire dressed in a black leather dress and gloves.  Her ‘pets’ were scripted as two male models whom she kept close by her side in spiked collars and heavy chained leashes.  Earlier that day, we discovered that the two burly Olympians that she had previously auditioned had cancelled at the last possible minute.  Upon learning this, the woman with the clipboard began sizing up the current pool of men to see who could play the part.  Strangely, I was not even in the running.  In the end, it was the drummer and one of the camera men who were chosen, de-shirted, oiled up and collared.  A second later, I saw the anxious camera man fervently doing pushups in the corner as a last ditch effort to beef up his pecks.  Meanwhile, Stryker and Sapphire took the matter in stride- literally.  They were relentlessly swagging to the beat of the music.  When asked why all the practice, Stryker looked at me with a sober expression, ‘I’ve got goldfish in my shoes, bro.’ Point taken.

The crew and the actors took their places and the cameras began to roll.  Scene after scene unfolded and needless to say there was a lot of swagging and a lot of dancing.  It was not even noon and the set looked like a very happening nightclub.  After a quick costume change, they shot a performance scene of Stryker and Sapphire on stage.  He was still dressed as a pimp, but this time in red velvet with zebra print and an oversized wide-rimmed hat.  She was dressed in silver sequins with shiny silver tennis shoes.  Suddenly, they broke into an extremely cheesy 70’s dance routine and the crowd went wild with laughter (think Saturday Night Fever meets Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air).  After ninety minutes of filming the performance scene, the duo was still on stage having the time of their lives.  Judging by the liquor flowing on set, so were the cast and crew.

The rest of the day proceeded smoothly as they filmed one VIP table scene after another, each having its own unique set of characters including the Blues Brothers, LA gangsters, Virgil Farley and his entourage.  Virgil was the original pimp who, despite his notoriety in the 1980’s, was widely respected by both cons and cops alike.  The table that received the most attention had a petite blond with the word ‘Millennium’ painted across her otherwise pristine body from her voluptuous chest all the way down to her thighs, compliments of body artist Lasco.  At the end of the day, approximately fourteen hours after gathering the cast and crew together, the set was now littered with coffee cups, half-eaten danishes, pizza crusts and upside down shot glasses.  The crew began to break down their gear, and people began exchanging numbers, Instagraming photos of themselves and each other, and saying their farewells.  Everyone was utterly exhausted, except for Milennium who appeared even more energetic than ever as they eagerly talked about the upcoming shoot the next day.

Day Two:  Millennium and crew were now going mobile and virtually every scene would consist of Stryker and Sapphire swagging around town.  The game plan was a bit fluid.  When a particular location struck their collective fancy, Millennium and crew would hop out of their vehicles and film a scene.  For example, if Sapphire needed a peppermint mocha, off we went to the nearest coffee shop to film Millennium swagging with their coffee and newspaper in hand.  They visited a vintage record store, picked up their dry cleaning, and came out of a drugstore with what looked like a pack of Magnum condoms (we won’t ask).  After driving all over town, the crew nonchalantly decided to film a scene of Millennium pumping gas, in a pretty scandalous manner I might add.  I may never look at a pump the same way again.  Needless to say, wherever they walked they drew attention, stopped traffic, and were approached by onlookers.  When a crowd gathered in one location, Millennium took time out to give swagging lessons and the crew obliged by filming these Los Angeles residents strutting their stuff.

After a long day of filming around LA, we headed back to the studio just before sunset.  It was a wrap!  Everyone began to relax and talk about dinner options.  Sapphire removed her thigh high boots and gave a sigh of relief.  Stryker, on the other hand, sat pensive, deep in thought.  Just as someone was about to make a run for burritos and burgers, Stryker said in a steady voice, ‘We need a shot on Hollywood Boulevard.’  After a brief period of stunned silence, protest erupted on all sides.  But after thirty minutes, Stryker convinced the group that it would be the perfect scene for the climax of the song.  As we filmed the final scene of Millennium belting out their last line of ‘When We Walk in the Place’ right in the thick of Hollywood Boulevard, an onlooker cried out, ‘Aw hell no! He got the goldfish shoes!’  Yes, the better to swag with, bro.  Everyone smiled knowing that indeed it was the perfect ending to one amazing and crazy ride.

The music video for ‘When We Walk In The Place’ is now live at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNNPbub7ZO4

You can learn more about Millennium and what they’ve got in the works at www.WhoIsMillennium.com

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It makes me deeply sad to hear about couples breaking up a year or two after having a child.  I stop to wonder what could have possibly gone wrong to break up a beautiful new family, filled with hope and promise.  Perhaps I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to love and family.  To find someone to love and to create another human being together should be a strong and transcendental bond right?  So why is it that shortly after the baby’s first birthday, so often we find out that the new parents are having marital problems.  I understand that it is not easy having a child, but to deem the relationship (and the family) over after a few tough months?  It seems all too rash.  Did they have marital trouble before she became pregnant and were hoping that a baby could bring them closer together?  Or were the added responsibilities of having a child just too much for them?  My eyes start to moisten when I try to imagine what the baby went through during his first few months in this world as his parents’ relationship quickly unraveled.  The arguments, the raised voices, the tension- all arising from his or her sole trusted guardians – must be horribly traumatic.  I also feel sorry for the parents as well.  The mother has gone through so many physical and emotional changes from being pregnant, to delivery, to breastfeeding and taking care of an infant.  And the father’s life has changed drastically as well.  But still, what about the undeniably positive aspects of bringing a new life into this world?  Why is it a joy for some and such turmoil for others to be with one’s family day after day?

What I find especially intriguing are celebrity couples who split up shortly after entering parenthood. Perhaps this is because we are privy to all of the positive and lurid details courtesy of the media.   Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr, J-Lo and Marc Anthony, Christina Aguilera and her ex, Hillary Duff and her ex, just to name a few.  I have not met these people personally, nor do I know what they went through as a couple.  In fact, I do not know if they ever even loved each other.  What I do know is that they have thousands of dollars to spend on home chefs, maids, assistants and child care professionals each month to make their lives infinitely easier and they still couldn’t make it work!  So what hope is there for the rest of us?  The emerging message is that money does not make things easier or better.  So what do families need?  You probably answered with the word ‘love’ and you would be correct.  Second question:  What do you need to do to show, nurture and grow love?  It is not through expensive trips, jewelry or the latest toys for the baby.  Like love, it is something that money cannot buy.  It’s your time.  Family requires your presence, not your presents.

I don’t understand the term burden, sacrifice or duty when one is referring to family.  These are such strong negative words to describe what should be acts of love.  ‘I sacrificed my job/promotion to spend time with my child.’  ‘It is part of my duty to be a good husband/wife.’  Whatever you do for your family should be done with love and a sense of privilege.  To have a family is a blessing.  Think of all of the single people out there wishing for love or couples out there who cannot have children, or worse, have lost their children?  One shouldn’t have to be reminded that family, not career, should be the number one priority.  If you felt gratitude and appreciation for your family, you would instinctively display your love for them every single day and weather the difficult times together.

I came across a touching story about a young couple named Stryker and Sapphire.  They had met at work, fallen in love and gotten married.  They wanted to have children, but had trouble conceiving.  She saw doctors in Los Angeles, took many tests, experimented with different technologies, tried hormone creams and even saw a fertility specialist abroad.  By then, they had all but given up.  After five years, completely out of the blue, she became pregnant naturally and they were overjoyed.  The pregnancy however, was not without some risk.  The doctor had ordered her on bed rest for a couple of months and the baby arrived six weeks earlier than expected.  Fortunately, their daughter Milan was born healthy and is now a beautiful two-and-a-half year old.  Sapphire and Stryker are both singer/musicians in a group called Millennium and they both feel fortunate that they can work from home and spend all of their time together as a family.  According to Sapphire, ‘I feel so blessed that we were able to have a child.  Milan is a beautiful light in my life and my husband is my rock.  I know that together, we can overcome any obstacles.’ 

‘Any split with children involved is a disaster, whether you’re in the public eye or not,’ says Stryker, the youngest in a family of three that was torn apart by divorce at a very young age.  ‘My experience taught me one thing:  Parents must give as much priority to each other as they do to their children – perhaps, even more.  Because it is only through their example that a child can truly learn how to cherish, love and stand up for another human being.’

Although some of us may not be able to integrate our personal and work lives as closely as this family, there are ways to deconstruct and rethink your life so that you can spend more quality time with your family.  I went to a dinner party a few weeks ago and met a woman name Julianne with an adorable, bright-eyed three month old baby boy.  Through the course of the night, she informed me that her husband worked hard and traveled so frequently for business that the baby would always cry when he was home and would try to hold him. Most people know that fifty percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce.  What cannot be accurately measured is the percentage of couples who are separated or remain miserable in their current relationships. Although this paints a grim picture, I believe this trend could be reversed with a conscious change in priorities, putting our families at the top of the list. Some of the choices that could easily improve the quality of our family life are listed below. Ask yourself honestly:    – Do I work over-time?  If yes, you’re probably not giving your family the priority they deserve.  Ask your employer about capping your hours at a normal eight hour workday.  Also inquire if flex time is an option.

– Do I frequently travel alone for work?  If yes, you may be inviting in a host of marital and family issues by being away for extended periods of time.  Bring your family along on the next trip or speak with your boss about sending one of your colleagues on instead.

– Do I spend more than thirty minutes one-way getting to and from work?  A long commute coupled with long work hours will sap energy that should be reserved for family.  Consider moving closer to work or finding a job that is closer to home.  Although moving or switching jobs is a big decision, it may be well worth it in the long run if it saves your family.

– Is work too demanding or am I unhappy at work?  Consider starting your own business doing something you love.  You can then make your own hours and spend more time with family, have them visit you at the office or even have the luxury of working from home.

– Do I check in with my spouse often during the day?  Communicate with your spouse often to see how they are feeling.  Frequent communication will not only brighten their day but keep your bond strong.

– Do I plan and look forward to taking my spouse out for private, romantic engagements once or twice a week?  Couples time during the week is needed to remind you both of your love and the commitment to one another that goes beyond parenting.

– When I am home, do I often check messages or emails?  If so, learn to put away the phone for the evening and devote one hundred percent of your attention to your spouse and child.  Have dinner together and talk to one another.  After dinner, avoid the television and do something engaging or relaxing as a family.

-When I am home, do I allow my child to spend hours in front of the television, on the phone or i-pad?  Next time, instead of placing a technological device in front of them, try playing with them, reading them stories and talking to them to develop a greater bond with your child.

Most importantly, remember that your life and the outcome of your family relationships are under your control and are governed by the choices you make along the way. Choose wisely.

www.WhoIsMillennium.com

Millennium Poised To Compete In Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands, By Olivia Carter

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The pop rock duo from Los Angeles who call themselves Millennium have gained enviable momentum in the past few months, following the release of their first single ‘When We Walk In The Place’. Their song garnered The Akademia Music Award for Best Dance Song, was picked up by KMIX Radio Los Angeles and has gotten the fashion-forward duo numerous write-ups in the press. So what’s next? Well, for a group that differentiates itself on the basis of being real musicians who actually write all of their own music, the logical next step is to compete in (and hopefully win) the pre-eminent live performance contest of the year: Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands.

There is also a personal reason for entering this fiercely competitive contest where  thousands of musical acts compete at 82 venue locations worldwide to determine who will go to the global showdown. For Italian-Indian singer Stryker, it can be summed up in one word: Rome. Going to Rome, Italy to compete against the world’s top acts would represent a lifelong dream- bringing their music back home after two generations abroad. Sapphire, who also regards Rome as one of her favorite places on earth, admits to a special feeling when in the eternal city. Both feel an undeniable connection to the culture of Rome and hope to be able to test their mettle in this modern day gladiatorial challenge in front of 40,000 people.

Like the gladiators of old, Millennium is following an intense regimen of rehearsals, gym workouts, yoga and martial arts to elevate their mind and body to the level necessary to go head-to-head with the pros. They embrace the philosophy that battles must first be won in the mind before they can ever be won in the battlefield. They are also very zen-like about the outcome, recognizing that whatever happens in the competition ahead, the true value of it lies in the journey and the lessons they stand to learn along the way.

Want to help Millennium achieve this lifelong dream? Simply click below to vote for them by downloading their free song clip. One minute of your time is all it will take to show support for this talented duo and to help lift them to the final competition.

www.WhoIsMillennium.com

From Stagnation To Swag-Nation, By Christian McGahey

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In view of the president’s state of the union address, our nation is facing a crisis.  It is a crisis of apathy on all fronts really- warfare, elections, healthcare, unemployment and yes, even fashion.  We all have our areas of expertise.  I will not pretend to be a political or social expert and waste your time with my trivial opinion on the state of the nation with regard to these important areas. I am a fashion editor and therefore my focus will be on the crisis of apathy towards one’s personal style.  This is one of the few things we have direct and immediate control over and yet it is being shamelessly neglected by a good majority of the people. The fashion that I am writing about is not the outfits you find on the Parisian catwalks, rather it’s the clothes you wear every day.  The thing that most people fail to realize is that fashion is a reflection of who you are on the inside.  Just as your feelings are an indicator of your internal environment, your fashion also speaks volumes on how you see yourself and how the world sees you as well.  The context for your fashion choice is also essential.  For example, if fashion could speak on your behalf, what would an old flannel shirt, shorts and dingy sneakers say?  If you were wearing them to go hiking or to do some garden work, it would say, ‘I enjoy the outdoors and being around nature’- perfectly acceptable.  But if you wore that same outfit to a fine restaurant, it would state (in a low and depressing voice), ‘Deep down I’m ashamed of how I look.  Maybe if I pretend that I don’t care about how I look, people will think it’s cool.  I’ll make up for it with my wit and sparkling personality.’ 

I am not talking about wearing Dolce or Armani.  What you wear is a personal statement that reveals your uniqueness and creativity and has nothing to do with expensive brand names.  Good taste and impeccable style are gifts that we each hold.  Somewhere along the line, we have built apathy towards our outer appearance believing for some God forsaken reason that it does not matter.  You dressed up for that job interview and, once hired, dressed up for the first few days of work.  Through fashion, you told your work peers that you were sharp, on it and completely put together.  Then you became more complacent about your appearance, eventually wearing wrinkled, mismatched clothes thinking no one would notice.  Business attire turned casual until one day, and every day after, you started bringing that big, comfy, ugly sweater to the office.  Your fashion is now screaming, ‘I don’t give a flying duck (spelling auto-correct) about work.  Put me out of my misery and fire me already.’  Another example:  You finally found someone that you are really into.  You take your time getting ready for the first date, picking the perfect outfit.  Maybe you went shopping for new clothes or shoes or maybe you took your favorite outfit to the cleaners.  Whatever the case, you made sure your outfit said loud and clear, ‘I am hot.  If you choose to be with me out of the millions of other people out there, you won’t ever look back baby.’  Flash forward a year later when you seem to live in t-shirts and sweats and your partner can’t even remember the last time you got dressed up.  Your clothes, and you yourself are saying, ‘Things have become routine, boring and stagnant.  Maybe we should take a break from each other for a little while…’

Do the clothes make the man or does the man make the clothes?  Maybe it is a ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg’ kind of question, in which case, who really gives a ship (spelling auto-correct).  What matters is that they are definitely related.  It is time to choose the clothes that are an exact representation of who you want to be; correction, of who you really are.  Why?  For the sake of career advancement and opportunity, for the sake of a long and stimulating relationship, for the sake of your child who dies of embarrassment every time you pick him up from school, and so that arrogant Maître D will stop giving you that beady eyed glare already.

Now that I have given you the ‘why,’ it is time to start listing the ‘how.’

FASHION TIPS:

1. Take an hour to look through your closet.  Your closet is where you house the clothes that you have collected over the years, some you currently wear, some you would not be caught dead in now, and others that just do not really speak to you anymore.  It is time to turn your closet into a functioning wardrobe.  Separate the clothes that know you will never wear anymore and donate them.  I do not think I need to tell you to throw away any shirts, socks or underwear with stains or holes on them, but just in case.  TMI, I know.

2. Now that you have pared down your clothes some, perhaps you will need to shop for a few items to complete your wardrobe.  Have fun shopping and do not rush the experience.  Let the pieces call to you.  Avoid the sales racks or online shopping at this time because you will just be setting yourself up for acquiring a so-so article of clothing that will go to the donation pile in the near future.

3. Wear clothes that give you confidence.  Nothing says more confidence than clothes that fit perfectly.  Find the right size so it is not too tight or loose and that it is the perfect length- right below the ankle for pants and right below the hip for suit jackets.  For shirts and blazers, make sure that the shoulder measurements are correct.  If needed, find a good, inexpensive tailor to make the necessary adjustments.  Note: The cost of tailoring the outfit should not be more than the outfit itself.

4. Do not be afraid to be daring and original.  As long as the end style is a true reflection of who you really are, feel free to diverge from what is trending now.  Like Macklemore said in his Thrift Shop song, do not be one of those dozen people at a party who pays fifty dollars for the same damn t-shirt.  Choose the clothes that you want to wear and put your own personal swag into it.  By swag, I do not mean ‘silly wild ass guess.’  While it is difficult to describe, it definitely embodies style, confidence and a willingness to be different and you just know it when you see it. I typed in the search word ‘swag’ and came across this link to Millennium, a music group: www.WhoIsMillennium.com/photo. After checking out their photos, well, let’s just say you get a sense of just how adventurous personal fashion can get.  It is important to note that your personal style may change over time.  That is okay because it means that you are changing and growing as well and that is a good thing. 

It is time to collectively shake off the sweats and the mounting lethargy.  To go from a country of stagnation to Swag-Nation.  To begin to know in our hearts that we can change the world for the better, one article of clothing at a time.  Once our personal truths are no longer suppressed but reflected in our style, we may be better equipped, not to mention better dressed, to tackle our nation’s issues.

 

5 Fitness Tips That Will Serve You Well, By Stryker

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Featured in Avant Garde magazine.

Now I already know the first question that’s going to pop into your head. Why should I take fitness advice from you? Okay, so I’m a singer/songwriter for Millennium, a pop rock group from Los Angeles. I admit that’s no reason to jump on my fitness wagon. You also shouldn’t take my advice because I happen to be a certified fitness trainer, have an extensive background in nutritional biochemistry, nor because I have a black belt in Shaolin Kenpo. The real reason you should heed the advice that I’m about to give you is this: I’ve been working out consistently since I was 12 years old, without missing a week. That means that what I do in the gym is sustainable over the long haul. I’m no big buff dude, but I’ve maintained the same physique, body fat percentage and lean body mass since I was eighteen years old.  I’m happy with that. Here are the basic guidelines that keep me going:

1. Three Times Per Week is Enough

For most people leading hectic lives, this should come as good news. Three 90-minute sessions per week is sufficient to get all of the health benefits of working out (cardiovascular, pulmonary, muscular, etc.). Adding more sessions per week risks over-training and muscle injury which can easily lead to brief or permanent hiatuses from the gym.

2. Forget the heavy weights

There is no sane reason to grab any dumbbell over 40 lbs or to stack more than 200 lbs on the bench press or squat rack. Ha! This guy is a little punk, you’re saying. That’s the ego talking. Sure, most of us can lift more weight than that. But it’s not going to produce any additional health benefits and it’s exactly that sort of competitive mindset that leads to injury and brief or permanent vacations from the gym. I guarantee you can achieve the same burn safely by using lower weights and by concentrating on good form and slow continuous movement. Another downside of using heavy weights is more insidious. We all have a natural psychological aversion to pain. You may overcome that aversion for a period of time when hormone levels are high and other factors align. However, the moment those factors are not aligned, you will stop going to the gym. Simply put, if you establish a high threshold of pain and intensity that you cannot maintain consistently over the long haul, you are setting yourself up for failure.

3. Stick to simple exercises

I can count on ten fingers and toes the exercises that are needed for a complete workout in the gym. That even includes alternate exercises for each muscle group to keep it interesting.  Yes, these exercises are the most basic linear and circular movements, but they are also the most effective.  I always get a good laugh over some of the off-the-wall exercises I see fitness trainers instructing their clients to do. Most of those clients never come back after their five-session pass is up. The clients that do stick around continue doing this litany of bizarre and dangerous exercises without any supervision which quickly leads to injury (sometimes even to the people standing near them!) The truth is, not being able to stick to a simple set of exercises that are beneficial and safe sets you down the wrong path. Be wary of the mind’s subtle attempts to sabotage your workout and resist them by keeping it simple.

4. Don’t overtrain

This point gets at the heart of what motivates us to work out. In a healthy state of mind, we work out to maintain and enhance the beautiful aspects of ourselves. It is an act of self-love. When we work out our bodies too hard, too fast, over too short a period of time, we are no longer motivated by self-love but by self-hate. We are trying to change the image in the mirror because we don’t like what we see. These kinds of negative emotions are not going to get you through the long haul. The best way to avoid overtraining is to 1) limit each exercise to 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps using moderately challenging weight, 2) limit 2 exercises per muscle group and 3) take a rest day in between workout days. There is a sound scientific basis for these limits. Overtraining triggers the body’s chemical pathway for ‘fight or flight’ leading to increased cortisol production and the storage of fat. Over decades of training, I’ve observed these limits to work very well. Be wary of overtraining, as it points to negative motivating factors and directly sabotages our fitness goals.

5. Eat right and avoid sports supplements

The answer to the secret of how to burn fat and tone muscle does not come in a bottle. It comes in the form of a gym membership and a good workout plan. These so-called sports enhancement supplements carry a number of undesirable side-effects that hurt you in the long run. The only three supplements I have found to be worth taking on a daily basis are ones that everyone should take, whether or not you work out: 1) a multivitamin/multimineral tablet, 2) a calcium tablet (500 mg) and 3) coenzyme Q10 (100 mg). The science supporting these three supplements is irrefutable at this point. That said, it is important to get a sufficient amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat from your daily diet to support your workout and overall health.  This is quite easy if you stick to lean meats, such as chicken breast, fish, non marbled pork and red meat, in conjunction with rice, pasta, vegetables and fruit. Nothing new there. I‘ll be honest, over the long term I don’t think it’s possible to get the macronutrients necessary to support a rigorous workout on a vegetarian diet (but that’s a whole other article). When it comes to diet and exercise, the first concern is having sufficient energy to power through your workout. To this end, it is okay to eat up to 15 minutes before exercising. The second concern is having adequate building blocks for muscle growth and antioxidants for detoxifying the body after your workout. A healthy diet with the three supplements mentioned satisfies these requirements every time.

If you’ve read this far, then perhaps you’ve become aware of the fact that effective training is quite simple. It requires positive motivation, discipline to stick to a routine and the ability to procure healthy food. If it’s so simple, then why is it so hard for people to get and stay in shape over the course of their lives? The answer might surprise you: Because people are quick to embrace the idea of looking and feeling healthy, but they want it to happen overnight. They don’t realize that the value of a goal lies not in its achievement, but in the many intervening days of methodical work that produce that outcome. Or to paraphrase Aristotle, excellence is in habit. Only by recognizing and resisting the impulse for immediate gratification, can we take the steps necessary to achieve ideal health in a moderate, self-sustainable fashion. Hopefully, if nothing else, this article serves to focus our thoughts and get us back on a realistic path to long term health.

‘I can count on ten fingers the exercises that are needed for a
complete workout in the gym’. – Stryker

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