Sunday, December 30

Of Mosques and Matrimonials Click for more info

My local, The Qur'ani Markuz Trust or South Woodford Mosque as it's more endearingly known by its congregation, has always been a bit forward with its community initiatives. They're the type of organisation that sends Christmas cards out to the locals, arranges football and biking activities and provides copies of the Quran on MP3.

They've also been doing the whole matrimonial thing for a while by maintaining a list that manages to attract people from all over London, but this weekend they went a practical step further and actually hosted a matrimonial event.

Due to other commitments I arrived late, but apparently the afternoon consisted of a talk on why we should all pull our fingers out and get married, some people standing up at the front and introducing themselves, everyone mingling over food and stuff and finally everyone sitting in a circle and introducing themselves. I arrived in time for that last bit.

Apart from the inevitable awkwardness from some, I thought the whole thing was pretty much a success. As far as I know no one got married, but as the start of a wider initiative it has bags of potential and most importantly was quite fun. There were some complaints about there being more women than men (as usual), and some discussion to do with us holding such an event in a mosque, most of which was positive.

Personally, I think we should be aware that people in a mosque will act like they're in a mosque (so there were no rude jokes from me today, no sir) and it should be seen as a way for adults to introduce each other rather than govern the whole process up to a marriage itself. In this way it's less of a preferred or exclusive way for a Muslim to meet a partner and is as good as any other strategy any of us could (and should) have.

But on the whole I think it's something I will participate more in; there was some talk about organising some kind of speed dating variant for the next activity, and if anything will lift my reservations about that kind of thing it's that it'd be held in a mosque.

Saturday, December 29

New Music

American Gangster OST - Jay-Z

Jay-Z takes a step back to bring us this ace track - in a time when I tend to stay away from Rap it takes something special to grab my attention and Roc Boys is it. Pray and the title track from the OST are also of note.

Yeh Ishq Hai - Jab We Met

Fun yet smooth number from a pretty rubbish film.

Film: Taare Zameen Par Click for more info

Brilliant, lovely, fantastic and emotional, Aamir Khan pretty much smashes it with this, a film he acts in, produces and directs. But although the film owes a lot to Khan's talent it's the young Darsheel Safary who steals the show in his portrayal of an undiagnosed dyslexic boy. I really can't overstate Safary's skill in performing; he certainly put Aamir Khan himself to shame in this film and outclasses any young talent Hollywood has to offer.

Beautifully shot and put together with love and care, Taare Zameen Par deals with the issue of learning difficulties in children in two parts; firstly we see how someone struggling with such a condition deals with it when it's not addressed by a more conventional schooling system. It's here that Safary really shines since it's by definition all about him.

Post-interval we are shown a possible solution to the problems presented before. This is where Ram, Aamir Khan's character, comes in - Ram is a special needs teacher who happens to fly in to save the day just at the right time. If that sounds cynical it's kinda because it is; I felt that that film was incorrectly paced in that more time should have been spent post-diagnosis - as it stands everything seems to be solved way too quickly and easily (by Ram who it seemed to be more about by this stage) and really doesn't do full justice to the moral message the film is trying to send out. As a result it all becomes a bit too over-sentimental for my taste and not as "real" as the first half.

But all that wasn't enough to write off the film. It was still ace and a pleasure to watch all three hours of; once again an Aamir Khan film has raised the stakes in Indian cinema. I totally recommend it of course, if only to expression the delight that is Darsheel Safary. Go watch.

Thursday, December 27

Fill Yer Boots

Yes, it's sale time again. Although not quite, since the traditional sale has now been totally replaced by the less authentic version as pioneered by Next. So called bargains no longer sell out, but are manufactured to now make a profit. The now genuinely profitable "sale" sessions occur throughout the year with people thinking they're getting a bargain from the big names when they could just as well go to Primark down the road (who are at least honest about their wares).

Still, I braved Oxford Street last night and bought some things. Steal of the day was a woollen Gap scarf, priced at five quid but ringing up at the till for half that. Nice. I also finally picked up that pair of green Golas I've been wanting for ages. Various tops and trousers rounded off a pretty successful evening.

Food: Yauatcha Click for more info

Fancy and expensive Dim Sum? I'm not sure why but the two don't really seem to go together for me. Still, Yauatcha provides some pretty good food, a nice atmosphere in which to eat it and some very good service - a nice touch was them presenting the various courses as we finished the last. We didn't have to wait long for anything at all.

Although I didn't pay the bill myself (yay) I got the impression that it broke the £25 per head barrier - I'll try confirming this later, but for now if you're thinking of trying out Yauatcha yourself, make sure you bring a fat wallet.

However, despite the pleasant experience, it still doesn't beat Royal China for Dim Sum.

Wednesday, December 26

Film: I Am Legend Click for more info

My word, this film was slow. For a 101 minute film, it felt twice as long. For those of you with short attention spans, this is not the film for you. On the other hand Legend was very impressive visually. The derelict 2012 version of New York City seemed as authentic as any capital hit by an apocalypse would, and the infected really are scary-ass.

The mistake made, then, is thinking that this was a science fiction action horror, and apart from a few superb scenes, it really isn't. No, this is about a single surviving man and how he deals with his isolation - his state of mind and behaviour. Yawn.

But even if that's exactly why you had chosen to watch this film, it still doesn't quite deliver. Will Smith is great, and has proven his ability to bring his characters to life in his previous movies; this just happens to fall short of the mark.

One for the home DVD player, I'm afraid.

Monday, December 24


Congratulations to my brother and sister in law on producing the first baby girl on my mother's side of the family for the last 35 years. My Nani's wish/curse of us all only ever having boys has indeed finally been broken!

Still, a part of me wishes they could have hung on for 70 minutes. Think of all the Jesus jokes we coulda made!

Sunday, December 23

Strictly Hating, And Reasonably So Click for more info

Well at least the two hottest female (Matt who?) dancers made it to the Strictly Come Dancing final - personally I was split between them myself, but I guess I would have always been happiest with fellow birthday celebrator Alisha winning. Flavia was pretty awesome too though (and extra credit goes to that concave stomach of hers). Dance class for the new year perhaps?

The real reason of this post, however, is to hate a tiny bit on Matt Di Angelo and recent reports of him being in a bit of a love triangle with both Alisha and Flavia. Good grief, what a bastard, etc.

Film: St. Trinian's Click for more info

First things first: it was not my idea to go watch this film. Although I have fond memories of watching the St Trinian's films with my mum as a kid, this latest update really didn't appeal to me. Just in case you were wondering I mean. But since I had been dragged to watch, I may as well give my opinion on the film.

I guess that, in a sentence, there really wasn't many surprises here. When the school finds itself in bad financial shape, it is left to the students to figure out a way to raise the funds needed to save it. Alleged comic antics ensue and a lot of fun is had. The acting is poor (and at some points pretty weird), there are fundamental errors made with respect to the plot (and ultimately it didn;t really make much sense) and there are some truly bad moments in the film. There were some points which made me laugh out loud, but not enough to save it.

St. Trinian's was never going to be a classy act, and it isn't worth watching really. Unless you're into the whole schoolgirl thing of course.

Jeff Wayne's The War Of the Worlds Click for more info

In a day of gratuitous free-riding, I also managed to get myself invited to the O2 Arena to watch a musical production of The War of the Worlds. We were sat in one of the corporate boxes so had a fast-track entry, a wonderful view, a private suite and food (although that last bit was totally non-vegetarian at first).

It was also my first time at the newly refurbished O2 dome thing, and I was mildly impressed. The Arena is obviously the main draw; I don't see myself coming to eat, hang or watch a film here. As a concert venue it was pretty neat though.

But I was here to listen to some good music and the WOTW production itself was pretty damn fantastic. Jeff Wayne managed to seamlessly combine the classical orchestra with modern rock to retell HG Wells' story about alien invasion, yet it all felt so comfortably familiar and accessibly. I was tapping my foot for most of the performance. As a bonus we got light and special effects, but for me they were all pretty superfluous.

There were a few things I found odd about the actual storytelling though; they decided to concentrate on and give time to some very dry parts of the story and kinda jumped to the ending a bit too quickly for my taste. But since the music was so damn good I didn't really mind - if I wanted to hear the story in any detail I'll go watch Tom Cruise instead (or read the book).

All in all a brilliant night out, and especially because of the whole box thing. I expect to be still humming the instantly recognisable hook (you'll know it when you hear it too) for at least a week more.

Saturday, December 22

A Day At The Races

A friend managed to swag free tickets to Ascot today and asked me if I wanted to come along. I've never been to a race meeting before let alone one as Ascot, so I pretty much jumped at the chance.

Since some of us had other things planned in the evening, we had to get to the racetrack early. The complex itself was pretty impressive - the grandstand reminded at least two of us of an airport, and the famous racecourse itself oozed with class and grandeur. I was glad I decided to wear a shirt after all (as opposed to another guest who decided to go for the whole jeans and non-matching shoe look. Don't ask).

Of course as Muslim I wasn't there to bet on any races, but it was interesting to see how the whole thing worked. As it was, we got a bit bored after the first two races. The weather didn't really help, and although it was good to experiencing the atmosphere alone, if that was the only reason to go something like the Royal Ascot would have probably been more interesting. We left after lunch, but not before having a go on the Winter Wonderland carousel.

I'm glad I went but I don't think I'll be heading back to a meeting here or anywhere else any time soon though. If you're not into horses then there's not really much else to do...

Friday, December 21

Islamic Labelling

Although I'd always proudly claim to be and identified as a Muslim, I'd never claim RadioShak to be an Islamic blog; as a friend commented once, the amount of T&A alone on these pages would kill any attempt at entering that particular section of the blogosphere. On the other hand, Islam does make up the single largest topic I write about and further receives the biggest amount of feedback so there so I guess it could be classed as such in a somewhat tenuous manner.

But to be honest I'm not sure I'd want it to be labelled in such a way anyway. One of the basic premises of this place was to break free from having to conform to my environment and to be as close to a real self as possible - the idea being that since everyone I knew could read these pages I would be unable to model myself to a particular crowd as we subconsciously (and reasonably) find ourselves sometimes doing. It's pretty liberating having all my cards on the table, especially as I become more and more comfortable with who I am.

To write to a single audience would be way too restrictive as well. Forget the bits about girls, would talking about relationships be appropriate? What about my passion for film or videogames? Maybe, maybe not. I think that one of the biggest benefits that blogging has brought to the Internet - the "realness" and integrity of being written by a non-expert - has been trampled on as they become more focused and aligned to a particular topics. We've always had conventional websites and editorial to talk about specific topics, and as blogs continually turn into magazines like these, issues regarding their aim and agenda start creeping out and like I've suggested before I think that it's pretty easy to write what people expect want to read.

Having said that, I've seen many Islamic blogs digress in ways magazines would not and so I could be wrong. But even so I like to think that the non-Islamic freedoms I afford myself here ironically allow me to write about Islamic topics others may not and more so in a language and style I feel the most number of people may relate more to.

Continuing on from this idea, Islamic blogs may also find themselves less accessible to non-Muslims, whereas I have regular non-Muslim readers who sometimes find themselves reading about a religion they wouldn't have otherwise. It's not quite sneaking Islam in through the back door, but I think it's clear to these readers that I'm here to discuss and offer ideas rather than preach a specific religion.

Apart from the practical implications there is a bigger reason I avoid going down the explicit Islamic route. For sure, Islam is important to me, and that's not just because I've been practising since I can remember, but more because it is something that is embedded in my life in a much different and more fundamental way to being Pakistani or British or a Software Engineer or wannabe film buff.

And I guess, rather counter-intuitively, that's why I'm so uncomfortable with the overtness of wearing Islam on my sleeve. On a trivial level it would almost be as if I would be trying to prove something about myself that I already knew. But it's deeper than that too; Islam is such a native part of who I am it almost feels weird and redundant to bring it up as if it were an extra special quality I have.

I don't wear a badge saying that I'm a man or that I'm human or that I have black hair and brown eyes or that I believe in a particular brand of gender and social rights; no, these things all become apparent via other more coincidental means and I'd like to think that my faith was blatantly obvious too without me explicitly having to draw attention to it.

Of course, there is a case of overtness being a form of dawah (religious invitation) and there is a very good argument in that. And at this point I have to make it clear that this post isn't about shutting down or discouraging Islamic blogging - I recognise the good that comes out of them be that in others or personally (I follow at least two of the BCA nominees religiously, ha ha) and the right to write what you want is something more important than any criticism I can come up with here.

But my personal approach has always been to give dawah by (extremely unlikely) example and if someone managed to wrestle a good practise from my behaviour I wouldn't be concerned whether they recognised it as coming from my belief in Islam or not.

Perhaps I don't value my Islamic consciousness or practise enough to vocalise it? It's not that I don't want to be recognised as a Muslim; I do and when asked I say that I am in a very proud way. But to extract my faith as a kind of entity that I own, manage, market and fine tune rather than one that owns me is something I don't think I could bring myself to doing; to rip out and isolate something so ingrained in my life would be quite impossible.

So there you have it: RadioShak isn't a Islamic blog, but a blog that happens to be written by Muslim. It's not here to explicitly spread the Message or make people think about religion, but if these things inadvertently happen anyway then that's cool too. I'm more than comfortable with that status than if I was seen as being only about one thing, be it film, relationships or Islam.

And yes, I totally acknowledge the irony of this post - there's nothing more overt than saying how covert you are about something. But hey, I've never claimed to be not self-involved.

Thursday, December 20

Joke of the Day

Thanks to Atha for this little gem:

What did the Asian milk bottle say to the other Asian milk bottle?
Hey dood!

Just awesome.

Wednesday, December 19

Eid Mubarak!

Although midweek Eids are always weird, I'm excited about today. It marks the start of the holiday season and I've no doubt that the next three weeks will fly past. And after that it will just be the long straight home. But more about that in the new year.

A big pat on the back to all those who managed to complete the Hajj rituals today. I pray that God accepts their pilgrimage and that they take as much away from the experience as possible.

For most people Hajj is an eye-opener. The typical effect is for attendees to come back as new people - usually more practising and God-aware. I think Hajj had an equally profound effect on me too, but in what appears to be the opposite way.

The sheer number of different Muslims attending the pilgrimage of 2002 opened my mind to the different the practises of Islam around the world. The rush itself taught me patience (not that I managed to keep mine during that week), and how sometimes spirit and ideas are more important than concrete and definitive practise. If there was ever a single event that put me in my alleged liberal or progressive mindset it was my Hajj.

If you've never been, then I would easily suggest you make a move to. Not just because it's an obligation, but because it's one of those rare experiences of a Muslim that may mould their sense of faith, in whichever way that actually turns out to be.

Tuesday, December 18

Yet Another BCA Post Click for more info

The results are in and the winners of this year's BCAs have been announced. My congratulations to all that have won, some more to all who were nominated in the first place and even more so to those (Muslim or not) who take the time to write about and discuss Islam at all.

Inevitably however the whole awards thing wasn't without controversy. At least one nominee withdrew (albeit for seemingly noble reasons) while another used his nomination to let it all out. The rest either unabashedly requested their readership to Vote For Me, or more impressively kept quiet altogether. But hey, what's a virtual awards ceremony without virtual gossip eh?

This discussion did prompt a question in my mind though. What exactly is a Muslim blog? Is it one that contains writings about Islam? Or one that's written by a Muslim? Written for Muslims? From this year's nominees I can't quite tell.

There's also the bigger issue of integrity: the potential for exploitation or commercialisation of an Islamic identity may compromise what a person has to say or even what they believe. Some blogs are able to avoid this easily; Yahya Birt springs to mind but he's rare (and certainly a better man than I am) in his ability to keep his humble head while in the spotlight.

I hate marketing and representation in all walks of life and find it to be opaque and manipulative and some would say that the BCA winners are more about their prettiness and user-friendliness than content: a friend and I were joking about how easy it would be to write an award-winning Islamic blog.

So how about an award for best post from a non obvious source? I've read many good things that people have written "in passing" on blogs whose focus are not particularly on Islam. These kind of contributions should be encouraged in order to widen the net of dialogue and break out of any collective or clique mentality.

I could be missing the point though - if these things all equate to greater accessibility of ideas and result in change in a positive way, then who am I to comment? Having said that, I do wonder how many non-Muslims read the BCA nominateship anyway.

But this isn't really about blogs per se; no, the question is a wider one and more about how we each choose to represent and label ourselves - the age old and well trodden question of (blog-)identity and (blog-)politics then? Zzz. Expect a further post about my take on RadioShak, then.

Oh and yes, of course I could just be totally jealous and hating. I hope the winners all wear their award badges with pride.

Saturday, December 15

Book: The Meaning of the Glorious Quran, M. M. Pickthall Click for more info

Although my madarassa days had put me into the habit of completing the Quran in Arabic four to five times a year, I've never once read the whole thing in a language I can understand. Of course, due the the nature of the book at hand this isn't a regular review - it is worth noting my experience with Pickthall's work though.

Along with Yusuf Ali's famous work, Pickthall had generally been taken as a top credible translation of the Islam's most (and only) holy book. From my limited experience of the former, Pickthall certainly seemed the most accessible of the two, although I'm not quite sure we can refer to it as modern any more. It's also very concise; footnotes are sparse and as a volume on its own I'm not sure it's enough to get the most from a translation.

Following on from that point, it's important to know that a translation of the Quran is NOT the Quran. The Arabic language in which it has always been authentically scribed and copied in is as much as part of the book as its content, and any translation will always be incomplete because of this.

But for those of us who don't understand Arabic translations are an (albeit imperfect) way to gain a deeper understanding of the Quran and pave the way to later study via tafsir or the like. I recommend that any who do read the Quran regularly complement their lessons with the corresponding translation, even if it means halving the absolute amount you read to save time.

Friday, December 14

One to Watch: The X-Factor Final Click for more info

The X-Factor Final, 19:15 Saturday 15th December, ITV

The X-Factor Final Results, 21:35 Saturday 15th December, ITV

Love it or hate it, it's that time again. Whether you've spent the last however many months following the hopefuls on their journey to destiny, or have cheated (like me) and only jumped on the bandwagon toward the end, there's no denying the drama and suspense a reality show of this type brings.

Clearly it's now the battle of the vote as image continually wins over talent and after last week's dumping of my favourite, Niki, I'm in a slightly more objective position to judge the result; my head says Rhydian, but my heart says the super-cute Same Difference and if there's any justice in this world Leon had better come third.

I still won't call in to vote of course.

Thursday, December 13

Katie Holmes In No More Babies With Tom Shocker! Click for more info

It what can only be taken as a sign of marital instability, Katie Holmes has come out and said that she no longer wants current husband Tom Cruise to father her children.

I'm not one to say I told you so Katie, so I'll just link you instead. Not that I even care of course.

Tuesday, December 11

Critical Reading and Discussions

I was invited by a mate to join him in a small gathering of clever types who've recently begun to get together to talk about clever things. The topics themselves did not have to be necessarily rooted in Islam, but since we were all Muslims (be design) the direction of the debate/discussion/discourse was to be run in that direction. That was the idea behind the meetings anyway.

Tonight we talked about Syed Hussein Alatas, a Malaysian politician and social scientist and in particular his notion of a captive mind. The talk digressed a bit, but the main themes were covered in detail by the chair of the evening.

Due to it being run by a bunch of clever types, most of what was said went over my head. I like to think that this was just a problem with language and pace rather than my ability to understand though, so I wasn't discouraged. On the contrary it was pretty fun and I can see it becoming very interesting as I get used to it.

Anyway, it's hoped that this will be a regular weekly thing, so expect future posts covering the topics, uh, covered in them.

RIPA, Encryption Keys and The UK Government Click for more info

The Register reports on how the RIPA was used to extract encryption keys from an animal rights activist (or "inevitable terrorist" if you're in a position of authority).

More interesting than the article itself are some of the comments made after it: there are those who think it's okay to trample on the rights of others as long as they're disliked, as well as those who correct them in saying that human rights should be universal and not selective. Other highlights that caught my eye follow, but the whole depressing thing for me is how desensitised and anaesthetised the general UK population are (myself included).

However cliched it may sound, we're sleepwalking into something very scary here (although perhaps only for those of us who aren't financial donors to the government).

First, they came for the labor unions but I wasn't a labor unionist, so I didn't speak up. Then they came for the Communists but I wasn't a Communist, so I didn't speak up. Then they came for the Jews but I wasn't a Jew, so I didn't speak up. Then they came for the Catholics but I wasn't a Catholic, so I didn't speak up. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up. - Pastor Martin Niemoller

The real meat of my post. That act. It too, is immoral. Really immoral. Hate to Godwin again here, but it's verging on the jews-aren't-really-people argument immoral. I think it's so immoral I sent a strongly worded letter to my MP, the venerable David Cairns MP (who as I have previously stated is honestly not a slick-as-oil shitebag who would lie about the colour of the sky) with regards the RIPA and stating my belief that the then-PM Tony Blair was as much a threat to the freedom of the british people as Adolf & Co were in the 1940's.

Needless to say, Mr Cairns MP (Lab) replied saying that such a comparison was wholly unfair and that the RIPA was a valuable tool for the Police in their War on Terror™, and it along with the ID Cards would be fine and dandy, nothing to worry about.

I didn't believe him then. I still don't believe him now. This sort of act is exactly like the martial-law declarations and 'enabling acts' made in countless previously-democratic countries when their governments forget that they serve the people not vice-versa. It is sad to see yet another government making this mistake. Although this is but the beginning of the more draconian legislation, for it is the nature of such acts to breed ones more repressive, nonetheless, when in years to come people ask "Where Did It All Go Wrong", this my dear friends, this was when it All Went Wrong. Democracy in this country did not die in a battle, nor in a riot or a revolution. It died with a group of balding middle-aged men drinking brandy in the Commons bar, laughing amongst themselves. It died when the apathetic masses forgot to care about what laws get passed without their consent or approval. It died when the wishes of extremists and power-mad politicians were given more thought than the rights of the people.

In years to come, when the same apathetic masses remember to care, and decide to remind the government why they serve and the masses sufferance, when there are tanks driving down the Mall firing at unarmed civilians, when the skyline of cities from Aberdeen to London are lit-up by the fires of freedom and revolution; maybe then you will look back and wish that this law had not passed, that the police did not have the right to see this hippies personal porn stash. - Math Campbell

Monday, December 10

Rich Muslims "Support" Labour Too Click for more info

Good to see that Muslims are not left behind in the whole Labour donation scandal thing. I'm sure that the Labour Government were appreciative of his, uh, I mean Muslim Friends' hefty contribution.

It's also interesting to see that a group run by a Labour MP is allowed to fund individual attempts at the deputy leadership. I wonder if Muslim Friends are hiring?

Here's an idea: how about taking the money out of politics? Totally naive probably.

Sunday, December 9

Film: Bee Movie Click for more info

The trouble I had with Bee Movie was just how surreal the whole thing was. I mean, here you have Barry the bee, already tired of the monotony of a working life he's not yet started, striking up a relationship with Vanessa the florist while suing the Human race for custody over the honey they had allegedly stolen from our insect friends.

Crazy stuff, no? I found that suspending my disbelief was harder than it should have been during this film, although when I did manage to I actually did enjoy some parts. You have the usual hilarity and action that CGI animations have been made for, the moral issue and inevitable feel good factor when it's been resolved, and finally we even get some weird-ass romance (although that last one may be close to illegal in some territories).

But as good as this film gets, there's no escaping just how strange the whole set up was. This filters down through the plot and characters to the very fibre of the film, and so makes for some mildly awkward viewing. It may just be a result of the makers simply running out of ideas, but if so they need to fire up their creativity without going nuts in the process.

Reluctantly recommended, as long as you go in with an open mind.

Saturday, December 8

New Music

4Ever - The Veronicas

Fun Australian girlie pop band stuff. Avril Lavigne but in a group.

Aag Ka Dariya - Dr. Zeus Feat. Littlelox, Yana Gupta, Ravindra & Shortie

Another class joint from Zeus. A bit darker and sexier than his previous stuff but superb all the same.

Bleeding Love - Leona Lewis

Six weeks at the top of the charts at the time of writing, my only regret is that I've not gotten this sooner. I didn't like it on first play, but that common denominator part of me succumbed after a few listens. Simon Cowell is a genius.

My Immortal - Evanescence

An oldie taken from their Fallen album, I can't believe I missed this the first time round. Power Ballads hooray!

Our Lips Are Sealed - The Go-Go's

Another 97.3 influence, this time dating back to the start of the 80's. At least its fun.

Taking Chances - Celine Dion

Oh man, I feel so dirty.

Deewana - Alyssia Feat. Panjabi Hit Squad

Awesome follow up to the awesome Pyaar Hogiya, I can't help but love Alyssia's stuff.

Don't Miss you - Amy Pearson

Another Australian artist, I'm not sure why I like this. Perhaps 'cos its identikit Michelle Branch/Stacie Orrico/generic pop?

Wednesday, December 5

Film: The Golden Compass Click for more info

Wishy washy tale about some smart-mouthed kid stepping up to embrace her true calling as the hero of prophecy yada yada yada.

But if I'm being cruel, it's only because I was expecting so much more. On seeing the trailers to this I was a bit weary but managed to convince myself that it may turn out to be surprise hit, much in the same way the brilliant Stardust was. Unfortunately it fell way short of the mark.

The acting was okay at best (and although Dakota Blue Richards was good, she wasn't that great), the CGI effects terrible and two-bit and the plot had clearly been raped from its literature roots. There were some redeeming points - some fantastic battle and drama scenes and some genuinely well made moments. However, the fact that they were so sparse and then gaffer taped together by the staccato dross in between meant that their effectiveness was stunted.

A note on the religious controversy too: there isn't one. I had to force myself to interpret the Magisterium as some kind of fanatical clergy that needed taking down, but even that was my tenuous attempt at engaging this flick. If anyone knows exactly what the issue was, I'd love to be made aware of it. Perhaps I need to read the books or something.

Based on my experience with the film, I can't really recommend it. Avoid avoid avoid.

Tuesday, December 4

One Hundred Thousand Accidental Clicks

Just like I had hoped for back in July, Radio Shak managed to break the 100k hit count (since I begun recording) sometime last week.

Nothing more to mention other than it being a pretty big milestone for me and something I'm quite proud of. Admittedly It's cutting it close to the end of 2007, especially since it's looking like I won't break 2006's hit count.

Now that the labelling is complete I hope to bring a few more changes, the least of which will be a brand new template. All that is secondary to content of course, and although I managed the three-posts-a-week thing up until Eid, I know I've fallen into slacking again since then.

Perhaps this was just what I needed to get my writing butt back in gear... That, and a lot more free time. Wink wink and all that.

Book: The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism), Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips Click for more info

This bite-sized volume of 190 odd pages aims to explain the concept of Tawheed in simple and accessible terms; the author claims that until now the ideas involved with Islamic Monotheism had been presented in convoluted and confusing ways, and so it may not be appreciated to the fullest by many Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

It's an odd claim given that a good 90% of this book seems to just literally describe what a Muslim can and cannot do or think (and that in a pretty absolutist way; don't expect any grey areas here folks). In some places it appears to confuse the issues regarding Tawheed with that of Sharia or law, and for me some of the rulings the book highlights seem a little out of context and almost... angry.

The remaining 10% is much more interesting since it covers the more abstract notion of Tawheed and its consequences. I found myself disagreeing with some bits (for example at one point the book implies that to predict the weather or the date on which a pregnant woman will give birth is a form of shirk unless you qualify it with an acknowledging insha-Allah), but in terms of explaining a non-obvious yet fundamental concept the author does well enough in order to allow the reader to make up their own minds.

Well written, nicely presented and concise, The Fundamentals of Tawheed is worth a read if only to formalise what you probably already know, albeit on a trivial level; that you may not completely agree with the exact conclusions the book presents is beside the fact that it helps you to find your own - just like a good book should in fact.


Shak says (11:39):
    hey.... will you get a maid in zzzz?
xxxx says (11:40):
    they have one yes
Shak says (11:40):
xxxx says (11:40):
    lol :)
Shak says (11:40):
    youre gonna be living like a queen
xxxx says (11:40):
    and its ssoo funny.. cos i love housework and i dont even mind it
Shak says (11:40):
xxxx says (11:40):
    but im not gona say no to the maid :P
    i knowww.. its the life man!
Shak says (11:40):
    maybe they can let the maid go then
xxxx says (11:40):
    hell no!
Shak says (11:40):
xxxx says (11:40):
    do you think im stupid
Shak says (11:41):
    but to be fair i think everyone is stupid
xxxx says (11:42):
    no i mean stupid enough to say bye bye to the maid :D
Shak says (11:42):
Shak says (11:43):
    hell that could be the reason why youre marrying...uh...yyyy? and i wouldnt blame you
    maids rock
xxxx says (11:43):
    yeh totally.. i mean who the heck would say no to live such a life of luxury?
Shak says (11:44):
    stupid people
    of which you are not
xxxx says (11:44):
    indeed :D
Shak says (11:44):
    im jelous
    i want a maid
xxxx says (11:44):
    and ofcourse youre not referring to a wife are you?
Shak says (11:51):
    nah man
Shak says (11:52):
    the last thing i want is my wife to be tired and worn out when i get home from work
    eh? eh? eh?
Shak says (11:57):
    ... hello?

Monday, December 3

A Weekend of Ice, Turnips and Food

Sometimes you just have wonderful weekends. The first one in December was such a weekend for me. Here's a quick recap, just so it's recorded somewhere. From the top then?

Saturday morning hosted our first private Presenting class. It was great to see colleagues from October's Presenting class at CityLit, although I'm not sure we got as much done as we should have done.

After lunch I joined some local friends for Ice Skating at Canary Wharf. Super expensive but worth every penny, I managed to get through the session without falling over for once (well, until we all deliberately decided to do ourselves in).

We then went for dinner which was okay considering it was at Maedah Grill which isn't as great as I had suggested with my initial impressions. Still the crowd made it fun anyway, especially with a vicious game of Mallet's Mallet/word association where the penalty for losing was a sip of some quite horrible turnip juice. This was suffixed by a stint at Halalianos, complete with the inevitable faux-philosophical debate.

Sunday morning consisted of the usual long run followed by teaching at ICSS. Lunch was provided by a certain debtor of mine who's been providing me with Sunday afternoon nourishment for the past month while my parents have been away. This week it consisted of a healthy chicken burger meal with pound pizzas on the side.

My lunch buddies then joined me for a bit of a Family Guy marathon at mine - six episodes in all - before I joined my brother for dinner (have you spotted the pattern yet? I think I've only eaten at home five times in the past month). Multiplayer Wii ended my evening on a high, although the whole weekend was interspersed with some wonderful Mario Galaxy playing at home.

Sometimes it's the simple things that are the best. It's a real shame that I was too busy to do any housekeeping eh?

Friday, November 30

Film: The Nines Click for more info

Mind-spinning tale of the Donnie Darko ilk. No bad thing if you like, uh, having your head spun, but even if you don't The Nines goes farther than others in letting the viewer know exactly what is going on at all times (kinda).

But even if you do lose track of the plot, there's plenty more regular qualities that stand out here. The trio that make up the main cast are all excellent, and manage to handle their respective triple parts with ease. I finally found myself actually liking Ryan Reynolds while Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis back him up superbly.

The script is nothing short of fantastic, engaging and real and the three chapter structure of the film allowed the makers to present three distinct styles; this is a film that is rarely boring if at all. Personally I found the conclusion to be a bit of a cop out, so it was lucky that the film had ridden on much more before the end anyway.

Since it requires a bit of effort to watch and enjoy, this will not be to the taste of everyone. Having said that, I thought it was an excellent film, and so for that reason I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Shak's Choice: Shabana Bakhsh Click for more info

Currently in the spotlight for playing the fun filled NQT Jasmine Koreshi on the quite superb Waterloo Road, the oh-so-pretty Shabana was also see in the brilliant Ae Fond Kiss... (the release of which pre-dates my blog! Jeez, time flies - but watch it if you can 'cos it's ace):

She's Scottish and attractive. What more does a guy need? Well, according to a radio interview she gave this week to the BBC AN is relatively conscious about her faith, is clearly down to earth and a well-grounded and all round nice person too.

Personally though, I was had at "Scottish".

You can catch Shabana on Waterloo Road, BBC1 8pm Thursdays.

Thursday, November 29

Food: Moti Mahal Click for more info

A need for pre-karaoke dinner took us to this smart little Indian place in Covent Garden. Clean, well seated and spaced and nicely staffed, there wasn't much to complain about pre-food. It was the little touches like being given water and a soup appetizer without having to ask for them that sold me.

Food-wise it got even better. We were on one of those cheapo set menu deal things, but I felt that we had a good set of options anyway. Despite the place claiming to be Halal, I stuck to the vegetarian options (mainly for other reasons); not that I minded much since the potato pastry for starters and vegetable kofta for the main were superb anyway. The pear tart with ice cream was also an awesome bonus.

All in all a fantastic place to eat given the £15 bill we paid; so much so that I can imagine heading back in future. Recommended.

Wednesday, November 28

Video Of The Day

Here's Finite Simple Group (of Order Two) by The Klein Four Group:

So sad, yet so awesome. Makes me want to do a Maths degree anyway.

Cheers to Asikha for the tip.

Sunday, November 25

Film: Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal Click for more info

When Southall Football club are told that they need to raise THREE MILLION POUNDS in order to save their Football ground from those horrible property development people, their only solution is to finally step up their game and win whatever Sunday league they happen to be playing in.

The poor man's Chakde! India then? Totally. Heavily cliched and at times even racist (expect copious amounts of "these gorey lorg" repressing "apne wala") this film never quite makes it past the crap point. The acting is awful, the direction bizarre and production just rubbish - amongst other gems, Muslims now own and run Glassy Junction (which apparently has a full dancing stage and floor within it!).

But for some reason I didn't quite think I was totally regretful when I left the cinema tonight. It wasn't quite "so bad it was good", but instead there was some genuine charm in Goal. Whether it was the hammy dialogue (just watch Bipasha Basu come on to John Abraham) or blatant or obvious feel good factor I'm not sure, but the fact that we were giggling our way through and left the cinema smiling says a lot.

Out of principle I can't quite bring myself to recommend Goal, but if you do accidentally end up buying a ticket for this flick, well you may find yourself not minding much by the end of it.

Food: Deep Click for more info

Fine and fancy fish restaurant situated in Imperial Wharf, Chelsea. The first thing that struck me was how bit quiet it was for a Saturday night, there being only five parties while we were there. But then we come to a restaurant for its food, not clientèle.

And although the food wasn't super amazing, it was good enough to enjoy a dinner conversation over. We managed to sample the oysters, prawns, tuna, halibut, trout and sole between us and none of us had any complaints. The service and atmosphere were top notch and we were well looked after overall. There was never any pressure to leave even though we had spent over two hours there (although it wasn't as if there was a queue outside either).

Drinks were relatively reasonable, and after a 50% discount we got away with paying a smidge over the all important twenty per head. For that price we had no regrets for coming here, but equally there's really not much to bring us back.

Friday, November 23

Game: Super Mario Galaxy Click for more info

A whole painful week later, and I have the game my Wii was bought for. Even though I didn't know it at the time. Put simply, this is just the sublime Mario 64 updated for the Wii.

Okay, having only done the first star (notice how they're NOT shines any more) this praise may all be premature. But there's something here that I've not seen since M64 and that was completely missing from Super Mario Sunshine (barring within the void levels maybe) so I'm confident I'm right.

The fact that you can run around a globe, sometimes upside down, without even thinking about the controls says a lot. The clean graphics and level design (you're only ever going for a single star at a time, and you know which one it is, too) just add to the experience. I'm ignoring the inevitable addition of motion controls since using the pointer to collect star bits just seems so natural to do.

I just want to go home and collect more stars. Unlike other games where I, sometimes forcibly, pace myself, I just want to keep playing this till exhaustion. I'll say it again: a whole year after I bought the machine to play it on, this is the reason why I did. It's that good.

Monday, November 19

All Tagged Up

I've always wanted to tag (or label) the posts I've written here, and once Google eventually gave Blogger users the facility to do so, I took on the arduous task of back-labelling three years' worth of content. It's taken me almost eleven months to complete, but I'm happy to say that it's finally done. Yes, it was a manual process so it may not be as accurate as I'd like, but I hope to be continually fine tuning the labelling over time.

Apart from making it easier for you guys to filter Radio Shak based on what you want to read or search on, being completely labelled up has also indicated a few interesting trends and statistics regarding what I post about and how. The following is based on a published post count of 1453, while the post counts are totals rather than taking into account more than one coexisting label.

First up: it's my great pleasure to shatter the myth that this place mainly about relationships in general or me complaining about being single. At the time of writing, just 117 posts (8%) are about relationships and marriage. In comparison, I've written 183 (13%) articles on Islam, which remains the single topic I post the most about. Who knew eh? I was also interested to see that 206/14% of my posts have had something to do with the Indian Sub-continent.

Genre-wise, it was always obvious that a large number of posts make up reviews (412/28%) be they of films (171/12%), music (90/6%), tv (109/8%), videogames (71/5%), books (41/3%), restaurants (41/3%), theatre (4/0%) or talks (26/2%). Alas my favourite genre, the opinion or theory posts, lags way behind at 190/8%, and for those of you who can't stand my longer posts, 406/30% are classified as short.

I've recommended links (72/5%), videos (30/2%), and television shows (109/8%) a total of 137/9% times, and seem to have been on more activities (107/7%) than social events (90/6%). I also write more about friends (42/3%) than family (25/2%), but only just.

Quite embarrassingly, I've spoken about girls (be it on The Tube or media) 127/9% times, within which 34/2% have been virtually perved upon having been made a choice. Cripes. Perhaps compiling these statistics weren't such a good idea after all...

Anyway, click away. Oh, and please feel free to suggest any other labels or corrections you think may be useful.

Saturday, November 17

Film: Beowulf Click for more info

First things first: Beowulf is no film for kids. Please expect gratuitous violence and scenes of a sexual nature if you decide to watch this film. More importantly, do NOT take an eight year old child. I was cringing throughout the film for those younguns in our audience.

Just like The Polar Express (which was made by the same people), Beowulf offers the same super realistic yet kinda disturbing CGI visuals. There's something creepy about the the not-quite-right actors here, but you soon get over that. To be honest, at first glance I didn't even realise it was CGI.

But instead of the soft and cuddly Christmas setting of that train film, we now find ourselves in cold Denmark fighting demons, monsters and dragons. And seeing how computer animation allows us to see some of the most fantastic action sequences, this should have been gripping stuff.

Alas, the film doesn't quite hit the mark. Both (yes, that means all two of them) fighting sequences are very well done and leave the viewer pretty dazzled, and in some ways it was worth sitting through the rest of the film just to see them. In others, it isn't really at all - Beowulf seems devoid of a middle between its beginning and end, and this gap turns out to be pretty fatal for it.

No recommendations here I'm afraid.

Tuesday, November 13

Link of the Day Click for more info

Although mainly talking about the news of an Islamic car being developed in the Far East, Fugstar also covers the more important subject of Islamic® branding as well as the current phenomenon of prefixing everyday items with "Ummah".

Bearing in mind that I'm a professional moaning cynic I agree with his sentiment, but in the same breath I would have to acknowledge that I'm a lazy so and so who couldn't dream of launching any similar products.

Still, I can't help but feel that there's a hint of exploitation, tribalism and self-sustainment here (read: sales on a novelty). I think I'd be more comfortable with Islamic products that are genuinely aimed at Muslims and non-Muslims like rather than those aimed at a minority with wallets - after all by its essence, anything Islamic should be of benefit to the whole world... Right?

Saturday, November 10

Food: Sugar Reef Click for more info

Since a friend of mine had booked a space in the Coral Bar below for his thirtieth, we decided to grab a quick dinner at the Sugar Reef Restaurant above.

A smart and clean decor and a classy crowd (apart from us of course) makes this a pleasant enough place to eat. The food was good (I picked the tomato soup and Salmon main for my two courses), especially since we were only paying a tenner for it.

But something was missing. I didn't pick up on any special qualities or character and there wasn't anything there to lull me back any time soon. It's strange because as rational as I am it's not often I find a place whose ticked boxes still isn't enough to excite me.

Shak's Choice: Deepika Padukone

The one reason for anyone to watch Om Shanti Om is right here:

As I mentioned in my review, Deepika's effortlessly able to be both totally hot and girl-next-door at the same time. She can also (kinda) act too which helps. Oh, and did I mention how stunning she is too?

Film: Om Shanti Om Click for more info

As the film itself asks, how the heck can we expect an audience in this day and age to get engrossed in a film about reincarnation? Perhaps I'm being culturally insensitive/close minded, but I always suspected that it would have been a tough job to pull this off.

But if you ignore the absurd plot and inevitable holes it leaves behind, you do end up with something that's relatively entertaining. Direction was good and the film was vibrant and easy on the eye. Acting was also above the usual fare, although any hope of Shahrukh Khan not regressing to his usual lip-quivering self was dashed after the first fifteen minutes.

Other good bits include a music number with over thirty Bollywood stars in it (even more impressive and poignant than the equivalent from Heyy Babyy) and plenty of throwbacks to seventies' Bollywood during the first half.

But for me, the main reason to watch this film was the jaw droppingly gorgeous Deepika Padukone and her perfect blend of being totally hot (yaar) and girl-next-door. She really was that stunning and I bet you can guess what I'll be posting next.

For the girls: apparently SRK's been working out and even takes his top off for a song - fortunately due to a cinema glitch I wasn't subject to this (much to the chagrin of my aunt and certain other female members of the audience this evening).

But even all these good bits (including Deepika) weren't enough to save this film from post interval traumatic stress and the film literally loses the plot for the second half. This is a shame, but since there really was nothing wrong with the filmi fun of the first hour or so perhaps leaving after the break is the best way to watch Om Shanti Om?

Friday, November 9

Game: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) Click for more info

Billed as the spiritual, if not direct, successor to Windwaker, Phantom Hourglass uses the same visual style and presentation as the not-so-classic Gamecube implementation of the Zelda franchise. While this in itself is no bad thing (the style had been universally accepted as being a brilliant touch, if not the game itself), I couldn't help but feel weary about having Link appear on the DS. Would all that was wrong with Windwaker also make it though the transition?

Well, I'm glad to say that it didn't. Obviously, PH is a much smaller and less ambitious game than WW and so any danger of trawling an ocean for ages or spinning your wheels doing a tedious challenge has somewhat been nipped in the bud.

Instead we're left with the good bits of Zelda: puzzle solving temples and dungeons. There's still a bit of fluff in between for my liking, but it doesn't spoil the game for me like it did WW and even Twilight Princess. Since the world stage is still an ocean there's still sailing, but at least now you can set your ship on autopilot and take a nap while travelling (the promise of warp points makes this even less annoying potentially).

Other complaints include having to go back to a timed "hub" dungeon between each of the others. The timing itself is bad enough, but to introduce unbeatable guards which you have to stealthily avoid makes you wonder exactly what the game makers were on while designing this game.

So a mixed reaction then? Well it's not bad enough to stop me from playing (especially since I don't have anything else on the go for the DS at the moment), but it's still not the classic Zelda experience I was after. And since this has largely been the case for the last three games in which I've been controlling Link, I'm starting to think that, perhaps, I just don't like Zelda any more.

Tuesday, November 6

Pub Quiz

My workplace organised a pub quiz tonight. It was my first go at one and I didn't know quite what to expect; I mean in theory a pub quiz should be fun, but then I had this niggling suspicion that some may take it a bit too seriously (like me for example).

My fears were unfounded though, and it was all taken with a light heart by all. The format of the quiz was fun and varied and my team was quite balanced. Amongst other things, for my part I managed to contribute the following:

  • Remember that the DK in DKNY stood for Donna Karen.
  • Recognise Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer as it was played backwards.
  • Recognise the theme to The Flying Doctors.
  • Recognise a picture of Ali Bongo.
The last two absolutely exclusively I hasten to add.

The result of our efforts? Joint third place. Not bad for a team who weren't there to win (honestly).

Saturday, November 3

City Circle: In and Out of Islamism with Maajid Nawaz Click for more info

Security was the order of the day for today's talk with Maajid Nawaz, yet another ex-Hizb ut-Tahrir member currently doing the rounds: will there be any left I wonder? Being ex-Hizb is clearly this year's emancipated Asian woman.

But despite my obvious cynicism, today's talk was one of the better City Circles that I've been to. Maajid Nawas certainly articulate (perhaps due to his HT training? Okay, okay, that's the last one, promise) and a joy to listen to.

He started by talking about how he originally got involved with the party - it was the usual stuff of an eager youth, brutalised by the racism of the day, searching for an identity that wasn't the British or Pakistani ones that had already rejected him. His deliberate first person argument for joining HT was pretty compelling, but then any of you who've ever been approached by a member would have known this already. For those who haven't, the colonial West, with their manipulation of history and puppet leaders were all Very Bad Things and it was the religious duty of all Muslims to oppose them.

A four year prison sentence in Egypt had changed Maajid. He had the opportunity to contemplate and critically think about his beliefs, and came to the conclusion that, no, what the HT were promoting was not what he was into - what exactly caused this change of heart was not made clear (as far as I could tell, prison just gave him some alone time).

Moving on from his personal experiences, Maajid then went on to talk about what he did believe. The main crux of his argument was the rejection of the idea that sovereignty (of the political kind) belongs only to God. Effectively this meant that Islam was a religion just like Christianity and the like and not an ideology at all, and so where personal practise should be derived from scripture, wider political decisions should not.

Pretty controversial stuff, eh? Well maybe, but only because it was coming from an ex-HT member. This was pretty much the common secularist's view; that the religion and the state should be strictly separate and in that sense was nothing particularly new. Still, the discourse was still handy and a few interesting details did come up.

He compared an Islamic state to that of an Islamic car, or hospital - a nonsensical entity that wasn't really of any practical use. Personally, I think that a state is more abstract than a car or hospital, but even so it's easy to create an Islamically valid entity, so I wasn't quite sure where he was going with this analogy.

He also claimed that leaving HT hadn't changed some of his ideas about justice or truth, but acknowledged that they may now have been based on different foundations. He also criticised the use of minority politics and that politics should be about the single right answers for all of us, and not about giving each group their own solutions. It's a sentiment I agree with and have written about in the past.

The Q&A afterwards was one of the best I've witnessed at a CC, although that possibly might not be saying much. The biggest surprise was how consistent the audience was in their questioning; there were clearly some pretty major flaws in what Maajid was saying tonight and a number of us had picked up on it. The cracks were beginning to show I think.

Although I didn't ask them personally all of my questions were covered, if not adequately answered:

  • What makes something personal or political? The state decides. How? Arbitrarily.
  • What happens if the state restricts Islamic practise as a consequence of reason and logic? There is a difference between "state legality" and whether something is Halal or not, so the two things exist on different planes and so shouldn't affect one another.
  • Is it possible for an Islamist regime to establish a "secular friendly" society, and if so what's wrong with that? This is a question of semantics, and Maajid wouldn't describe such a regime as Islamist.
The Q&A was also interesting in that it sometimes appeared to be a bit of a love-in of ex-HT members, all relating to (if not agreeing with) Maajid (and I guess it wasn't surprising that Ed Husain was in the audience). For some, the reformation they went though gave them each an insight into the matters at hand. Although not a relevant observation, it had amused me anyway.

In conclusion, today's speaker seemed to be promoting nothing more than plain ol' secularism and so nothing particularly new. His background in HT added a slight twist, but only in that at times he seemed to use the same language, style and - dare I say it - extreme view as he might have when he was still a member; it had just been applied to secularism, possibly as a way to compensate for previous sins.

In fact, I actually agreed with a lot of the common sense that he dictated (regarding tolerance of opinion and interpretation for example), but some of his deeper arguments regarding secularism were just way too inconsistent for me to swallow whole. And to make the connection one last time, this is precisely the reaction I had towards those promoting the ideas of the Hizb ut-Tahrir too.

Friday, November 2

Archiving Hotmail to Gmail

Since Gmail first arrived on our browsers (way back in 2004 it seems!) it's proven to be an indispensable tool for those who live on email. Like me. The space (it's a rare day when I actually delete a mail now), the interface (non-threaded views are so backward), the ability to search quickly (I don't even bother with labels any more) and a superb spam filter all meant that Gmail literally changed the way I use email.

I restrict my use of Gmail to personal mails between people I know relatively well. For anything else (account creation, formal correspondence and mails to less well known colleagues), I stick to Hotmail. This semantic separation is required in order to keep my Gmail inbox relatively clean and useful. However, inevitably, there are mails in my Hotmail account that should really belong in Gmail - Hotmail isn't really designed for long term storage of mail (well it isn't in my set up anyway), the nature of conversations change over time and it just makes sense to have it all in one place.

Archiving mail to Gmail has been a problem for account holders since the service was introduced. Plenty of solutions have popped up too, from the simple action of forwarding to hacking the Gmail client in order to "inject" mails into its inbox. Both have problems: the former loses formatting and date time information, the latter isn't official and you may lose thread structure or state (whether it's a sent or received mail, for instance). Needless to say, I refrained from using these, hoping that, one day, there'll be a better way.

And now that Gmail supports IMAP, there is. IMAP is a messaging protocol which basically allows you to access your mail remotely (it's much more than that, but for the purposes of this article we'll leave it there). It's kind of like using Hotmail or Gmail outside of the browser and in a normal mail client like Outlook Express or the like.

This remote access means that your folders can follow you around as well as state of your mails - read or unread, flagged, whether it's been sent or not - that kinda thing. All this is fantastic but not relevant for those who simply want to archive mail; until you realise that, by implication of the above, IMAP also allows you to push existing mails up to the IMAP server - in this case Gmail.

Despite its criticisms, Outlook Express remains my email client of choice mainly because it allows native GUI access to Hotmail (via WebDav). It also supports IMAP pretty well too, and so now Gmail, and after setting up both accounts in parallel this "pushing" of mails becomes a simple matter of dragging and dropping mail items between the two accounts.

And it all works brilliantly. I now have Hotmail mails sitting in my Gmail inbox as if they were sent and received using the latter; they are all searchable and threaded, and I've also found that Gmail knows which were sent by me and so automatically places them in the Sent Mail view, found by adding is:sent in a search. More than that, it even merges relevant mails that were sent via Gmail (if I had manually switched providers mid conversation).

It really is magical. And here are some further notes:

  • IMAP Folders are implemented in Gmail by labels. This has both benefits and drawbacks. It's nice to have a more visual feel of labels, but things become complicated when you apply multiple labels to a conversation since they start appearing in two places. Another implication is that you may lose track of whether you've deleted an item or not (deleting from a folder deletes it's label, not the message itself).
  • Flagging a message in your client will star it in Gmail.
  • Authenticating your Hotmail address within Gmail will help the latter to determine the correct to and from addresses when rendering mail items. You can add addresses via the Settings->Accounts->Send mail as screen.
  • Outlook Express has an option to allow you to store special folders on your IMAP server, namely ones for your sent items and drafts. Due to the folder-label mapping Gmail uses, these do not directly map to the equivalent in Gmail. Sent mail gets automatically saved to your Sent Mail view in Gmail anyway, so if you do use this feature they'll end up being stored twice. My advice is to turn off the two folders altogether - you'll only lose the ability to store drafts on the server, but that's a small issue compared to what you do get. You can always move mail items to the [Gmail]/Drafts folder manually (which does map to the Gmail equivalent) if you want to move an unfinished mail around.
Anyway, I'm a happy bunny. At last I've managed to consolidate all my mail in a single, easy to access place. Now all I need to figure out is how to upload all my chat logs since 1997 and I'll be set with respect to archiving my electronic communications.

Thursday, November 1

Britz Click for more info

Well, I was wrong. Substandard acting and a confused plot were the orders of the day for this, the latest topical Muslim drama from Channel 4. Although I was never expecting this to present a new and shiny opinion I did want it to be entertaining in its own right, but alas it was never to be. Or was it?

Part One, Sohail's Story seemed to only offer us a day in the life of a Muslim spy; although that sounds hella interesting in theory the producers here didn't quite manage to pull it off. Cliched and irrelevant, it didn't really offer any new views or substantial points to the existing debate - heck it didn't even offer old ones.

As a film it was hard to watch as well. The mixed up and speedy plot made the viewer work way too hard; I had trouble following exactly what was going on or who they happened to be tailing/bugging/torturing at any one time. I finally gave up trying to follow the story and just let it slide over me.

So no, I wasn't sure what the point of Part One was. As a drama it was mildly entertaining at best, although I did find myself being drawn in a few times (and at least Priya Kalidas was in it). In fact, I was so discouraged I was contemplating skipping Part Two altogether. Of course my obsession with completeness didn't allow that to happen, and you know what? I'm glad I carried on with it.

Part Two, or Nasima's Story was way more interesting. Much of this was due to the bravery of the script - again, there was nothing new with respect to what was being said, but to present "the other argument" in a prime time drama is pretty unprecedented. I imagine that a lot of viewers may not have been aware of some of the legislation and behaviour demonstrated over the two hours tonight and for this Channel 4 should be acknowledged.

As a drama it was also well done. The obvious story led itself, but as a result there was less of the false "manufacturing" that the first part had severely suffered from. I was totally sucked in by Manjinder Virk, more so than I was by Riz Ahmed yesterday. This was the entertainment I was looking for previously.

Although Part One had set the stage for Part Two, I reckon that the latter could have survived on its own. In fact, I suspect that the main reason Part One was made was to "dilute" or soften the impact of the conclusion - I would have expected much more criticism and accusations of sympathising with suicide bombers directed toward the drama if it was just about Nasima.

So all in all a mixed reception. Better than the usual stuff, Britz managed to do pretty well by the end. It's encouraging to see boundaries being pushed in this particular way for once and I'm totally looking forward to the fallout from this, the latest topical Muslim drama from Channel 4.

Wednesday, October 31

Link of the Day Click for more info

Here's a simple yet super-useful web application that tells you in which direction Qibla is according to your position on a Google map.

Now it's not so useful on it's own (there's still no way for a web page to give you compass directions yet!), but if accessible from a mobile device this can put to an end all those mental calculation/guesswork we do when trying to figure out where Makkah actually is when we arrive in a new place. After lining up your device with a known street or landmark you should be able to determine the direction of Qibla.

Thanks to Sarah for the link.

One To Watch: Britz Click for more info

Tonight 9pm, Channel 4

The fabulous Riz Ahmed and Manjinder Virk team up in what's promised to be a good watch about a pair of siblings, each going off in extreme and opposite directions to each other.

So yes, totally clichéd and probably without surprise; I certainly won't be watching for any debate pushing plot lines. I am looking forward to some good acting and production - I just hope it won't disappoint in that respect at least.

Monday, October 29

Stopped And Searched In His Tracks Click for more info

Minister detained at US airport

What this headline fails to mention is that the stopped official in question was Shahid Malik, minister for international development. This event is ironic on so many levels, I'm going to have to list them all one by one.

IRONY ONE: He was returning from a series of meetings in Washington dealing with terrorism (probably including security of this type).

IRONY TWO: Shahid has previously spoken about how being stopped for being a Muslim is now a fact of life and we should accept it as such.

IRONY THREE: His deep disappointment at being stopped purely because he's a government official.

It seems that a day doesn't go by without us creeping closer to an Animal Farm; some certainly seem to be more equal than others at the moment. My respect for this man has reached a new low and if I was allowed to swear on this blog I know what I'd call him.

Sunday, October 28

Film: Eastern Promises Click for more info

I had enjoyed A History of Violence, the last Cronenberg-Mortensen collaboration so much that I didn't hesitate in wanting to go see this. A Russian mafia thriller set in London sounded like the perfect context in which to give me more of the offbeat and sophisticated violent plot Violence had provided two years ago.

Eastern Promises didn't quite hit the same spot as last time, but it was a good film anyway. Not violent as the last (in terms of quantity rather than quality), bloodlust was clearly less of an marked objective here, allowing the makers to focus on the art of actual story telling instead.

But apart from that, this film does seem to be a bit less special than Violence; not much happens by then end and you're left asking yourself where the rest of the film went to. Not quite a recommendation then, but definitely one to check out on DVD if you get the chance.

Saturday, October 27

Food: Aziziye Click for more info

I had heard loads about this Turkish restaurant, novel for having been situated under a mosque. I just never had an opportunity to pay it a visit so when an Imperial chum organised a bit of a Prayer Room Reunion there I have to admit that a part of me wanted to go just to check out the venue.

So imagine my disappointment when I arrived at what appeared to be just another souped up kebab shop. Not that there's anything wrong with that per se, but these joints are ten a penny all over London and I didn't see anything that made Aziziye any different. My expectations had been dashed, let down by word of mouth.

Nothing changed by the end of the evening either - the food was passable but nothing amazing. Even the on-floor seating that some seemed to have gotten excited about wasn't enough to perk me up. To be fair the same people had told me that Aziziye wasn't now what it used to be, but even if it was twice as good I don't think it would have been of any note.

Still, thirteen quid got us loads of food and drink so if there is one thing this place impresses with it's the price. But unless you're really on a budget I can think of plenty of other places to go have a meal at.

Chelsea Vs Man City

Although I've been to watch a fair few Cricket matches, I've never actually seen a Football game live. I guess it just didn't quite appeal to me both in terms of interest (there's a level of tribal fandom with Football that I don't relate to) and value - fifty quid or whatever for ninety minutes play seems a bit steep to me.

But when my place of work offered me a pair of tickets (I declined a single place in the corporate box), I thought I'd take my brother (mad Chelsea fan) to Stamford Bridge and see what the fuss was about.

I've been to The Bridge before, ironically to play myself rather than watch others. Coming back wasn't much of a shock then; the pitch still seemed small compared to what I've seen on the telly. But more than that, the play seemed slower too and the players less... professional. I guess television is weird in making real life more than it actually is.

It took me a while to get used to no commentary, a lack of replays and different camera angles, but as a result I seemed to be able to hone in on my other senses and followed the game in a totally different way. I guess I now know what people mean by them being closer to the action. It's not just a physical thing.

The match itself was amazing: we witnessed six goals being scored by the home side - not bad considering the other two matches I could have chosen instead both ending in goalless draws. The downside to this, of course, is that I probably think this is a normal result when you watch Football live; I wonder what it's like watching a match with no score?

The atmosphere was awesome too, but also telling of how fanatic those who follow Football seriously actually are. And the snob in me marvelled at the number of great unwashed all in one place at the same time.

So yes, overall my first match was pretty damn good. It's nice that, unlike cricket, you can be in and out in a couple of hours, and games can be very exciting to watch (provided the teams score more than five times, of course). Still, it was obvious that I enjoyed today's match in a vastly different way to the fans watching with me; theirs is a level of passion I don't think I'll ever achieve.

Thursday, October 25


xxxx says (09:38):
    let's go
    I think she's fit
Shak says (09:38):
    she hot
xxxx says (09:38):
Shak says (09:38):
    i know man i know
Shak says (09:39):
    i wanna produce games just so that i can stalk her on games production forums
xxxx says (09:39):
    now thats funny.... you should blog that you should
Shak says (09:39):

Wednesday, October 24

Film: Stardust Click for more info

Fun filled fantasy romp set in the world of Stormhold, situated behind The Wall and home to kings, witches, monsters and star people. Here, we follow the adventure of young Tristan as he travels over to the other side in order to impress, yes, you've guessed it, a girl.

Stardust wasn't that half bad either. In fact, I'll even go as far as saying it was pretty awesome - it reminded me very much of the first Pirates film in how straightforward and to the point it all was. You don't need to concentrate to watch this film, folks.

The brilliant dialogue helped loads and had me in stitches throughout; Claire Danes, as Yvaine, plays one of the most common (yet gorgeous) Star person I've seen on cinema. The old hands Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer also kick ass, with Charlie Cox as our hero doing a fine job too. Visually the film is top notch.

The film does fail at times though, with a few weak and shallow moments at pivotal moments. But still, it's worth bearing through these in order to experience the high levels of feel good factor this flick manages to produce in the viewer at the end. Despite its flaws, I'd say this is definitely one to watch.

Game: Portal (PC) Click for more info

It's safe to say that I wouldn't have bought Valve's The Orange Box if it wasn't for one of its games, Portal. Said to be fun, innovative, funny, short and sweet there weren't many things to put me off this game.

And you know what? A Portal Gun really is as fun as it sounds. For those who don't know, this weapon allows you to shoot entry and exit portals on most surfaces, allowing you to traverse spaces within the level. It's a brilliant idea in theory and even better in practice - I've had fun just creating jump loops and reverse angle views of myself, and I've not even played the game properly yet.

Add to that some ingenious level design and a brilliant script and we end up with something quite special; I'm not even put off by the alleged short length of the game. It runs okay on my aged PC too, with my ATI Radeon 9800 managing to churn out a good 40fps with just the texture detail set to low.

Brilliant stuff, and just the thing to get me back to playing games on the PC.

Monday, October 22

Film: Brick Lane Click for more info

It goes without saying that if I hadn't been invited to this sneak preview by a friend I probably wouldn't have seen Brick Lane at all, ever. And I know how hypocritical I am being in this case by judging a book I've not yet read by its cover, but then we all have hunches for a reason. I feel giving the film adaptation a chance is a good enough compromise though.

And my hunch about Brick Lane did hold in part. Terribly cliched and telling a story that's been done to death for the last ten years or so, we are told the story about yet another deceptively weak Asian woman, married to her repressive husband at a young age, finally breaking free by having an affair and tasting real love and then realising what is actually important in life. Blah blah blah. There are no surprises in this film, but hey, at least her lover isn't a white guy this time.

So no, no points for an original plot then, but then there's more to a film than just its story. Tannishtha Chatterjee does a brilliant job as our protagonist, Nazneen, with the remaining casting and production values as a whole pretty top notch; the makers of the film generally do a good job in condensing a 500-page novel to just one and a half hours. There are also rare moments of pure genius and joy, each touching and engaging in their own right - especially when I found myself reflecting on them while walking up the actual real life Brick Lane thirty minutes after the film ended. Unfortunately there just isn't enough of these moments to carry the film through as a whole.

So it's not a flick I can unconditionally recommend unless you already know you want to see it - Brick Lane does exactly what it says on the tin. But I don't regret going to watch it, if only to see what the media fuss was all about. And with respect to that, I'd say that the criticism has been largely unjustified and so perhaps the only really interesting aspect of this film at all.

Sunday, October 21

Video of the Day Click for more info

Here's the latest from Imran J Khan and gang. Super awesome and taking satire to another level as per usual:

Favourite bits include that graph, subh/maash/alhum guy and the judge who's straight out of Prison Break.

Unlike their peers, these guys don't seem to judgemental, critical or shallow; just real. People like these actually give me hope.

Thursday, October 18

Commuter Colleagues

I wonder what the exact protocol is when bumping into people you recognise from your daily commute away from the commute itself?

As a testament to just how small the world is, it's happened to me quite a few times. And in those situations I've managed a range of reactions from ignoring them, throwing a smile their way and striking up a full blown conversation (with the extremely rare case resulting in a full blown relationship to match). And in return all have had some pretty random responses from being blanked to reciprocation.

Whatever, it's a strange and sometimes awkward experience. Still, I can't wait to randomly bump into Chewie or Victoria...

Film: Ratatouille Click for more info

Just how enjoyable can a film about a cooking rat actually be? I mean a general audience can't possibly relate to a rat and it's not like cooking is the most exciting subject to base a story around either, right? These thoughts contributed to a general sense of cynicism I had before I sat down to watch Ratatouille, but as this was a Disney-Pixar film I had to give it the credit I wouldn't have offered to just any other film.

The first thing that came to my mind was how mature the output of these particular CGI collaborators has become, both in terms of visuals and general production values. It seems that these films are no longer a showcase of the latest computer animation tricks; that's not to say Ratatouille wasn't visually stunning because it absolutely was - it's perhaps the best looking CGI out there. But now the visuals complement the film instead of potentially distracting from it, and as a result you tend to appreciate them even more.

Content has grown up a little too. I spotted at least two suggestive innuendos which went far beyond the usual brand of adult humour this genre usually provides. There was also a pretty passionate scene during the film that, although not being totally out of place in a Disney flick, came pretty damn close.

Otherwise, barring the laboured start, Ratatouille was just as funny, engaging and heartstring tugging as any of its sibling films were. I would say that it wasn't as emotionally undulating as it could have been, sticking to a more consistently medium level of pace and fun and frolics, but I don't think the film suffered much because of that - it just wasn't as epic as, say, The Incredibles was.

Overall it was an ace flick and totally put any cynicism I initially had to bed. So, just how enjoyable can a film about a cooking rat actually be? Pretty damn enjoyable actually, and I urge everyone to go watch Ratatouille as soon as they can.

Wednesday, October 17

Being Gotten

There's a lot to be said about not being understood by other people. No, I'm not talking about the stereotypical way in which some teenagers feel they're misunderstood by their parents. It's not that this is any less important; it's just not what I'm getting at here. Or perhaps it is. I'm not quite sure yet.

I've already spoken many times about being "different" and "unique" in this here blog, both personally and more recently generally and how it's mainly due to all of us being our own particular people. However what I've noticed is that the more difficult it is for someone to get you, the harder it is to form any kind of relationship with them, and as such those who are in serious relationships are usually easily understood, not only by their partners, but by others too.

It's also important to realise that being understood isn't about having someone agree with everything you say, but more about knowing where you're coming from and going to. It's a mixture of acceptance, tolerance and respect, and further each earned rather than granted for free just because you happen to have a nice smile (or great rack. Whatever).

I've not got any delusions of grandeur here: I'm not saying that those who are misunderstood somehow operate on a higher plane than their counterparts, but merely on a different one which may put them out of reach with a large slice of people. And as I've mentioned before it's also quite likely too: confer with how different people will relate to different parts of you respectively, but none can quite relate to the same as a whole.

But all is not lost for those who feel that most of the world just doesn't get them. Personally, I've met people who have gotten me enough to keep my interest; albeit to a platonic level due to them already being taken, being the wrong gender or being out of reach for some other reason. Ironically I've even been in the situation where even though someone gets me pretty quickly, I never quite got to get them back in the same way.

Which brings us to marriage. If anyone needs to understand you to a really high level, it's your other half. Now for some, the initial reaction to this sentiment is to declare the need to compromise. For me, this means to change yourself in a fundamental way - be it to dumb yourself down, hide your complexities, shallow your depths or remove some of your layers - all in order to somehow make yourself more accessible to the largest pool of potential suitors possible.

And it could and does work: many successful unions have been created between two people who never really quite understand each other fully. For those of us still single and looking, the question is whether this a situation we would mind being in or not. The simple answer to that is no as we would have done so otherwise.

The more difficult question is whether it's actually worth waiting for that someone to finally get you before running off into the sunset with them, since it may mean having to wait for quite a long time.

Link of the Day Click for more info

SingStar Bollywood on Friday

I dunno if it's a joke or not... But if it's true I hope someone gets this!

Monday, October 15

The Numbers Game

Generally, whether two people get on or not largely depends on two things:

  1. Who the two parties respectfully are - both on their own as individuals and when in the company of each other. This is largely made up from their experiences and how they grew up etc.
  2. What the two have been through together, or the context of their relationship - so their common work environment, college, shared uni mates and local friends, common relatives, whether they first met formally (say via an introduction) or not.
A lot of this is out of our hands. You can influence the first, but it's requires a conscious effort over a long period of time and is probably not worth it, while the second is just defined by destiny and circumstance and the like.

And so, although there are specific ways to make or break a specific relationship, I think that if you remain true to yourself and one happens to be more trouble than it's worth, I don't think that it's unreasonable to walk away. Even the most approachable person will eventually find people with whom they don't get along and there is no failure in being incompatible with someone, since at the end of the day you really are who you really are.

I'll go further and claim that people, in all their gorgeous uniqueness, are generally incompatible, and that the likelihood of meeting someone you are compatible with increases as you meet more people. Ironically, however, the closer two people want to be (be that just mates, FWBs, BFF or marriage partners), the more these incompatibilities matter.

But this is all pretty obvious stuff so far. Or is it? People seem to be pretty surprised when an introduction or potential rishta doesn't work out. Why is this? Well, let's consider some numbers.

Let's suppose that we line up one hundred people in order of compatibility with respect to our single test subject, Mr X. Let's suppose that they're equally spaced out with the first being totally incompatible and the last being totally compatible. Let's now suppose that Mr X requires 75% compatibility with another in order to seriously consider them to form a relationship with. This means that, in the worse case, Mr X needs to meet 75 of these people before he meets someone who fits the bill.

Of course these numbers have all been plucked out of the air and people can't simply be ordered in terms of compatibility and the like. The particular point I'm trying to make is that out of all the people we come across and meet in our busy social lives, the chances are that we'll only be compatible with a small number of them.

Which is why I've always said that this whole marriage lark is essentially just a simple game of numbers. Further, this is a game that works above objective criteria and background checks; incompatibility isn't due to one party not being able to cook, or being too short or not being virgin enough - even if all the boxes are ticked, if you're not compatible you're just not compatible. No, relationships break down for reasons much more abstract than these.

But it's not all bad news, since the converse implies that we might find ourselves to be compatible with people we wouldn't ever consider on paper. But if these pieces of paper we each carry with us are so useless, why don't we just throw them all away?

We each have an innate ability to figure out or feel whether we like someone or not, although admittedly some of us need to hone and trust that ability. But once we do that, all that's left to be done is to doggedly keep on looking for people until we find that someone who we happen to be compatible with - someone we usually won't recognise until we actually find them.