Monday, February 28

Today Something Interesting Happened

But only two people other than me will know exactly what. So what's the point of this blog then? Other than to create a bit of mystery, possibly to flatter the two a bit and to tell them to keep schtum.

Me, an attention seeker? You bet.

Link Of The Day,,1426772,00.html

Pretty much common knowledge but nonetheless ultimately upsetting and sad on so many levels. It's at times like this I remind myself of things like individuality, change and free choice.

Sunday, February 27

So Close, Yet So Far

My aunt had dinner with Aishwarya Rai yesterday. What more is there to say about that?

Film: Hide And Seek Click for more info

So so thriller about a little girl's imaginary, yet murderous, friend. Dry and thrilling in equal measures, this may be one to wait for the DVD release of.

Worth watching just to check out another superb Fanning performance.


Saturday, February 26

Film: The Live Aquatic With Steve Zissou Click for more info

If anyone has seen Tenenbaums, they'll be instantly familiar with this film's almost surreal sense of humour. Not really for those unwilling to let themselves get drawn into it (and that partly includes myself), but has enough "regular" funny moments too.

Watch if you liked Tenenbaums. It's a curiosity more than anything else.


Friday, February 25

Book: Islam The Way of Revival, Riza Mohammed et al

I picked this up on a whim while checking the return book pile at the SOAS Library. It's actually an anthology of selected writings covering the following topics: The Islamic Worldview, The Quran, The Prophet Muhammad, Worship, Ethics and Law, and Self-Development (and there's a second volume covering other topics).

The good thing about anthologies is that it's likely there will be something for everyone in them. The flip side, however, is that there'll also be articles you wouldn't like as much. Such is the case with this collection, and it might not have helped that some pieces had been translated from a language other than English making them a bit difficult to read.

Having said that, it's a good read for the other articles, and frankly I think I'll take a lot away from it. On the whole I preferred the second, more practical, half to the abstract first, although they're both worth a good read. I found myself both nodding in agreement at times, as well as receiving moments of mini-enlightenment so whatever "level" you feel your practice of Islam to be at (although I'm not sure if this is a good starters' introduction to the religion), they'll be something for you in this book.


Sunday, February 20

Feelin' Alive

It's been one of those rare weekends where I've spent more time out of the house than in. I've not even had time to blog (any dated from Saturday would have been retrospectively added after this entry), which sucks 'cos I feel I'm gonna forget to say something.

I've done a number of things this weekend; some were chores, some were social and some were philanthropic. Busy as I say I was, everything ran like clockwork and at times it even seemed that I had more than 48 hours available. I even found time to catch up with my week's shows. It's quite strange.

It was also pretty fulfilling and I feel like this weekend asserted that I am, in fact, alive. If any one else has had that feeling before they'll know great it is looking back and not being able to find a single latent moment that they had wasted doing something trivial or non-constructive. Which makes me wonder (and I only mention this because it's come up previously a few times with some of you), do I really need someone else to be complete[1]?

So now it's 9:30pm and I'm gonna treat myself to today's episodes of Joey and 24 and then get a nice and early night. Man, am I gonna sleep well tonight.

[1] Come now. You can't have an insightful blog without some reference to my single status, can you?

Feelin' Hungry

I was fasting this weekend for Ashura, which as the name implies falls on the tenth of Muharram. You can't fast the day on it's own so I had to do Sunday too. Surprisingly the fasting and everything that comes with it (sehri and iftar) were especially unobtrusive; in fact they were kinda the opposite and helped out by not having to take food breaks, getting me to read my sabaq during sehri instead of during the day proper, and giving me an excuse to skip timetaking gym and running sessions.

Just goes to show, eh?

Feelin' Helpful

As some of you are aware, my brother will imminently move out of the family home with his wife and kid. Of course it makes sense that they do it up before they move in, and so a lot of this weekend (Saturday morning and all of Sunday excluding a brief interlude to see off my parents) was spent painting and moving heavy furniture around his new digs.

What gets me is how my dad (and uncles etc) used to make this stuff look easy. There were lots of hands helping, and looking back we did achieve a lot in the time we had, but it was definitely hard work. What I'm missing, of course, is that it was hard work for my dad (and uncles etc) too and if they make it look easy now it's 'cos they've already been through what we are now experiencing. Which is fine even though it didn't make today any easier. Tsk.

Actually here's a thought. Back gardens and sheds aside (hey, I know my limits lads but there's no one, no one, who can assemble flat pack faster than me) why don't we ever have these kind of projects going on? Yes, you know who I'm talking to...

Feelin' Sad

I just saw my folks off as they were leaving for Heathrow. This is such a last minute thing (I only found out last night while I was at dinner) that they haven't even bought their tickets yet.

My dadi (my father's mother) has taken a turn for the worse, enough to have prompted my parents to leave for Pakistan immediately. It's interesting timing; my brother and SIL are in the process of moving out and had this been a week later I may have had to live totally by myself for the first time, ever. As it stands they'll probably (hopefully) stick around till my parents return.

I've not seen my grandmother since my brother's reception there, and all of a sudden a trip back to Pak seems even more overdue.

Feelin' Sociable

Tonight someone from my (now ex) Arabic class threw a little dinner party for eleven at his Mayfair flat. This is a single guy, so I was well impressed when he set out the plates let alone cooked for that many, although I'm sure his sister who also attended helped a bit. The food was nice anyhow and since the host is Muslim I didn't have to take care about where to pray or what I wanted to eat or drink. What was interesting was that, unlike other Muslim hosted dinner parties that I might have been too, this one didn't force a particular (typically cultural) style down our throats. We even had jazz playing in the background (apologies if it wasn't, but you know what an uncultured yob I am).

It was especially great because even though the majority were from class (including the two teachers), we all came from a range of backgrounds, and I don't mean just ethnically or nationally. There were married couples as well as singletons and divorcees. There were teachers, dentists, homeopaths and consultants. The conversation flowed and everyone contributed. I never felt so grown up and mature.

Until Articulate! was put in front of us, that is. It's actually quite reassuring that a boardgame can reduce even the most adult to a child. It was another brilliant example of how it's ok for people to be just people. And my team so would've won if I hadn't had to leave.

Alas I had to miss a Khan Birthday(tm) party, which sucks 'cos they're usually fun. I'm sure they survived without me though.

Saturday, February 19

Feelin' Selfless

By request of a friend of mine (no namecheck I'm afraid, but I'm sure some here know who she is), I went down to East London Mosque in Whitechapel in order to sign up on to The Anthony Nolan Trust stem cell donor register.

It's one of those things that's very easy to talk oneself out of, but having said that it is a big deal and I reckon that The Trust would rather one didn't sign up than did only to back out later. The prospect of having someone drill into your pelvic bone and syringe out stem cells is, quite frankly, scary. My tactic? Just force yourself through it and ignore that niggling doubt in the back of your head. It really is a neat trick, that.

And just to be sure don't think I did this for purely selfless reasons. I like to think I've a few unique scout badges, but having saved someone's life is one that's eluded me so far. And heck, I even had quite a nice med student (from Imperial, no less) extract my blood for the register. She made a total pig's ear of my arm, but I didn't care. In fact, randomly bumping into her later on at King's Cross may have just convinced me to chase this up...

Anyway, I also promised her (the things I do for a pretty face, eh?) I'd raise awareness so here's me telling you ALL to go sign up too. Apparently donors from ethnic minority males are in short supply, so it's especially important for those of you who fit that description to do the same. You can read more here:

Thursday, February 17

Islamic Accountability

So earlier this week Lloyds TSB announced the availability of the first "high street Shariah compliant bank account" or some other spiel. Read more here.

Back? Anyway, if you didn't click on the link (tut tut, naughty), this would be an account which wouldn't credit you with any interest or charge you any by removing the availability of any overdraft facility. Apparently it's to be quite popular with Muslims.

Now banks have been able to withhold interest payments for a while now (well, to my knowledge anyway; I was offered this service by Natwest when opening a new account many moons ago. Things may have changed since then), so the only new thing here is the label and a bit of marketing. For those that think not accepting interest is a worthy action, I guess that's great.

Personally I don't see how one can see themselves as avoiding the sin of usury by opening such an account. Their money is still being used to fund loans and interest is still being generated, it's just being tippex'ed out from their statements. Now I'm not saying that accepting the amounts and giving them to charity is any better, certainly not in terms of reward. But these Islamic bank accounts seem to be the same thing, but with the money going to a man in a suit instead. Out of the two (rewardless) options, both which may absolve the sin, I know which I'd choose.

The argument I was given was that since you didn't "witness" the interest being taken, you're absolved of any sin. Something in that doesn't sit quite right with me, or at least the way which it's being used here. Any person who researches these accounts will be fully aware that their money is still being used in the same way. Does the fact that a charge is missing on their statements mean that they can forget that?

How else would you use this principle? If we switch off our tellies, are we excused from helping out our brothers and sisters around the world? If I believe my bruised sister when she tells me she fell down the stairs without any further investigation, have I done my duty? If I've lost my watch, can I skip my prayers? Of course not - as humans we have other senses with which to detect our sins. Ignoring or hiding them do not make them go away.

Apart from this "painting over" of sins, there's a deeper point. Islam has a spirit; it's not made up of technical pedantic rules. It's not the interest payments on your bank statement which are forbidden; it's the problems that it inevitably brings to society. Whether I take payment for loans or not I'm still contributing to the problem, and in my opinion it's that on which I'll be judged.

As always IANAS, this is all my personal take, and I don't expect anyone to take this on authority. Do your own research and decide for yourself.

Hard (Prayer) Times

It's that peculiar (and tough) time of the year where prayer times start shifting like numerous rugs being pulled from under your feet. So far I've only been caught out by Maghrib a few times, and it's quite disturbing that I can be so forgetful I don't even realise that the sun has set before I hit the Tube home.

On the other end of the day, Fajr is now too early to read after I wake up normally for the day, and so I'll be having a disturbed sleep every day till Autumn (for example today I read Fajr at 5:40 am, and then woke up for the day at 7. Yawn). Still, at least I know I won't miss any of those.

It always surprises me how late (and early) prayer times get in the respective seasons, even though it happens each year.

Wednesday, February 16

Alan Sugar Is The Man

Those of you that watched The Apprentice will know why. If you didn't, it's on at 9pm Wednesdays, BBC2.

This Is About Trust

'Nuff said. Yes, I know this is (hopefully) rare. But still it does demonstrate how you can't take these things at face value and how careful you have to be to avoid becoming caught up in the heat of the moment. As they say, one man's penis is another woman's ability to cook.

Edit: Even my mum took the mick. Jebus.

New Music

Let Me Love You - Mario

Yeh yeh, woteva. And technically I've never said it was a bad song. Although having said that, listening to it this morning wasn't as great as on MTV, so perhaps I have the wrong version or something (maybe it's just the video I like?). I expect a fix up on the weekend.

Balle - Sukshinder Shinda

What's wrong with me man? This time last year I was cussing those who listened to this stuff. And now I'm swearing by it. Still, I think train girl is into bhangra so there's a silver lining here somewhere.

Monday, February 14

Link Of The Day

Not sure what to say, but I guess I'm glad the name's still around. Code I've written is on that, y'know.

The Inevitably Cynical "I Hate Valentine's" Post

A stupid day wasted on the typical SKs and VPs wasting their PAYG credits by sending stupid text messages between each other all day ("I love you jaan.frm VP xxx"). Of course their folks don't know but it's ok cos SK is buff (he uses gel in his hair, y'see) and drives generic blacked out car #284. Little does VP know (well actually she does, but she's in denial 'cos "he treats her so well, and loves me for me, y'know?") but SK's mum wants him to go back home and in fact has Pindoo lined up for him when they go back this Summer. Poor bugger "don't have a choice, innit". It's ok though 'cos when the poop hits the fan VP will get over it, or at least that's what she'll tell the poor shmuck who she's on the rebound with. Feel for this guy, people; Shmuck is smart, funny, treats VP right and with the most respect and even gets on with VP's mum. But of course since he's not SK he's doomed to fail. Meanwhile SK is cheating on Pindoo with some white girl, but hey, at least he's happy (although the odd "how ru" text from VP is becoming slightly annoying).

Yeh, I'm rambling. And please don't comment on how this is basic jealousy and self pity with a sprinkling of male insecurity. I know this. But still, there's a point in there somewhere, right?

Sunday, February 13


Playing Donkey Konga with my dad. Well, he's better than my SIL anyway.

And I'm supposed to find a wife that will fit in with this crazy bunch. Like yeh, right.

Saturday, February 12

Film: Ocean's Twelve Click for more info

It seems that the general consensus was both right and wrong about this one. Sure, it was no way as slick, smooth and sexy as the first. Where I disagree with the press, however, is in thinking that this film didn't suck.

The cast were in full effect, with CZJ looking especially good, and the plot and it's execution (barring a couple cases of cheating), were reasonable.

So yeh, if you liked the first, I'd say that you'd probably like this second outing. Well worth a punt.

Game: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat

Donkey Konga was a great game (but not mine, which is why you wouldn't have seen a review here for it), but had one big flaw - you couldn't really play it in one player. It was both a competitive and cooperative game and so you really need company while having a go.

Enter Jungle Beat. Where other territories have received new tracks and playlists to extend the life of their drums, we in the UK have skipped that and gone straight to the platformer. Now some may think (I did anyway) that playing a platformer with a set of drums was just a shoe-in asking for trouble; but it really isn't.

Nintendo haven't let us down and have delivered a platformer which can be perfectly controlled by the unusual controller. Level and character design aid in this cause, at the cost of not really being able to play with a controller (but we don't care about those in that position anyway).

The only problem is that, at the moment, the game looks to be very short lived. We sat down for around 20 minutes yesterday, and unless there's a lot more unlocking to do it seems that we're about half way through. Although there's scope for coming back to it (highscores and the like), it would be a tremendous disappointment if this wasn't at least as long as the DK Country games.

Thursday, February 10

Better Living

My brother and SIL were there since around 8pm and managed to hang on till just after midnight or so. Apparently the crowd was well behaved until a few queue jumpers triggered mass hysteria. After that it was pretty clear the night could not be salvaged and so they both, quite sensibly, scarpered.

Still, it's a brave person who goes to witness such a hyped event in such a chav locality. These kind of deals just prove to me how crazy we all really are. Ikea should really have known better and although in some ways this may be good publicity, you gotta wonder how much money they'll be losing while their largest branch remains closed.

Wednesday, February 9

The Blind Eye Of The Beholder

People are constantly telling me how there is no such thing as "an ugly person"[1]. I can't deny that we each have our individual tastes, and where I consider Katie to be buff in a can, the next man on the street may not.

But we've all met people we wouldn't consider beautiful. Whether they're the secretary of your Sixth Form many many years ago (and I know that there are some people here for whom that's the case), someone you passed on the street or some guy you were reading about in the paper this morning, I'd say you'd either be lying or a total recluse if you denied this fact.

It follows that there are people who no one would consider beautiful. So at the very least we can establish that, personality aside, there are ugly people out there. What I want to talk about today is how some people claim that this quality can change depending on who's doing the looking.

The argument goes something like this: "It's what's inside that counts. Once you know what the person is really like, they'll appear beautiful to you". Surprisingly, proponents of this "Eye of the Beholder" theory reckon that exhibiting this behavior makes them noble and decent. I disagree: I think it makes them shallow.

Yeh, it's a wild claim, but you should all be used to that by now. Firstly it's pretty clear that the appearance of the subject in question hasn't changed (and we're assuming there's been no plastic surgery or any other major physical alteration here). If you've found someone suddenly physically appealing whom you didn't before, then obviously it's your perception of them that has changed, not their appearance.

Everyone seems to agree on this point. "Ain't nothing wrong with that" they say. "People grow on you, and besides it's ok to find someone physically as well as personality-wise attractive". And I'd agree - of course it is. But then I'd ask: "Would you still be with this person if you didn't find them physically attractive anymore?". Now some find that a bizarre question to be asked, but it isn't really once we recall that before they knew this particular person, they thought that they were exactly that.

Still following? Ok, let's now consider a person who is in love with another's personality but is still able to describe them as ugly (and believe me there are people like this out there). These are the people for whom their partner's insides override anything they may (personally and subjectively) think of their partner's physical appearance. These are the people for whom looks truly don't matter. These people are not shallow with respect to physical appearance.

Perhaps I'm not taking the phrase as literally as I should be. Perhaps all it actually means is that we all have different tastes? But then why does this Beholder person need convincing or assurances (even if it's themselves they're trying to convince) that the person they love are physically beautiful? Why do they feel that they have to find the people they love beautiful, when they didn't before?

It's because they're shallow, I'm afraid. At the end of the day they'd never be able to live with someone they considered ugly and so on some level they have to convince themselves that they aren't, even if they vehemently did so before.

We wouldn't call a dim person clever just because we have the hots for them. Or a poor person rich. Or a fat person thin. Sure these qualities may be more objective than physical looks (although that's arguable in itself), but as we established above it's the perceptions that change, not actual physical appearances. An ugly person may be the sweetest person alive, but they'd still be ugly.

Oh and please don't get me wrong. I'd be the last person to claim that I wasn't shallow. Like yeh, right. But what I am is honest enough not to lie to myself like a Beholder would.

EDIT: Zahera's second comment (fourth in total) does a good job of explaining quite concisely what I was trying to say above. It may be worth checking out.

[1] For the sake of this post let's assume ugly is synonymous with "not beautiful". It's easier to type.

Tuesday, February 8

The OC Is Back (Baby)

Yes, I realise we're a good few episodes in, but today's was the first that took me back to what I originally liked about The OC. That would be teenage angsty stuff, relationship mindgames, and the consequences of both. And look - not an Oliver in sight. Hoo-rah.

Monday, February 7

New Music

Plan of My Own - Deeyah

As predicted, this song finally grew on me. What I found surprising is exactly how much I like it. So much, in fact, that I can never just listen to it once. Now, I'm sure some of you will put it down to my oh so exotic taste in music, but really it's almost like Deeyah's lyrics take a deeper meaning each time I listen to them.

Not bad for what is in fact a shallow pop song. I'll stop sounding like a 16 year old girl now.

Friday, February 4

PS, Pea

So Dave Cantrell[1] at work has a PSP. He's had one since launch, but I only found out yesterday, and so had my first look and feel today.

You've probably already heard about the screen, but I'm gonna mention it anyway; it's amazing. Really it is. It's big, widescreen, has what seems like an infinitely small dot pitch and is colourful and vibrant. And Dave had a screen protector on his!

Everything else is as expected - the buttons and pad are adequate, with the analogue stick being more of an 8 way slider than a more conventional rocker switch. It is low, but I think I'd get used to the way it works pretty quickly.

Another point to note (and I imagine this to be the case with the DS, too) is the complexity of the firmware with which the PSP ships. It's slick and functional and provides you with something to do if you don't have any games; the PSP would actually make a nice picture viewer for instance. The little animated preview which appears when checking discs is pretty neat too (if ultimately pointless).

Overall though, I don't think I'll be buying one. The GBA taught me a very important lesson in that I don't actually want to play games on a portable device. Impressive as the PSP is, I doubt it would spend much time out of my drawer. For now though, I've had my PSP fix.

[1] Ring any bells? Well the more game-astute of you will know that Dave used to work for the Bitmap Brothers, and was quite heavily mentioned in the gaming press of the 80s and 90s. I'm honoured, really I am.

Gmail Going Cheap

Astonishingly, I have 50 (that's fifty) Gmail invites to give away. Since no one asked for any last time, I won't bother offering them again. Still, a curious development, considering the service is still in beta...

Tuesday, February 1

Book: The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown

Some may not like what I have to say about what they feel is The Best Thing, Ever, so if you have trouble accepting other people's opinions then do me a favour and stop reading now...

Anyway, yes, I jumped on this bandwagon slightly late - I'll be the first to admit that a) I don't keep up with what the current bestseller is and b) I don't give a poop if I'm not the first to read a book (Although I did feet a bit dirty reading a book which half The Tube had already).

I guess the main problem I had with The Da Vinci Code was the style in which it was written. Really, it's of a standard I expect of an (admittedly good) A-level student, with Brown using cheap tricks ("Suddenly the door opened... And what Billy found behind it would change his life FOREVER.") and even trashier dialogue to force the reader to carry on reading. I felt like I was being held to ransom at certain points or running on the same wild goose chase that those in the book were. Perhaps it was deliberately dumbed down to be more accessible (and the numbers reading certainly attest to that), but I for one expect to be treated with a bit more respect.

How this got past the editors in its current form I don't know. Well actually, yes I do - the book generally rides on its quite detailed research and factual accuracy, and there is no doubt that The Da Vinci Code proposes a fascinating and wonderful theory (I'll try not to elaborate for those who don't want to know). And please, don't get me wrong; I didn't totally dislike this book, but as a novel it was disappointing. If I wanted to read non-fiction (and sometimes I do) I would have.

If you want a well written and thought out mystery, then read Harry Potter. If you want real and believable characters then read Perdido. And if you want to be cheaply manipulated and fooled into thinking you're reading mature fiction, read The Da Vinci Code.