Wednesday, May 31

Video Of The Day Click for more info

Some of you may be following Riz Ahmed already, be it 'cos he's cool, intelligent and witty or in some cases "well fit" (you know who you are). I first came across him during all The Road to Guantanamo publicity, so knew him more as a decent actor with his head screwed on properly than a rap artist. Still, the following vid proves that Riz is able to pull that persona off pretty damn well too.

Quite the talent I think. Thanks to Fuad for the link.

Food: Iran e Ma Click for more info

So here's a small and well hidden Persian place just past Waterloo Station. Despite it's demure appearance it was pretty mature and professional - service was top notch from beginning to end (although that may have had more to do with us being the only guests for a time than them being gracious hosts), and the decor was nice, if a little too authentic!

But on to the more important stuff: the food. Now I'll be honest with you - for me, Persian food may as well be Arab. Not that that's a bad thing; I'm not one to write off food for what my mother would complain as being bland. Tonight's highlights included the mashed aubergine for starters and skewers of chicken fillet and minced lamb (kebabs and rice to me and you).

But apart from that, Iran e Ma wasn't anything particularly special, and certainly not something worth traveling to the depths of hell (otherwise known as South of The River) to especially visit. As an end to an evening of other business in the area you could probably do much worse, and I do wish I had known about the place when I was working in Waterloo for those two years I was. For those wondering about the price our slight over-order weighed in at a modest 10 pounds per head, so it was pretty good value for money too.


Shak says:
so fit
i think she was french
i wouldnt even ask her to convert
xxxx says:
man ..
s right
when you got someone super fit
like .....
heidi klum
I'd forgive her for going out with seal
Shak says:
well look
everyone has their fualts and benefits
no reason to ignore what someone looks like
xxxx says:
nah .. in the end .. if they can't cook ... the're no place for them in my house

Monday, May 29

Road Tax Rocks!

It doesn't of course. But it was nice having to renew the one on the small car for - get this - 40 quid. Yes, that's forty. For the year.

Ok, so after paying the tax on the bigger car we'll probably break even. But still it's a nice feeling to pay a reasonable amount of tax for once, and it's the best thing that Chancellor guy has done for years in my opinion. I'm just waiting for him to put it all back up again once he's had his way.

Forty quid!

New Music

SOS - Rhianna

Another song I seem to be repeatedly woken up to (stupid Capital Breakfast Show), and so has become ingrained in my subconscious. Oh alright, it's not that bad either, but only for its Soft Cell sample.

Film: Fanaa Click for more info

Weird. That's what this film is: weird. But hey, let's rewind for a second.

Anyone would expect a film starring Amir Khan and Kajol to be, well, pretty good. First you would give them a context - a workplace, a school (hey, they could still pass off students), heck even an empty room woulda done. And then you would just film them. Et voila, you would have had typical yet watchable Bollywood.

And that's really how Fanaa begins. Zooni is a blind girl from India controlled Kashmir who travels to Dehli for some reason. There, she meets Rehan, a tour guide with whom she falls in love. Aww. That's pretty much the first half summed up, and like is oh so common with Bolly nowadays, that's where the trouble begins.

I'll say again: it's just so... weird. I'd usually call it farcical, but it wasn't that. They could have gotten away with the direction the film took if the makers had been careful enough. But they weren't, and as such this film ended up being unnecessarily mediocre.

Other things: Music was so so, acting was good with Kajol showing us that she still had it after taking her sabbatical. Direction and cinematography were also good, which came as a nice surprise, and the plot shouldn't really take anything away from these positives.

If you were planning on watching this, then please don't let this put you off. Maybe it was just me who scratched my head while watching this (although the audience I was with seemed to find a lot of the more serious bits very funny too). If you weren't then I can't really recommend it - it's one for the DVD player at the very best.

EDIT: I almost forgot to mention Sanaya Irani (Bobo)! I sure hope to see more of her in upcoming films...

Sunday, May 28


I finally picked up my DS.Lite this evening. Oh man, is it nice. The first thing that struck me was its size, although I must admit to being a bit disappointed about its weight at that time too. The controls are now even more cramped than they were on the old DS, and since the latter was already giving me problems on Mario I'm hoping that by some miracle of design the smaller controls will make it easier to play games. I'm not holding my breath though.

Not that I care. For the best thing about the Lite are its screens. Crisp and bright (I'm talking like the Sun, here - I was almost blinded I tell you), they make this more than just an updated piece of hardware. It was pretty difficult to play with the regular DS on the Tube or in daylight but now it should be a bit more accessible. I'm weary of new battery issues in order to pay for this visibility, but since I used to charge every day that shouldn't be too much of a problem. For extended sessions I can turn the backlight down to previous levels.

I chose the Enamel (dark) Blue colour since the only other viable choise (white) wouldn't have been exclusive. Hah. I'm a bit gutted that there's an exclusive BLACK one coming out here in Europe, but hey if the Nano was anything to go by that'll soon be come the colour of choice on the commute to work. And in any case it's not like I care about things like that.

So anyway... Does anyone wanna buy a DS?

Legoland Click for more info

You usually can't go wrong with a theme park. I mean, provided the weather is nice and the place isn't too crowded, the inherent buzz and feeling about these places can overcome any lacking in rides or things to do.

Or at least I thought. The weather was pretty good, and the place wasn't too busy either. But thinking about tit on the way home, we had actually spent a lot of time doing not much at Legoland today.

Although we got in at around 11am, we didn't sit on our first ride till well after lunch, choosing to look at shows and the Lego model cities first. I think that might have been our mistake, as when we made our way to the rides proper we were faced with some pretty hefty queues - especially one which took 1.5 hours to get through. The ride at the end of it wasn't all that either.

The whole place just didn't seem as slick and as organised as the Thorpe Parks and Chessingtons. But maybe we had missed the point; the nephews seemed to love it, relating to the whole Lego thing, and those looking after seemed to enjoy watching their kids enjoying themselves. And maybe that was the idea - that the park was aimed at children rather than us adults. Thinking about it, I'm not sure there were any adults without children or groups of teens and the like you would find at other places.

So yeh. If you want a day of family fun, then you could do worse. Just make sure you bring a good book while the children are kept busy.

Saturday, May 27

Game: Shadow Of The Colossus Click for more info

You can read about Ico and the initial struggle I had with it here. I ended that review asking whether I'd have the same experience with SotC or not. Well, unfortunately, I did.

Or maybe not so unfortunately at all. Because, just like with Ico, you need that ubiquitous click before you really begin to enjoy this game. Unlike Ico, however, this click came before the end of the first Colossi.

Again there's a steep learning curve and my hands physically begin to hurt as I struggle with the seemingly unintuitive controls. But this time the developers have taken the time to create a kind of tutorial in the guise of a godlike voice guiding you if you begin to struggle with play.

The game itself is just a whole bunch of boss battles with not much else in between. The feeling I got after disposing of the first Colossi was of immense achievement, just like when you figure out a puzzle for the first time. But it was more than that since not only are you thinking, but you're also doing as well - this is as much action game as it is a mental one. Graphics and sound are also above par, both being almost cinematic in presentation.

But now I'm waffling. As a plain ol' simple game this is wonderful stuff if you're willing to give it the time. By it's nature though, I'm wondering how long it can last. There's only room for so many bosses in a single game after all. I know I'll enjoy it till the end though, and that's what counts.

EDIT: I actually realised later what this game reminded me of. Remember Legolas in LOTR when he kills the Ogre in Moria? Or the elephant at Minis Tirith? That's what this game is all about - little you climbing to the top of an insanely huge bad guy and stabbing him in the head. Wicked.

Film: X-Men: The Last Stand Click for more info

Unfortunately, this turned out to be quite the disappointing third part in the great-so-far franchise. Perhaps it was too ambitious from the start; a lot happens in this film for sure and it's pretty obvious that the film was intended to bring some finality to the series.

Alas most of it was either rushed or badly executed, so it ended up being very broad, but very very shallow - even more than you would have expected it to be. The action set pieces were well done, I suppose, and as a superhero flick it is passable.

If you do decide to watch, be prepared for something that isn't quite the blockbuster the last two were. It's a bit of a shame, actually.

EDIT: Oh, and make sure you stick around till after the credits. Yes, it's one of those annoying things they sometimes do.

Friday, May 26

Marissa Cooper Is Sitting Behind Me!

Ok, well not quite. But there is new employee here who was brought up in The OC. Cool, no? And yes, I asked if she knew Ryan and Marissa, and yes, she humoured me while telling me how often she gets asked that.

She's also pretty attractive, but that's neither here nor there.

Wednesday, May 24

Kathak Click for more info

If you're scratching your head, I think you would recognise the distinct sound and dance of Kathak if you witnessed it. Tonight, I had a chance to do just that close up. Performing were Guru Pratap Pawar and his daughter Asavari Pawar, with Yusuf Mahmoud on the tabla. All were fantastic.

The performance lasted for around an hour, and consisted of solo and mixed regular Khatak with a few expressional pieces thrown in for good measure. Although the latter were really nice to watch (with Asavari's Dhanewad being unpretentious and easy to follow), the Kathak itself was very, very, good indeed.

Apart from the speed at which everything was played, what really impressed me was how in sync everything was. All three (including the tabla) were "ad-libbing" musically, and it was clear that instead of being rigidly rehearsed, their performance was in fact a flowing conversation being spoken, partly at least, on the fly. Each performer was adapting to the others, both blatantly (as seen by the "syncing" procedures at the start of each piece) and then more subtly by hand movements and facial expressions. These guys were reading each other how we would a book.

In fact, after I had become accustomed to following the fast pace I began to spot the mistakes and parts where either the tabla or feet fell out of sync. This is not a criticism, but more of a testament to how difficult the art actually is. Oh, and Guru Pratap just passed sixty by the way. Crikey. I have to also give credit to Yusuf who did some amazing things with the tabla.

My favourite part was toward the end when all three participated in Kathak Jugalbandi. This was a kind of Kathak "face off", with the Guru setting a pace and beat, and the daughter and Yusuf taking turns to replicate it. I'm not sure if there are any winners in this game, except the audience who were pretty much in awe throughout.

The whole performance was quick (in a good way), the venue was nice and uncrowded (a well kept secret, it seems), and all of it was absolutely free. If dance isn't your thing The Nehru Centre presents more than just that, and it's well worth checking out the website to see if there is anything else that floats your boat. I certainly will.

Tuesday, May 23

Arranged Misunderstandings

I've heard of the trappings of the introduction scene, and how things can sometimes get a bit... tense. However I always thought that these problems were all avoidable if the two potentials involved were careful enough, even if everyone around them appeared to be doing their best to make things as difficult as possible.

I also like to think that I'm a relatively careful and composed person, and am aware enough to keep things nice and clean. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found I was in trouble regarding an ex- and not-so-potential rishta.

Without going into too much detail it wasn't really the fault of any party in particular. It wasn't that bad either - I was out at the Ramadan talk and things had both blown up and been resolved while I was on the tube on the way home. Clearly more proof that it was avoidable in the first place (oh, and that I was in no way to blame. But then who's counting?).

I'm not worried or surprised or being defensive here. I do now think that sometimes, certain outcomes are inevitable despite the best intentions of everyone concerned. Quite depressing, but hey, at least it keeps things interesting. I just hate being another statistic!

City Circle: Approaching the Qur'an with fresh eyes, Professor Tariq Ramadan Click for more info

Spinning off of his recent Dispatches programme, Ramadan today spoke about the topic he seems to be most known for, Islamic Reform.

He started by saying that the concept is inherently rooted in the Islamic tradition, and not only is a permitted process but also something which brings you closer to what had been practised during the time of The Prophet. However while doing this, Ramadan also outlined the restrictions and caveats due, stressing that this is not a free for all kinda thing.

So The Quran and correct Hadith are protected scripture, the text of which should never be changed. Reform involves the renewed reading of these texts, a common phrase with the proponents of reform. Interestingly however, Ramadan specifically reserved Aqeedah and Ibadah as two fields that have been pretty much set in stone and so can never be subject to reform. Hmm.

Fields that can be renewed are those which texts are not clear (that's not to say that they are vague on these things, but just intentionally not specific and so deliberately open to interpretation), and those on which scripture falls silent. Examples of the latter include things like smoking, medical cloning and that old chestnut, citizenship.

The example of The Prophet entering Madina was put forward as evidence for the Islamic viability of reform. The Madinan culture of the time was assimilated into the practise of Islam there, with the existing framework that was present in other places used to form specific rules and laws relevant to the specific geographical and political situation present at that time. Ramadan then turned to reform in our modern time, pointing out how it has been demonised by some more averse to change, not realising that it's required both in a pragmatic way and in order to increase our own practise of Islam.

He also covered who should be making the reforms themselves, suggesting that it's a collective, communal effort. Questions should be asked by people in the community to mixed committees, consisting of experts of the specific field and others of the scriptural texts. They should then come up with an answer. Everyone involved would have to be self confident (in order to ask the right questions) and creative (in order to come up with the right answers).

The Q&A session was longer than usual. Amongst others, the questions which caught my interest were:

  • Why did Ijtihad historically fall out of favour? This was partly put to the steady loss of knowledge over time, but also to the changing political scene of the time. As other cultures, particularly "The West" grew in power, the Islamic centres that would usually be performing Ijtihad became somewhat defensive, setting down quite hard limits in order to protect itself from any alien and invading ideas. Hence things became either halal or haraam, black or white and always rigid. Creativity was lost and with it flexibility.
  • My question - Why we need reform, when should we stop reform, and how would we know we were correct by the end of the process? We need it since current answers are not good enough, embodied by the numerous crisis we see in the world around us. Identity, authority, a lack of contribution and global leadership are all indicators of the need for change. We shouldn't stop till we eradicate these things, provided we keep within the hard limits described previously, and as long as those limits are not breached we can be sure we are in a correct position at that time.
  • When does reform become bidah, and for example how can some allow music in Islam when others so strongly condemn it calling it bidah? The short answer is that bidah only becomes an issue when we try to reform or add to the fields of Aqeedah and Ibadah. As such the allowing (or disallowing) of music usually falls out of this definition. He elaborated by listing the three conventional answers ("it's haraam", "it's haraam, but drums are ok" and "it's ok under certain conditions regarding focus and intent"). All are ok depending on what the person asking requires at the time; like Yusuf Islam who previously chose to cut out music while more recently picking up his guitar again.
Overall the talk and Q&A session were pretty good. Although some questions I had regarding reform were answered, many more specific points were not, but then that's to be expected under the constraints and time limits of a forum like this. Still Islamic Reform is still a subject that feels a bit wishy washy and blurry - at one point Ramadan even suggested that we would always be in good stead if we picked reforms that "helped one feel at peace". Again, hmm.

As always, IANAS.

Monday, May 22

Link Of The Day Click for more info

Thanks for the link, mum. I'm creasing up, really I am.

Shak's Choice: Audrey Tautou

Well, we all saw it coming. Here is the only reason why it's worth watching The Da Vinci Code:

She's French, cute, pretty, cheeky and French. Oh, and she's modest too.

One Two Watch: No Time For Tea at RajTV

7pm, Tuesday 23rd May

An apparently hilarious look at what goes on behind the scenes at an Asian TV channel. The availability of cheap Sky broadcasting seems to have brought with it cheap programming, so this could potentially be pretty insightful...

Sunday, May 21

New Music

Hustle Everyday (Feat. Rukus) - Def 1

London's answer to Jay-Z? Probably not, but this is good stuff anyway, with the main rap complementing the Hindi sample leaving something both soft and hard at the same time. Tune.

Film: The Da Vinci Code Click for more info

You can read what I thought of the book here. Unfortunately I seem to have walked away from the film adaptation with a similar opinion. This comes as no surprise to me, as films are usually worse than the books on which they are based - I had only gone to see the sublime Audrey Tautou in action, and that she did, so it's not like I'm disappointed or anything.

The biggest problem, I suppose, was the lack of mystery and surprise at the story. This wasn't helped by the bits that were chopped and changed in order to squeeze the film into two and a half hours. Other issues included more than a few shoddy takes and a overly cheesy script and plot - things probably transferred directly from the pages of the book.

Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't had read the book first. But the truth is that even those that liked the book don't seem to rate the film; ironic, given that almost every hourly show at my local was fully sold out.

I guess The Da Vinci Code was a poisoned chalice from the start. Hur hur. Geddit? Nevermind.

Game: New Super Mario Bros (DS) Click for more info

You know, I was quite disappointed when I played the first level of NSMB today. This was a game that I had pre-ordered - the first time I had ever done such a thing, I think - so I was definitely looking forward to its release. However something just didn't feel right when I fired it up today. Something was wrong.

And thankfully, it was me. After greasing up the ol' Mario muscles and reflexes I soon fell into the rhythm of the game. It's not Super Mario World (and I don't think anything ever will be), but it is good enough; this is what Mario fans have been crying out for for many years now.

New things include Mega Mushrooms, double, triple and wall jumps, ground pounds. All of that is irrelevant though, mere bonuses to the masterpiece of the game itself. The only thing that worries me is getting through it too quickly - hopefully I won't have to pace myself to make this last. Still, that's no bad thing, and even if it only lasts a couple of weeks, I know those weeks will be massively fun. What more could I ask of a game?

I Want A Kitten

Check my flickr to see why.

Of course, it's not gonna happen. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to visit them where they live. Little bundles of joy that they are - I could just eat them up. Oh yes I could.

Saturday, May 20


So Ann and Benjai got married today; another IC wedding, naturally. It was quite different to what I'm used to though. You see, for the nuptials, Ann and Benjai decided to go to a registry office.

As you can probably imagine, it's pretty different from the (good in its own way) hoo haa you would usually find at a wedding ceremony, Muslim or otherwise. To be honest, I was actually expecting something quite clinical - "sign here, sign here, bam you're done", but in fact it was quite the opposite. Removing all the extraneous stuff left behind something pure and elegant that no guest attending found difficult to recognise. Oh, and it was quick!

The reception was supposed to have been at a park nearby. The unpredictable weather put an end to those plans (and as an aside rain and shine on one's wedding is supposed to be good luck, apparently). Still this wasn't as disappointing as some had expected with Benjai's flat being a good stand-in venue. An exclusive guest list helped keep it cosy rather than cramped, so space wasn't a issue. The picnic food worked well indoors too and overall I don't think we could have had a better time anywhere else. The romance was flowing as much as the drink too - heck we even had an opera singer perform for a stint!

So yes, another fine IC meeting of hearts. The best thing is that, like the others so far, Benjai's had a special unique quality all to its own. But then surely that's the case with all weddings?

Friday, May 19

The Super-Ultimate Pool Championship, Day Five

Results for Day Five:

  • Session 1: 2-1 Steve. Steve begins his comeback.
  • Session 2: 2-1 Steve. And now I'm struggling to hang on to my lead.
  • Day: 4-2 Steve
  • Running: 15-12 Shak
Thankfully, I've secured at least a draw. That's more than what I had expected at the start so I'm happy. Unfortunately we may not make up the missed session from yesterday, so we can't get a definite result. Still the fact that I can only win or draw means I'm gonna go ahead and proclaim myself winner anyway. Woot!

EDIT: So we managed to play our make up session - well two games of it. Steve won the first, but I won the second at which point he didn't want to play anymore. Go figure. Still, at least now we know...

Token Gay Muslim

Well at last Big Brother has a gay Muslim contestant and of course, we all saw this coming. What would have been surprising (although possibly not as interesting) is having a five-times-a-day praying, non-smoking, non-drinking Muslim on instead.

Anyway, it's just a shame that any widespread debate or issue raised by this will be under the context of BB. After all, The Sun or Heat magazine is hardly the place to probe new depths or explore new ideas.

Oh and also: anyone who watches BB should be shot. There, I said it. Seven years? Cripes, we really are in trouble.

Thursday, May 18

The Super-Ultimate Pool Championship, Day Four

Results for Day Four:

  • Session 1: 2-1 Shak. Another encouraging result!
  • Day: 2-1 Shak
  • Running: 13-8 Shak
Unfortunately we only managed to play the one session today. Still, I'm edging my way to the magical 16 win mark. We might not even have to play the extra games tomorrow!

To Pre-Nup Or Not? Click for more info

So exactly how much is a wife worth? That's the basic question being asked by the people commenting on the Paul McCartney and Heather Mills situation. Apparently, McCartney is worth something like £800 million, and Mills may get a quarter or even half of that if they choose to divorce. Not a bad wage for being a wife of four years.

Intentional facetiousness aside it is a difficult question, and one with no single answer. Some argue (and argue well) that she deserves nothing, while others think half is a good starting point (and it's worth noting that under UK law there is NO standard default proportion or split). It seems to invoke the personal feelings and anecdotal evidence we all have, when really this and all other divorce cases should be looked at individually - and we have judges to do that. They'll be the ones deciding things like how much cash was generated by the wife, or how much she'll need to carry on with her life (shouldn't that be the same for everyone though? Why would Mills require any more money than a woman divorcing a less wealthy man?).

However, we can still talk about prenuptial agreements even though they're not actually binding here in the UK. People talk about how these things shouldn't be an issue in matters of the heart. The arguments are well known - how can you even be concerned about splitting up when you're tying the knot? Or if you'll always be together, what's the harm in having one?

I tend to be in the former camp, although I think if both parties agree to it then that's ok too. But what about the arranged marriages where that's not necessarily the case? Should a guy (or girl) be expected to put their assets at risk when other aspects of the relationship may have already been decided relatively clinically?

Of course, it's a shame that these questions have to be asked at all. In my idealistic world it is possible for the divorce process to be inherently just and amicable, but realistically even the most fair person can be broken under the pressures such a situation puts on them. I guess you just gotta try your best not getting there in the first place.

Wednesday, May 17

The Super-Ultimate Pool Championship, Day Three

Results for Day Three:

  • Session 1: 2-1 Steve. Slightly disappointing, especially as the second game was lost by my potting of the black a bit too early in the game (no doubt due to being put under pressure by the Yoga group waiting to start their class). Still, every game counts and I'm glad I took the one.
  • Session 2: 2-1 Shak. Somewhat making up for the morning result, although quite frustratingly at one point I was six balls ahead in the game that was eventually lost.
  • Day: 3-3
  • Running: 11-7 Shak
Overall, a good result. The Championship could still be over by tomorrow, but most likely we'll have to play out Friday to decide the winner. Frankly I'll be happy with 3-3 draws for the next two days!

Link Of The Day Click for more info

Tsk, have no links to show and then two turn up. Anyway if you're a fan of dance mat games (and you're a fool if you're not) and moreover think you're good at them, have a look at the video linked to.


Link Of The Day Click for more info

My cousin, the budding director (who will also be inviting me to all the premieres she goes to once she's big), has just made it to the final 32 in Frozen Moon's Movie Trailer Showdown.

Quite impressive I thought, as is the trailer itself. Have a look at hers and those of the other finalists and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, May 16

The Super-Ultimate Pool Championship, Day Two

Results for Day Two:

  • Session 1: 3-0 Shak. A bit of controversy here, with Steve potting the cue ball on the black. Steve claims that he disturbed the movement of the white ball with his cue after it had potted the black, so that game shouldn't count. However since a) it was a foul anyway and b) it may have gone on to fall into another pocket, the game is forfeit. Overall, a fantastic result for me.
  • Session 2: 2-1 Shak. Nothing as exciting, but still a solid result.
  • Day: 5-1 Shak
  • Running: 8-4 Shak
An even more surprising result than those of the opening day. It still very early though, and I've previously had losing streaks that could easily swing this position.

How exciting!

Monday, May 15

The Super-Ultimate Pool Championship, Day One

Steve is leaving this week. Since this also means the end of our Pool sessions, we've decided to make the next five days the definitive indicator of who is better at the game. Now, to be honest the current, since-the-beginning, track record favours Steve by quite a mile, but I think I've improved enough to give a go at winning this thing.

We're sticking to the usual structure, so two sessions a day, three games in each session. We're also quite loose on the rules, overlooking mis-cues and the like. One notable tradition of ours is to either strongly hit or double the black into a pocket to win, and we're insisting on that in this tournament - don't be surprised to see more fouls on the black than usual.

I'm hoping I won't get beaten by too big a margin!

Results for Day One:

  • Session 1: 2-1 Steve
  • Session 2: 2-1 Shak, including a fabulous pot of the cue ball on the black by Steve.
  • Day: 3-3
  • Running: 3-3
A surprising result, and suddenly I think I may have more than a good chance!

Further Adventures In Land

  1. Hot girl contacts a friend[1] via
  2. Friend duly obliges and accepts, since girl is hot.
  3. Hot girl immediately withdraws her request, presumably after seeing his then-released picture.

Seems that even in cyberspace women are teases. Sigh.

Sunday, May 14

Film: Brick Click for more info

Take LA Confidential (or any other classic film noir) and whack it in high school. Keep the rough, slang language, the twisty and turny, murderous and mysterious story and perfectly flawed characters and what you'll end up with is something strongly resembling Brick.

I'm not sure what else there is to say really. Immaculately written and directed, and just short of that mark with respect to the acting (Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Brendan is especially cool), there isn't much wrong with Brick. Like Confidential, the plot makes you work hard - zone out for a second and you'll probably lose sight of it. The dialogue and slight tendency of the main protagonists to mumble don't help with this, but the reward is worth your best efforts.

Possibly one of my favourite films this year, it's amazing that this is getting such a limited release. Catch it while you can.

Sunday, May 7

Compromise And Compatibility

So the theory is that us singletons have to make compromises in our search for a husband or wife. This I have no quarrel with, and from what I've seen and heard most on the prowl are perfectly prepared to do so. However there does come a point where one is compromising on too many small things or maybe even on just one big importance, and it's then that they might decide that a person isn't quite right for them. Not that this implies that anyone is a bad person of course, even though some of our parents insist that this must be our opinion if we ever say no. But I digress.

Amongst the many things not to compromise on, compatibility seems to be the one shared by more than a fair few. But compatibility isn't really something easily definable; there is no tickbox or dropdown for it, so how do we know when we're missing it? Well generally it's just based on the impression or feeling one gets. How wishy-washy.

So it's kind of instinctive and intangible then? Perhaps. Say you walked into a party or gathering where you had the chance to meet some new people. On leaving you'll pretty much know who you would like to see again and who you would not. Sometimes, you can nail exactly why that is ("'cos they smell" or "'cos they found me funny" or in some extreme cases "'cos they're frickin' hot"). And at others you just can't qualify it.

I think when declining a person for marriage due to a lack of compatibility one tends to fall into the latter situation. A potential rishta can be great as a person and in some cases even a friend, but just not work out as anything more. Not because they smell or anything, but more because you (possibly both of you) just know it wouldn't work out; despite possibly being perfect for each other on paper. And like at the party above, you may be able to make it through an evening in their company, but a whole lifetime may just be pushing it a little.

Yes, this may just be more Western romantic teen drama rubbish. After all, it is just a variation on the everlasting chemistry versus objective love debate. The thing is, if something doesn't feel sustainable should the reasons behind that need to be good or qualified or well defined? I'm just not sure it matters much by that point.

EDIT: To be clear, it's not quite the conventional notion of chemistry that I'm talking about here. Especially since I'm of the opinion that chemistry isn't all that important in a relationship. No, the compatibility I'm talking about is perhaps something slightly more recognisable than that and considers things like not having the same general view on life or compatible religious attitudes or the same priorities and tolerances or not being able to stand each other's friends and families or even either of you having that funny smell.

Stuff like that; fuzzy yet definable (if you have enough paper to write it all down, that is). The corollary is that previous generations also looked for compatibility, albeit one that was made up of different things that were important at the time. I was also suggesting how we don't need to consciously keep track of these things to decide if someone is compatible, since we can easily determine that by asking ourselves the question: "do you like them?".

And I guess chemistry and gut feelings can contribute to compatibility if it's important to the individual, but it doesn't have to be. And of course you can totally have chemistry with someone you're not compatible with. You know, like the way a lot of Pa==Asian men do with Cheryl Tweedy.

Film: Love + Hate Click for more info

It's kinda refreshing to watch a film dealing with mixed relationships without Aishwarya Rai in it or one not directed by Gurinder Chadha. Not that there weren't a few common elements here, the now typically hypocritical Asian man and the innocent and naive girl who happens to fall in love for the first time ever with a white guy to name but two of them.

Still, Love + Hate still did a better job of the whole thing than the usual stuff we've been getting these past couple of years. It somehow manages to be more real and raw, relying less on gags and silly contexts and concentrating on relating the lives of the main characters to the audience instead. There is no cleverness here and hence no patronisation or lectures about how we should all be openminded.

The film has been criticised elsewhere for having a few too many coincidences - everyone seems to be connected in more than one way here (for example the convenient way in which the white boyfriend's brother randomly picks the girls dad to attack) - and so is accused of setting itself up for its main events. Personally I thought that just added to the fairytale charm of the film, making it as much of a tragedy as anything from, say, Shakespeare.

The acting of the (young) cast lets the film down at times and shines immensely at others and the direction was pretty faultless (although that spot focus was used a bit too much for my liking). But overall this was a light yet thought provoking and enjoyable discussion of the issue at hand.

Saturday, May 6

Film: Mission: Impossible III Click for more info

I thought that the first Mission: Impossible film was blummin' good. It had some perfect set pieces, a brilliant twisty plot and just felt, well, right. The second was less well received by me, my not being a big John Woo fan in the first place and certainly not appreciating his dumbing down of the franchise.

So it was with apprehension that I went to see this, the third part in the series. I'm a reasonably big fan of JJ Abrams (fans of Alias and Lost should hear some bells ringing in the film) so wasn't too worried about where he would take it, but I did think that it would take something really special to usurp the position of the first as my favourite.

MI:III (that can't be right) didn't quite manage it, but did give a damn good go trying to anyway. Thankfully it pays tribute to the first by reintroducing a reasonable (albeit at times, aimless) plot, but unfortunately suffers trying to play it out. "Not enough meat" sums it up pretty well, with the viewer repeatedly lulled to the edge of their seat in anticipation only to find that they've passed the moment of excitement without even realising it: Oh. Was that it?

Still, there are enough brilliant bits (and scenes with Maggie Q) to make this a good enough and watchable film. It's just not as good and as watchable as the first. But hey, we never really expected it to be, right?

The Sultan's Elephant Click for more info

I don't think I'll get to see a big wooden puppet elephant wander around Central London that often, which is why I went down to Trafalgar Square this afternoon. The Sultan's Elephant is part street theatre, part mechanical wonder and all pretty darned impressive.

On arrival the elephant and giant girl were difficult to miss, but we had to wait around an hour before they actually did anything. The rain didn't help with this either, although we managed to find shelter for most of it. It was worth it to see the oversized large puppets move though. Whether it was the preprogrammed movements or the live skill of the multiple puppeteers, both of the marionettes came alive.

It's a shame that the weather didn't hold out, and by then end we stayed out of principle rather than to enjoy the parade; the nephew was more interested in the Thomas books he found in the Waterstones nearby than the wooden elephant. Still, it was something worth witnessing and I'm kinda glad that I did.

It's playing till Monday if you wanted to check it out. Check the website to find out where it'll be. Oh and make sure you take a brolly.

Friday, May 5

One Thousand

I've never had a hit counter or the like on my blog. I do have a StatCounter account, mainly to find out where the people who might come across my little space might be from and to check usage trends and the like, but continually noting how popular a personal blog is (or in some cases, isn't), seems to me to be in bad taste.

I've also always intended not to write this blog for other people to read and I like to think that I've managed to stick to that. I've resisted from telling people to visit these pages unless there was a particular article that was relevant to something they were asking or discussing with me, and I never tell new people I meet that I maintain a blog.

Which made this morning's weekly stats report even more surprising. Apparently for the week 24 April - 30 April, pages from Radio Shak were loaded over one thousand times[1]. Blimey. The few reasons I can think are behind that number for this particular week include some visitors using this place to chat, a bit of varied content (and I'm sure Nicole accounted for a fair few hits) and just having more people drop by.

As arrogant as it sounds I'm not going to "thank my fans" or anything quite as, well, inane as that. Flattering as this whole thing is, I don't think it indicates anyone's popularity let alone mine or says anything about the quality of these pages. In fact, I expect this total to drop down to normal levels next week. Still, it's quite a milestone and I guess I am a tiny bit chuffed.

[1] The detail: 473 Unique, 225 First time, 248 Returning.

Thursday, May 4

One To Watch: Bradford Riots Click for more info

Thursday 4th May 2006, 9pm

A fictional story based on the non-fictional events of 2001. From the same guy who did Second Generation, this film promises to explore some of the more personal and emotional issues surrounding the riots.


Monday, May 1

Food: Sonargaon Click for more info

Not quite the usual review here, since this was the venue for the wedding today. Still I guess the food and service should be similar to that on a normal eat there so I thought I'd comment anyway.

I've actually been before a few years back, and it was pretty enjoyable then. Today didn't seem up to that standard; the service was pretty poor (probably due to the fact there was two servers per 20 people or so), although the food itself was pretty good.

So not a good wedding venue, but nice enough where it counts I suppose.

Two Of Seven

I attended another uni mate's reception today. It's right on schedule, 2006 being the year of IC weddings. I think that Niamul actually got married a couple of months ago, and this do was for the sake of his London bound friends. Hooray.

It was nice though, the venue being a Brick Lane restaurant. There was an Imperial crowd different to the one at the last IC wedding, so it was good seeing some of the different faces and catching up.

It also occurred to me how the average age of these wedding things is steadily dropping - or rather, how my friends and I are getting further and further from it. A mate (ahem) was telling me today how he now had to be careful when "checking out the more single guests of the opposite sex" as most of them looked like they were still doing their GCSEs.

I guess the time to do that kinda stuff has passed not that any of us took advantage of the opportunities when we had them. The whole getting older thing feels pretty poignant actually, accentuated by major events like weddings. But hey, that's life, and for every thing we miss about being younger we have something in their place that we should be enjoying now. The irony, of course, is that we'll probably only realise that when it's too late too...