Monday, December 28

Film: Sherlock Holmes Click for more info

I never mind a challenge when watching a film - I like having to concentrate on every little detail and always strive to get to the ending before the story itself does. But this kind of challenge in film is only good if it pays off with a good reward, and unfortunately Sherlock Holmes doesn't quite deliver. After you've managed to decipher all the long words and fast paced and gag-filled script there isn't much of a deep plot; and all the really hard bits are explained away with things like "bribery" and "coat hooks".

Robert Downey Jr is ace, as he always is, and perfect for the super-aware and slightly autistic Holmes. Jude Law is less of a gem in this movie and the rest of the cast manage to keep up to a minimum level. The film manages to pull off the re-imagining of Holmes as a violent play boy rather than gentleman (there's plenty of token Guy Ritchie during the fight scenes) and it all fitted pretty well. Old London was represented okay in a fantastical way but was hardly authentic.

Overall the film was pretty enjoyable but nevertheless a bit of a wasted opportunity what with the lack of any real payload (Moriarty has been saved for a sequel it seems). If the plot had as much intelligence as Sherlock himself then this could have been a cracker; but the real irony is how Guy Ritchie's other films manage to be much more smarter using much less vocabulary.

Friday, December 25

Film: 3 Idiots Click for more info

Fabulously fun factor filled film about a college student (somehow miraculous pulled off by Aamir Khan) teaching his friends and teachers (and teachers' daughters) about life; how it's not about grades or money or success but love, friendship and passion. But despite being heavy on the live lessons, 3 Idiots is never a chore to watch; quite contrary as what resulted was by far the best Bollywood film I've had the pleasure of watching this year.

Yes the plot is predictable, and the punchlines seen from miles away - I was even second guessing the script at some points. But helped along by bags of charm, this familiarity just added to the whole credibility of the message - it being one we already knew. This film wasn't a stranger but as much a friend as those in it. I didn't even mind the various plot holes and loose ends; just like its main protagonist Rancho, 3 Idiots is a total hero: unbelievably bulletproof, always right and perfect while all the time keeping the arrogance to a minimum.

The almost-three-hours flies by, and unlike most other Bollywood films I can think of I can't think of what to cut out; it didn't even suffer from the usual post interval leap into farce.

If you haven't already guessed by my gushing I totally recommend it.

Thursday, December 24

Film: Planet 51 Click for more info

Amusing animation reversing the roles in a classic B-movie; here, it's the humans "invading" a planet, with the aliens, or rather natives, terrified for their lives. Unlike that other film about humans mixing it up with aliens the stress is less on White Guilt and more on local heroism, although there is a bit of the former anyway. I guess overall it's a decent way to introduce the dangers of seeing the unfamiliar as "The Other".

Well animated and scripted, it's actually the homages the film pays to the previous which brings the most entertainment. It'd be too spoilerific to list them all, but my favourite was in regards to what the natives keep as pets.

Apart from these references the film did seem quite adult to me; there was at least one phallic joke which although tame did raise an eyebrow. But still the film was pretty enjoyable, although mercifully short. Recommended, but maybe only on DVD.

Tuesday, December 22

The Need For Space

Amongst my many unrealistic expectations of marriage, one which gets a lot of attention from friends and rishta alike is how I won't require much space from the person I'll eventually marry. Or put in a more straightforward manner, how I would like to spend a good majority of my social and familial life with my other half. As well as being unrealistic it can even be harmful, since apparently all marriages and relationships need some space to remain healthy; almost as if spending too much time together would make you realise how rubbish your marriage actually is.

First of all I don't think space is as vital a component for a healthy marriage as many seem to make out. I know more than a few couples who will do as much as is practically possible together, and lament when they can't. In fact I'd say this need for space is a modern thing - in the old days it used to be about couple dating or dinner parties, while now its about joining "the boys" or "the girls" at the local shisha bar while the spouse takes care of the kids.

In my own various social groups I have friends (both male and female) who always leave their partners at home - as much as love them all for making the effort to spend time with the group I do find it a bit of a shame us being used as some kind of escape or distraction from their married life; I'd much rather they brought their other halves with them. And perhaps unreasonably I always find it a bit depressing seeing a bunch of girls or guys socialising around a shisha pipe when it's clear how much of an escape it is for them. On the other hand some bring their partners with them and I like how easily they're able to share; It's couples like these who show that space isn't necessarily a vital or inevitably realistic thing.

I do realise that practical realities exist and that each person in a relationship have their own responsibilities to fulfil at different times of the day - so just because I'm at work this doesn't mean I would expect my wife to suffer at home alone too. And even if a certain level of space is necessary I think it's more than covered by the time spent apart fulfilling these responsibilities - if you need space then why not just align it with the times you have to spend apart?

For my part I guess I've been brought and built to share my life in that way. So I'll take my dad with me and my mates to watch Avatar (even though he'll go home early because it's too cold to wait the two hours for the film to start), and regularly mix social circles instead of cherry picking friends for a particular occasion. I don't feel a need to insulate these respective aspects of my life and any space I need from my family (with whom I've been living with for the past 31 years) kinda comes naturally from us fulfilling our responsibilities, be that by going out to work or doing our own things within the home.

In a similar manner my interests have also been guided by whether or not they'll be something acceptable and even enjoyable by a future spouse. I avoided getting into football after hearing about so many women being made widows on a Sunday and I as much as I've been criticised for free mixing and not having exclusively-man-groups of friends one of the main reasons I've picked these groups is so that any wife can hang out with the same people. Most of my hobbies (cinema, volunteering, talks etc) are things which are enjoyed by men and women. This isn't to say that I'll be dictating everything we do together or the friends we keep, but more that if it was left to me than I'd want her to feel as comfortable as possible in my life; I'd hope that's mutual since I would want to be as accepted in her existing circles as she would be in mine.

And of course we shouldn't force people to do anything they don't really enjoy but then I figure this is less of an issue for those who believe that the company is more important the venue or activity and are open-minded enough to enjoy almost anything; I'd rather change my interests than do the things I do now alone.

Anecdotally I do see this as being more of a girl requirement than a guy one: increasingly I see (Muslim? Asian?) women reserving their right to have "girly time" in which to let their hair down. Perhaps it needs to be explicitly stated for women since it's a such a given for men, but then I've heard of how some wives say they have to force their husbands to go out and play with their guy mates without them. On the other hand there have been times when a bunch of us from a particular circle of friends tried to do the whole "guy thing". We failed terribly; something I feel had more to do with how much we appreciated the women in our group more than because we're a bunch of social inadequates.

So in conclusion this is more about being in sync and organising your day and interests around each other as a pair rather than intentionally aiming to do stuff alone in a vain attempt to hold on to the individuality you had in a past life. In this way this is something that goes back to what I said about co-dependency. But whatever the case it seems that I'm in the minority when it comes to thinking in this way, and I've always accepted and compromised upon the need for someone to have their alone time even if I don't require it in the same way.

That said, I must admit that a tiny alarm bell does ring each time a potential explicitly reserves the right to (exclusively) see her friends. I'm not against it per se, but it is something I don't think I'll fully understand especially if she'll be more than welcome to join me in the things I'd want to do - but it's more than that since I feel it'll be quite unlikely that I'd want to do much without her in the first place.

Monday, December 21

Abstruse Goose Click for more info

Abstruse Goose, once again keeping it real:

Not that I'd ever admit to having ever had the same reaction myself of course. Ahem.

Sunday, December 20

Film: Avatar Click for more info

Avatar is a wonderful film. But before I get into why it's so wonderful, let me get the bad bit out of the way: it's long, and feels longer, especially with your eyeballs getting pummelled by the 3D visuals. But more about that later.

There was more than enough to make this an epic: we had the huge world, much of it at stake. We had the big and super powerful bad guy and the love story. We had the moral dilemmas and heroes and heroines.

But what got everyone talking about Avatar was the visuals. And amazing they were too: it was clear how much love and attention was spent building this world. The story had much to do with life and how it streams through the inhabitants of Pandora, something which called for some fantastic special effects, although I must admit being uneasy with some of the augmented scenes. On the 3D side of things this was by far the most impressive and effective use of the technology I've witnessed in the past ten films or so I've seen in 3D; that said I still had a bit of a headache and eye strain after leaving.

The story seems to be getting the bulk of the criticism from those who have been to see it, but I don't think it's as bad as has been made out. Don't get me wrong: it was definitely secondary to the mythology created and CGI used. Some bits did fall flat, like the ending, and the whole Evil Humans versus Good Natives was a bit too black and white and even patronising for me; this was something that was obviously designed to get us, the audience, to start cheer-leading (bashing capitalism is popular enough to sell stuff now) and a bit too much was done to labour the point of how much a dick humankind can be. We get it, okay?

But all that is easily ignored. Avatar is by far one of my most favourite films this year, and perhaps even for a long, long time. I think I may have enjoyed it a bit more if it had been split in two (a thinking episode and an action one maybe), or even had an interval, but as it stands a bit of physical and mental exhaustion is a small price to pay for such entertainment. Heavily recommended.

Friday, December 18

Food: Touareg Grill Click for more info

Although I had originally been for an iftar this Ramadhan, I didn't think it was right to review it back then since it was so much of a rush job (oh and okay, I forgot). Luckily I had a chance to go their place in Leytonstone this evening with fifteen others (a good test of a restaurant's hospitality) and it turned out to be quite a nice place.

Avoiding the tangine I had last time (what with my meat-on-the-bone phobia) I stuck to their grill menu - I was glad that I did because my Algerian Sausage Sandwich Thing was actually quite good. My pastry starter was equally nice, if a bit small but overall there was no complaints on the food front. I was even allowed to swap my included drink for three chicken wings.

My whole meal cost less than six quid, a veritable bargain, but where Touareg really shone was vibe. Although we had exclusive use of both tables in the basement, the fifteen or so of us there managed to squeeze around just the one, quite cosily and comfortably, and most importantly in a circle so we could all see each other. It sounds simple but not many places allow for such accessibility and as such Touareg is the perfect place for impromptu and low maintenance dinner parties. It helps that the food isn't too bad too! Recommended.

Rebel Muzik Click for more info

As time goes on the vibrancy and, well specialness of Rebel diminishes. Perhaps it's just the end of year blues or maybe we've just now seen it all, but tonight's Rebel was definitely lacking something.

There must have been a girl no older than 7 or 8 on the open mic who although awwww-inspiring and super-cute raised questions in my head about what she was doing there in the first place. The rest of it was okay, with two slots filled by the girls from Poetic.

The main line up was interesting enough: The hit for me was most definitely Fidel, a super talented and funny soul artist; I'm kicking myself for forgetting to buy his CD. Raggo Zulu Rebel was also fun if a bit loud, while the usual Muslim Belal and Saffia rounded off the line up (well what I stuck around to see - for the first time I had left a Rebel early). As an aside it's interesting to see just how many artists are dropping myspace for facebook when self-advertising on stage.

So a so-so evening but at least Makan was nice. And I must admit it was worth coming out just to see Fidel.

Friday, December 11

Pyaar Hai Click for more info

Yet another Asian theatre production asking what love is? Anyone would have thought that's all we want (and hey, maybe it is?). However since it was only a tenner I decided that it was worth the punt and went to check it out tonight.

To be honest, the most striking thing about the play was the audience. The already small drama studio was only half full, of which there were only three guys, two of which from the same party, one of which was me. Around six (so a quarter) left during the interval. Large scale this was not.

Still, I quite liked the cosiness of the stage and indeed play itself. Sure, it was yet another tale of the loser Indian guy not being able to commit to the cute-as-a-button naive damsel Ash, but the script was funny and a bit too clever for me at times and there was a definite charm to the whole thing; even if a part of it was us giving the leads a metaphorical pat on the head each time they forgot their lines. A couple of the actors were ace though - Ash's big sister outstripping the rest by quite a bit. And I'm not just saying that because she gave me her number during the play (don't worry, it was fake).

Sophisticated this was not, amateurish it most certainly was. But I had gone in with low expectations and perhaps enjoyed Pyaar Hai more than I should have because of that. Or maybe it was due to just how cute-as-a-button Ash was...

Thursday, December 10

New Music

Bhangra/Bollywood special!

Unforgettable - Imran Khan

An album that everyone's been waiting for since Ni Nachleh, and it's not too bad. Although it has some unique tracks it does get a bit samey after a while. My picks of the fifteen tracks are Amplifier, Aaja We Mahiya, Peli Waar, Chak Glass, Pata Chalega and Bewafa, but I think there's something for everyone here. It's a shame the wrong version of Ni Nachleh is on it.

The Streets of Bollywood 3 - Various

The third instalment in a possibly tired series (one and two here. Gosh I feel old), once again the majority of tracks being produced by Kami K. I'm sure a couple more will grow on me but It Can Only Be Love is currently doing the rounds.

Rishte Naate - De Dana Dan

Another one of those romantic group hug songs you're supposed to listen to while all loved up. Yes, I love it.

Paisa - De Dana Dan

Luckily the above is balanced by this poptastic track.

Shukran Allah - Kurbaan

Is liking this blasphemous? But anyway here's my second Bolly ballad for today...

Kurbaan Hua - Kurbaan

...once again balanced by a less soppy song, this time rock.

Kya Karoon feat Blitzkrieg - Gunjan

A bit of fun with the mischievous Gunjan doing her thing. I don't hold much hope for her forthcoming album though.

Udhi Udhi Iteffaq Se - Paa

Although it reminds me something I'd hear while riding a lift it's pleasant enough. There's actually three versions on the OST, one of which is sung by a bloke.

Nai Jeena feat Reetu - Nirmal Sidhu

Classic ballad Punjabi duet.

Nachdi De feat Angrej Ali - Aman Hayer

I feel I owe Aman Hayer an eternal following due to Tharti Hilde, still one of my favourite tracks of this decade. The downside is that nothing seems to come close, but this isn't too disappointing. I'll be watching the rest of his album of the same name.

Nach Billo feat Rishi Rich & Mumzy Stranger - Malkit Singh

More classic bhangra, and featuring even more Mumzy (he gets around, eh?).

Saajanji Vaari Vaari - Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd

Going a few years back now, here's that fun track from a film I never got to see.

Monday, December 7

Game: Left 4 Dead 2 (PC) Click for more info

An almost too-fast nine months after I played the first co-op zombie FPS comes its follow up. It's more of the same really: you and three other humans battle it out as a team to get through a horde of zombies to relative safety.

As its a sequel we have more guns, more bad guys, and bigger levels. We even have melee weapons now, the best of which is a limited fuelled chainsaw. Although these bring with them a new art to dispatching the undead it soon becomes clear that throwing bullets at them really fast is a much safer way of doing things.

But ultimately it seems that bigger isn't better as the simplicity which made the first game such a joy gets trodden upon. For example, I'm now not sure which weapon I like the best, what their relative merits are which to use in what situation; of course you're still limited in the same way (only one gun I'm afraid) so picking the right equipment becomes even more vital.

But at the end of the day what makes L4D2 a winner is that it brings new campaigns, each full of drama and fun (leaving your team mates in the lurch for the waiting boat/helicopter never gets old), and for that reason all the other superfluous additions can be forgiven. To be honest I still don't understand why this couldn't have been done with L4D, but hey, I only paid 16 quid with it in a recent Steam sale so I'm not too bummed out.

Sunday, December 6

Film: The Box Click for more info

I'm still not sure whether I liked Donnie Darko or not. I think I got it, or at least had my own interpretation of it, which I gather was part of the point. Whatever the case, there's no doubt that it was an engaging film which made you think instead of doing the thinking for you.

The Box has been brought to us by the same director and bears more than a few similarities to Donnie. It's weird yet engaging, both qualities increasing at an almost exponential rate throughout the film. Where it differs from Donnie is how a lot of it is explained away by a fairly rational plot, something paradoxically both adds and subtracts from the film. I reckon it'll will split audiences actually.

But weird plots aside the film was well made and well performed by those in it. I don't think I'll remember it past tonight so in terms of impact it didn't really, but while I was watching it I did enjoy it. Not essential, but recommended all the same.

Saturday, December 5

CRG: The Iqbal Sessions Click for more info

Before today I honestly didn't know much about Mohammed Iqbal. I knew he was a poet and possibly a homie of Jinnah and had some hand in the formation of Pakistan, but that was about it. So when a friend from the CRG (something I have unfortuantely much neglected since those first couple of sessions I had attended) told me they were going to devote a whole day to him I can't claim to have been particularly enthusiastic; but still I do think there's a need to support such things in order for bigger and better stuff to come out of it. So yeah, I wasn't planning to stay for very long.

On arriving I found that this wasn't an arty showcase on the life and talent of Iqbal but more of a series of lectures discussing the quite deep philosophical, religions and political themes he spoke about. I walked in on Dr Mahbub Gani's talk on divinity and was immediately captivated; this wasn't poetry but religious philosophy, you know, the abstract stuff I try to touch on here in this blog. Sure, a lot of it was contextual with respect to Iqbal, but Gani did a good job of extracting the essences and presenting them to us. After his talk had ended I cancelled my lunch plans and decided to stick around for the rest of the day.

After lunch Dr. Rabia Malik talked about Khudi, or the Human Ego, and how it can be defined and measured. AbdoolKarim Vakil took the final slot, talking about how we should consider how Iqbal was read; a discussion on meta-Iqbal if you will.

The plenary (don't worry, I didn't know what that was either - it's basically a Q&A where formal debate and conclusions might be drawn) took things way over my head as the day finally took its toll, although I did notice that it was of a higher quality than usual as the audience resisted making it more about them than Iqbal. And although the whole thing overran by an house I am glad that I hung around; in fact I actually regretted not joining in from the start, although I do hope I'll be able to catch what I missed via a recording or something. I guess if anything I've learned not to be so easily dismissive about stuff I actually don't really know much about of in the first place.

Friday, December 4


xxxx says (10:45):
    What is your nerdiest one liner / pickup line?
    Would you like to see the exponential growth of my natural log?
Shak says (10:45):
    oh dear
xxxx says (10:45):
    If you were cosine squared and I was sine squared, we would be one.
    i thought you'd appreciate these
    if you met a girl who found these funny
    woudl you be attracted to her
Shak says (10:46):
    if she was hot


Shak says (10:46):
    in fact... even if she didnt get them and was hot id still be attracted
xxxx says (10:46):
    so shallow
Shak says (10:48):
    nah seriously. if she understood those... i'd be impressed and attracted. unfortunately i doubt she's be hot so it wouldnt go any further.
xxxx says (10:48):
    hey man ... there are some hot geeks
    woudl you marry a woman who could whup your ass at sf
Shak says (10:48):
    its funny... i say to my girl mates "looks times personality equals a constant" and they all giggle and say its true... but dont realise im calling them either stupid or ugly.


Shak says (10:49):
    its funny... i say to my girl mates "looks times personality equals a constant" and they all giggle and say its true... but dont realise it means theyre either stupid or ugly.
xxxx says (10:49):
    wher you c&p that from
Shak says (10:49):
    its mine...


Shak says (10:50):
    im gonna put this on my blog so thought i'd put something a bit less offensive :D


Shak says (10:50):
    anyway yeh. i'd marry a girl who could beat me at sf. yet to find one since im so damn good at it

Link of the Day Click for more info

The 100 Sexiest Movie Stars

Another day and yet another chart ranking people on their physical beauty. Or is it? I've often said that hotness doesn't require physical beauty (Rihanna for instance is pretty ugly, but hot as heck), something which a lot of people, particularly girls, don't understand. And they say I'm shallow.

Anyway it's a stance that's vindicated by this list as we see various not-so-pretty people topping it. Take Scarlett Johansson (4) for instance. Now I'm not a fan in the first place but nevertheless I'd say that she's not that pretty and doesn't have that much of a hot bod either. But even so I totally understand why she's placed so high in the chart. She just has it.

Personally I'm happy to see that a few of my choices have made the chart: Eva Green (31), Kristen Bell (29), Kate Beckinsale (19), Sarah Michelle Gellar (11!), Zoe Saldana (5), Angelina Jolie (2). I definitely appreciate the rest of the chart too though; I'm particularly happy to see Mila Kunis (8) placed so high. Unfortunately the whole chart fails massively with its Number 1, but I won't reveal who that is here. In a word though: shudder.

Oh and for all my female readers who are seeing this as yet further evidence that I'm just a typical pervy guy... well the link leads you to the 50 sexiest men too (although I've not really spent much time on that). Don't say I never do anything for you. Not that I've ever denied being a typical pervy guy anyway.

Thursday, December 3


Shak says (09:49):
    i prefer staying in nowadays too
    although amybe i shouldnt say that to potentials
xxxx says (09:51):
    if she's the type who likes that
    just say it
    i dunnpo what you say to these girls when you meet them
    but let's be frank here
xxxx says (09:52):
    you wanna get married ...
    if you gotta be a little dishonest
    so be it
Shak says (09:52):
xxxx says (09:52):
    you think yyyy woudl have married me .. if i told her i was ***CENSORED***?
Shak says (09:52):
    well tbh... i dont tell them about that until the third meeting
xxxx says (09:52):
Shak says (09:52):
    oh crap
xxxx says (09:53):
    wait till they in a legally binding relationship!
    man .... no wonder you crashing and burning on the 3rd date!
    keep the sweet talking till sh'es said YES"
Shak says (09:54):
    hey man... nowadays... even that's too early. divorces are too damn easy
xxxx says (09:54):
    nah man ...
    all you gotta do .. is introduce her to one of your 'crazy' relatives
xxxx says (09:55):
    who always says in front of her how he'd kill anyone who betrays the family
Shak says (09:55):
    omg. it all makes sense. wait. let me write all this down...
xxxx says (09:56):
    it's not easy finding a wife .. you gotta do what you can to tip t he blance in your favour!
Shak says (09:57):
    i went on a PR training course the other weekend. maybe i should use some of the stuff i learned in that....

Wednesday, December 2

The Good and The Bad

Can a good deed ever be bad? Or a bad deed good? I guess the first answer which comes to mind is "no", but after a few examples it becomes clear that the question is not so straightforward after all.

First up let's take the classic smoking hijabi. Judging by the passing comments of many, the hijab (which can otherwise normally be considered a good thing) somehow becomes a bad act if accompanied by certain other habits, like smoking or wearing relatively tight clothes. The implicit course of action advised (from a distance, naturally) is for her to remove the hijab since the person in question clearly isn't good enough to wear it; she or the world is worse off by her wearing it. Sometimes the advice given is for the person to stop smoking, but since this is just given to hijabis who smoke (as opposed to anyone), again it seems that the hijab is bad for somehow "amplifying" an already bad act.

Or how about stealing money to feed your (albeit secret) charity habit? This is a good one since we're now discussing whether it's a noble act in its own right or just something to justify ill gotten gains. So it depends on the intention and context.

So we've established that ambiguously good and bad deeds to exist; or at least are perceived to exist by us, even if it takes a bit of consideration to recognise them as such. But who cares? Does it matter as long as we're all trying our best? And if it is an issue, how should we address it? If indeed at all? Is Shak just going off on one again?

Well it's only important if you want to reduce any bad you might be doing, or to help others focus on theirs. Sometimes we don't even realise we're doing something bad (or indeed good), so it could be a form of discouragement or encouragement. But like we saw above determining whether or not it's good-bad or bad-good is quite tricky. In formal terms the main thing to determine is whether there's a causal relationship between various actions or if they're merely correlated or even related at all.

It's unlikely that the hijabi is smoking just because she covers her hair, so it's difficult to argue that it's caused by it. There may be a correlation though - perhaps some new bout of confidence or independence enabled her to both don the hijab and take up smoking. It's probably likely that they're not linked at all though, that she was smoking before or as an aside to her headdress, so in this case I don't really see an issue with her continuing to smoke while wearing a hijab (well not any more than I would with anyone else smoking - this is coming from someone who even hates sisha).

But let's not pick on the poor hijabi, not when the charity example is a better example of why context matters. Let's say that a guy already generously donates £500 a month, funded by his job. Now let's say that he loses his job, and turns to stealing in order to keep up his payments. This can be described as a causal relationship, and since the paying of charity is directly causing the theft, I'd say that it's now a bad act. The guy should stop paying the charity and so stop stealing.

But now let's say that a guy is already a thief and has been for a while. Putting aside the fact that he's a bad person already, what if he then decides to pay a bit of charity with these ill-gotten gains? Does that make his charity a bad act? I'd argue not; the money has already been stolen and charity seems a better use for it than blowing it all on booze and hookers. Of course the guy should stop stealing full stop, and the hijabi should stop smoking full stop, but we're more interested in the relationships between various acts here rather than what an ideal person would do.

We're probably not thieves so that example is probably a bit extreme. But this juxtapositioning of acts does happen a quite lot, especially now as Muslims become increasingly practising or worldly or both. In all our respective and wonderful multidimensionality there's plenty of more subtle and everyday examples of this tug of war between good and bad, many of which are generally accepted.

So to recap, I count four kinds of relationship between good and bad deeds:

  1. No dependency, where the bad would be done regardless of the good and the good regardless of the bad, and there's no impact on the quality of the good act. Smoking and wearing a hijab falls in this category.
  2. A correlation, like the above except that both the good and bad both came about at the same time via a single source (not necessarily good or bad). Since they're still independent there's still no impact on the quality of the good act, although there is a danger that addressing the bad act via that source could mean stopping the good one too.
  3. A good-bad relationship, where someone does a bad deed only to do a good one, like stealing only to pay it all to charity. I'd say that the quality of the good act has been diminished in this case and this person should stop both acts.
  4. A bad-good relationship, where someone uses a good act to justify a later bad one. Someone who becomes proud now that they pray five times a day could fall into this category. Although the quality of the good act does diminish, it should be simple (!) enough to stop doing the bad while keeping the good.
And this is why this analysis is important. A lot of the time we allow our bad habits to dictate our good ones, or allow our good acts to justify our bad ones. In other cases we refrain from doing good at all because of non-dependant bad actions, or remove the good because we incorrectly think that doing so will help us with the bad.

So the hijabi will remove her head-covering because she thinks as a smoker she'll be in a better position without it, or the thief will stop helping others (but carry on stealing anyway) because he's told his money is haraam, or the everyday Joe will not go on Hajj because he listens to too much music and isn't Islamic enough. Knowing the respective position of all your good and bad acts can help you figure out how to increase the former and decrease the latter in the most efficient and non-impactive way possible.

In closing I think what's important is to try and figure out why we do what we do, and what the downstream implications are. If a good action directly means you do a bad one, then I'd rethink your strategy of doing that good action. And if you're already doing something you consider bad then although you should make an effort to stop doing it, it shouldn't be an obstacle to doing other good things. If anything the good will influence you to stop doing the bad (provided there's no dependency between them).

This self assessment might be hard at first but I figure it's important and will become easier over time both as we accept that we're just human and then learn to be honest with ourselves. Once we get the ball rolling I reckon the balance will swing towards the good all by itself anyway.


Tuesday, December 1

Film: Paranormal Activity Click for more info

Like many red blooded up-themselves bonehead males I claim not to be scared of much. I pride myself in my rationality: roller coasters are designed to be safe and therefore can't be that bad, and my faith reassures me regarding most spooky occurrences. In this case I know that they're only actors in a scary movie, and in that way I tend not to be affected by them too much. Quite controversially however I did find Blair Witch a bit disturbing, but only for the last 30 seconds or so.

Although done as well as any other shaky handy cam "real footage" film, Paranormal is just another scary flick. You know exactly what they're trying to do and how they're trying to do it and a lot of the time it's difficult to get sucked in. In fact some of the set-pieces are a bit too well designed, shattering any illusion that this is genuine footage. Yes, there are scenes that make you jump (but not scream of course), but hey, you can get over that. Although I must say my hand went to my mouth more than a few times.

In fact it's the non-scary bits which have been done the most well. Katie is a real sweetheart, her boyfriend Micah a red blooded up-himself bonehead who claims not to be scared of anything. It's this, the focus on their everyday like which gets you to relate to what happens to them during the night. You're scared for them, not yourself, and in some ways the makers get to creep you out via the back door.

And by the end of the film there does indeed seem to be a cumulative effect on you, in my case one that lasted way after the film had finished. All of a sudden the streets of Ilford were emptier, darker and longer than usual. My shoelace came undone while walking to my car. Did I stop to tie it back up again? Hell no.

So yes, I guess I was well and truly creeped out after all. Even now as I look back the rational part of me sees the actors, the scripts and the director setting us all up for a fall. But all that is helplessly pushed out by anything irrational I might have subconsciously picked up. To be affected by a film in such a way is pretty unique, and in fact refreshing, even if I doubt that's a feeling that will last past the night.


Link of the Day Click for more info

The Story of Stuff

Here's an insightful, and more importantly, an accessible take on why our consumption based society is so wrong, not just on a principle level but on a practical one too. I must admit that I got annoyed with some of the politics and sensationalism in it ("think of the babies and their toxic breast milk!") but despite that it's a pretty compelling watch.

I especially loved the Consumption episode, but not just because it vindicates my own tightness and resistance to having to have the latest and greatest (something which apparently used to be called thriftiness and was something to be respected).

Anyway, enjoy. Thanks to Fuad for the link.