Tuesday, July 28

Game: Rhythm Heaven (DS) Click for more info

I'll keep this simple - Rhythm Heaven is to Ouendan like WarioWare is to... uh... well to be honest I'm not sure how to complete that comparison. But RH is a bunch of structured minigames each requiring the player to tap and flick to a certain rhythm each time.

Unlike Ouendan, RH focuses on temporal rather than spacial accuracy. You can tap and flick any part of the touchpad, provided it's in time with whatever beat is playing, and as such it's much less forgiving if you happen to be a bit off. Unlike Ouendan though you can play this in a noisy environment since the beat is more obvious and direct.

The minigames themselves are fun and simply produced, although after a while they become a bit samey and irrelevant. That's not to say they're any less compelling, but I can see some not bothering to play past a certain level. But while it lasts it's fun in a way most minigame structured games are, and it's definitely worth checking out.

Game: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (DS) Click for more info

I really don't dig the GTA games that much. There's something about a sandbox which scares the living days out of my OCD type nature, although that's not as much a problem as it used to be. I think now it's just a lack of time which stops me from playing such a sprawling game. Which is a shame since I quite appreciate the varied mission structure it offers. If only there was a bit-sized version?

Okay, I may have set up the opening paragraph a bit, but that is just what GTA:CW is; a bite-sized version of the home console games. It doesn't suffer for this thought; on the contrary it makes the classic gameplay even more accessible for those like me, and it's perfectly suited for the places in which I now find myself playing my DS (like while traveling). An added bonus is the view defaulting to the classic GTA1 and GTA2 top-down, although everything is still rendered in 3D.

It's a fun, pick up and play game which I'm sure will offer even more depth to those willing to look for it. For me, it's the perfect antidote to the boredom offered by a nine-hour transatlantic flight.

O Canada!

It's been a long time since I last came to Canada - eight years in fact. I skipped the last family trip here due to a lack of holidays (and money), but a wedding this time around has made it an obligation rather than choice. Not that I mind of course since I've never had anything but a good time here.

I don't get to see my cousins here that often (I did when they used to live in Pakistan), but for some reason they don't seem as strange - a side effect of being constantly connected via the Internet I think. Bizarrely yet understandably I still see them as they were that long time ago, as I'm sure all here do us, so I'm guessing there will be some surprises in store.

Edmonton is a small place, and our time here is always family rather than tourism focused. As such, I've come armed with lots of personal entertainment - S3 of Battlestar, a DS packed with games and I intend on hitting up my cousin on her Twilight collection too. I've also got a date to see Harry Potter (I didn't watch in the UK specifically to watch it with one of my cousins) amongst other small thigns we're gonna do. That said there's usually no time to do any of that stuff anyway, even less so with the wedding and all, but you never know.

I had half planned to check out Toronto and Montreal but it seems that domestic Canadian flight prices are pretty prohibitive. I'll probably settle for Jasper or Banff instead. For this first week though, all our attention is solely on the wedding.

It's gonna be an awesome holiday!

Monday, July 27

Food: Mint Leaf Click for more info

Posh (and possibly slightly pretentious) Indian located near Trafalgar square. The food didn't suffer for the presentation though with some fabulous Monk Fish and Chicken dishes; despite the mains being generous, the sides were a bit stingy.

Service was brilliant; ambience and vibe was conversational rather than party. Overall this was a decent place in which to spend a Sunday evening - price wise the bill came to a very decent 20 per head (including drinks and a splattering of desserts), although we did take advantage of that classic 50% off mains all restaurants worth their salt are doing nowadays. Recommended if you can sort that.

Thursday, July 23

New Music

Everything I'm Not - The Veronicas

I've been a fan of The Veronicas ever since my trip to their homeland, but it's only now that I've bothered adding tracks other than the awesome 4Ever. This first track is yet more angsty head theme tuney stuff.

When It All Falls Apart - The Veronicas

Definitely third place behind the other two, but a tune nonetheless.

Number 1 feat. N-Dubz - Tinchy Stryder

More b-rated anthem from London. Nice and simple, just as we like it.

I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho) - Pitbull

I have no idea why I like this. I'm hoping I'll bore of it sooner rather than later.

The Climb - Miley Cyrus

I'm not even sure this song makes any sense. But it's a nice enough pop-ballad so it makes my playlist.

I Don't Want To Be - Wendy Matthews

Who? What? Try listening to Magic/Heart like I have been for the past year and you'll know.

Monday, July 20

Zafar and Sabina

If there's one thing I've learned from Zafar it's that when it comes to things like marriage you really have to be clear on both what you want and find important and what you have to offer in return. It's obvious advice yet a focus I'm only realising I've lacked and moving to correct.

But that's just Zafar really - practical to a tee, he's always surprising us with the stuff he's able to do (we're waiting for him to build his own home-extension one day). As well as this, he's also a stand-up guy and extremely dependable, something severely lacking in society these days.

A couple of us got to hang out with him and the new bride last night and it was quite obvious how chuffed they both were. I've only ever met Sabina the one time before that and she's one of those infectiously smiley types who manages to prop up the vibe with very few words. Seeing her amongst her new husband's family made it clear how much of a familial people person she is.

But it was when they were seen together that the question of whether they were happy or not was totally forgotten - they seemed more than just a bride and groom, a clear indication of the life they have ahead of them.

Saturday, July 18

Fatima and Mohammed

Meeting Fatima marked a very important phase of my life. It wasn't her in particular (no offence to the lovely girl) but more that she was one of the first people I met when joining the whole City Circle-three schools meta-social-circle. And as such I somehow think of her as an older friend than the others, even though I wouldn't have possible hung out with her as much (due to geography more than anything else).

She was indicative of what made this social scene so special - she demonstrated the balance, fun and down-to-earthedness which other groups I had been introduced to lacked, and uniquely managed to be cool, chic and quite zany at the same time. As with all of us singletons on the scene she was indefinitely looking, but then possibly unlike us never appeared to be cynical about the whole thing, another sign of her positive attitude to life.

For all these reasons it was wonderful to see her get married today. The wedding itself was very much Fatima; succinct, gorgeous and to the point. Everyone I spoke to seemed to feel this way, another indication of Fatima's pervasive but subtle effect on others.

I hadn't really known Mohammed till today. His wedding speech pretty much blew the guests away and showed us all what a charming, intelligent and funny bloke he was. But more than that it demonstrated how this was a guy who cared; one who knew how lucky he was to be in the position he was in.

They clearly deserve each other but more importantly dig each other, and I wish them all the very best for the future.

Thursday, July 16

The Standard Chartered Great City Race 2009, London Click for more info

I was a bit surprised to hear that I had gotten a sub 21-minute time last year. Of course I hadn't really, but nevertheless I had received a special pink sticker on my race number which enabled me to start at the front of this year's race. Suffice to say I felt special, and that was before the running had even started.

Any elitist feels was quickly quashed when the starting gun fired though. Today's race was a tough affair, both in terms of the conditions (lots of pinches/crowds) and my own physical state (I was pretty knackered). On the bright side, the weather held out for the race and cool-down, I got to meet friends participating in the event both in the bank and out and, of course, I got to competitively race (I missed this year's Roding yet again).

Thankfully my knee held out (it's been giving me problems since February). In fact I seemed to bottle out with my respiration rather than energy/muscle levels - further proof of just how unfit I'm becoming year on year.

My final booked time was 23:44, faster than last year but a result that took much more out of me. Competition in my adopted company has also heated up with my time now being the fourth fastest, but nevertheless it was good to see the group as a whole doing better than we did last year.

Video of the Day Click for more info

Absolutely brilliant.

Thansk to Ash for the pointer.

Tuesday, July 14

Link of the Day

Bit of a woman bashing special today. They're funny though:

When a guy says GO MAKE ME A SANDWICH, what's a good comeback?

Best Craigslist Post I've Ever Seen

Regarding the second post don't worry ladies: although your looks may fade you can only get better at cooking and cleaning. It just takes practise.

Thanks to Steve (who else?) for both links.

Sunday, July 12

The ICSS BBQ, 2009

If there's one thing that's constant in the world of ICSS it's just how much better and better its annual end of term BBQ gets. 2009 was no different; we had more food, more people, and more things to do.

Firstly the regulars. Face painting, henna and the legendary bouncy castle are now no less than expected by those who arrive through the doors of The Froud. Of course we didn't disappoint, with all three constantly serving those up for self-decoration or a bit of bouncing.

New stuff included a Jujitsu demonstration (including the ass-kicking of some of our teachers by their students), an origami stand, cake decorating and a few other bits and bobs. Technology was used in full force with slideshows and videos being shown from our most recent Lambourne End visit, and the prize-giving and speeches were a bit too successful if the cramming of the foyer had anything to do with it.

Food gets its own paragraph. Although not as smooth as last year (there was an odd occasion or two where we had hungry looking kids waiting for a burger) everyone was fed happily and sufficiently. Burgers and sausages made the front line in our attack, with chicken taking the rear. For the first time ever we had run out of some stuff! On a less happy note I must admit being surprised at how choosy and unbashful some guests were when it came to grabbing some free nosh...

But I can't complain too much; the guests really are what makes an ICSS BBQ an ICSS BBQ. The numbers broke records yet again as the four-year-regulars bringing the bulk of the new people, with fancy Facebook and local media marketing (all of which goes way over my head) claiming the rest. Vibe was at an all time high, with smiles on everyone's faces and laughter constantly ringing throughout the whole building.

This alone made the whole thing worth it for the Trustees and Volunteers of ICSS, some of whom had been in the building from 9am all the way to 6pm once we had chucked the last guest out (I guess the BBQ can be a little too successful at times!).

It's the kinda thing you don't want to end - something which only ends due to the exhaustion of the people running the show. For some, some winding down was necessary to ease the edge of the high gained from running such an event, but even so I still feel a tingle of excitement while writing about this, the ICSS BBQ, 2009.

Friday, July 10

Film: Brüno Click for more info

Despite one disturbing scene in particular, Borat wasn't that bad really. The whole laughing-at-people-who-didn't-know-Borat-was-fake was mildly humourous and time-passing.

Bruno (and no, I'm not going to type that umlaut every time) on the other hand was crap. It was disgusting - and that's coming from someone with quite a high (or should that be low?) threshold for disgusting; I don't often feel the need to cover my eyes with my hands. It had little class, made no sense and was badly acted out. It was blatantly all staged, there was no "liveness" or improvisation or rough cutting.

But ultimately the worse thing about Bruno was that it wasn't even funny. Okay, I'll admit to laughing out loud at a couple of scenes but even those were a bit forced as I struggled to make the most of this film. To be honest, I was thankful that the film was less than one and a half hours long.

Definitely one to skip.

Thursday, July 9

Shak's Choice: Cooking Heroines Click for more info

A bunch of female videogame characters cooking? Yes please:

Aww so cute. Individual piccies here. I reckon Mai is my favourite, but only 'cos I like soup so much. Chun Li's Muffin comes a close second though.

Saturday, July 4

Film: Kambakkht Ishq Click for more info

Bollywood's been a bit dry recently so it was good to come back to the genre with something good rather than something pongy. KI (since I refuse to type out that title again) is full of silly fun and games, with a shell of a plot designed to bring as many laughs as possible - a bit like Singh is Kinng in that respect.

Akshay Kumar played his part well as the skirt-chasing lughead, while Kareena Kapoor did well as the manhating surgeon/model/all round hottie. Story-wise the conclusion was pretty inevitable; even so I couldn't help but feel a bit cheated as they brushed over some of the finer points.

But KI wasn't about romance or any of that soppy stuff. It was funny, plain and simple with enough feel good factor and beautiful people in it to stem any complaints about any lack of depth. Even the special appearances from Sylvester "what am I doing here" Stallone and Denise "I was a Bond Girl dammit" Richards weren't as cringe-worthy as I was expecting them to be.

Considering the current drought of Bollywood you could do much worse. Recommended.

Friday, July 3

Islamic Reasoning

I think something currently lacking in most of us is the ability to reason. I'm not talking about deep philosophical (and sometimes largely irrelevant) topics about morals or life and death but more about how we're unable to take even a few minutes to see if something makes sense to us, and then going on to trust that personal judgement.

Essentially it's about striking the right balance between figuring things out for yourself and having to ask someone else to do it for you. Technically coming to a conclusion requires both - you ask questions of others in order to arm yourself with inputs to your own honed reasoning process. With respect to Islam this is ever important - something as large and vibrant as this way of life will never be successfully transmitted by rote or facsimile but rather by the transmission of its underlying principles and ideas, each implemented at the individual level.

Of course I could be grossly overestimating our ability to reason: for some of us it's obviously clear what to in even some of the more esoteric situations, while the rest of us struggle with basics. While this could be just down to a lack of knowledge, I suspect it's more to do with laziness (at worst) or a lack of self confidence and self belief that your internal Islamic compass is pointing you in the right direction (at best).

But in these days of the Internet a fatwa is only a Google away and ignorance is no longer an excuse. This is a mixed blessing though as some choose to follow askimam.com verbatim instead of treating it as another input to their decision making process. I've witnessed many discussions where "evidence" is given in the form of a URL; although I guess this is easier to do than actually using common sense. However in my opinion a well thought out and dissenting opinion is better than one agreed upon via Wikipedia.

So it's about equipping ourselves with some kind of personal responsibility to be able to figure things out for ourselves instead of relying on others to do this for us. We should be taking advice from our imams and scholars, not commandments, and have the guts and will power to ensure we actually assess, question and eventually believe in what we're doing. Islam is the truth and I think we'd automatically get there ourselves if we tried.

Essentially it's about asking for stuff; not for conclusions, rulings and fatwas but why and how these had come about. For example, we should be looking at the Seerah of the Prohpet and seeing how and why he came to the conclusions he did (here's a clue: he reasoned and meditated in isolation after taking cue from the Quran) instead of blindly following these conclusions - after all, apart from those from the Quran many of the rulings of his time came from his own (albeit inspired) head. We need to see where opinion differs from fact, where interpretation differs from the literals, and then take them all to make our own. And don't worry: this process of asking "why?" and questioning things doesn't make your faith weaker; if anything it reinforces it.

In theory it should be possible to reach the correct conclusion without imams or scholars - the extreme indication of this being how the Muslim world doesn't have a single head of religion. The sacred texts and sources should and are enough for us, we just have to buck up and read them instead of solely relying on others to do the job for us. Of course I'm not by any means discounting the job of scholars but merely our current use of them; in my opinion they are here to arm us with facts as well as opinions while all the time allowing us to pick the ones which we think are right.

At the end of the day it will be us paying for the actions we take (I don't think we'll be able to send God a link to something we read on the Internet) so some kind of personal responsibility needs to be taken. With the right intent I'm not even sure you can go wrong no matter where you happen to end up.


Originally drafted 12th September 2007

Thursday, July 2

Link of the Day Click for more info

'Why I created Islamic super heroes'

Not quite sure what I think about this. It actually looks quite fun and well done, but the fact that the name of God have been used directly is a bit disturbing, as is how these "Islamic" superheroes don't pray in order to be more accessible to non-Muslims. Isn't that kinda defeating the point?

Shak's Choice: Grace Park

Allow me to confirm once again how much of a nerd I am: presenting is Grace Park who plays Boomer in Battlestar Galactica. I mean she's purty enough:

But I suspect it's really the sci-fi setting in which she is shown that really makes her a hottie; she's a pilot for heaven's sake. Oh and by the way, BSG ain't all that bad so far. Hooray for DVD marathons!

New Music

Various - Michael Jackson

Like many others, it took him dying for me to dig out his tracks and give them a good going over. It's quite staggering how many tunes there are and how many I know the words of. It even took a while to figure out which I wanted to listen to since there was such a choice. I managed to whittle down the playlist to 26 tracks, including Say Say Say on which he featured. It would be futile listing the highlights since they're all so good, so instead I'm just gonna list them all, in chronological order:

Off The Wall: Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Rock with You, She's Out of My Life

Thriller: Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', Girl Is Mine feat Paul McCartney, Thriller, Beat It, Billie Jean, Human Nature

Pipes of Peace: Say Say Say feat Michael Jackson

Bad: Bad, Way You Make Me Feel, Speed Demon, Liberian Girl, Another Part of Me, Man in the Mirror, I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Dirty Diana, Smooth Criminal, Leave Me Alone

Dangerous: In the Closet, Remember the Time, Black or White, Who Is It, Give in to Me

HIStory: Earth Song

Were these songs really all released so long ago? Although Bad supplies the most number of tracks, I'd say that Thriller was my favourite, if only for giving us Billie Jean.

Sound of a Rebel - Outlandish

To be honest this hasn't been getting much play. Unlike with their previous albums Nothing exciting immediately stands out, but I'm sure something will stick.