Friday, October 31

WharfMA: Eid in the Wharf Click for more info

I really enjoyed my last Eid in the Wharf, way back at the start of 2007. It had variety, depth and was excellent value for money (as it was free). With all that to go on I was really excited about this year's event albeit with a couple of caveats - firstly the theme was comedy and I've never really found Islamic comedy that funny; not because I'm sensitive to the topic (considering my credentials that'd be pretty hypocritical), but just because I found typical Muslim comedy to be clichéd, safe and so terribly boring. The second reason was that the WharfMA originally had Jeff Mirza on.

The final programme was run exclusively by some guys from "Allah Made Me Funny": again a troupe I tended to avoid because of the above reasons (although admittedly I've always thought Azhar Usman hilarious and to really know how to push the right boundaries), but a last minute spare ticket finally convinced me to attend.

I'm glad I did too. Ajmal Masroor did well as the main host, while Preacher Moss and Mo Amer were both excellent and made me laugh out loud more than a few times (and sometimes in isolation at some of the more risqué jokes). Neither were afraid of crossing lines (they even swore! Gasp) and they seemed more genuinely interested in making us laugh than teaching us a moral lesson.

Other parts of the event were less impressive - most notably the food. Considering it was a paid-for event I expected a bit more than the bit we got (or at least managed to get). Still the comedy more than made up for any other shortcomings.

Wednesday, October 29

Les Miserables Click for more info

It had been way too long since I last went to see a musical, so I was looking forward to Les Miserables. It's the last of the "big" productions I had yet to see (amongst the others, in my subjective opinion, were Miss Saigon, Phantom and Chicago), and I went in with pretty high expectations.

The first disappointment wasn't the fault of the play itself, as our top priced tickets placed us on the front row. Still, the view wasn't as bad as it could have been from that vicinity and my neck isn't too sore as a result.

Seating aside Les Miserables was solid and entertaining - which although positive is hardly the staid response I had to some of the other musicals I've seen. My biggest gripe was with the lack of focus on any one particular theme. Is Les Mis a romance? A comedy? A tragedy? The truth is that it had pretty much everything and as a result struggled to shine in any one bit. I found myself not caring enough about most of the pivotal events probably since they didn't require any emotional investment on the way.

I must admit that I was a bit miffed for not being able to see Les Mis at the Palace - growing up it was the dominating sight on Shaftesbury Avenue for me as well as being important for other personal reasons. Still, Queen's Theatre wasn't that shabby either if a bit small.

Technically though, Les Mis shined. The performances (the acting, dancing and singing) were all brilliant; Drew Sarich's Jean Valjean totally stealing the show for me, with the younger performances also deserving a mention. The stage was clever, with its rotating base and some of the larger props were both very well put together and utilised. Costume was awesome too and it took me a while to keep track of those actors who happened to play more than one role. In fact, I'd say the show was worth watching just for its technical brilliance.

Overall though, I'm not quite sure what to think about Les Mis. There were plenty in the audience who had seen it before and further claimed that this was the best production they had seen of the play; I obviously don't have any previous viewings to compare it too, but the fact that I've come away with mixed feelings does say something. In some ways I found its multiple themes to be a bit too distracting and so now ironically find myself in dire need of something a bit more straightforward.

Sunday, October 26

New Music

The Album - Alyssia

Having already appeared on some ace PHS songs, the sweet vocalist now has her own album. Granted her solo efforts aren't as catchy as Pyar Hogiya or Deewana (both on this album along side the Desiton remix of Pyar Hogiya), but there are some good tracks and covers in there anyway. Aaja Mahiya, Tera Pyar and of course Yeh Vaada Raha stand out.

Aag - Ms Scandalous feat Alyssia

Alyssia again, this time teaming up with Ms Scandalous on a track from the latter's new album. Not too sure if I like this as much as her stuff from Ladies First but it'll do for now. Oh and it turns out that these two have collaborated before on a previously underrated yet awesome track called Spread Love.

Friday, October 24

Food: Chennai Dosa Click for more info

Nice clean no frills South Indian cuisine served on a combination of metal trays and banana leaves. Largely vegetarian (and as such requiring little thought), the food was simple yet tasty, with our Masala Dosas being deceptively light and so adequately filling and satisfying.

The East Ham restaurant was clean and tidy if a little cramped, but the service was adequate and fast. If anything Chennai Dosa is a perfect fast-food Indian, and at less than a fiver per head perfect for a quick evening meal. Recommended!

Collecting Bengalis

Considering the blatantly unfair stigma attached to them during my school days, I now have quite a lot of Bengali mates whom I consider myself to be pretty close to. Amongst these are the those I even travelled to the place for - and my time there ranks with some of the best holidays I've had.

I've picked them up from secondary school (which then went on to become The Collective), university and most recently my wider professional social circle. I'm even relatively close to a Bengali neighbour of mine - these guys really seem to be everywhere I turn (and that's not a complaint). And it's been noted by those around me too - there's an in-joke in my family about how I'm going to eventually end up marrying a Bengali at some point.

I'm still not a total expert on Bengali culture, but I like to think I know more than others outside of the community. I know that Sylhet isn't synonymous with Bangladesh, I totally loved Chittagong when I visited and I've also been blessed with the unique brand of generosity, openness and acceptance that they'll unlikely receive themselves from others - I was called an adopted son at least twice at a Bengali wedding I attended yesterday.

They're also much more interesting than those from other parts of the Indian subcontinent, if only for the contrasts within their society. You have the super liberals who (for example) drink and then those who are super spiritual and religious. Then there are those who marry outside of their community without fear (and of the people I know who have done this, most are Bengali) while their siblings decide to go back home for their spouses.

They're the ones who drop out of school and go to Oxbridge. Some can't even speak or write English, while others are successful writers, musicians and models. Careers range from the mundane to the interesting, and I know Bengali teachers, scientists, bankers, lawyers and media types. These wide range of lifestyles and behaviours is probably what makes them so fun to hang out with; at the very least none are boring, and most are nice and easy to talk to.

On the other hand, I would say that Bengalis might be a bit on the exclusivist side, especially when it comes to other Asians, and that they may not appreciate other subcontinenters as much as they could do. The classic example I give for this is their exclusive claim on "Bengali Time", not realising that at least 1 billion other people are just as tardy as they are. Plenty of other examples of this self-involvement can be taken from the fields of fashion, food, culture, wedding traditions and even when they're self-criticising or are complaining about the way they happen to be treated.

I'll admit that I would have never guessed that I would have so many awesome Bengali mates during adulthood, but what I'm sure of now is how glad I am for being wrong. After all, if your friends really do make up a large part of who you are, well then I owe a huge debt to those friends of mine who happen to be Bengali.

Ama bangla paro na!

Originally drafted 27th July 2006

Thursday, October 23

Video of the Day Click for more info

Awesome awesome awesome. Although technically the sunnah is to sit and do a bit of zikr (invocation) between the fard and any salaat. But anyway:

Sunnah Back - G2: Return of the Lota from LotaPani Pictures on Vimeo.

Like I said, awesome. These guys are certainly up there with ImranJK in my eyes.

Also: does anyone actually know what a nasheed is now? The above is pretty much as pop as we can get so unless it's merely the topic that makes a nasheed a nasheed, perhaps it's finally time to get rid of the redundant and silly word. You're not fooling anyone!

Nicked off of Mash.

EDIT: More here. Shaykh Wa-Shamama Gevya!

Tuesday, October 21

Video of the Day

I was always a big fan of Mila Kunis - she was the reason to watch That 70's Show, and we also constantly hear her as she provides the voice of Family Guy's Meg. To be honest I didn't realise that she was even in the upcoming Max Payne (which I'll definitely be catching now), but now it turns out that she's a bit of a gaming nerd too:

I mean I'm not the hardest of cores, but WoW is even a bit too much for me. Forget talking dirty (which she appears to be good at too); talking videogames is where it's really at.

Monday, October 20

Film: The Soul of Youth Click for more info

Although we didn't quite know what we were getting ourselves into before watching this, a silent film, it's pretty safe to say that everyone who took the risk was glad they did so.

Filmed in the 1920s, The Soul of Youth is about a young orphan trying to grow up in a tough society - and for something almost 90 years old it does a good job of tackling the issues faced in those (and indeed current) days. Plot-wise it was a bit thin, but it was put together wonderfully - it was easily one of the best black and white films I've ever seen. The whole thing was so charming and touching, and not just because it was a silent film.

Speaking of which, as for being a silent movie (my first anyway) you hardly notice that there's no spoken dialogue after a while and a live piano accompaniment was something everyone needs to experience.

I managed to catch this as part of The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival, but it's out on DVD if you wanted to check it out yourself. You'll miss out on the live music, but the film is good enough to stand on it's own anyway; and as an aside IMDB even has a page for it! Recommended.

Sunday, October 19

Film: Eagle Eye Click for more info

Big-brother conspiracy thriller about a couple of everyday Joes being manipulated to to fulfil some end which they know nothing about. Eagle Eye provides just enough action and suspense throughout to keep you interested in the far-reaching plot, while the acting and production values both are both adequate enough to stem any complaints on the technical front.

Still, despite the topical context of the film there is a distinct lack of sophistication and depth in its execution - this is one you can watch half asleep without missing anything and so makes it perfect for a lazy evening viewing. At just under two hours it is longer than it needs to be though.

All in all a bit of a mixed bag, but one that just swings a recommendation from me.

Friday, October 17

Food: Jungle Braai Click for more info

After the spat of centrally based mid-class restaurants I've been visiting recently it was nice to spend a Friday night meal in a more local place. Apparently run by South African Gujaratis, Jungle Braai is at its essence just another halal steak house. That said it was better than average, serving up some good meat (as long as you stick to the t-bone) and sides.

Since Wood Street is hardly the most aesthetic of locations we were lucky to get a table in the well lit and spacious back - the place itself was clean enough and service, although slow, was provided with a smile. We were even given an extra two t-bones for a reason we couldn't quite figure out (not that we cared).

Like many other halal steak houses the price was a bit steep - we paid a bit over ten quid a head for food and drink. It's not something to make a habit of visiting then, but for something local and understated it certainly manages to hit the right spot.

Film: Burn After Reading Click for more info

Between George Clooney and Brad Pitt there was no way I would be avoiding this film any time soon, not if the company I keep had anything to do with it. The point is that I've never quite seen the appeal of a Coen brothers film (well not since the awesome Fargo anyway) so wasn't really expecting much tonight.

Which was lucky since Burn After Reading turned out to be a pretty dry one and a half hours after all. That's not to say that it wasn't completely void of entertainment - there were a few scenes and plot mechanisms spliced throughout the deep characters and and intertwining plot arcs, all of which were genuinely enjoyable. There just wasn't quite enough to keep the film going through the other, not so good, bits.

The film was technically well accomplished though - the acting was superb and it was written and directed brilliantly too, all of which makes the whole thing even more disappointing. If the makers had concentrated on the fun as much as the production I'd have little doubt that this would have been a brilliant film, but as it stands I can't really see the appeal.

New Music

A Thousand Miles - Vanessa Carlton

Why the hell wasn't this already in my playlist?

Food: Alounak Click for more info

Alounak is a fantastic Persian restaurant situated in Bayswater, serving up a pretty straightforward menu made up of starters and kebabs. But what place lacks in choice it more than makes up in quality with some of the tastiest food and generous portions I've come across.

Service was adequate and prompt, except when it came to chucking us out which was appreciated. The place, although clean, is small and so can get a little crowded at times - something possibly a pain for larger parties - but managed to leave a more intimate, close and cosy feel anyway.

And at around 15 quid a head (without drinks) it was pretty much a bargain. Recommended.

Unheard Voices

This evening Westbourne Studios played host to a few readings of plays written by young Muslims aged between 16-25 as part of a initiative run by the Royal Court Theatre.

As well as being written by Muslims, the plays seemed to be for Muslims too. For God's Sake (by Siama Shah, 16!) discussed the identity issues between two young British born Pakistanis, The Next Step (by Hassan Minas) touched on the different Muslims communities, Arab in the West (by Osamah Al-Tamimy) was focussing on the life of an new Arab immigrant to Britain, while Shades (by Alia Bano) tackled the topic of marriage and relationships between British Muslims. Of course I had just the extract to go on, so the full plays may really be about other things.

Although they were just readings, they were as enjoyable, engaging and meaningful as any full production. The lack of props didn't seem to hinder the acting, some of which was really good. And even though they were very short, they provoked enough discussion and debate afterwards. Unfortunately the Q&A session with the actors and writers wasn't as fulfilling as I hoped it would be, mainly due to a meek audience. Still I had my question about crossing lines of offence answered adequately by Shah.

In fact the most disappointing parts of the extracts were their lengths - it was all over so quickly, leaving most of the audience gagging for more. When I asked about the future of the performances, we were told that that would only happen with demand (and as a consequence, funding), but from what I saw tonight any full production at the Royal Court would definitely be something I'd be interested in.

Thursday, October 16

Abstruse Goose Click for more info

A new year, a new webcomic, and one which is just as insightful as the mighty XKCD. Take the following for instance:

Dumbing down for a date has never been so funny. Another few which made me laugh out loud (in an empty house as well):

Wednesday, October 15


xxxx says (12:28):
    why are we so hum sup
    you i can understand
    but I'm married!
Shak says (12:31):
    hey man
    i dunno abou tyou
    bu tim always kidding!


xxxx says (12:31):
Shak says (12:31):
    youre serious?!?!
xxxx says (12:31):
    I can see through your lies!
Shak says (12:31):
    gonna have to be so well behaved in front of my wife
Shak says (12:32):
    as long as i have msn should be okay
xxxx says (12:32):
    nah man
    once you've snagged her
    she wont leave
    she'd rathe put up with your nonsense .. .than the disgrace of a divorce!
Shak says (12:32):
xxxx says (12:32):
    ahhh ... the benefits of marriage
Shak says (12:32):
    and ill make sure she knows that!!!
Shak says (12:33):
    just to be clear, we're joking righ tnow right?
xxxx says (12:33):

Tuesday, October 14

Food: Satay House Click for more info

A fantastic Malaysian place off Edgware Road, Satay House is definitely somewhere worth trying out.

The food itself was wonderful - we shared plenty of chicken, meat and seafood dishes and everything was superb. The place was nice and clean, and the ten of us were seated at a large and broad table (as opposed to long and thin) inside what can only be described as a cave - perfect for creating an intimate environment no matter how large the party. Top marks for atmosphere and vibe then.

Price-wise it was pretty fair - we had both over-ordered the food and requested multiple drinks and yet the bill came to around £22 per head, so I would expect it to be a little less with more considerate use of the menu. That said, I was utterly stuffed and satisfied by the end.

Another decent place to add to my London restaurant list, Satay House comes absolutely recommended by me.

Sunday, October 12

Film: Taken Click for more info

After last week's kidnapping antics I was a bit weary about watching another film about another father trying to retrieve another daughter after another kidnapping. But for each reason Kidnap was such a poor, poor film, Taken takes the story and smashes it out of the field.

At its core Taken is really just another Bourne film, just like the posters had promised. You even have some of the same locations getting ripped up! Actually the film is more of a Bourne Light - there's no excessive plot or far reaching context here, just a guy with some skills trying to get his daughter back.

Full of good action, excellent dialogue and a gripping story, there's no way I can't recommend Taken. At 94 minutes it's not long, but what it is is filled to the brim with the goods. Awesome.

The Revolution Continues Click for more info

When a friend suggested we check out this new collection of work from new Chinese artists, I knew I had to go. China is always somewhere I've wanted to go, partly due to some of the friends I've had the chance to hang with but also because it contributes so much to the world be in terms of population, geography, ideas or culture. This was also a chance to visit the Saatchi Gallery, a free to visit gallery down on King's Road.

Some of the work was pretty good - since the theme was laid across artists and genres, there was a good mix of sculpture, painting, literal and abstract art - in fact there was at least something for everyone to enjoy. My favourites included Old Person's Home if only for the technical feat, Angel for the imagery and Chinese Portrait P Series 2006 for the vibrancy.

The website has full details of what was on offer, but since The Saatchi Gallery has made its collection so accessible I'd recommend you spend a few hours to check it out yourselves. A nice way to spend a Sunday morning, I thought.

Friday, October 10

Film: Hello... Click for more info

Charming night-in-the-life tale about a group of six call centre agents, each with their own story to tell. There's fun, some depth and enough goes on to keep you interested throughout, although the poor plot does distract at times - thankfully it only features a few times during the film.

A good enough time pass in an art-film kinda way; it's just a shame it has Salman Khan in it.

Chemistry Versus Compatibility

Otherwise known as:

  • Your heart versus your head,
  • Ticking boxes versus fancying the pants off someone,
  • The rational versus the irrational,
  • Theory versus practise,
  • Rehearsal versus spontaneity,
  • Romance versus convenience,
  • Safety versus danger,
  • Being literal versus being poetic,
  • The groovy versus the nice enough,
  • The known versus the unknown,
  • The objective versus the subjective.
Whatever you wish to call it, the question of which side of this conflict wins out seems to be one of the most important asked when considering someone to begin a relationship with. And if the people I've spoken with about the topic have anything to do with it, everyone seems to have their own answers too.

Chemistry is always desirable - indeed it has to be by definition. The most obvious driver behind it are looks (although usually stated in terms of someone not being unattractive rather than being positively hot), although personality also makes its mark too - the way that someone makes you feel and behave. The point is that it's supposed to be undefinable and so incalculable and if you think you know the type you'll have chemistry with then you're probably mistaken.

For some people it also occurs more often than compatibility. This either implies that its threshold is lower or that we're less fussy about the unknown than the known. Despite this, for the same people chemistry is usually not enough and it takes a single compatibility break big enough to kill the chance of any further progress. So regarding both its commonality and fragility, it's beginning to sound like chemistry is in fact the weaker of the two concepts.

Compatibility is always easy to determine and is based on both quantitative and qualitative things. The former includes stuff like having the right height, religion, age or even whether someone is a virgin or not. Qualitative wants include stuff like having the same background, lifestyle and views on life, being open-minded, funny or smart. Although many of these things are subjective that doesn't mean they belong in the chemistry category; the fact that you can recognise and so acknowledge these things mean you can make a conscious decision over them.

The truth is that sometimes compatibility is a bit too easy to recognise; so much so that some think that it's the only important thing to consider - that if the boxes are ticked, then a strong relationship is all but guaranteed and the next steps will be obvious. Add to this definitiveness the rarity of finding someone compatible and all of a sudden it becomes the holy grail.

Personally as I get on and meet more new people I've found that compatibility alone may just not be enough. Although it's still rare when I do so I have met people who are compatible but, frankly, I just haven't fancied them. It's not necessarily because of their looks (although I'm sure physical attraction helps) or anything else as shallow as that, but just due to the arbitrary lack of any spark or excitement. This is especially frustrating and confusing since there's no apparent reason why this happens to be the case.

And as someone who's steered clear of relationships in the past (casual or otherwise), I think I need some of that with any I get into now. Other people say the same thing: once you have it, compatibility just isn't enough any more either.

So which is the most important? Well like I implied above we all have our own answers, and plenty of people have had success with people they don't fancy the pants off of, while an equal number have shown that a strong and irrational attraction can alleviate any fears over incompatibility. Both can work and so both are equally as fulfilling as each other.

Of course the really lucky people are those who manage to find both things in their partners - someone who's good on paper but found to be a hotty even if that paper was torn to shreds. Whether or not that can be found easily isn't something I can answer here, but since there's nothing indicating that compatibility and chemistry are mutually exclusive, perhaps a really strong relationship can only be found when the head and the heart are in complete and utter agreement with one another?

Originally drafted 21st November 2007.

Wednesday, October 8


Shak says (09:18):
    ive quit 90210
Shak says (09:19):
    not a show for a 30 year old to watch
xxxx says (09:19):
    if thre were fittter birds
    and mroe flesh
    I@d watch it
    **** the story
Shak says (09:19):
    cos then it WOULD be a show for 30 year olds :D
xxxx says (09:20):
    so ham sup

Tuesday, October 7


Shak says (15:51):
    i think... im gonna quit house
xxxx says (18:53):
    is it your bday today?
xxxx says (19:00):
    ok according to a facebook comment it is
    so on the same day as your bday, you decide to quit house
    its just a mid life crisis, you dont mean it
Shak says (19:02):
    that's hilarious.

A Whole New Age Bracket To Tick

Facebook status updates and twitterings aside, turning thirty isn't really that big a deal for me. I've been telling everyone that I was thirty since my last birthday and so have kinda gotten used to it already; in fact in some ways I'll be gaining a year this time around (yeah yeah, I realise that's a bit of a stretch, but it's my birthday so just give me a break okay?).

More importantly though, since The Plan has been in total tatters for a good two years now there's been no feeling of failure that I haven't already dealt with previously. Although I was supposed to have gotten that Ferrari by now...

Still it would be naive to think that such a two-less round number can't have some kind of negative effect on my psyche. I won't dwell too much on the perception of rishta-aunties and that dreaded shelf since that's not something I can control myself. Physically though I have noticed that my hair has suddenly receded a bit (suddenly deciding to prop up in other weird places instead), my metabolism has suddenly slowed while those damned crows have suddenly stamped their feet all over my face.

It seems that what little looks I had to rely on have now totally expired and thus from now on I must turn exclusively to my personality to attract people instead.


Still, at least turning thirty means I can finally call in all those promises of marriage made by those friends who said they'd take me if no one else would by today's date. I don't think it matters that they've all managed to move on and get married themselves - a deal is a deal after all. Keep an eye on your mailboxes folks, you know who you are.

Finally a big thanks to all those who took the time out to wish me well. No matter how I feel or don't feel on this day it's always good to know there are people around me who care enough to drop a line, some as early as 4am. Especially appreciated are the messages from those who happen to be older than me anyway.

EDIT: So I spent the whole day indoors at home, saw no one but my parents, yet had one of my best birthdays ever. A friend told me I'd remember the day I turned thirty and I think they just might be absolutely right.

Monday, October 6

Joke of the Day

A kindergarten student told his teacher he had found a cat, but it was dead.

"How do you know that the cat was dead?" she asked her student.

"Because I pissed in its ear and it didn't move," answered the child innocently.

"You did WHAT???" the teacher exclaimed in surprise.

"You know," explained the boy, "I leaned over and went 'Pssst!' and it didn't move."

Props to Zainab for the gag.

Sunday, October 5


xxxx says (17:22):
    so erm... ever felt uneasy around me?
Shak says (17:22):
    excuse me?!?!
xxxx says (17:22):
    lost for words.... clumsy....
    that sorta thing?
Shak says (17:22):
xxxx says (17:22):
Shak says (17:22):
Shak says (17:23):
    yeh yhe
xxxx says (17:23):
    thats gotta be the best ever blog to date yet!
Shak says (17:23):
    you know how many sympathy brownie points i got for that post?
    im a frickin heor :D
xxxx says (17:23):
    i bet!1
Shak says (17:23):
    and no, sorry
    you were always approchable anyway


Shak says (17:23):
    one of the guys


xxxx says (17:24):
    am one of the guys??
    see that hurst
Shak says (17:24):
    its a compliment!
xxxx says (17:24):
    no its not!
Shak says (17:24):
    i've known more cool guys that i wish i could marry than girls
    so youre in the right cartegory
    that's doesnt leave this window ok
xxxx says (17:25):
    if only i had a blog too.. wud blog this convo
    maybe i still cud ..hmm
Shak says (17:25):
    maybe i'll beat you to it! aha!
xxxx says (17:25):
    anythign for attention eh
Shak says (17:25):
    its like you know me

A Ticketing Nightmare

As part of my New Deal, Lean and Mean, Low Fat, No Clutter lifestyle (and more on this NDLMLFNC strategy in a later post) I decided to give my bedroom a long overdue clean up.

Not that my room is particularly messy anyway, but between my inability to throw anything away and procrastination in filing stuff away, there was enough clutter hidden away in drawers and the like to fill a couple of bin bags. I had chains(!), locks, trophies, yo-yos, key rings, stopwatches, cheap sunglasses and various other useless trinkets built up over the years, just taking up way more space than they deserved. In the bin they went.

Considering that I can't stand collecting things (DVDs, books and even video games just seem like more ways to waste space and attract dust), I also had a worryingly large collection of tickets. That's around 50 flight, 15 theatre, 32 museums and other attractions, five cricket matches and a whopping 420 cinema stubs, all collected over the past ten years.

Originally kept just to remind me that I had actually done all these things, they've all become less important and that partly due to this blog. And since I've never even bothered to look through them at all, it made little sense to keep any of it. Although it was quite hard, in the bin they all also went, bar tickets to the 1999 semi final between Pakistan and New Zealand at Old Trafford, Oasis at Wembley Stadium in 2000 and my graduation from Imperial in the Royal Albert Hall in 2001.

And it was actually pretty liberating, getting over the obsessive (and compulsive) need to collect rubbish like this. Part of the NDLMLFNC is to become more rational in the way I act and think and I hope by doing something as drastic as this helps with that aim. Of course the other half of the plan is to keep everything in order, and only time will tell with whether I succeed with that.

EDIT: Soon after writing this post I spent a good fifteen minutes digging out those theatre, sports and gig tickets. Epic fail then, but hey maybe I should have gone with baby steps in the first place.

Saturday, October 4

Film: Kidnap Click for more info

Run of the mill yarn spun around the kidnapping of (a seriously disproportioned) Sonia (Lamba), the 17 year old daughter of (an increasingly old looking) Dutt. Imran Khan wraps up the thin cast as the dastardly villain.

The whole film is just a series of cat and mouse set pieces, with a bunch of forgettable songs (including classics such as "I am Sonia" and "The weather is awesome") to distract the audience from time to time. The acting in this was pretty poor, and the production values nothing to scream home about. It was almost enough to get me to stick to comedies and romance in future.

That said, the plot was relatively engaging if a bit stretched out and there were some genuine twists on the way to the end. Overall, however, this wasn't enough to save what was ultimately a bad flick and as such it comes with little recommendation from me.

Friday, October 3

Signal Failure

It's said that most people have some kind of tell - involuntary behaviour that only crops up when we're in the company of someone we fancy or are attracted to. This could be blatant and physical (the brushing of hair), or slightly more subtle and manifest itself in the reactions (the laughing at jokes) or language used. Along with the more deliberate actions like flirting or being explicit and direct, these all make up the mythical signals we're each supposed to both give out and pick up on.

The problem is that these signals are different for different people. It would be great if we each came with an instruction manual or list of things to look out for, but unfortunately we just don't. Further, these signals can often be so subtle and ambiguous that they might not actually appear to mean anything at all to a normal unaware person who doesn't know you that well. And in the ultimately worst case, it's even possible to give off the wrong signals altogether and push away those you're trying to get closer to.

But hey, let's pick a more concrete example here: namely me.

I like to think that I'm a relatively social and outgoing bloke. I mean I've had people tell me that they can't believe I have a career in computing (which I suppose can be seen as some kind of compliment). It doesn't matter to me if a crowd is male or female (although some will say it's obvious which I prefer), and I reckon that I can get along pretty well with both new and old friends.

I think that approachability in general comes from being carefree about what people think about you, and so being open and transparent about yourself. For me, this means being a bit of a self-deprecating clown, being able to talk about anything (and I mean anything) and in some extreme cases running around waving my hands around like a madman. Full of masti, sometimes I even manage to solicit a laugh or two. The point is I don't really care how I look in front of those whom I don't have the hots for (or are out of reach anyway) and so manage to act (somewhat) normal.

I'm also of the (probably minority) opinion that being social with and having fun with someone doesn't necessarily mean anything more than that. Whether that's right or wrong, a consequence of thinking in this way is that you may become insensitive to the real signals people are giving off, since you'd automatically assume that such advances and attention are innocent, just like yours happen to be; and that's regardless of whether you actually want them to be real signals or not.

This attitude has resulted in accusations of me being a bit too free with regards to those I may not have any interest in over friendship, even cumulating in me being accused of being a bit of a tease; something compounded by the fact that I'm not even aware of my behaviour when I'm doing it. I think that since I don't often like someone in "that way", those around me rarely witness my behaviour during such rare occasions and so misinterpret my actions when I'm just being friendly.

For the record I'd still deny anything of the sort, but if third parties are seeing this then the second parties may too and so it's something that I've attempted to address. I will say that if you think I like someone just because I'm getting on with her and it seems that we're having fun together, then you're probably wrong as it's the lack of real care that you're probably detecting instead.

Ironically it's when I do find someone I might (kinda, maybe, perhaps, possibly) like that the guard and barriers go up - the last thing I want to do is make a fool of myself by doing or saying the wrong thing and as someone[1] once said it's better to keep quiet than remove all doubt of ones idiocy. I clam up quite tightly as a result, making sure I keep as much distance as possible between the two of us: "oh hey, I got something I need to do over, uh, there".

Invariably when I do pluck up the courage to open my mouth it's an absolute shambles, a disaster of immense proportions. Words come out the wrong way and my existing mumbling issue becomes chronic, resulting in stupid (or worse still: neutrally boring) things being said about the weather or current affairs. Jokes which are funny in my head fall (oh so) flat when said out loud, and in some cases I become tightly wound, defensive and even irritable. And that's not even considering the physical implications; let's just say I suddenly become embarrassingly clumsy and shouldn't even attempt to stand during such situations.

That's right folks. Call it a lack of confidence, social skills or even general misanthropy, but the truth is that I'm a just cliched teenage geek when it comes to being in the presence someone I actually like.

But there's more irony to be had here. Once I've totally ruined my chances (or at least convinced myself that there's no chance) I suddenly relax and become myself again. Of course it's too late by now since even if this is a better Shak, I've moved on in my head anyway.

The whole problem comes from the fact that I don't often find someone I actually really like in that way, and so really don't know how to behave. It's easy for onlookers to advise to just "be yourself", but in practice this doesn't quite happen - it's kinda like when a young guy struggles with his new vocal chords as he breaks into his new voice. It's all new and strange you just don't know how to handle it.

It's obviously an issue I have to deal with since it's unreasonable to expect people who don't know me to appreciate how I'm acting and why. More importantly it's something I should address myself if I want a girl to actually figure out that I have a genuine interest since acting like a dufus probably isn't doing it for her much.

But hey, even if no one else manages to figure it out, at least I know what's going on eh? Now if only it was all written down for others to read too...

[1] I actually thought that this was one of Groucho Marx's sayings, but apparently no one really knows where it came from. In fact it's also been attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln and a host of others - see here for more.

Wednesday, October 1

Choosing an RPC Mechanism

In my opinion it's always worth separating components on an application level. Rather than developing libraries to be used locally in an application domain, I imagine software to be built up of many "serverclients" communicating over TCP/IP. There are some pretty compelling benefits in "serving" this functionality instead:

  • You can scale particular parts of the overall application as required.
  • You can plug and unplug components without too much hassle.
  • You can genuinely use disparate platforms (as opposed to when you're really compiling them all to the same low level language).
  • You have separation, isolation and decoupling built into your design and implementation.
Of course none of this comes for free - the main drawback come with the implicit use of some kind of remote procedure call, or RPC, mechanism. RPC is a generic term describing the manner in which these components would talk to each other and since it's inherently something not "native", it generally brings with it issues of interoperability (you can't use a language feature of a remote API if you don't support it yourself) and overhead (due to the transporting of the actual procedure call and its results).

Still, I think it's worth looking into anyway for the benefits. For my current project I've looked at a few RPC mechanisms:
  • Java RMI. Nails the remoting bit on the head but at the cost of interoperability. Although I'm coding most of my components in Java I feel RMI doesn't help with what I want RPC for. It would require the least amount of effort though since RMI would know exactly how to serialise and transport my Java classes. Everything else will need to be told.
  • CORBA. Standard, established and interoperable. But totally nasty, so no.
  • Webservices. Promising: again established across mutliple platforms, but not really lightweight though - it requires a webserver for a start and further uses XML (something I've never really seen the advantages of in cases like these) resulting in lots of traffic for the simplest of things.
  • JSON-RPC. An RPC mechanism based on the relatively lightweight data-interchange format JSON. This solves the XML problem seen in webservices, and since it can run over a tcp socket it should be pretty quick too. It's new (and thus cool) so there's lacking support for it so far.
I've chosen JSON-RPC and am using the jAbsorb library to implement it. I've ended up using it over HTTP though and this requires a webserver (which I wanted to avoid having to use) but the embedded jetty webserver isn't too bad. As mentioned I'll have to create some custom serialisers to transform my classes into JSON (and back again) but that shouldn't be too difficult.

New Music

You can blame an unhealthy month long exposure to Heart, Music, Smooth and Brisbane 97.3 for most of this:

With Every Heartbeat - Robyn with Kleerup

Powerful yet ultimately sweet dance ballad. With okay lyrics and a style I'm not that into, this is definitely more than the sum of its parts. Awesome.

Changes - Will Young

Again, another technically poor song that end up being brilliant - I'm not even sure that this rhymes to be honest! Still it's so upbeat and uplifting I can't help feeling happy listening to this.

Rule The World - Take That

With an opening that betrays the rest of the song this is as good as the film of which soundtrack it's from. It's the stuff you should listen to while getting ready to propose to someone a girl or something.

All Summer Long - Kid Rock

Cash in off Rockstar or not? It doesn't matter, it's good stuff. Although I think I only really like it for the chorus:

And we were trying different things
We were smoking funny things
Making love out by the lake to our favourite song
Sipping whiskey out the bottle, not thinking 'bout tomorrow

All The Times I Cried - Sharleen Spiteri

Okay, I might just like this 'cos I used to fancy the pants off Sharleen during her Texas days (it's the Scottish thing), but even considering that I love how this song switches from verse to chorus. Oh and she's still got it too.

She's Like The Wind - Patrick Swayze Feat. Wendy Fraser

Uh. Yeh, the less you know about this the better I think.

Film: Pineapple Express Click for more info

After last year's travesty, we decided to pick a bit more carefully the film to begin our post-Ramadan season with.

Slim pickings meant we had to choose between yet another Ben Stiller (uh, don't think so) and Seth Rogen - I'm a big fan of the latter and so was happy when Pineapple Express made the vote.

And it was good! Okay, so it's no Superbad, Knocked Up, or Sarah Marshall, and burned pretty slowly for a while, but once it all kicked in we were treated with the same kind of seemingly made up on the spot comedy we've become used to with these guys.

Great fun, but still of an acquired taste. In short, those with little or no sense of humour need not apply. The rest of you, however, will love it!