Wednesday, April 30

The Apprentice: Theories

Based on the past six or so shows, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • Lee and Alex fancy Sara who in turn has spurned their advances. There is no other explanation for their treatment of her tonight.
  • Jenny and Jennifer are both jealous of Sara. There is no other reason for their treatment of her tonight.
  • Raef is a hero.
  • Claire is a bit of an anti-hero, but is starting to shine.
  • Kevin fancies Jenny and will do anything to spare her a boardroom even if it was patently clear she was at fault.
  • Michael fancies Kevin.
  • Kevin is a bit of a dick.

Film: Forgetting Sarah Marshall Click for more info

Kristen Bell! Mila Kunis!

Okay it probably goes without saying that this film only got my attention once I realised who was in it. Still, after I found out that it had also been produced by Apatow I created a more sensible justification to actually watch it.

Sarah Marshall follows on well from the likes of Superbad and Knocked Up, prioritising comedy at the cost of any sense of plot or flow. If you're interested in the story anyway it has something to do with some Peter guy trying to get over the Sarah from the title.

But when the film isn't trying to tell us a tale (so around 90% of the time), it instead repeatedly throws random gag after random gag at the audience, hoping that something will make you laugh. And after a while, once it's beaten down your defenses, you don't really have a choice but laugh at most of it.

It's a bit hit and miss then, just like a friend who's funny most of the time. That's probably enough to recommend it anyway, but with the likes of Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis in the main cast it becomes a must-see. Even Russel Brand didn't spoil the film for me (and I refuse to admit that he might have even added value to it).

Sunday, April 27

Film: 21 Click for more info

21 is about a group of super-smart MIT students who band together in order to game Las Vegas casinos by counting cards, a premise that paves the way for a shallow, yet entertaining and thrilling, two hours or so.

There isn't really much that challenges the viewer in this film: the plot is simple and the film did a good job at explaining how the concept of card counting works, although judging by the way my Imperial colleague and I were reminded of our university lectures by some scenes of the film ("The Game Show problem, anyone?) perhaps we were at an advantage.

The acting was good too, with Jim Sturgess only becoming annoying a few times. The veterans Kevin Spacey and Lawrence Fishbourne propped up the rest of the young cast (unfortunately we didn't get to see Kate Bosworth's feet this time around).

Accessible yet clever, fun and easy going, it was just the ticket for a Sunday afternoon. Recommended.

In The Company Of Others

This month's question-to-be-discussed-with-friends was whether it's more comfortable to be in the company of many as opposed to meeting friends one-on-one.

So far the vast majority seems to prefer hanging out with one single other to them being in a group. I found this surprising, especially since I went the other way: I'm most definitely a group person. Of course exceptions did apply and we all could recall situations where a good time was had in either situation: this was more a stating of general preference than anything else and it was good to know that most could all kinda keep a conversation going where ever they happened to be.

But it may be worth discussing the reasons behind these preferences anyway. Personally I sometimes really struggle in a one-to-one situation, especially if there isn't a formal reason for the meeting. It's a problem that also manifests itself in the phone neurosis that I have (as some of you already know, I really don't know how to use a telephone; but more about that in a later post). I would go as far as saying that my exclusive company is a guarantee of long silences, awkward pauses and discussions about the weather.

I'm still not completely sure what my issue is, but I do have a few theories. For a start on a practical level there are literally more inputs and outputs to play with when you're in a larger group; with two people you can cover all opinions and routes of discussion pretty quickly (although that probably says more about my conversational skills than anything else).

A friend also raised the issue of trust, stating that you can go deeper into a personal conversation precisely because there aren't other people you have to worry about. On the other hand I think I respond to groups better precisely because there are more witnesses to what I'm saying. This in turn forces me to be more of a neutral, balanced and so real individual than the times when I'm alone - perhaps it's human nature to adapt and become the person your opposite wants you to be rather than yourself.

Of course it could just be my being a desperate attention-seeker always striving for a receptive audience. On the other hand a real attention-seeker would crave the focus that an individual conversation brings - but for others such a focus can be terrifying: you're less likely to make a fool of yourself in a group I reckon.

Regardless of their actual preference, everyone mostly agreed that its important to be able to talk to someone alone. You can't always guarantee that you'll be in a group after all (and it's probably more likely that you won't be), and for me it's quite disappointing when I find I can't talk to someone in private, even if I've known them for up to a decade. I've also come away from meeting people for the first time alone (be it in a potential rishta situation or something else) certain that I would have made a much better impression if they had met me in a group.

But more important than this is that we're obviously expected to talk or hang out with those we are in relationships with. It's not unreasonable either - in fact it's probably a requirement of a healthy partnership; and since it's wholly impractical to bring a group along whenever you want to talk to your other half, your one-on-one skills probably need to be looked at if you find yourself struggling with them. Mine certainly do!

Saturday, April 26

Spiced Spare Ribs! Click for more info

To be honest when I saw the marketing poster for this, the latest RMW event, I thought that it immediately gave this event away for what it actually turned out to be - a session in scapegoating, rhetoric and, quite frankly, moaning. I would crack a joke about oestrogen, but since I've already placed myself firmly in the "insecure and defensive male critic" bracket I'd better not push my chances of being taken seriously here any more than I already have. Still, I thought it would be a nice way to introduce a friend from abroad to what Muslim London/UK was all about so we popped along for a looksie anyway.

It wasn't all that bad actually. Despite being female only (a criticism of the event's philosophy rather than the sheer individual talent on show), the panel did manage to both enlighten and entertain for most of it. For me, the star of the show was Humera Khan, possibly an manifestation of the ongoing developing attitude she herself lays claim to. There were a few times when she seemed to lay all problems at the feet of Muslim men (and even a thinly veiled "in my experience" qualification didn't really make up for that) but that could be forgiven in the grand scheme of things.

The rest of the panel was also brilliant: Fatima Zohra was the most real and constantly refused to acknowledge the cliches her mainly Asian audience were throwing at her. Catherine Heseltine charmingly did her MPAC proactive thing, having a pop at the establishment and all, and made a nice contrast to the more subtle approach to change suggested by the rest of the panel.

Khola Hasan seemed to represent the traditional angle, scholarly and backing up her opinion with various theological ideas. And of course the awesome Fareena Alam did a brill job as moderator (I've been told I'm not allowed to say that I fancy her out of respect of her marriage to the equally awesome Abdel-Rehman Malik and so I won't).

Topic-wise we actually started out really well, only becoming progressively worse as the strong resistance to conventional thinking and blame started to waver. As a warm-up we first debated the marketing poster (which was pretty fun) before moving on to the always-juicy discussion on relationships and marriage - or how to solve The Problem Of Being Single.

The concept of platonic relationships in Islam was considered and answered without deferring to an obvious "no", segregation was criticised and the value of remaining single touched upon. We did have a couple of redundant questions ("should older women marry younger men?") but they were dealt with quickly and efficiently enough. In hindsight I should have piped up a bit more; but as always is the case with these things I always want to save my self-fool-making for later.

We then moved to the place of women in politics (the conclusion in short: "yes, there in fact is one") which bled onto leadership and then female scholarship. By that point nothing new was really being discussed and the predictable prejudices and insecurities of the audience had taken over.

By that point my eyes had gotten tired by all the incessant rolling, and tonight was one of the few times I had ever left a talk early. A bit of a shame then, as the potential to break new ground and introduce a new way of thinking was squashed by the transformation of it all into a big old soap box.

Tuesday, April 22

Film: In Bruges Click for more info

Black comedy about a pair of hitmen going into hiding (in Bruges) after botching up a job. What comes next is 107 minutes of hilarity, bad language and slapstick.

Takes a while to get its wheels turning (and we have to wait way too long to see Ralph Fiennes' do his thing), but worth it in the end. Funny, surreal and ultimately charming, it's definitely worth a watch.

Video of the Day

Although specifically talking about arguments on the Internet, Wired's Lore Sjoberg's dissection of argumentative misanthropes totally applies to those who generally don't really know what they're talking about in real life discussions too:

Sigh: memories of time wasted on the ALMBs come flooding back. If some of you wonder why I avoid commenting here on my own blog, well the above is partly why. Still, knowing how to recognise time-wasting BSers helps you to avoid, uh, having to talk to them in the first place.

The Woman in Black Click for more info

After nineteen years of being shown, it's probably not too surprising that The Woman in Black comes with so many positive recommendations. Said to be thrilling and scary it had already garnered interest in those of us who were heading off to the Fortune Theatre in Russel Street to watch the performance. We were looking forward to it.

The first disappointment was with our seating. The Fortune is small as it is and so extra capacity (read: the more cheaper seats) reaches the heavens instead of going back and we had a very good birds eye view of the stage. We were also in the company of what seemed like a legion of schoolgirls whose incessant screaming at anything and everything did a good job of killing any sense of suspense generated. But the production itself can hardly be blamed for any of that, and I guess you'd have to look past all that in order to assess the play properly.

TWIB is also different in it's tiny cast - there are only two speaking parts on the stage during the two hours or so that the performance runs for; we actually end up watching a play within a play with the two "outer" actors swapping in and out of the various characters in then "inner" play.

The stage and props reflect this set up, with the actors themselves using basic and minimal equipment to maximum effect - they literally spell out at one point how they expected the audience to use their imagination to fill the gaps (up to the point where we had to imagine a dog names Spider).

If you're confused reading all that then don't worry: it took me a while to come to terms with what was going on and where exactly I was until I picked up the relevant cues marking the respective stages in the play. Although it demonstrated the prowess and skill of the two actors it did make the whole thing less easy going than it could have been.

Apart from how TWIB was constructed, the story itself was vaguely interesting. We were being told the tale about a solicitor being sent to a creepy home in order to settle the affairs of the recently deceased lady of the house. The bulk of the plot revolves around him staying there and experiencing all manner of spooky going-ons and as such the whole thing tends to burn a bit too slowly for my liking.

But still, it was engaging enough to keep me occupied for the duration of the show and there were some genuinely spooky parts. The whole play within a play thing wasn't totally irrelevant either, although I do wonder if I would have enjoyed it more with a regular set up.

As it stands, TWIB is a different and so refreshing play to watch and it's certainly not the worst thing I've seen. It's worth watching I guess: just make sure you pick some good seats (preferably ones not next to screaming schoolgirls).

Friday, April 18

Game: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (360) Click for more info


On the one hand we have a very slick FPS set in modern times, with a modern plot and weapons. The presentation is excellent and the game fun (albeit superficially) and easy to play and get in to. A bit where you call for air cover and then take control of the plane to cover the character you were just playing springs to mind. Very nice.

But there's something just unsatisfying about the whole experience, like it's not giving you enough of the good stuff while you're playing. It could very well be how you play as a team and not solo - I can't say I've really ever played a game like that and I seem to be uncomfortable with how my team mates keep playing the game for me. Honestly sometimes by the time I've sorted out my position they've cleared the area.

Apparently the game is short so I'll bear with it just to see how the story unfolds. As an experience it's very good, as a game less so.

Wednesday, April 16

Film: Son of Rambow Click for more info

Cute tale about a pair of schoolkids turning to film production to escape the various problems they face at home - what ensues is essentially a story of friendship. The film within the film is "Son of Ranbow", a sequel of sorts to the recently released First Blood.

The film was more fantastical than I expected it to be, with lots of comic book cutaway and slapstick. Although this made the film more accessible than it would have been otherwise, it also had the effect of making it a bit shallow - you never once believed that the characters, location and context was to do with anything other than young children with wild imaginations.

On the other hand the film did provide lots of laughs and is brimming with feel good factor - watch this if you're in need of a lift. And despite how easy going it all was there were some powerful moments with the two main child actors Bill Milner and Will Poulter putting some of the adults to shame.

All in all a well made and tight film about what it means to be best buddies. Recommended.

Simple Problems

While up high on my indefinitely-single-but-thinks-he-knows-all-there-is-about-relationships perch, I'm often amused by how common it is for those coupling around me to have such simple problems in their relationships.

You know, things like caste or height getting in the way. Or wondering whether the fact that someone doesn't have Pakistani roots (no matter that they haven't ever been there). Or perhaps that they don't drive the right car, or live in the right postal code. Or maybe they were late for dinner one night or something. I'm sure you all have many examples of your own.

In my mind these things are pretty trivial and can all be resolved pretty easily if not ignored altogether. That's probably why I'm always amazed that there are relationships out there with these kind of problems because a) they're not really problems and so b) the couple don't really have any problems and further c) that they've somehow created all these themselves.

As is the case with anything I guess relationships can't be perfect and for those that are close to being one, the vacuum necessitates the creation of these trivialities. In this sense having small quibbles is good sign.

I've seen it all so easily get out of hand though so I guess it's all about keeping some sense of scale - to accept that you need to complain and dislike some things about your relationship with them in order to appreciate the rest of it, a kind of latent level of relationship problems that they all need to have in order to be a relationship in the first place.

On the flip side, I've also seen people who make it a point to avoid even these simple problems - so much so that they end up limiting their options altogether. Some even take it to the ultimate extreme and find themselves refusing to enter any relationship because of the inevitable (yet manageable) issues that could arise.

I say that these people are missing the point and paradoxically avoiding the very thing that they think they're looking for. Heck, perhaps those of us who are single shouldn't be mocking these simple problems at all, but instead should respect and then actively seek them out for ourselves?

The Dangerous Ideas Tour Click for more info

The final day in the Radical Middle Way's fairly ambitious UK tour was held at the Mile End Ecology Centre. I had to be convinced to turn up tonight - although I appreciate the art forms, spoken word and poetry really aren't my thing and I thought I'd just end up being bored at best or patronising at worst, especially seeing how it was all aimed at that Muslim Youth lot.

Even a closer look at the description of the event would have proven me incorrect though: there was more than enough hip-hop, comedy and other stuff to keep even a cynic like me entertained. And as it turned out, the poetry actually wasn't that bad after all - in fact it was one of the many highlights of the show.

R U KID, a finalist in the UK Beatboxing Championship this year opened up the proceedings; he was actually present throughout, providing backing for most of the artists performing. I was amazed that he was just a finalist and some of the things he could do seemed impossible to me.

Akram Hussain, the recently elected Tower Hamlets Young Mayor, said a few words about his role in the community and the importance of bridging across different demographics - be it age, gender or race. To be honest I'm not quite sure I get what his role and responsibilities are above that of a PR nature, but I'm probably underestimating them anyway.

Young Ummah, a rap group of four from Harlesden, then did a set. A clear example of how far Muslim rap is going, it wasn't long before I was bopping my head to their beats. We then had a few minutes with the South African comedian Halal Bilal. Now I'm not a big fan of Muslim comedy: mainly because it's all been done before (and wasn't funny then either). But I'll admit to chuckling more than once with Bilal and it was impressive to see him up there.

Warsan Shire and Sierra Leone's Alim then did their respective performances. The former was very quick - two poems and she was gone. Alim gave us a bit more of his time, transmitting a fairly emotional narrative to us in the audience. I was actually caught by surprise by how powerful his words were as he described a gang shooting.

It was then the turn of what turned out to be my personal favourite act of the evening, Poetic Pilgrimage. I actually fell in love with Muneera Rashida purely after hearing her first poem regarding celebrity; it's good too see how far they've come since 2001. The pair then ripped it up with their more regular hip hop which was pretty awesome too. They were later joined by Mohammed Yahya and Massacre to provide yet more auditory treats.

Rishi Rich and Mumzy served as bonuses to the proceedings; they clearly didn't fit in with the rest of the line up, but it was nice to hear Mumzy do his thing live - he sung Stranger and he really does sing both parts of the track himself. He was followed by Imam Johari Abdul Malik who explained in more literal and less arty terms what the whole point of the evening was.

Although Amir Sulaiman (and his groupies, although I can't really blame him for those) headlined the event, he didn't quite do it for me as much as Poetic Pilgrimage did. That's not to say I didn't underestimate him; he was real, funny and good at sending out the message he had been brought in for and I was ultimately glad to be in his audience. The final ten minute stint with all of the night's performers in one collaboration was just superb.

Fortunately I had been totally wrong about what to expect from tonight. It was entertaining, sure, but more that that I felt that a message, that we each had the power to propagate change, had actually been sent out, a lot of opinions made and attitudes changed and the seeds of further activism planted. I may even be pushed to saying that the Radical Middle Way did a damn good job with this tour - it certainly beat the whole nasheed thing anyway.

Tuesday, April 15

New Music

Better In Time - Leona Lewis

What is it about Leona Lewis in that you always hate her tracks before growing to totally dig them? I guess that's just popular music at its best.

Monday, April 14

Things That Pee Me Off #12: People Who Laugh At Their Own Jokes

Okay look, I admit it. I think I'm funny. A lot of unfunny people think that they are, and so while I'm not proud of this self awareness, I will also accept that I am most probably wrong. But I don't really have a problem with people who put themselves in such good measure.

No, I just can't stand people who manifest this opinion of themselves by laughing at what they just cracked. To be honest it wouldn't be much of a big deal if everyone else was laughing also, but those who laugh at their own jokes are also usually the ones who found it most funny and so they're also the loudest.

The fact is that most of the time they're the only ones laughing, apart from a few others who choose to be polite and respond to the prompting, possibly out of pity or politeness. Yes it's always good to promote laughter from those around you, but I think it's quite perverse to crease up at something you said yourself. In fact I can liken it to some other forms of self gratification.

My advice to them is to keep it down, show a bit of humility and let others decide whether what you said was worth laughing at or not - perhaps it would have been if you kept quiet? Chances are it wasn't though, and so carrying on and laughing just makes you doubly wrong.

Food: Nakhon Thai Click for more info

Dinner tonight was at Nakhon Thai on Wapping High Street. I arrived late and so missed the starters but what I had of the main was pretty good. Half-Halal, we stuck to the chicken and fish and all the oft-neglected accompaniments were above average.

Decor and atmosphere were nice - Wapping is a nice riverside part of town and all the places around here have the same kind of airy Summer vibe about them. We didn't have to pay much either, as Top table once again slashed our bill in half to a reasonable 17 quid per head.

An Unlazy Sunday

Sometimes you have such a perfectly synchronised day that you feel like you've wasted all others that week - that in fact the past six days were just all leading up to this one.

Today was such a day for me. It was partly typical - I started with an early long run with my neighbour (something we hadn't done since I returned from my travelling) followed by my teaching at ICSS (I was scheduled to come in today).

I left early in order to catch the top end of a family lunch we were having. I couldn't hang around though because I had to leave for South Woodford mosque: today also happened to be the date for the latest QMT Marriage Event thing. I had missed the last one and so made it a point to attend and as usual it was pretty good - with those of us leaving without any leads or interests not finding it a waste of time like we might have other events. The crowd also seems to be getting bigger, and I had known friends attending on both sides.

I had to yet again leave early in order to catch the tail end of a lunch party I had been invited to elsewhere. I arrived just in time, managing to catch dessert, and the next few hours were spent having various (semantic and otherwise) arguments regarding prejudice and racism. It was great and I think we could have gone on for much longer.

The evening was suffixed by an impromptu dinner out with yet another group of friends. It was very last minute (I missed the initial invitation) and I wasn't even going to go - but that I was locked out of my house meant I had to. I was glad I did since the day was made perfect by the final session of banter, food and hanging out.

And of course best of all is the feeling when you come home late on a Sunday, not having to worry about work the next day! Playboy lifestyle it might not be, but it's good enough for me.

Saturday, April 12

Game: Mario Kart Wii Click for more info

It's pretty telling that between my brother and me we've owned every single Mario Kart released. For reference, that's Super Mario Kart, Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart Super Circuit, Mario Kart: Double Dash and Mario Kart DS, and it's the only series of games that we've been compelled to own fully.

This was partly due to the love we had for the seminal SNES classic. Hours were spent playing it, sometimes alone but mainly with two or more people - it was one of the few games along with the likes of Street Fighter 2 that was an enjoyable to watch as it was to play.

MK64 added to the fun by allowing four people to play at once. It was a worthy replacement and not disappointing, but I'm not left with as many fond memories of playing that particular version. The other iterations were footnotes as far as I was concerned; SC and DD were diluted and spoiled, while the potential brilliance of DS was wasted on a platform where multiplayer was such a hassle to set up.

I guess the first clue to Mario Kart Wii's awesomeness is in its name. There are no gimmicks here, no two man karts or coin collecting. No, in many ways MKW has been stripped back to basics, left in a pure form not really seen since M64.

I should admit that I struggled with it at first, the redesigning of the drift mechanism throwing me off a bit (if you've not played since the SNES or SC then you'll have no problems grasping the simpler non-snaking form here). Once I had gotten over that and settled into a character/vehicle combination that best suited me (from the myriad of options available), I was able to play MK as it's supposed to be played - that is meticulously, exploring every nook and cranny for those vital extra seconds to shave off.

And that's when I discovered that this is no "simple" MK after all. The most obvious addition is that of bikes, vehicles not only with different statistics but totally different characteristics. We also now have the ability to perform air stunts, the reward of which is a small boost on landing - again things which all add up to a shattering track record or first place.

So far so good then? Well as it stands I'd say that alone makes MKW one of my favourite MKs ever, placing somewhere around MK64. The thing is that I've not even mentioned online yet.

For all the stick Nintendo has had for their online strategy, MKW totally removes any suspicion that they don't know what they're doing. You can both race and battle online, the former with up to 12 other karts. You can match up globally, within your continent or against specific friends - with wins in the first two contributing to your permanent "race score". Against friends you're able to play with standard GP rules - a simple concept MK fans could only dream about before.

You don't just race against each other either - you now have global, continental and friend time trial leaderboards and can finally officially record who is the fastest at track x or y, downloading the leader's ghost in order to practise against. It's the little things like that which makes the whole experience so excellent - for example as you boot up the installable (and so disc-less) Mario Kart Channel, seeing who's online and then joining them for a continental race or whatever.

And that's why this actually gets placed way ahead of MK64 - Mario Kart has always been about playing with other people and MKW totally seems to understand this. Coupled with a pure, yet sophisticated and evolved game mechanic I'm not even sure the SNES version is top of my list anymore. That's something I'll only know when looking back at any memories provided by this game; whether it will or not I can't say - the potential is certainly there though.

The Comedy Store Click for more info

I spent the evening queuing up and being in the audience for The Comedy Store, apparently one of London's more famous stand-up venues. For over two hours we saw a total of five acts (excluding the MC) creasing us up so badly that by the end of it throats were sore and jaws were hurting.

John Fothergill acted as teh glue that held the show together, and to be frank he was one of the funniest guys there (even if it was at the expense of some poor chap at the front of the audience). Dave Fulton from the USA was my favourite followed closely by Lloyd Langford and then (the disgusting for some) Micky Flanagan. Andy Askins was okay when he was making jokes, but I didn't find the pulling of faces as funny as the rest of the audience. Tiffany Something (I forget) was given an open mic and caught the smallest response from the crowds although I did find her humours at times (I can't have been the only one there who knew what a gilf was).

I'm ashamed to say that I've never been to a live comedy gig, and the whole session was a blummin' revelation. That comedy like this was so accessible and cheap (tickets were £18) was amazing, and as usual there's always something about being at a gig live that makes it that more special. I definitely plan on going back and even introducing the whole thing to other people missing out like I was - I'm actually bummed that I didn't get a chance to experience this before!

Wednesday, April 9

Shak's Choice: Sara Dhada Click for more info

Bang on schedule, it's the provocatively potty mouthed Apprentice candidate, Sara Dhada:

It's not just that she's hot and with the prettiest eyes on our screens right now; no, as proven on today's show Sara is a winner too. And this talent isn't just restricted to reality television either: when she's not leading her team to success she's both a trained lawyer and car saleswoman. Amazingly multi-talented, no?

Okay so she can't really cook (well, a curry anyway) but then I've always said that a lack of culinary skills meant nothing to me. She also appears to have a very... brave sense of dress but since she obviously realises how awesome dangling earrings are for this she can be forgiven.

And for those who think I inevitably go after any Asian female who happens to be on The Apprentice, I can think of at least one that didn't make the cut. So there.

Tuesday, April 8

Game: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Revisited) Click for more info

Well, it turns out that it was me. When I first played MGS3 way back in January 2005 I was certain that it was a terribly broken game. Click back if you want to see my major complaints - not that they're relevant any more since I really enjoyed playing it through again.

To be fair I hadn't really given it much of a chance - not by choice since the PS2 I was playing it on had to be returned to its rightful owner. Nevertheless I gave it back with no regret since I really didn't enjoy what I had played. Nothing changed this time around and the precluding "Virtuous Mission" was just as frustrating as it had been two years ago. However unlike my other game reviews I waited until completing MGS3 to write up my thoughts.

In short MGS3 has one hell of a steep learning curve. It's in getting to know the game - and how it differs from its predecessors - that the frustration stems from. To address some of the points I made in that previous post you don't need a radar (especially once you get the thermal goggles early on in the game) since enemies are actually easy to spot and predictably slow to move. And if you do get caught then there's a finite number to dispose of (unlike in the previous games where they keep coming till you hide). And if you do get hurt then that's fine too because your life automatically restores itself (as long as your stamina is topped up - it decreases slow enough for eating not to be much of a problem at all).

Admittedly the game wasn't as enjoyable as the last two, but it was fun learning the new mechanics and skills that go with them. And of course apart from gameplay there's the story and cinematics - once again superb and worth playing for alone. Being a prequel it's poignant to see where the whole Metal Gear saga started, especially so when you witness how it all turns out; parallels with Star Wars abound.

The whole thing just complements the existing MGS universe so well I'm ashamed just to read back my original review. It's also made clear the outcome of a decision I've been struggling with for a while now: whether or not to buy a PS3. I mean hey: if I want to play MGS4 on release then I don't really have a choice now, do I?

Thursday, April 3

Film: One Two Three Click for more info

Absurd, rubbish music, nonsensical, poorly produced, weak and stretched plot, bad acting.

Yet despite all this I didn't come away with regret. I definitely can't recommend this film about three guys with the same name getting confused with the lives of one another, but there's something about One Two Three that kinda made it fun. Esha Deol, Sameera Reddy, Tanisha and newbie Neetu Chandra didn't hurt much either.

Watch at your own risk then.

Goodbye ER Click for more info

'ER' confirmed for "goodbye season"

After 15 seasons ER is finally being put to bed. It's by far the longest running show I've personally followed - the fact that I still remember watching this during my school years is pretty disconcerting to say the least!

Still, as big a fan as I am, I've been asking for an end to ER for a good while now. This despite it regaining favour after dipping during seasons 9, 10 and 11. 15 seasons is just way too much for a single show in my opinion.

I will miss it of course. It provided the most awesome episodes of any television show I've ever watched, and it will remain one of the bars against which I measure anything on television against.

Wednesday, April 2

XKCD Click for more info

Part 3 of the Journal series, and once again the guy comes up on top:

The moral of the story? Never underestimate someone you think you know.

A Political Dinner Party

Tonight I was invited to a GLA candidate's launch dinner. It's probably not appropriate to say who they were or what party or ward they were running for; for one thing I don't want to give any free coverage and I'm equally sure they don't want it!

This is probably the closest I've ever been in bed with a politician, and it was interesting to see how they rally the existing troops and recruit others. Needless to say I made it clear I wasn't available for any further canvassing or, heavens forbid, leaflet dropping.

It didn't really change my opinion of politics or politicians either - manipulation and smart-talking was the order of the day, rather than anything of real substance. Having said that, perhaps I'm being a bit harsh: to be honest I was paying more attention to the food and people I had come with than what was being said.

For a free night out, it wasn't bad. Heck I'd even listen to a politician again if they fed me the same. Does that make me politically cheap?

Tuesday, April 1

A New Job, A New Home And A New Start

As some of you already know, I've managed to snag a job at Google. It's pretty much the stuff of dreams really - it's as lead developer for a new department that I can't quite go into detail on as yet but appears to fit me and my lifestyle perfectly.

So good news then? Well maybe. You see, the thing is that the job is in Mountain View, California, and I'm expected to be there by mid-April. In short, I'm leaving the UK to live in the USA.

It's all very exciting for me and something that's been long overdue. Some of you know I've been wanting a shot in the arm like this for a while, something to catalyse my career (and possibly more). It's a new chapter in my life, and one which I'm looking forward to very much.

For those of you who can make it, there'll be various leaving parties in the next couple of weeks or so - stay tuned for more info on those. And of course I'll still be blogging. Nothing changes here; apart from posts being updated in a different time zone and possibly with a new attitude maybe.

Wish me luck!

EDIT: Although I usually come clean after midday, today's gag was so successful I decided to leave it running a while longer. But yes, alas, it's an April Fool and I'm not going anywhere. What's especially depressing is how people are more willing to believe me moving continents for work than getting married.