Tuesday, September 29

Arsenal Vs Olympiakos

I didn't hesitate to accept my friend's offer of going to watch tonight's Champions League match up. I've always been in awe of The Emirates stadium, and a European game was just the excuse I needed to visit it. Of course, not being a fan of either team meant I would either enjoy the match more as a neutral party, or not since I didn't care who won. If it was anything like the last match I went to see then I'd be happy.

It wasn't. The final score of 2-0 to the home side was well appreciated, although both goals happened on the opposite end of the pitch to where we were seated. We were close to the action otherwise, being in row 5, amongst some pretty rowdy, but hilariously so, fans. I must admit that the Chelsea lot seemed more lively; I'm wondering if that was a Euro/Premiership difference or maybe just because it was a Tuesday night.

Although I had a good time, I'm still left wondering what the big deal about live football is. It baffles most football fans when I say this, but I just find live cricket much more exciting - more happens and there is, well, progress. Unless it rains of course. Perhaps it's because I've only ever watched international cricket matches?

Monday, September 28

XKCD Click for more info

I'm pretty sure XKCD has done this before, but hey, we can never be reminded enough, right:

Personally I blame stuck up Asian girls (Victoria, Chewie, Jailbait, etc) for being so unapproachable, but I'm sure that's just me. So yes, go on: make a fool of yourself, take that leap, have no regrets and slap that little voice that's constantly talking you out of doing things.

Thursday, September 24


Despite never having seen the whole of the film version of Oliver in one sitting, I was actually surprised at how many songs I knew from the stage performance of the same show. Hearing classics like "Food, Glorious Food", "Consider Yourself", "You've Got To Pick-a-Pocket Or Two" sung live alone made this worth watching.

But it wasn't just the music which made the evening such a joy. The whole thing was well produced and very slick; I couldn't help but being impressed by the various stages as they all swept into one another effortlessly.

Other parts of the production were also top notch, with costume and make-up subtlety but suitably helping things along. We were also treated to some of the funniest and smooth choreography around - although not the best dancers individually when all put together it really worked magic. I think that was just 'cos it was mainly done by a bunch of kids.

Which brings me to the acting. Kids are always going to get a cheer at the end of a performance, but for me everyone in the show was merely okay and nothing special. Omid Djalili did alright as Fagin (although I did wonder what Rowan Atkinson would have done), although he did manage to bring in a few half-ad-libbed contemporary laughs.

My biggest issue with the show was one which was major enough to actually spoil it for me. Personally I feel that story and plot are major components of a theatre production (I'd go to a concert if I just wanted singing and dancing), and in this Oliver! was severely lacking. A lack of good dialogue and acting may have contributed to this, but I just didn't care much about what was actually going on and found the whole thing pretty shallow and dramaless.

This is a shame because, on paper at least, theatre is capable of making you feel different things to when you might watch, say, a film. You expect tears, laughter and major Feel Good Factor, but in terms of emotion the audience isn't tested too much by Oliver!

So overall a bit of a disappointment then? Well apart from having fun with the music and dancing (something you can already do with Spotify maybe) there isn't really much Oliver has to offer unfortunately. Having said that, this alone makes it an okay watch; just not a fantastic one.

Monday, September 21

Film: (500) Days of Summer Click for more info

As the narrator says, this is no love story. 500 Days is film about the ups and downs that come with relationships and how in real life it isn't just like in the movies (although I'd argue that it certainly isn't like this either).

I came away with mixed feelings regarding this film. I think that I was expecting something a little more sweet, a quality sacrificed in the attempts by the film to be more real. On the other hand it did push all my cynical and bitter buttons; I really disliked Summer's character due to the way she was behaving but ironically this just meant I heavily identified with Tom. I guess the movie scores points on that level.

Feel good this is not, but enjoyable all the same I have to admit that 500 Days was a refreshing change from the usual young romance flicks we're used to getting. Recommended.

Game: Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC) Click for more info

I'll be honest with you: I don't play many games any more. Maybe I've grown out of them or perhaps they're just not as good any more? I actually believe it's more to do with them taking up too much of my precious time - I don't have 20 hours to spend on each game I'd like to play and as a result I play none.

But then a game like Batman: Arkham's Asylum comes along. A game where you don't need to spend hours reading dialogue or collecting coins or grinding your character in order to proceed with the all important story. A game which is complex and deep enough to provide some kind of challenge and sense of satisfaction but simple enough not to confound the player with multiple options and routes and choices.

Take combat for instance. You literally have only two buttons with which to fight the bad guys - attack and counter. Yet these two buttons brings about one of the most satisfying combat mechanics I've played with for a while - 50x+ combos are difficult enough but possible enough to pull off and it's always awesome when you do.

During the times when the bad guys have guns a different tactic has to be used, and this is when Batman's stealthy antics come into play. It goes a bit like this: lurk in the dark or from high on up, get a bad guy to wander off on his own and then bam: take him out without alerting any of the others. Both game styles are perfectly balanced; in other words I had to die two or three times before refining my strategy enough to get through them.

Apart from the combat you have other (admittedly scripted) game mechanics including clue following and door lock busting. Each are trivial enough not to annoy too since each progress the amazing story so much.

And the story is probably the game's biggest asset. This is Arkham, that is the Joker and you are Batman. Of this there is no doubt. And unlike other game in the genre you're not distracted by collectables (even though there are plenty of them); the game almost runs on rails as it's clear what your next objective is. For someone like me who has little time to wander around this alone makes the game a pleasure to play.

So yes, definitely one of my favourite games of this year. Totally recommended.

Film: District 9 Click for more info

I went into this film thinking it would be a mock-documentary covering the racism and alien rights issues surrounding a bunch of refugee aliens who landed in South Africa (where else?). "This will be an interesting take on prejudice", I thought and I was surprised that I hadn't seen anything with this theme before.

Unfortunately District 9 fell short of the mark. Well short. It started off well enough, using fake-real-life interviews to tell the backstory of how the aliens first arrived and how they were being perceived by the human population already there. But this only lasted for the first twenty minutes or so, after which District 9 regressed into nothing but an all out action flick of an Independence Day like flavour - where we had poverty and forced relocation in the first bit, we had ray guns, robot suits and tractor beams in the rest.

That's not to say that the popcorn half of the film wasn't good, it was just a bit disappointing. This was an opportunity to make some important points about tolerance and acceptance but decided to go the way of Men In Black instead.

Production values were of a high standard - D9 was well filmed and acted in - and it had a good enough plot once I decided to accept it for what it was. But to put this up as one of the most important films this year is a bit too much and something I can't bring myself to agree with. Recommended, albeit with a bit of disappointment.

Thursday, September 17

Link of the Day Click for more info

Can you name the Countries of the World

Does what it says on the tin: enter country names in the box at the top and it'll automatically place them on the map below. Easy peasy. Except you only have 15 minutes.

Although I did well in Europe, Asia and the Middle and Far East, I'm ashamed to say that I totally failed in Africa and South America. Once your time is up you're mercifully told which you've missed (facepalm guaranteed). I missed at least 30 that I had heard of.

So have a go and let me know how you did. If you get over 91 then I know you've cheated.

Thanks to Steve for the link.

Wednesday, September 16

Game: Scribblenauts (DS) Click for more info

First things first: Scribblenauts is not a game. It plays badly, makes little sense and is presented as anything but. If I was judging it on that basis, I'd give it a two or maybe a three.

But as a toy Scribblenauts really is something magical. The key is in its vast vocab - type in any word and, poof, up appears what you just wrote. Well okay, it won't have anything (you filthy people), but it is surprising what it does have.

But it doesn't end there. Not only do these things appear, but they do things too. Alarm bells ring, God appears out of heaven and submarines, well, submerge. Black holes suck things in, teleporters take you to a weird and foreign land and atomic bombs destroy everything.

But it doesn't end there. Not only do these things do things, they also interact with other things. So the aforementioned alarm bell wakes up sleeping people, God battles the devil, and shelters protect you from nukes (well maybe, I've only actually thought of trying that while writing this now). In short, this game is just a massive scripting engine; it's almost like those artificial life games from the 90s have evolved.

And that's what the game is based on - setting up various interactions in order to complete a mission or grab a level-ending Starite. However the developers seem to have spent so much time giving identities to the 28 thousand or so objects you can create that they've forgotten about the game itself.

Now this could be a shame since it would be nice to have had something to aim for within the game. But the truth is that you're so busy creating your own scenarios (if I give the criminal a gun, will the policeman still arrest him?) that you forget about any game you're supposed to be playing. I've never found a rubbish game to be so amazing.

Tuesday, September 15

Fall Season 2009

After what seems like the fastest Summer ever, television is back. Funnily enough I've not missed it as much as I thought I would: apart from playing catch up on the shows I didn't have the time to watch as they aired, I finally got around to consuming the four seasons which made up the widely acclaimed (well, by geeks anyway) Battlestar Galactica. I never really liked it the first time around, but the fact that it was such a short series (one which was accessible thanks to a friend's full-season box-sets) convinced me to give it another go. And it wasn't too bad to be honest; a good time pass at the most. The plot left a lot to be desired and got a bit crap towards the end but there was enough ticking over to keep me going till television proper returned.

One Tree Hill season 7 was the first to premiere yesterday and although I've yet to watch it I can't imagine it being any good without the lovely Peyton (and I suppose to a lesser extent Lucas). As such I don't think it'll last past season break and I'm willing to see it out till then at least.

Other favourites returning include the dependable awesomeness of House season 6 and 24 season 8 (the latter resuming some kind of decent schedule now that we're two years out of the Writers' Strike of 2008). I've yet to find a confirmation for the return of Little Mosque, but I have both my fingers and toes crossed since it's such a good sitcom. Of course there'll be Peter and crew of Family Guy season 8 (I think) to watch if it doesn't.

My wish to watch less television seems to be panning out; so far the only new show I'm planning to watch is the sitcomification of 1999's(!) 10 Things I Hate About You. On the contrary Prison Break and ER both ended last year, with the pretty-but-yawnful 90210 dropping by the wayside too. This year, Lost season 6 will be its last and of all my shows I think I'm looking forward to that the most. Smallville is also promising (again) to end this year with its season 9, a good 7 seasons past its sell by date. Please producers lay this show to rest; or at least tell me now if you're going to carry on past this year so I can stop watching now.

Talking of shows that shouldn't be running, Heroes season 4, a show which truly is rubbish, will be watched in considerable pain and contempt and with a sincere hope that it will just curl up and die. Dollhouse season 2 returns after some pretty bad feedback (including mine); but hopefully Joss will have turned things around, returning to the form which brought us Buffy, Angel and Firefly.

So all in all a solid, if not hugely exciting line up to take us into the next decade. Happy watching!

New Music

You Belong To Me - Taylor Swift

I overlooked this when I last checked out her album but constant airplay on Magic finally turned me around. The theme tune of overlooked women everywhere.

Monday, September 7

Just Make Sure You Get Their Names Right

The current question of the day (both online and off) seems to be whether or not it's okay to be talking (you know, about marriage) to more than one someone at a time. The overwhelming majority of people have responded with an outright no, saying that they would end things pretty quickly if they found out that this was the case.

I'm actually quite surprised at this reaction, especially since it's by the same people who also complain about how far and few between good potentials are. These aren't commodities we're talking about here, and in my opinion saying no is just as strong a gesture as saying yes, and I guess for me it takes more than the indecision of my opposite for me to declare the former.

In reality I suspect it's more to do with having a different idea of what "talking" actually means. I consider it as a kind of due diligence; fact finding of the obvious to see if there's anything there to base something on. I'm also looking to see if I get on with the person, not as a spouse but more as someone new; someone who I don't even know I like as a person yet. As such I don't think either of us really owe each other kind of exclusivity or commitment - that stuff comes a bit later, and usually after some kind of declaration. I will say that I'm probably a bit peculiar in that I have remained friends with potentials even if we (mutually or otherwise) decide it wouldn't work out, so perhaps I'm able to remain some kind of dis-connectivity during the process which others aren't? I don't think this compromises the process itself though.

But the fact is that we all consider multiple people all the time. Perhaps it's on a less official basis, but each time a single person who's looking meets someone of the opposite gender, they'll be sizing them up even if that is being done covertly or even subconsciously. I'm sure no one has a problem doing this or even being sized up themselves in this manner, so I don't see how being introduced in a more direct or formal manner becomes an issue. As mature people as long as we know where we stand we should be able to handle and choose how to proceed.

So I guess what I'm saying is that the explicitness of a situation shouldn't dictate the level of commitment you owe someone, unless that's precisely what's being made explicit (for example via an engagement or even a "let's go steady" proclamation). And by definition before any point of commitment you have the option to bail, be it because of someone else or any other reason - it's why we'd happily talk to someone who might be leaving the country in the next month for good. You know, just in case they don't.

But it is true that under a formal approach people aren't there just for friendship, and also that for most people marriage will be a monogamous thing. As such there are certain specific rules which do apply, many of which will dictate whether or not you can even talk to more than one person at a time:

  1. Honesty. Proactive honesty at that. Tell them that you're not at a stage at which to commit and are still figuring out where you are. As adults, they have a right to either stay or end it (something you should respect). In the latter case, you could choose to give them the exclusivity they want. The point is that this should be a bilateral and explicit dialogue.
  2. Availability. You should be as engaging as you would if you were only looking at one person. Talking to two people doesn't mean you give them half the attention each, so no delays in returning calls or emails. Of course there is a practical limit to this and for lots of people that's just one. Don't look for numbers if you can't deal with them.
  3. Non-abuse. Probably the most difficult to stick to. Don't let the attention get to your head, don't lead anyone on and don't play any games. Consider it an honour to be in the process, not a right. You're talking to figure out if you can marry someone and if they could marry you, not to set up multiple options and backup plans. Focus on establishing what you need to know as quickly as possible and once you do (or know that you won't), let the relevant parties know. Do not keep anyone hanging. If you find that you like more than one person at the same time, well then you need to choose who you want to be exclusive with immediately.
  4. Reciprocity. You have to be okay with your opposite doing the same. If you're not (perhaps you're at a point where you need their attention to proceed), then you should tell them and let them decide if they're ready to change the situation. Although this point can come at any time, it's a bit unreasonable to expect it from the start (love at first sight aside). Personally I assume it as the default position (that they are looking at other people), but I'll always ask anyway.
  5. Clarity and objectivity. That means no comparing potentials to one another. And definitely not mixing up their names or what you've said or done with each other.
To be honest across all these rules it's probably difficult to talk to more than one person anyway, and if you did not for more than a few days at most. However it is possible to legitimately look at more than one person at a time.

Perhaps I'm just unlucky in that potential rishtas arrive like buses for me - ones on a six month route - so I really can't afford to write people off just because I'm two emails into talking to someone else, especially if I don't even know the current person all that well (and in all likelihood won't marry them for some other reason anyway).

Similarly I wouldn't want to say no to someone I do actually like, just because she's yet to realise how awesome I am. If anything allowing her to talk to other losers will just increase the chances that she'll say yes to me.

Friday, September 4

Two Thousand

So even though I thought I was on top of it, it seems that I totally missed acknowledging my two thousandth post. To be honest I thought it would have happened after my blog's birthday rather than before so maybe that's why I was oblivious to it. As for its content, well I couldn't have picked a more worthy topic than my ode to Edmonton.

It having just been the fifth year too means I've been posting an average of 400 a year. That of course is heavily skewed due to the lack of activity over the past 18 months or so (I won't bother apologising again) which is a pretty healthy amount I suppose. I wonder how many words and stuff I've used?

Anyone who replied "too many" gets a cyberslap from me.

Single and Muslim? Well There's A Website Just For You Click for more info

Look, I know I'm tight. And yes I have big ideological issues about paying a third party to meet a prospective partner. I just wanted to get all that out of the way so that I could possibly make a decent point below.

While checking out the profile of a friend, I must admit that I was pretty impressed my singlemuslim.com. Yes it had a lot of the regular features (including umpteen profiles claiming how they "weren't very good at this kind of thing") but had a lot of relevant features too - things like check boxes indicating how much you prayed or whether you had a beard or hijab (but not both, unfortunately). And if I'm being honest, well, there were some quite attractive profiles, both in image and word, across the site as I took a quick looksie. You know, while I was there.

So I registered and it was all very find and very dandy. I was even more impressed once I had - you can see who's been checking out your profile and the site even let me change my username after I decided it wasn't relevant any more (it was "spammy").

But then the cracks started to appear. You know, stuff that, on the whole most people would ignore but couldn't get past my anal retentiveness (you all love it really). I'm talking about things like dodgy pagerank links or the use of blatant models in their advertising (I'm sure I've seen a few of them on telly). These aren't big deals in themselves, but once added up hardly inspire confidence in the people who are running the site. But the biggest issue I have is with the membership structure singlemuslims.com uses.

Unlike other matrimonial sites, the biggest difference here is how singlemuslim.com make full membership free for girls while making guys pay for what they describe as the "gold" level. Now the official line (I read this a while back but can't find it now) is that this is a way of respecting a Muslim woman's right to search, right to decline and underlining the great importance of girlie prerogative, while also (I suppose) prompting men to be men (which means making them reach into their wallets).

Being the cynic I am though, I just don't buy this. You see, although men can't send messages until they're gold, they can't read any that have been received either. It's the ultimate marketing gimmick actually; having three or four girls (hey, I just signed up today, okay?) in your inbox without being able to know what exactly they've written.

Stemming this curiosity while bolstering your ego costs the princely sum of 28 quid a month. That's a rate of over 300 pounds a year, something which I find incredible (although that could just be because I've yet to find a profile worth that kinda money). If you're thinking "well that's just there to encourage you to subscribe for longer", well then you'll be right. Subscribe for a year and it's a much more manageable 120 quid. There's even an unlimited option for £160.

I'll give you a few minutes to think about what's wrong with this set up.

See, unlike mobile phone plans or television subscriptions, matrimonial sites by definition require you to quit and stop paying once they do their job. In that sense they're shooting themselves in the foot, and most of them feel that the best way to do this is to take as much money as possible, based on your own assessment of how well you think you'll do. You're literally betting on your own failure here - what kind of guy would go for the unlimited option? Does he really expect it to take that long (and if so then no website is gonna help him)? And what kind of girl would go for that kind of guy? And of course once a guy pays for a long term membership, he's going to want to use it, regardless of whether he meets a goodun' or not; he may as well keep looking until his membership lapses. In short, paying members are either desperate (enough to pay tons of money for a short term) or losers (who really don't think much of themselves).

There are genuine solutions to this. The main thing is to normalise memberships across genders and to make girls pay - if they want to. To facilitate this, it should be free for all read messages. Regarding the shrewd payment options, a much more honest way would be to stick to the monthly price of 28 pounds, but to cap or reduce it if it happens to take some poor sod a bit longer (so the second month costs 25, the third 20, etc). They could even introduce some kind of pay-per-message option if they wanted us to be really discerning before hitting that "Hello Gorgeous! You look really nice on your picture! Masha'Allah! I'd love to talk to you further, let me know if you'd like to chat some time!" canned message. No really, it's there.

This would all ensure that it's the initiator (be it the guy or the girl) who puts their money where their mouths are when initiating, rather than burdening those getting hit on with the hit (did you see what I did there?). Under the current system girls already do make the first move so there's no decrease of respect here (even though in my humble opinion they always should).

But yes, as it stands it seems to me that certain choice have been made to maximise profit rather than to help people get it on (hooray for Islamploitation!). That's fair enough but I think it's an attitude which may find its way into the beginnings of any relationship borne out of such a site too (although judging by the literature they do seem quite successful).

Honestly, it's enough to get me to start my own matrimonial site, one that is free or perhaps donation based. Of course I'd have a conflict of interest that would make such a thing impossible right now, so for now perhaps I should just start a SM directory, mapping usernames to email addresses?

In the meantime I just hope the girls on the site are enterprising enough to use Google properly. Wink wink and all that.