John Wick was a bit of a sleeper hit a few years ago. The main attraction was its purity - there wasn't much fluff here, just a man going around whupping butt for some reason or another. It was very much like an action beat 'em up video game, with levels, bosses and climaxes throughout.
John Wick 2 was no different in intention, although it managed to cram even more action in and that at a higher quality. It might have suffered a little from art film syndrome, where it tries to outgrow its own previously championed simplicity, but it's minimised enough to be forgiven if not ignored altogether.
Tuesday, February 21
John Wick was a bit of a sleeper hit a few years ago. The main attraction was its purity - there wasn't much fluff here, just a man going around whupping butt for some reason or another. It was very much like an action beat 'em up video game, with levels, bosses and climaxes throughout.
Wednesday, February 15
The LEGO Batman Movie was very funny, and that in a different way to The Lego Movie. It also had a decent plot, but again in a different way to its predecessor. It was just as polished, well made and overall enjoyable, but all in a subtly different way to what came first.
It was therefore also really really good. Just differently.
I actually think the focus on a specific character and universe detracted from the genius and nuance that The Lego Movie presented us, but that was more than made up for by some cool Batman juxtaposition and self deprecation. I guess the point is that there's no point looking too deeply as to how and why the film was or wasn't different; it's great and that's all that really matters. Recommended.
Tuesday, February 7
Regardless of what I eventually think of a Shyamalan film, there's no doubt that since I feel compelled to watch anything he comes out with, he must be doing something right. Perhaps it's knowing the critical conflict I'll feel while watching ("do I like this or not?") or just how he seems to get popular traction each time that gets me... the point is that how he garners the interest might be the genius here and not the actual film making itself.
Split was an okay movie. McAvoy steals the show, playing the protagonist which the title alludes to, but he's supported by a few decent performances also. The film itself was linear, obvious and at some points labouring, but it punched above its weight despite that. Oh and fine, that ending did get me excited.
So not really a film I hated, yet one I probably won't want to watch again. In other words: a film that's Shyamalan through and through.
Friday, February 3
Despite not thinking much of the book, one of the Good Things™ I did get from my recent reading of Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance was a more precise and possibly more accessible vocabulary. Vocabulary is quite powerful: its primary use is to communicate thoughts and ideas to other people, but even if you never use it outside of your own head it also has the power to cement and crystallise otherwise nascent "languageless" thoughts and ideas that you might have floating around in the attic that is your brain. This in turn helps you figure out, challenge and nail the stuff you probably already know, and the fact that most of the notes I made during the book were not really about the book kind of demonstrates this. Of course for the sake of full disclosure those who know me will already suspect where my biases lie. Oh and yes, a relationships and marriage post is probably a bit cringeworthy especially after so much time has elapsed since the last one... but I know you all love these anyway.
So then to start, here's some of the vocabulary I learned. We'll start with the objective, that is, a marriage. There are generally two types of marriage that people (perhaps subconsciously) look for, the respective levels of popularity of which have largely shifted over time and generations. A "Companionate Marriage" is something quite functional and perhaps a little prescriptive, the given solution to real practical life problems like survival and organisation. It was largely associated with classic gender roles, tying the knot at a young age and "being happy with what you have" rather than stressing the pursuit of larger and potentially more ambitious things. It would have been pretty tribal too - so you meet people in your family, or neighbourhood, or your community. The primary point of this type of marriage is the marriage itself, that is its effect on those around it as well as those in it - so it was more of a duty or responsibility than something to enjoy. It's the model that some of us may have witnessed our parents following, and it might even have been what we learned to expect for ourselves and so perhaps then something we took for granted.
The contrary then is a Passionate Marriage, one in which there is no clear functional point except for those in the marriage to be able to feel a certain way. Intensity is important, particularly during the discovery phase, as is the excitement and, as it says on the tin, the passion. Although it can often be about sharing unique external experiences together, this is usually to extract individual value and effect. And on the theme of individuality, the practical needs from previous years are less important in such marriages as many in them are more rounded independent agents themselves. As the results of this type of marriage are largely subjective, there tends not to be a perceivable upper limit to what can be achieved, or put another way, the success of such relationships can sometimes be difficult to ascertain; one can always be happier after all. It would be pretty crass to lay the increasing popularity of passionate marriages at the feet of the media and marketing, but the two are correlated to an extent.
From these two perspectives, we see the respective consequences on related behaviours like searching and love: you have the search for a companion versus the search for a soul mate, or the essences of companionate love vs passionate love. But here's the tricky part: although the concerns of companionate and passionate marriages are largely orthogonal (that is, you can have them both), in practice they're largely mutually exclusive.
Two possibly related factors appeared to have changed over the past couple of decades, probably as technology and modernity improved our way of life and living: firstly people have practically become more independent and were able to look after themselves both financially and domestically, which in turn largely removed a lot of the practical basis of companionate marriages; and secondly people become more interesting and interested in the world - all of a sudden it was important to become a unique individual and consume as much of what was out there as possible. For a lot of women before, a (companionate) marriage was her ticket to the world; such a concept is laughable these days, although in contrast it's interesting to see how those who are looking for companionate marriages are less interested in exploring the world as an individual. Even before marriage, they would be less likely to relocate for things like work or education, perhaps since they give less value to the self development such actions bring. Conversely companionate marriages were usually seen as a barrier to this self development, and so we see a correlation between those who were pursuing self development and those who get married later, and once you don't need or value the facilities a companionate marriage offers the only real reason left to get married is, well, for the passion.
Since companionate marriages were seen as a barrier to self development, it started getting a lot of bad press. At best it was seen as a bit of the default goal, the boring or "easy" way or merely settling with the norm, offering a fixed ceiling to the amount of happiness that can ultimately be achieved. At worse, it was seen as repressive to one or both parties, and something which took away the free choices of those partaking in it (usually explicitly of the women who were expected to focus on traditional goals, but the same would apply to men who had to pick jobs based on income rather than personal preferences). It's probably apt to see companionates as "satisficers" and passionates as "maximisers", which seems to settle the argument early until you learn that satisficers usually enjoy more happiness in the longer term.
There's also a distinct difference in who profits from the respective marriages. By its nature, a companionate marriage tends to focus on the external results of the union and the benefits it brings to both the family to which it belongs and even the wider society - so for example companionate marriages would tend to stay local to respective in-laws, while others would be willing to literally search far and wide for a soul mate. Put bluntly, even if those in the marriage are not the happiest the fact that familial objectives are being achieved would be enough for those involved. Such a concept would be alien to those looking for a soul mate, for whom no achievement is counted unless it brings explicit joy and happiness to them as individuals. In fact, for them, the situation actually reverses and as long as a certain level of passionate love is achieved, the practical issues aren't really relevant. In other words, love really is their answer to all problems and issues that a marriage can face, and if the issues remain then it implies that the love is not strong enough.
That last point raises an interesting question: Are those looking for a soul mate then more willing to compromise? It's clear that, on a practical basis anyway, they are more flexible in what a prospective partner should look or be like. However this is balanced by what could be an even tougher barrier of entry - how that prospective partner makes them feel. And going by what people say, finding someone who rocks their boat in that way seems to be pretty difficult. On the other hand for someone looking for a companionate marriage, although some things are quite rigidly set in stone, the need for immediate clicks, unagi and bantz seems largely a distraction. That's not to say that companionates are looking for loveless marriages, but more that they know (or perhaps hope) that these things can be developed and nurtured over time. In some ways then their compromise is on the initial passion and attraction required and I think then that on balance both types have their set ways and flexibility.
The above discussion highlights the incompatibility of the two approaches. Companionates need someone who is able to commit to their practical concerns, whether it's the need for financial security for the woman and her children, or the need for a man and his children to be looked after in a more direct way. Those looking for a soul mate will dismiss such requirements in the first instance as "details". It's arguable whether it actually has to be this way: those looking for soul mates will claim that they will adapt to the needs of those who they love eventually, whereas a companionate really does believe that a level of passion will be inevitable later. So why can't things eventually fall into place between candidates of the two types?
On paper a passionate marriage is more of a dynamic target since it's based on an internal process that can change, so then the question becomes this: if person A, a companionate, can by all measures be seen as a soul mate by person B who is looking for passion, then should it matter to person B that person A isn't looking for a soul mate in return? It appears that this is important after all, the conclusion being that those looking for a soul mate are also largely reflexive - they cannot accept someone who won't consider them in the same way. The same argument can probably be applied to companionates, who seek a literal commitment that far outweighs one that is based on internal feelings.
So if we decide that these two camps aren't compatible, why is that an issue? Surely each to their own and all that? Well, ironically, each camp appears to be a victim of their own requirements and the type of marriage one looks for has an effect on the search too. Put bluntly, the approaches differ in pace, objective and how a match is determined.
In the search for a companionate marriage, the criteria for a match is much more objective: perhaps guys would need a decent job, and possibly the girls some expectation of domesticity. As such, the companionate search is much more formal, deterministic and even less risky and historically resulted in things like arranged marriages, getting married straight out of school, and minimal dating periods. It was quite literally the checkbox process some fondly (or perhaps not) reminisce about, and a successful meeting would usually get turned around to a marriage pretty quickly.
Those looking for a soul mate appear to take the brunt of the bad times, with complaints about time wastage, indecision, a constant lack of immediate rapport and some quite frankly shady behaviour from participants of either gender. It appears that in looking for a soul mate it is inevitable certain personal investments and risks need to be made and taken and until a marriage happens these can take their toll. Time is also required to see if successes are transient or longer lasting - the former sometimes being seen as a success in its own right - and as well as spending time, this experimentation phase might present its own problems in the face of faith or religious teachings, particularly in communities where extended time with the opposite gender or general "longer term dating" might not be as acceptable. Of course I'm largely referring to Asian and Muslim communities, but there's way too much to say about this now so perhaps keep an eye out for a follow up post. In short, almost by its very definition, the search for a soul mate has to be tough and fraught with challenges, since that's what makes them unique and valuable.
In contrast even if by its nature a companionate search is more formulaic and transparent and can therefore be seen as "easier", this is by far overwhelmed by the lack of numbers and availability of the respective counterparts. It doesn't matter how easy the determination of a match is if those who are also looking for a companionate marriage are so few in number. In that sense, companionates are hampered by the rigidity of their search - most avenues for marriage are dominated by those looking for soul mates and so there's much more dependence on community networks and introductions, facilities which are thin on the ground in this day and age.
Of course in reality most probably sit on a gradient between the two options, but not many realise that the scale is linear and that these are not orthogonal concerns. It's true that generally those looking for companionate marriages are an ever shrinking group and eventually everyone will be looking for a soul mate, so apart from the challenges mentioned above inherent to such an approach the problem of compatibility perhaps isn't going to be an issue. However those in Asian or Muslim communities may have their own challenges related to the topics mentioned above... which is something best left to a future article.
For now however terms like "companionate" and "passionate" and phrases like "the search for soul mates" lend themselves to a much more helpful framing than "backwards" or "looking for a halal boy/girlfriend" or "Muslim dating" when talking about the issues single people face today in their searches for marriage, and they are terms I will probably make use of quite heavily in the future.
Friday, January 27
Raees lacks quite a lot when compared to the last few Bollywood films I got to see in the cinema. The acting is lacklustre, the plot without substance, the music unexciting... the whole film just seemed to plod along for the sake of it (where "it" should probably be read as "Shah Rukh Khan fans"). It did try to garner a bit of depth and emotion, by randomly bringing in and resolving a spurious religious tension plot, but on the whole there was very little I cared about in the film. I will note Nawazuddin Siddiqui's ACP Majmudar as being quite fun, but again all the good bits felt a bit wasted in the mess that was the film's landscape.
One to skip then.
Tuesday, January 24
It wasn't just because of the leading lady that I went to see this film; no, I also had relatively high hopes for the 2017 version of a film that originally came out 15 years ago. A bigger budget, more sophisticated effects and yes, Deepika Padukone all had me excited.
The film was pretty poor though. The shallow plot and quite bad acting all a took its toll on a film of little substance. I won't say that I completely regretted watching it; it was way too funny to be a complete waste of time. From Deepika's thick accent to the absurdity of some of the scenes all the way to Nina Dobrev's hilarious cuteness it was hard to figure out if the film was deliberately laughing at itself. Whatever the case, it did the trick and I didn't feel that it was a complete waste of time and money.
Regardless, there's no way I can recommend this film.
(Or: how to smuggle in a marriage post in through the back door)
Modern Romance is a frustrating book, and that for many reasons but mainly because of how far it missed the mark. Firstly, I had high expectations of the book's author, Ansari being the only brown stand up worth his salt in my view. Secondly, the book had come recommended by friends with similar backgrounds who had at some point in their lives experienced the journey that is the marriage search. And finally, well, it was a book about marriage and relationships which as anyone who knows me will tell you is (perhaps sadly) one of my favourite topics to discuss (which may explain why I took the rare action of taking notes while reading it).
I didn't find the book particularly funny or insightful. It pretty much said what everyone already knows - essentially that needs and wants have changed over the past few decades, resulting in a much more volatile and fragile landscape - possibly one win which marriage might not actually be relevant.
The book suffers from the same flaws any discourse on modern (or perhaps that from any time) romance: it slips into a tirade against douche guys and seeks to defend victimised women, and we hear the same old male bashing anecdotes about their ineptness. This is all true, for sure, just probably not helpful in the context of the book - it doesn't present balance, say, by talking about what goes wrong when things are going right.
Some time is also spent talking about those in Muslim countries (yay), but mainly to tell us how repressed they are (boo). Ansari also visits Japan, where he struggles to explain his findings despite finding the place titillating. I feel that he is either too naive or just not brave enough to admit that those on BOTH sides of the gender divide just aren't fulfilling the reasonable expectations of their opposites.
This lack of bravery usually results in a bit of a judgemental "holier than thou be like us in the west" attitude, which sometimes limits the debate. For example, although Ansari talks a lot about cheating and why it may or may not be acceptable, he doesn't mention polygamy as a valid way of building relationships.
That said, I am glad that I read the book if only because of the vocab and language that it introduced me to. "Companionate" is a much more apt term than "traditional", for instance. It was also instructive, if not depressing on a personal level, to be told in academic terms just how much things have moved on from those companionate times. This was actually valuable enough to inspire me to write a post using the new vocab, so watch this space.
In the end however, it all becomes a bit self helpy, but less so: even though the book concludes that companionate love is more beneficial than passionate love in the long term, it refuses to be explicit about this and still suggests that short term benefits and intensity are valuable.
So perhaps a good enough source of debate, I can't help but feel that the book missed a bit of a trick by not being nuanced or deep enough. Then again, that's probably a reflection of the times we live in, or rather the audience the book is aimed at, where accessibility and disposability is more important than anything of lasting substance.
Saturday, January 14
Book twelve (2009) is a special book, primarily for two, possibly related reasons. Firstly, that the author of the bulk of the series, Robert Jordan, had passed away before the publication of this part. Secondly, the last three books were actually written as one volume by Jordan, with the decision to split them being made past his death. Both of these events manifest in a book that is far more pacey, declarative and perhaps even more accessible than those that came before it. It really did feel like we're now in a race to the finish.
A lot happens in The Gathering Storm, with most of it based around two of the main characters of the saga. That leads me to suspect what the next part will manage - another clue as to the newfound accessibility perhaps - but I'll have to wait and see if that theory pans out.
It literally feels like there's no going back now.
Friday, January 13
I have to admit that when I was first told that "the guy behind Tamarind is coming to Woodford" I did dismiss the whole idea as one for those of us with more money than sense. Since I'm not really in the business of posting restaurant visits on social media or the like I wasn't particularly fazed by its heritage either (I've not visited Tamarind). That said, I was curious that such a place could exist within walking distance to my house; if anything its nice to have choice at a time where I visit central London less and less to eat.
So here's the thing: I was wrong. GTR was pretty fabulous - in fact I'm struggling to fault it and don't quite know where to begin with my gushing. The food was great - not heavy or overbearing in terms of oil or spice, yet full of flavour and texture it was actually refreshing to discover that Indian food doesn't have to be that way. If I did note something it's that it may have been a little bit salty, but that might have just been my taste. Even the desserts hit the mark with them not being overly sweet.
The service was another aspect that shone throughout our evening. It really was outstanding from the ordering, to the cleaning up all the way to Rajesh himself going out of his way to talk to and host our group.
Of course, all this comes at a price... but even at £25 per head I felt it was all such a bargain - we probably ordered just about enough food, but a few quid might be saved if you dropped the dessert and extra sides. And let's not forget about the location - we were home within 15 minutes of paying the bill and that was by walking. Truly amazing.
If it's not clear by now I really enjoyed my time at GTR, and despite being an Indian it has immediately become my favourite place to eat in my locale. Of course the price prohibits visiting too often, but sometimes the whole point of your crown jewels is to only take them out rarely. Totally recommended.
Wednesday, January 11
That's pronounced bonk by the way.
Perhaps the only burger place left on my list to try in London, The Banc slightly disappointed from the start. Although striking at first, there was a slight "mutton dressed as lamb" feel to the place, with its quite posh facade not quite doing enough to cover the fact that it was just another steak and burger place.
That said it wasn't bad once the food came. I went with the straight cheese burger (a recommendation from a friend who suggested the less that got between me and the beef the better), and it was definitely on the better end of that I've tried... perhaps even on par with Proper. Everything else was also above average, with the steak I sampled not a chore to eat as I've found others before it. Service was adequate, but again not quite what was implied.
The Banc also offered a shisha lounge, which will never be my thing, but good to know for those who need to waste time, money and health post dinner.
Overall though it was the price which really let The Banc down. The menu was pretty premium, which could have barely been justified by the food - the burger was £9 and steaks £20 which are above par. But at that price one needs more than just good food and thus it was quite a disappointment that the rest didn't quite live up to the promise.
Sunday, January 8
If there's one thing that you can always rely on, it's that the Annual Holiday Amir Khan Bollywood release is going to be great. Dangal didn't just hit that mark; for me it exceeded it.
Which is odd really, considering it's a film about the most boring of tournament sports: wrestling. But the story is a good one, with it being about the struggle to achieve the impossible - although the context does highlight the fact that the contenders were female, that wasn't really the point and I think the film would have been great regardless. Although I did feel the underlining of the misogyny with thick red marker pens was a bit laboured and unnecessary, that would be the only complaint I had. That, and perhaps how it kept making me well up.
Amir was great as expected, but he was surrounded by a cast which really made the film shine, whether the characters were being depicted as young or adult. The rest of the film oozed with the production quality that we have come to expect.
All in all then, a wonderful film and undoubtedly recommended.
Wednesday, January 4
I'm usually the first to poo poo "experiences" aimed at us children of the 80s. I'm all for nostalgia, but I refuse to to pay for what essentially amounts to an emotional bullet to the head. But when some friends suggested we participate in The Crystal Maze I was curious - this would actually be quite interactive, and finally I'd have the chance to prove I wasn't as stupid as those contestants I saw on the TV. Don't lie - we all thought it. On the other hand £50 was quite the price to pay, but peer pressure and my own temporal flippancy prevailed and we booked our slot, almost 7 months in advance.
The experience itself was quite good. Now obviously I'm not to go into too much detail (can't have anyone cheating) but I think it's reasonable to discuss things like the quality of what was on offer. As expected it wasn't really a full fat Crystal Maze experience - it was always clear that we were in an office block, and some zones (I'm looking at you Futuristic) were actually quite laughable. Of course there was no Richard O'Brian, but our maze master was adequately fun, encouraging and helpful.
The games themselves were actually rather good, and I felt tested us in the same way contestants on the show were. As it was a team activity we didn't actually get to directly participate often, but as a group it was easy to remain involved. Oh and the whole thing was only 75 minutes which, understandably, flew by.
Oh and yes, we were validated both on personal (I won both my rooms) and group (by our performance in the dome) levels, although really the best advice we were given and can pass on is to really not worry about winning or losing.
So was it worth it? Well I have to say it really was a lot of fun - partly for the nostalgia, but mainly for the group hi-jinks and messing around. After the euphoria faded however I did conclude that at £50 it wasn't actually that great value for money: that much could get you a couple of escape rooms or real-world game that would last much longer than this did. So yes, I guess what I'm saying is that my initial hunch was correct, with this Crystal Maze experience being more about the nostalgia than the team-building or challenge; but that's not necessarily always a bad thing either, even though I can personally think of more enjoyable ways to spend my time and money on.
Monday, January 2
There's an idea that food is only worth paying for if there is a redistributable experience that goes along with it - the kind of stuff as indicated by the whole obsession with social media for example. And while I would never deny that eating out can (and perhaps even should sometimes) be considered an event, for me the need to eat will always trump the trophyism (to borrow the term).
Case in point: Patchi. Situated in what seems like an abandoned street off to the side of ghetto Park Royal, Patchi is a down to earth establishment, focusing on getting the job of feeding you done rather than pander to whatever social requirements you might have. This is probably because the place isn't primarily a restaurant; apparently they are Europe's leading manufacturer of baklava too.
That said, the food wasn't bad. In fact it was way above average, with my kafta and chips hitting the spot adequately. Perhaps mistakenly we didn't touch the baklava for dessert, instead picking a selection of desserts and cakes that they also manufacture. All were pretty decent.
The cost was a bit of a surprise, with the average bill (including desserts) hitting the £15 mark. This, I guess, is something that is required when there are no fancy mocktails to prop up the income, although I can't help but feel that there are cheaper options available - perhaps with more judicious ordering the magical £10 limit wouldn't have been breached.
Nevertheless, the place was a joy and I do recommend it.
Monday, December 26
It could have been so easy for Rogue One to just have been another cash in. But it wasn't - it was rich, well produced and respecting of both the franchise and its target audience. Of course the main value is for the Star Wars fans, but I can see those who aren't so bothered enjoying a pretty decent science fiction movie too.
The context (ie, that it's a prequel) both allows and forces the film to take some pretty serious risks as well, and in both cases I felt that the film benefited from the chances that were taken.
A small note to talk about Riz Ahmed - before we start gushing about the first prominent Pakistani in a Star Wars role, it's worth thinking about exactly what that role entails. I was slightly disappointed myself, but hey, baby steps.
All in all though Rogue One was a great film and one which manages to vindicate the tick tock release schedule Disney has come up with. I'm already counting down to December 2017 for Episode 8.
Wednesday, December 21
Passengers was not the film I walked into expecting to see. What was supposed to be a sci-fi thriller turned out to be more of a romantic drama.
What's really surprising is that the film was probably better for it. The "escape room" in space would probably have been way too predictable and although the resulting themes here weren't entirely original either, the context and placement were more than enough to keep things novel.
So although not deep and pretty familar Passengers is a solid offering in a time when everything else tries so hard to be fancy. Recommended.
Friday, December 9
There's a pretty explicit qualifier at the start of this film warning no one to take any medical advice from any of the story of scenes to follow. This is a good thing since, right from the start, Dear Zindagi sucks as a film about mental health issues. It treats the subject with such shallowness and cliche that it's probably worth ignoring that whole facet of the film altogether.
What the film is good at is 1) being cute, 2) being philosophical about life and 3) Alia Bhatt. Which if you're keeping track makes it a great Bollywood film.
The music is largely forgettable (although that was more due to it not being to my taste), but the production was good, the actors and their acting equally beautiful. It's all also paced rather well, something which the industry seems to be getting better and better at.
All in all, it's a great romp if you're looking to enjoy yourself and have a good time. On the other hand if you're looking for something to challenge you and make you think about a serious topic... it's probably best to look elsewhere.
Tuesday, December 6
Yes, it's a Harry Potter film, and yes it's very American. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - in fact it's nice to have the HP universe expanded some, and differing perspectives given. The wizarding world now has more colour, more scope and that's a good thing.
What's not so great is the quality of this film. My immediate thoughts were of how rough around the edges it was, with some really bad acting, production and editing. Unfortunately this was all enough to ruin the film for me, which is a shame since all the magic, mystery and adventure you'd expect is all there too if you look hard enough.
Still, it's Harry Potter so gets a recommendation. Whether it's one to watch in the cinema or not I'm having a harder time to decide.
Sunday, December 4
This year's trip to Karachi marked a little bit of a failure on my part; my intention was to visit at least annually going forward, as Pakistan becomes a bit more of a staple destination for me. And yet it has been a whopping two years since I last visited, having missed a trip earlier this year (I was in Vegas instead).
The trip was different for a couple of (related) reasons. Firstly, I had some Canadian (ie English speaking) cousins there with me. These are a bunch who, although I had only seen earlier in the year, I haven't been in Karachi with for almost 20 years. The trip was also different due to the scarcity of time - a wedding took up most of the first week, which left things compressed during the second, if not lacking altogether - I already feel that I need to return in order to make up for the shortcomings. Oh and the resulting late nights meant that I didn't really have to deal with any jetlag issues on my return to the UK.
New things then? Well there are a few. Careem and Uber are now relatively well established, giving us a level of independence and freedom we might not have had before. It remains to be seen how long the initiative lasts.
I saw a fair few Chinese in the malls, a sign of the ongoing investment coming in from the country. So far the effect is a positive one.
Clifton is becoming more and more built up as I visit. You don't have to squint too hard to imagine being in a place like Dubai instead. Again, a positive sign... and again, it remains to be seen how long it lasts.
The rest of Karachi appears to be relatively stable in its ongoing decline, and yet there is a renewed sense of hope as cracks start to show in the incumbent rotting of the place. That said, I was woken each day by a young girl shouting down each street asking for food. Change will take longer than the one year I hope to leave before my next visit.
Tuesday, November 15
Oh no, oh no no. How did this happen? The book was a short one, so in theory there was no reason to mess with it or edit it. Okay sure, there was enough peculiarity in the story to warrant some creativity in the film making process, but the amount of dilution and irreverence introduced to such a fantastic story has done nothing except spoil the whole thing. The character development has been trashed, the twist up ended. I might almost be able to see why they did it (accessibility) but really, the price was not worth the result.
A real disappointment. Read the book instead - it will probably take you as long as it would to watch this.
Yes: another book to be read before the film, but perhaps this time it's a little different. The Story is a short one, having taken only a few hours to read. But those few words presented such joy that I'd have recommended the book regardless of the context.
I personally enjoy exploring the themes of free will and predestination, and ideas like having a whole conversation before uttering a word resonate with me. The story here doesn't give any answers... But like all good books it does present new ideas and a new perspective. The subject matter also implies deep characterisation, again impressive for such a short story.
Tuesday, November 8
Ready Player One isn't a great book. It has a skinny plot, one dimensional and flimsy characters and takes almost no risk in telling its story. It's put together pretty flimsily too - it ranks above some of the more recent young adult readings for sure, but doesn't really push the reader too much (which might be a good thing). The flow is trashy, as page turning as you can get.
In fact, the young adulty vibe of the story is a bit confusing considering who the book is aimed at. The thing is that Ready Player One is almost purely fanservice - a compendium of references to all the hip songs, movies and games from the 80s and 90s which only those of us now in our middle ages will appreciate to any real extent. It reminisces, remixes, remasters and mashes up these nods... and once you appreciate that is all it really is the book does become enjoyable of sorts.
It's also why I'm really looking forward to the film (the actual reason why I thought I'd read it now). If the film manages to pull it off, it'll certainly be great, and ironically it's the aforementioned attributes that make it a bad book that will probably make it an awesome flick.
In short, the book isn't a total waste of time and is cheap enough to read and enjoy.
Friday, November 4
Once there was Stax, a burger place sat in Soho, reaching legendary probably because of the lack of covers it presented. I think the max capacity of the place was 20 or 25, which although paltry I suspect helped boost the exclusiveness of the place. That's not to say that the place wasn't good - it was - but things change and options present themselves as time goes on (I won't mention which I mean). Social media reputation isn't enough in these cases and so it's not surprising that the same team which brought us Stax looked to present the same food in a more accessible venue.
Boondocks is that place. Situated around Old Street, the location makes a refreshing change, as does the large venue - there was no problem getting a reservation for 8 tonight, although they did insist on a £15 deposit which I found quite unacceptable in this day and age. The food was good, with the menu 90% that of what we had seen before while the service was even better, enhanced by the fact the servers could actually move around without stepping on people. Otherwise this was Stax through and through - I found it to possibly be a little more pricey than Stax, but that could have been due to our decadence: we even tried the Smores which were both novel and delicious (although not all enjoyed).
So quite positive so far then? Well yes, except I felt awful afterwards and will expect that feeling to continue tomorrow morning. This is less the fault of Boondocks and more due to my recent change in lifestyle and diet which seems to have affected both my taste and ability to consume this kind of stuff. That may or may not be a consideration for most reading this, but still perhaps something worth bearing in mind.
Wednesday, November 2
I think I quite liked the first Jack Reacher film - not that I can remember much. And that's pretty much how things stand with the second in the series: a paint by numbers crime thriller with Jack and co trying to get to the bottom of some quite villainous frame ups and betrayals, all while kicking bum on the way.
The story, acting and production all pass to an extent. As long as you don't go into this with too high hopes you'll more than enjoy it. Recommended.
Friday, October 28
Yes, I've already established Proper as my go-to gourmet burger place... so my drive to find alternatives has since diminished. That said, food standards do go up and down and geography (not many people like to come to East London for some reason) means it's always worth looking for other options too, and Burgista Bros happens to be a fine choice for food in the West End area.
The counter service was quick, the place clean and not too busy for a Friday night, although I can see the limited number of covers becoming a problem at popular times. Price wise it was pretty expensive overall - my burger meal cost over a tenner (with free soft drink refills), although the portion of four chicken wings were a definite bargain. If I have a complaint about the menu it's that it was pretty small - there were only a couple of precanned burgers over the plain one (we ordered the spicy one and a BBQ sauced one, the latter of which was great) and although I do sometimes appreciate a simple menu I did feel that a few more creative options would have been great.
Which brings us to the food itself. The meat was of a decent quality, cooked well and juicy to a tee. It was almost like a well done Sloppy Joe, which sounds odd on paper but worked wonders on the plate. The fries were okay - but it's a shame that they couldn't be switched out for something non-carby (which essentially meant I had to break the nutrition rules I've recently introduced to my diet).
But overall Burgista was a fine place and one I heartily recommend.
Tuesday, October 25
I went in to watching this film expecting to hate it. I've never really had any level of affinity with Doctor Strange as a comic book character - it all seemed a little hocus pocus in a world filled more with aliens and mutants. Still, it is part of the MCU so had to be watched regardless. Which turns out is a great rule to follow since Doctor Strange was actually really good.
Leaving aside the normal ingredients of fun, action and plot progression, what really surprised me is firstly how awesome a character Doctor Strange is and secondly (and perhaps even more surprisingly) that I can actually enjoy the acting of Benedict Cumberbatch, someone whom I previously considered to be pretty overrated.
But otherwise the film is a solid one, with some great visuals, good humour and a decent story to it. If you're an MCU nut then you'll watch this anyway, but even if not I thoroughly recommend it.
Thursday, October 20
Book eleven (2005) and things are finally getting back on track - by this I mean the actual real progress I found was desperately missing in the last volume is now back in spades, which is probably not surprising considering I only have three volumes left to read. It actually feels like a race to the finish now, or perhaps more accurately the beginning of the end, as plots are finally appearing to lead to their conclusions. Battles are raged, heroes are born and twists uncovered, leaving a pretty pacy book with not many slow bits within.
Having said that I found myself searching online for help while reading this part in order to figure out the nuance of what was going on - something which I alluded to in previous WOT reviews. Since I probably won't ever read the epic again I felt that using guides was acceptable - and valuable as what I did read did clear up a fair few plot lines and developments I didn't even realise existed. In hindsight I should have read explainers at the end of each part in order to compensate for the sheer size of the story as well as Jordan's habit of leaving a lot left unsaid. On a similar note, I can't stress how important it is to read books like these with a map handy - probably due to its popularity ASOIAF had a few searchable mobile apps available which made that series a joy to read but unfortunately WOT doesn't appear to have anything similar.
All in all I enjoyed the return to form seen in Knife Of Dreams and it has left me both hungry for more as well as a little aware that it's all coming to an end soon.
Wednesday, October 12
It would be so easy to call this travesty of a film bad only for those who had read the book before watching it. But no, it was bad for reasons all of it's own, and those reasons were both internal and external to the film.
Although possibly superficial, the creative licence taken in the change of location pretty much destroyed the soul of the film for me. Although the main themes of the book could have played out anywhere, there were certain subtleties lost in its resetting in New York.
But geography aside, the film quite sucked for a host of other reasons, most of them which can be filed under "badly made". The production was bad, the acting dire, the presenting of the plot rushed and clumsy. There really wasn't much to enjoy about this film.
So yes, one to avoid - but I will take this opportunity to recommend the book again.
Tuesday, October 4
The film about the 2010 disaster is pretty much what you would expect from a dramatisation of a real life event. It's actually largely "middle" with not much of a beginning and certainly no end - but that is forgiven since what is presented turns out to be a pretty tight retelling of what went on during that day.
Everything else comes second - the production, the acting, the script. But the topic is gripping enough for the film to carry itself well and what we end with is something that keeps you gripped till the end. Oh and yes, they even manage to make the non British bad guy British.
Wednesday, September 28
It's fair to say that the zombie genre is pretty saturated now. It's becoming more and more difficult to come up with anything original, and so filmmakers are starting to look at storyline and plot instead to differentiate - so we now have moral dilemmas, the breaking of taboos and philosophical arguments as well as the usual scares and thrills that come with films about the undead.
The Girl with All the Gifts is about the relationship between a half-zombie-in-the-making girl and her teacher, and asks questions about the greater good and even zombie rights. That in itself was enough to make the film a pretty decent watch, but some good acting by the child star of the film and some genuinely scary moments also helped.
For those of you who have played The Last of Us, you'll find plenty of parallels here. And in the same way as the game was, it's also recommended to check out.
Thursday, September 15
Sometimes it's tough being of subcontinent origin. Amongst the many challenges we face, trying to remain objective and impartial when visiting an Indian restaurant ranks up there with all the worst.
Take Mint Leaf for instance. It would be easy for me to poo poo the place as a typical posh-but-not-really Indian place designed to extract as much money from an expensed City dinner as possible, resulting in a low quality high price experience which is very easy to forget... but instead I'll spend some time explaining exactly why this place sucks so bad.
First of all it was too hot. As in the place. Maybe the air conditioning wasn't working or maybe we were all just having so much fun (not really) but the place was quite uncomfortable at times. The drinks were expensive and boring, mainly consisting of heavily sugared water that didn't really hit any spots. The food was okay I suppose, with the tandoori broccoli something I'd never had before. The daal and paneer were above average, the lamb and prawns not as much. The amount of food was pretty stingy - we had to do the unforgivable and ask for more which tested the service (which was also passable).
But the real nail in the coffin was the price. At £55 per head (excluding drinks) I'm hard pressed to think of any other meal I've ever had that was of such poor value. It was enough to put me off ever going back, even if the bill was being covered. There really is no need for a place like this in London anymore.