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I gamed the trick-or-treating system with my traditional Eid dress

“You absolutely cannot wear that.”

My mother was furious at the Halloween costume I had created. I wanted to be Jasmine, but ~Sexy Slave~ Princess~ Jasmine. You know the one.

princess jasmin
Let me refresh your memory.

(In my later years, I attempted to get away with another sexy slave costume. What can I say? I just really wanted to be the center of the aunties’ shit-talking).

No amount of explanation, stubbornness, or tears could convince my mother to let me wear the costume. Because I had revealed my costume to her on the day of Halloween, I found myself one hour away from trick-or-treating plans with no costume.

Ultimately, my solution was to wear the Pakistani clothes I had tucked away in a closet, saved for weddings, fancy Pakistani parties or religious celebrations like Eid. My last-minute ‘costume’ consisted of an intricately detailed, floor-length skirt and a heavy, beaded scarf to tie it all together.

But once I had trick-or-treated at two houses, I realized I had inadvertently hit the candy jackpot.

At first, I was disgruntled. This didn’t feel special whatsoever – I’d worn this same outfit at an anniversary party a week before. It also wasn’t half as sexy as Sexy Slave Princess Jasmine.

But once I had trick-or-treated at two houses, I realized I had inadvertently hit the candy jackpot.

I walked away from every white family’s home with a boatload of candy, with adults marveling over the intricacy of my “costume.” At the first house that we went to, my mother explained to the woman at the door that I was wearing traditional clothing, and the woman became even more excited and asked me to do a Bollywood dance move. 

I obliged, doing a halfhearted rendition of Bole Chudiyan, and the woman dumped nearly her entire bowl into my plastic pumpkin out of joy.

From that point on, I made sure to say random phrases in Urdu at every door and bust out a quick Bollywood dance move to up my candy count. I was balling; we usually trick-or-treated in upper-class, mostly white neighborhoods, so I was comfortable being a dancing Pakistani monkey in exchange for boatloads of candy (and later, cavities).

dentist masks
Those masks were only the second most horrifying thing during my dentist appointments.

But everything came to a screeching halt when I arrived at the next house – and the woman who opened the door was also desi. She was wearing casual sari with sneakers. I sheepishly held my pumpkin aloft. “Trick-or-treat,” I said, but the woman only looked at me suspiciously.

“What are you?” she asked me.

“I’m not wearing a costume,” she said, dropping something in my pumpkin. “These are my clothes.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. When others had asked me that question, I had simply told them I was Pakistani, and they ate it up. With this woman, I’d have to be a bit smarter. After all, I had my eye on the prize: the tray of full-size Hershey’s bars on a table behind her.

I gave her the name of a Bollywood actress. “I’m Madhuri Dixit,” I said proudly as I offered her my pumpkin again.

She gave me the side-eye. “Wow, interesting. And who do you think I am?”

Nervously, I named a few Bollywood actresses who were famous for rocking saris. She shook her head slowly at each one, disregarding the line of impatient kids forming behind me.

“I give up,” I told her, rattling my pumpkin to not-so-subtly remind her of why I was there.

“I’m not wearing a costume,” she said, dropping something in my pumpkin. “These are my clothes.”

I muttered a hasty thank you and fast-walked away as rapidly as my outfit would allow me to.

Once I reached the safety of the sidewalk, I checked my pumpkin –she had given me Whoppers. Ugh. I turned back and gazed wistfully at the kids running excitedly from the same porch with their full-sized Hershey’s bars in hand. The con had been ruined. I felt like a failure.

Moral of the story? If you’re going to trick white people into giving you extra candy because you’re wearing traditional clothing that you already own, skip the brown families’ homes because they will give you Whoppers and your life will suck.

Editor's Picks The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

START THE STORM: Ultimate Launch Mix

Grab yourself a drink (cocktail, coffee, tea, whatever suits your fancy) and play this as you celebrate the women The Tempest holds on a pedestal. Make this the soundtrack of your life if you’re a beautiful, strong individual — which you must be if you’re reading this.

We love you, and welcome to The Tempest!

The Tempest Radio Mixes Audio + Visual

THE MASALA MIX: Desi Ladies Making Music

Because of the South Asian fixation on film production, it has allowed its once-flourishing music industry to slowly wither away. Desi music production in the homeland has become limited to movie soundtracks, playback singers, or American rappers sampling our classic tracks.

Thankfully, the Desi diaspora has picked up the slack, with many talented South Asian women going into the music industry and creating work that fuses together the two worlds. Be it pop, hip hop, electronic, or even punk, Desi women have shown us that their presence in modern music demands our attention. Here’s what we’ve got lined up for you.

1. “Queen” || Horsepowar

This 23 year old producer and rapper is not afraid to let everyone know who’s queen in her album, “Bollywoes.” Fierce, fresh, and deliciously addictive, “Queen” delivers a concept combining Jasleen Powar’s love for hip hop while showcasing her Desi roots.

2. “I Call You Up” || The Tuts

Mellow vocals balanced out with jamming band instruments, you’ll find yourself in nostalgia for hits from the 2000s with a single listen. This album may be called Time to Move On, ironically, but we’re willing to bet, you won’t want to!

3. “Jimmy” || M.I.A.

Strangely alluring, this upbeat track will have you swaying your body almost impulsively with its unique infusion of ‘70s disco, ‘80s Bollywood, and electronic beats joined by hypnotizing vocals. M.I.A.’s diverse genres and constant experimentation never fail to impress!

4. “Shattered” || Doe Eye

Have yet to recover from our spooky Halloween playlist? Worry not, our horror-loving ones, Doe Eye will satisfy your hunger, with her chillingly haunting voice. Close your eyes for this one, you’ll find yourself floating through an untold dream. Doe eye’s smooth and steady vocals are sure to win over fans of Lana del Rey or Marina & the Diamonds.

5. “Traces Of You” || Anoushka Shankar (feat. Norah Jones)

Beginning with traditional instrumental, this track maintains a consistent simplicity – yet at the same time, an elegance that will keep you captivated throughout. Anoushka and Norah’s voices are heartfelt and raw; perfect for those yoga sessions or late night reminiscences.

6. “Waiting for Godot” || Janina Gavankar

You’ll be in wanderlust and taken to another dimension with this track’s brilliantly thought-out lyrics and enchanting harmonies that will leave shivers up your spine. Absolutely stunning.

7. “California Dreaming” || Usha Uthup and The Ronnie Menezes Quartet

Bollywood songstress Usha Uthrup’s voice itself could be considered a classic with her melodious tone; try not to be in awe as you take a listen to her cover of the Mamas and Papas song California Dreaming, a song, perhaps for those nice lengthy highway drives.

 8. “Must Be The Love” || Arty, Nadia Ali, & BT

Simply breathtaking and electric. Nadia Ali, Arty, & BT successfully create a mystical vibe with their integration of compelling vocals, electronic pop music, and touching lyrics. This one is sure to be on repeat for a while.

9. “No Bounds” || Harleen Singh

Try and keep up with this fast-paced and irresistible tune combined with catchy lyrics. Harleen Singh’s voice will have you up and dancing in no time!

10. “Tujhe Yaad Kiya” || Annie Khalid (feat. Rischi Rich)

English-Pakistani pop princess Annie Khalid decided one language just wasn’t enough to convey her emotions; expect the unpredictable as you listen to a track that initiates as romantic and slow but quickly builds up to an upbeat and funky tune…all while Khalid effortlessly switches between English and Punjabi with the bat of an eyelash.

We’re all about highlighting the best of music that you don’t really hear on the radio: music by underrepresented voices, tunes by your best friend you believe really needs to be out there, what you’re convinced will be the next big underground hit (or maybe it’ll be above ground – we don’t discriminate!). If you’re musically inclined and want to see your suggestion maybe featured in a future mixtape, we want you to throw your song(s) in the hat. All suggestions go – except for shitty top 40 music, stuff that makes the neighbors vomit over how lame it is, or music that’s just hateful against a group of people (unless they’re oppressive, in which case it’s a little different).

So, throw it in. Right here. Super easy. 

Because we love you, we compiled all your new favorite songs in one playlist. Enjoy!

[cue id=”26820″]

Movies Pop Culture

Hollywood is straight-up trolling us at this point

When most of us saw the headline that white actor Joseph Fiennes was to play Michael Jackson (yes, that Michael Jackson) in an upcoming film, we assumed it was a joke. In light of increased backlash against the homogeneity of the Oscars (that point to a larger issue within Hollywood), this casting decision is baffling; why would you cast a white actor to play one of the most celebrated black icons of all time?

The film world often does creative, subversive things to bend race and gender. Todd Haynes’ 2007 biographical film about Bob Dylan, I’m Not There, casts six different actors to play the musician at six separate points in his life. Two of the incarnations are played by Cate Blanchett, a woman, and Marcus Carl Franklin, a black man. This reimagining of Dylan’s life and career presents a fresh and interesting portrait of the icon.

[bctt tweet=”The film world often does creative, subversive things to bend race and gender. “]

In a perfect, equal world, this same concept would work the other way around, with a white man occupying a traditionally black role. Yet, the current film and media landscape isn’t leveled enough for us to fully embrace Fiennes’ casting. The number of roles for nonwhite actors and actresses is already so minimal that casting a white man to play Jackson is almost cruel.

Hollywood has been called out numerous times for its tone-deafness when it comes to writing and casting. Eddie Redmayne and Jared Leto (cishet men) were both recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences for their performances as transgender women, yet the equally-deserving transgender actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor of Tangerine were completely shut out of this year’s awards race. Suffragette was criticized for its whitewashing of the women’s suffrage movement, then for its misguided promotional photoshoot. And, of course, Hollywood’s insistence that ancient Middle-Eastern people were just white people with eyeliner.

[bctt tweet=”Hollywood has been called out numerous times for its tone-deafness.”]

Of course, this notion of normalized media doesn’t apply solely to biopics and historical dramas (although Hollywood already can’t handle getting even that right). Nonwhite actors deserve more serious, dramatic roles that don’t necessarily surround their sex, race, or sexual orientation. The most widely touted defense against this sort of backlash is the concept of “the best person for the job,” which is a flawed theory, especially when it comes to dismantling the system that shuts out diverse voices again and again.

But until we can start getting casting right, there’s no way we can accept casting decisions like this, artistic choices and merit notwithstanding.


UP NEXT: Here’s why I moved back in with my parents

Movies Pop Culture

The #OscarsSoWhite controversy goes beyond pity handouts

On a larger scale, it’s absurd to expect any sort of satisfaction in matters of representation from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but that doesn’t make the #OscarsSoWhite outrage any less valid. The Academy is well-known for being predictable and a bit obtuse (which is why terms such as “Oscar-bait” have made a place in our vocabulary).

It’s a bit ridiculous that in the year 2016 we’re still having conversations surrounding racial equality and representation in one of the world’s biggest industries. Yet, the same issue has come up again for the second year in a row— the Academy Awards are so, so white. There are no people of color nominated for acting Oscars. Not one nonwhite person has been nominated for directing, composition, cinematography, or writing. There’s a large (and vocal) handful of people who believe these nominations are solely based on merit, and nominating PoC for the sake of having PoC is a “handout” and a consequence of “the race card.”

[bctt tweet=”What truly needs to change is the way that films are made.”]

This flawed perception on racial dynamics in Hollywood could be shut down with one word: Creed. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan’s second collaboration deserved to be recognized beyond its Best Supporting Actor nod (and to Sylvester Stallone, the prominent white man in the film), but it was criminally underlooked. There are other big-hitter PoC-led films and artists (Straight Outta Compton, Tangerine) that were a huge part of the Oscars conversation that missed out. Yet, the superficiality and ultimate emptiness of the Academy Awards makes the focus on their ballot fruitless.

Winning an Academy Award is largely symbolic, a win for the artist’s ego more than anything else. Studios love touting their wins, and it might increase a filmmaker’s chance of getting future work, but in itself, an Oscar is just a trophy. Halle Berry’s 2002 win for Monster’s Ball— which made her the only woman of color to have won for Best Actress to date— was supposed to be symbolic for the advancement of Black actresses in Hollywood. However, the Academy has yet to award another Black actress the trophy, and the past two years have failed to even nominate one.

[bctt tweet=”Winning an Academy Award is largely symbolic.”]

The problem with symbols like this, though, is that they are exactly that. Halle Berry’s win didn’t change anything about the presence of WoC actresses in mainstream films. The overwhelming whiteness doesn’t begin and end at the Oscars— they are the most high-profile film awards we have in the United States, but their whiteness is indicative of Hollywood’s race problem.

Most people angry about the issue understand this, and the outrage over the homogeneity of the nominations is understandable. For the casual moviegoer (and it’s important to remember that this is most people), the Academy Awards define the best of the bunch, and the fact that zero filmmakers of PoC were nominated reinforces negative notions about PoC filmmakers. To those who take the Academy Awards seriously, films by PoC are either niche (the way indie or genre films are, and thus ignored by the Oscars), or they aren’t worth major recognition. This is harmful in itself.

[bctt tweet=”Here’s the truth: the Academy Awards are so, so white.”]

People are circulating the widely reported statistic that Oscar voters are 94% white, 76% male, and average 63 years of age, then it’s clear that something needs to change within the institution of the AMPAS. However, that shift would be only the first step; what truly needs to change is the way that films are made.

That means hiring more PoC, more women, more LGBTQ artists, and greenlighting the stories that they champion. That means understanding that it’s not #OscarsSoWhite once a year, but rather that #HollywoodSoWhite every single day. And it’s going to take a lot more than a yearly self-congratulatory awards ceremony to rectify that.

Politics The World

Can Muslim Americans stop co-opting the Star of David?

Under no circumstances should a silent, peaceful protester be confronted by as much aggression and disrespect as Rose Hamid was when she was ejected from a Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina. As Trump eloquently postulated that all Syrian refugees “probably are ISIS,” Hamid and several other protesters silently stood. Hamid was wearing a shirt that read “Salam, I come in peace.” and each of the protesters wore a yellow eight-pointed star that read “Stop Islamophobia.”

The crowd grew increasingly aggressive towards the protesters, chanting Trump’s name until security removed them from the rally. Prior to the rally, the crowd was told that protesting was forbidden (except in free-speech zones), but Hamid’s un-disruptive display were certainly not grounds for the hatred she faced as she was being escorted out. Hamid’s story has been circulating around social media in an effort to combat today’s increasingly Islamophobic sociopolitical climate.

Yet, an element of Hamid’s protest— the yellow star— is indicative of a greater problem within the American Muslim community. In reference to Trump’s comments about potentially requiring Muslims to carry special Muslim identification, the “Stop Islamophobia” stars worn by the protesters were reminiscent of the six-pointed stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Although the protesters’ chose to wear an eight-pointed star (a common symbol in Islam), the message is clear— and deeply misguided.

Often, the American Muslim community will turn to co-opting others’ symbols of oppression and/or empowerment when trying to get a point across. We have compared police brutality in the U.S. to the plight of those in Gaza. After the Chapel Hill attack, we appropriated #BlackLivesMatter to #MuslimLivesMatter. And, in the case of Rose Hamid and her fellow Trump protesters, we are taking a symbol of ugliness (the yellow Star of David) and using it for our own political agendas.

As a community, it’s important to create our own presence in the media, especially when we’re asking for solidarity and understanding. Rather than inserting ourselves into others’ narratives, we must create our own that refrains from stepping on other movements to move forward with ours. Hamid’s decision to stage this protest within Trump’s rally was bold, and certainly an important one. Donald Trump is loathsome, and the way the protesters’ were treated by his supporters was extreme and terrifying.

However, we need to remember that by co-opting others’ symbols and movements, we’re erasing their struggle in favor of our own. We need to understand that when we ask for solidarity, we must prove that we can (and do) reciprocate. After all, we are united against the same institutions and practices.

Tech Now + Beyond

Twitter unverified a troll, and unleashed a dark new Internet subculture

Yesterday, Twitter removed the blue verification badge from user Milo Yiannopoulos’ account, sparking a conversation across the platform on the supposed-censorship of supposed-conservative media. Yiannopoulos, Breitbart tech editor and Twitter troll, had been harassing women on the platform through targeted tweets, and ultimately was reported en masse and was “sat at the naughty table” by Twitter HQ.

Similar to the Facebook-Trump discussion, Yiannopoulos’ deverification is a slap on the wrist rather than the deserved account suspension because Yiannopoulos is a public figure with a significant following. It’s difficult to toe the line between freedom of speech and hate speech, a dilemma not lost on Yiannopoulos’ followers. They have since latched on to the idea that Twitter is against free speech, and that Yiannopoulos’ deverification proves this.

Launching the ridiculous hashtag #JeSuisMilo (co-opted from the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag borne of the Charlie Hebdo attacks), and by changing their Twitter icon photos to Yiannopoulos’ face, the members of this dark Internet subculture are driving the web’s free speech politics deeper and deeper.

Yes, free speech grants you the fundamental right to say what you want in any circumstance, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be held accountable for it. Those who cry First Amendment when their publicly-expressed bigotry isn’t received well fail to understand the core idea behind free speech— it is exercised at your own discretion.

When a social media platform takes action against accounts such as Yiannopoulos’ (amongst others), it’s done in order to protect users, rather than police the politics of the platform itself. Yiannopoulos’ claim that Twitter is waging a war against conservatives is more of a reflection of today’s blurred line between right-wing politics and outright bigotry. There’s nothing inherently wrong with expressing a political view, but when political expression becomes targeting users for sport, there will be (well-deserved) backlash.

Yiannopoulos’— and I use this term extremely loosely— work makes it evident that the he is more inclined towards inflammatory journalism, often targeting “social justice warriors” (a scathing term for intersectional feminists). The deverification is a victory for anyone who’s seen the cesspit of hatred and aggravation that Twitter can turn into, and by refusing to legitimize trolls such as Yiannopoulos, Twitter sends a clear message.

At its heart, social media is a place for engaging in discussion and sharing content, but has also bred a subculture of MRA-types who are focused on derailing important issues under the guise of disagreeing with them. These groups rally not only on Twitter, but hubs such as Reddit and 4Chan as well. Of course, they’re on other platforms, but the latter three have had the most troubling bouts of stalking and abuse. When higher-ups at social media platforms take action against these groups, they send a clear message: your deluded notion of “free speech” doesn’t mean shit.


Here are the places we should definitely be bombing instead of Agrabah

Regardless of if you’re on the right or left of the political spectrum, there’s one thing we can count on: Americans don’t know their geography. When polled, 30% of GOP voters supported bombing Agrabah, while 36% of Democratic voters were against it.

This definitely exposes the mostly Islamophobic sentiment harbored by the GOP crowd, but mostly just sheds light on the abysmal education system within the United States.

Since we’re bombing fictional places now (classic wish-fulfillment, am I right?), I’d like to recommend some other places to target once we’ve destroyed Agrabah— it’s (possibly) already been demolished once before.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I am a strong believer in the fact that the wizarding world conjured up by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter books is one populated by idiots. A quick Google search tells me that Hogwarts students are required to take classes such as Potions, Charms, Divination, Astrology, History of Magic, Transfiguration, and some sort of magic-math class called Arithmancy. Out of those, the only non-magical, straight-up academic class is History of Magic (which is why everyone except Hermione hated it).

Yet, we don’t see the students ever taking English, Science, Anatomy, Sociology, Geography, or any other world history apart from that of the Magical world. They do have a Muggle Studies course, but it’s an elective, making it the equivalent of your college’s bullshit “diversity requirement.” The wizards and witches of this world want to live in harmony with us Muggles, yet studying them is optional.

Sure, their lives are probably simpler with magic (we’ve all yelled Accio while looking for something), but Hogwarts-educated students have zero problem solving skills. Your problems are either solved with your wand, or they’re not, and that seems to be the way it is.

The Wizarding World™ of Harry Potter is filled with a bunch of bumbling fools who still enforce slavery, archaic competitions, and have absolutely no modern-day technology. Wizards have also caused actual, fatal damage to the Muggle world, but they’re so focused on themselves that they haven’t even developed some sort of international policy between us and them (apart from a brief scene in the sixth installment).

Are their woodsticks a match for our Muggle bombs? No. Good riddance. 


The very beginning of the Jim Carrey live-action remake of How The Grinch Stole Christmas informs the audience that Who-Ville is located inside of a falling snowflake. The entire plot of Horton Hears a Who! revolves around the idea that also-Jim-Carrey-elephant is protecting a speck of dust that is yet another, you guessed it, tiny town of Who-Ville.

I don’t know who (ha) these Whos are, but why are they so small and who advised them to build civilization in locations that will bring imminent doom? How dare they? Who (again, ha) do they think they are?

Bomb them. Or, if you’re more into the whole morality thing, just step on them and pretend it was an accident.


Look, I know Frozen was this amazing tale of sisterhood and responsibility and all, but their kingdom of Arendelle is a trainwreck. Before their death, the King & Queen (Elsa and Ana’s parents) were so horrified by Elsa’s powers that they sought out help from a literal troll. Instead of teaching their daughter that with great power comes great responsibility, they tried to stifle it and hide Elsa away, which probably traumatized the hell out of both daughters. They were incompetent parents and rulers, and their shitty decisions are why the events of Frozen transpired in the first place.

Elsa, who was supposed to be coronated as new ruler of Arendelle, makes the rash decision to run away when the town discovered her secret— probably as a result of all that childhood repression and guilt. Her younger sister, Ana, is unbelievably naive, as she tries to marry a grade-A fuckboy just because they sing a song together, then shortly leaves him in charge of the entire damn kingdom as she goes out to find her sister. Because, plot, I guess. And a moral lesson. But mostly plot.

Arendelle is in the hands of awful people who think they exist in a bubble. What if they decide to declare war on us for no reason? What if their citizens try to come to our country to escape the stupid?

The kingdom is a disaster waiting to happen. Bomb it.

The Land of Oz

The Land of Oz is a segregated, artificial, and dangerous place. Munchkin Land? Seriously? Why can’t we all just live together in peace and harmony?

Each quadrant within The Land of Oz is ruled by either a Wicked Witch or a Good Witch, which sounds good on paper because hell yes, women leaders, but then turns sour when you realize that they’re all at war over a pair of shoes. The ruling class of The Land of Oz is essentially an episode of The Real Housewives. Keep it classy, witches. 

Any place that has flying monkeys, murderers who hide behind the face of Judy Garland, and a capital city that embodies capitalism definitely makes my “To Bomb” list.


Step 1: Find Atlantis.

Step 2: Marvel at its wonders.

Step 3: Inform everyone of your world-changing discovery.

Step 4: Bomb it, to prove you give no fucks.


I hated this movie. I also vomited in the movie theater after I saw it because I had food poisoning. Pls bomb.

Shopping Gift Guides Surviving the Holidays Love Life Stories Life

This is literally the only holiday gift guide you’ll ever need, ever

If you’re like me (broke, bad at DIY, and a procrastinator) then you’re probably on page 30 of Google search results for holiday gift ideas, tearing your hair out and cursing this stupid season.

Believe me, you’re not alone in going through the stress and anxiety of the holidays. Family, friends, your boss who you barely even like— you need to find something for all of them to prove you’re not some massive dick. It’s tough, even more so when you’re on a tight budget.

Because my adult skills are minimal, I rarely learn from my mistakes, meaning that I’ve had my fair share of years of pre-holiday anxiety, shitty gifts, and hours wasted clicking through condescending listicles telling me to make my mom a picture frame for Christmas— because once you become a mom all you want is more framed photos of your asshole kids who screen your phone calls, right?

Fret not, friends, because I am here to share my wisdom with you all. This will be the only gift guide you’ll need, probably ever.

1. Basic rule of thumb: gifts should be either practical or edible (or both).

I’m sure that oh-so-witty t-shirt you found on Zazzle would be perfect for your cousin, but do they really need another shirt to toss into their PJs cabinet? The only person I’ve seen unironically wear ironic t-shirts is that one kiss-ass that turns up in every college art class (who probably also owns a fedora). Skip it.

Same goes for gag poop/vomit, a giant plush bacon pillow, or anything from Urban Outfitter’s gift section. It might be good for a chuckle or two (if your sense of humor sucks), and then what? It sits in a box in the garage until it’s been so long that the gift-receiver doesn’t feel guilty about tossing it out.

2. Coworkers, colleagues, classmates, etc…

You probably can’t afford a box of See’s Candy for every one of these people, so here are some alternatives.

Your best bet for these gifts is a box, bag, or basket of winter-related goodies that you can grab for cheap. Is it the most original idea? No, but no one gives a shit, they’re getting free stuff. Get a package of gift bags/boxes/baskets (Party City or your local Little Tokyo/Chinatown is a good place to look). Then, fill them with things like fuzzy socks (F21 is selling 2 pairs for $4), giant chocolate bars (Ralph’s sells 2 enormous bars for $3), or hot cocoa packets (buy one box from any grocery store and you’re set). The whole thing should cost you $30, max.

If you want to keep it simpler, head over to your local grocery store and get a terrarium plant for $2-3 each. Add a packet of hot cocoa and a tiny ornament or ribbon to keep it festive, and you’ve got yourself a pretty solid gift.

If you have the budget and want to make things even simpler, get everyone on your list a $5 coffeeshop gift card and present it with a pair of fuzzy socks or packet of hot cocoa. Basically, fuzzy socks and hot cocoa packets are the key to everything.

3. Tech, businesspeople, artists, students, etc.

Storage. It’s the digital age, and everyone could use some more storage. Cord organizers are great, too.

If the person is special (or if you’ve lucky enough to have the cash), get them a 1, 2, or 3 terabyte hard drive where they can store their photos, projects, or pirated movies (we don’t judge).

For smaller-scale (read: cheaper) storage options, get a flash drive for as little as $10— either a sleek, small one or a novelty flash drive. If you’ve got an HP Lovecraft fan in your life, this creepy-awesome drive is probably the one for them.

To your photographer & filmmaker friends, SD cards are a godsend. I’m telling you this as a filmmaker: I’d rather receive any of these things over a novelty mug shaped like a camera lens. It’s cute, but cuteness is temporary. SD cards are forever.

To make it more meaningful (if you’re into that), crack open the packaging and stick a personalized mixtape onto the drive. Boom. Practicality and sentimental value.

If an SD card or flash drive feels too small to you, throw in the trusty fuzzy socks or hot cocoa. Honestly though, trust me when I say that everyone wants more storage, and no one ever has enough. No one will be disappointed by flash drives, SD cards, or a hard drive.

4. Your mom

My mom’s always unabashedly told us exactly what she wants for every birthday or holiday, so I’ve rarely had an issue figuring out what she wants. The problem lies in the fact that my mom always wants $200 bottles of perfume or $600 handbags (way to play into gender stereotypes, Ma), so I need to find a happy medium.

Moms are either picky as hell or they like everything. If you’re lucky enough to have one of the latter types of mothers, I’d suggest these DIY coasters. I know, I know, DIY sucks and most of us aren’t Pinterest-level crafty, but these coasters were super easy. Use family photos, generic stock photos of flowers/beaches, classic art pieces, typography/calligraphy… anything, really. Your mom will just be happy you know what a coaster is.

If your mom is more of the ultra-picky type, the first step is to understand that whatever you get her, she will not love it (unless you get that $600 bag, but even then my mom would find something wrong with it). This category of moms is best suited to the practical gift: tablets or smartphones, TV or magazine subscriptions, refrigerator whiteboard, etc. Is your home’s (or parents’ home’s) dishwasher broken? Get it fixed. Is that singer she loves coming into town? Get her two tickets.

Of course, some of us are college kids (or recent grads) and might not have the budget to spoil our moms like we’d like to. One year, I organized my mom’s spice cabinet with nice new jars, since she hadn’t bought new jars in over a decade (literally). Another year, I took all of her worn-down shoes and used DIY tricks to fix them up.

Here are some (super easy, Shayan-tested) DIY ideas:

  • Chalkboard tray (and don’t forget to add pieces of chalk tied together with a cute ribbon!)

  • A tote bag (My family is Pakistani, so I used paint to make henna designs on a bag).

  • Laptop or iPad case

I am well aware that DIY sucks, but work with me here. It’s hard to be both anti-DIY and broke, but these projects are super easy and affordable.

5. Your significant other

The golden rule: stay away from “100 reasons I love you” notebooks or stupid coupon books. Let me tell you, if my SO gave me a coupon book, I’d reconsider the entire damn relationship.  

You may know your SO better than you do anyone else, but that doesn’t make it easier to find them something— or so you think. Because they’re so close to you, it’s assumed that you need to get them something extremely special, but you don’t. You know exactly what to get them. Dig deep. You got this.

If you still come up short, get them a hard drive. It’s a good go-to.

6. Miscellaneous gifts that don’t suck.

Bacon spray, unicorn meat, and rubber chickens might be whimsical and quirky, but they’re also a waste of your money and the gift-receiver’s storage space. Here are some miscellaneous things that don’t cost a fortune and might be of some use to someone on your list.

  • Fake tampons to smuggle booze into places— because what  better way to ruin your family Disneyland trip than by getting really drunk on It’s A Small World?

  • Your friend who’s always having parties might be interested in owning a box of Cards Against Humanity, the worst/best party game ever.

  • That edgy friend who sorta intimidates you would probably love to wear Edgar Allan Poe around their neck from this (surprisingly affordable) Etsy shop.
  • Anyone who’s gone through iPhone charger struggles would appreciate this nylon cord cable that has a good length, is flexible without threat of damage, and charges fast.
  • Buy your elementary school-aged cousin an iPod nano for as cheap as $11 and be cemented in their memory as the coolest cousin ever.


  • Level up your baker friend’s measuring cup (and maybe get some cupcakes out of it).
  • I swear, I’m not obsessed with socks (maybe) but these classic art socks are too cool.

And if you’re looking for the cheapest of the cheap, here are things you can find on Amazon for $5 or under:

  • Your friend who pretty much only eats sushi (hi, Laila!) would love these steel chopsticks that’ll make her appear both ~super cultured~ and super prepared.
  • Give someone the gift of an orgasm for the scalp with this really awesome head massager. Harry Styles approved.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 1.05.55 PM

If you still can’t figure out what to get that one person on your list, you’re gonna have to give up and get them a gift card. Just know that your present is lame and you should feel bad.

Life Stories

When I finally forced myself to ask people for money, my life changed

What happens when two people raised on humility and niceness decide to start a crowdfunding campaign?

Anxiety. Fear. Several restless back-and-forths via text, always with caps lock on. Crippling self-doubt, and lots of it.

[bctt tweet=”Crippling self-doubt, and lots of it.”]

My friend Cameron approached me with the concept for a television program that he described to me as “Scott Pilgrim meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.” And if that weren’t enough to sell me on the show, the pilot episode Cam had written sure did. I came on board as his co-showrunner, and so began the months-long process of writing episodes, designing characters, and fleshing out the universe. Then, we hit a massive wall: the animation.

We always understood animation would be costly, but didn’t realize the importance of having a teaser clip to supplement our (eventual) pitches for studios. Right off the bat, we knew that putting aside portions of our abysmal weekly paychecks wouldn’t be enough— it would take ages to pool together the necessary funds, so we turned to the dreaded but inevitable idea of crowdfunding.

I come from a Pakistani family where fights over the bill at restaurants border on riots and asking a friend to spot you a couple of bucks is something to be embarrassed of. Cam’s Southern upbringing has had a similar effect— always be the giver, never the asker. Crowdfunding was a huge deal to us.

While researching crowdfunding (because what better to alleviate anxiety than four people on Yahoo! Answers telling you to go for it?) I came across Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk called “The Art of Asking,” which is a self-congratulatory piece of nonsense. The bit that people love quoting is “I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking ‘How do we let people pay for music?”

Even if that made any sense whatsoever, it’s not some revolutionary concept in creating art, because I am not Amanda Palmer, established artist with hundreds upon thousands of fans to indulge my requests. My co-showrunner Cameron Carpenter and I are young aspiring filmmakers with less than 1500 Twitter followers combined. Where do we fit into The Art of Asking?

Look, I’ve never been gung-ho about crowdfunding campaigns. If you’d asked me a year ago, I would’ve turned my nose up at the thought of asking others for money to fund my projects— ordinary, hardworking people who have virtually no reason to throw their money at artists.

It took Cam and I nearly two months to talk ourselves into doing a crowdfunding campaign. Two months of battling questions like “What if we don’t make our goal?” or “How do we even ask? Who do we even ask?”

And the worst, “What if no one gives us money?”

[bctt tweet=”And the worst, ‘What if no one gives us money?'”]

Finally, one of my friends pulled me out of the hand-wringing stage when she asked me “What do you care about more? Getting the show made, or your pride?” When I answered with the show, she said “Then fucking do it, dude.”

So we fucking did it.

Cam and I expected we’d get 50% of our $2,000, and that’s if we were lucky. I know, that’s the kind of confidence you expect from people you’re giving money to, right?

By the first day, we were 23% funded, which every article and blog post swore meant your campaign was on the path to success. Our friends contributed, despite being students or recent grads. Our friends’ parents contributed. One person donated $100. Another person donated twice. People on Twitter who weren’t necessarily our closest friends contributed, simply because they believed in the project. The confidence from our circles increased our confidence in the project.

[bctt tweet=”Validation as an artist is difficult. “]

Validation as an artist is difficult. But people liked our project (and us) enough to part with their hard-earned cash. That’s empowering, to say the least. It takes a lot to ask people to get out their credit card, punch in the numbers, surrender their personal information, all for the sake of financing a project by two random 20-somethings.

What didn’t realize until I started my own campaign is that crowdfunding is important because it allows us to support creatives that otherwise are not on a level playing field in the industry. Whether that means women, PoC, or those in lower economic brackets, crowdfunding is an opportunity to elevate those who don’t have a fair chance in the dog-eat-dog mess that is Hollywood.

As the campaign winds down, I feel a sense of relief wash over me. Relief that the taxing process of running a campaign is coming to a close. Relief that people beyond my immediate circles are interested in the project. We approached the campaign with the sole goal of obtaining funding, and are walking away with so much more— support, confidence, and a really kickass show teaser under our belt.

Read the pilot script and check out the concept art on Amazon Studios here. Gaffytown Bounty’s Facebook page can be found here.  

TV Shows Pop Culture

The Mindy Project is crushing my heart, and it needs to stop

The Mindy Project has never been perfect. Critics point out her entirely white love life or moral ambiguity; however, these are footnotes to the otherwise funny, smart take on the workplace sitcom. The fact that an unconventional-looking (read: not white or extremely thin) woman is the show runner and lead of a major comedy has always made it an important program.

Just when Dr. Mindy Lahiri’s life seemed to come together (she finds out she’s pregnant, has opened her own clinic, and become engaged to Danny), Fox cancelled the show. Casual viewers agreed this was a fine note to end the show on— after all, Mindy had spent the first two and a half seasons chasing that perfect rom-com ending, and the finale seemed to tie it up in a perfectly Ephron-esque fashion.

Hulu picked up The Mindy Project for a fourth season (currently airing), which explores Danny and Mindy’s newfound relationship with a shared child and impending marriage thrown into the mix. We witness Danny and Mindy share disagreements such as c-section versus natural childbirth or hiring a nanny to get rid of Danny’s mother, which are light-hearted, come with an implicit moral lesson, and are tied up neatly at the end of the episode.

[bctt tweet=”Mindy and Danny’s larger issues didn’t simply evaporate after the closing credits. “]

Yet, Kaling and her team of writers carefully ensured that Mindy and Danny’s larger issues didn’t simply evaporate after the closing credits. These relationship woes culminated in “The Lahiris and The Castellanos,” then became the central issue of the season’s penultimate episode entitled “The Parent Trap.”

Mindy and Danny have always been opposites: Danny as the traditional, masculine doctor in the office immersed in his Italian culture, and Mindy as the whitewashed Indian doctor who talks too loud, eats too much, and has a lot of sex. This clashing of the two (excellently-written and acted) characters has been a trait of the show from the very beginning, eventually turning from a love-hate relationship to just love.

[bctt tweet=”As Danny and Mindy became everyone’s relationship goals, season four hits hard. “]

As Danny and Mindy became everyone’s (hashtag?) relationship goals, season four’s turns hit audiences hard. Without giving away too much: the main conflict here is that Danny is uncomfortable with Mindy pursuing her career and raising their children, but Mindy refuses to quit working. Both Mindy and Danny have fair reasons, but the obvious “right” side here is Mindy’s.

It comes to a point where Danny becomes manipulative and controlling, and Mindy, anxious that her fairytale ending will slip away, tries to compromise with both hers and Danny’s wishes. It is important to note that Danny is not a villain, and Mindy is not meek and passive. The two still love each other, but their arguments about the situation continually end unresolved, demolishing the perfect Danny-and-Mindy image the show had so carefully constructed. “The Parent Trap” ends on a bittersweet note, with the Danny-Mindy conflict still up in the air.

Kaling’s three-season arc of Mindy Lahiri seeking love and fulfillment was largely driven by a fresh, optimistic perspective on relationships and life, providing an antidote to bleaker programs about the same thing. This very idealism comes to a screeching halt with season four, pulling back the curtain behind Happily Ever After.

I often say that The Mindy Project  fills the 30 Rock-shaped hole in my heart— both are smartly-written sitcoms about 30-something women trying to “have it all.” Both Kaling and 30 Rock showrunner Tina Fey use their sharp wit and neverending supply of pop culture references to break barriers in an otherwise tired premise. 30 Rock was hailed for its fresh approach to the workplace sitcom, but never went as far as Kaling did. Liz Lemon found her true love, then skipped over the difficult relationship bits to being a successful writer, wife, and mother. This is where The Mindy Project breaks even newer ground; we get to see the ugly parts of a relationship between two people who love each other.

Sure, other shows have done this—The Office’s Jim and Pam, The O.C.’s beloved Sandy and Kirsten— but these have come off as desperate Hail Marys for ratings or resurgence in plot. 

[bctt tweet=”(God, I really hope Mindy and Danny get through this.)”]

Sometimes, the people you love will disappoint you. Sometimes, things will get ugly. It’s a truth that comes with any meaningful relationship, but if Mindy and Danny can get through it, so can you and your person.

(God, I really hope Mindy and Danny get through this.)

Movies Pop Culture

It’s time to retire The Bechdel Test

In 1986’s collection of her comic “Dykes to Watch Out For,” cartoonist Alison Bechdel wrote a strip about two women planning to go to the movies. One of the women tells her friend that she has a rule about movies: she won’t see a film unless it has at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man. The last movie she was able to watch, she says, was Alien, because the two women in it “talk to each other about the monster.”

“Two women talk about non-guy-related things” isn’t exactly a high bar for female empowerment, which is why it’s fairly ridiculous that such a few number of films actually pass. Some of Hollywood’s most beloved films, such as “Star Wars: A New Hope” or the final installment of the “Harry Potter” franchise fail the test, bringing to light the abysmal state of female characters in media today. If one actually limited themselves to seeing films that only passed the test, they wouldn’t be able to watch very many films at all. In fact, that is exactly the punch line.

In recent years, The Bechdel Test has somehow become the ultimate method of gauging whether or not a film is feminist. The issue is that as soon as the joke becomes an end-all, be-all pass/fail test rather than a study in popular media, it stops working.

[bctt tweet=”In recent years, The Bechdel Test has somehow become the ultimate method.”]

“Run Lola Run,” which contains one of cinema’s most well-written female characters— doesn’t pass. Kimberly Peirce’s “Boys Don’t Cry” stars Hilary Swank as a transgender man— doesn’t pass. In 2008, “The Hurt Locker” scored Kathryn Bigelow the first Best Director Oscar ever awarded to a woman— doesn’t pass.

Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” (which Feminist Frequency did a great analysis of) passes the Bechdel test, which is (one of many) reasons the general public mistook the film as a form of feminine empowerment. Even Scary Movie technically passes, despite containing a scene in which two women are plastered to a wall in semen. Alison Bechdel herself said in an interview to Cosmopolitan that Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown”absolutely fails the Bechdel test but it has one of the strongest female protagonists [she has] seen in a Hollywood movie — it’s an amazing feminist text.”

This is where the issue lies: critiquing a film through a feminist lens is a complicated, nuanced web, tangled with issues of racism, gender and sexuality, and classism, which is exactly why we’re so eager to adopt an easy pass/fail style test. Even calling it a “test” (in the strip it’s referred to as the character’s “rule”) is misleading, because it implies that the results are infallible, just as we expect tests and rules to be. So many films don’t pass the test but still portray a female lead who goes beyond flatly written tropes or tired character arcs, and that should be the starting point for feminist film critique, not the Bechdel Test.

“Is this film feminist?” is a question that deserves discussion, and oftentimes will not have a simple answer. It’s our responsibility to use the observations made by jokes and humor  to expand on ideas rather than distilling them into a binary yes/no analyses. A good joke offers perspective to the world, which Bechdel’s strip succeeds at doing— but we need to go beyond it.


UP NEXT: I’m not an angry Asian feminist