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?