Wednesday, December 29

The Isle of Man

Telling people you're planning to spend a week in the Isle of Man generally results in one of three reactions. The first is that of those who have heard of the place and would like to go themselves at some point. The second are also from those who have heard of it but then ask "what the hell are you going there for?". Finally there is the suggestion I should visit Southampton on the way. Quite.

The truth is that due to having relatives there I've regularly been visiting the Isle of Man for almost 25 years now. It was the first place I flew to without my parents and perhaps even totally on my own, and as such I have collected some pretty poignant memories over the years. I'm actually quite proud to be able to say I've been there multiple times, as a kind of temper to my more "exotic and adventurous" travels. And of course there is a certain kudos to visiting the home of Stuart Baggs.

Of course there's not really much to do there as a tourist and on this trip most of my time was spent just hanging with my cousins and vegging out in front of television Christmas movies. Still there are a few things on the Isle of Man which, in my mind, can only be found by travelling to the island. My top five (in no particular order) are:

  1. Getting there. It's like being part of an exclusive club flying to a special place, from the twin propeller planes that take you there (three to four seats wide) to the tiny airport on the other side, the whole deal is very quaint and unique.
  2. The Promenade in Douglas. Most Islanders don't get why, but I do love it there. Specifically I love the sweeping arch starting from the ferry terminal and curving all the way to the cliffs on the other end. In some peculiar ways it's very Monkey Islandish.
  3. Strand Street. Especially the Marks and Spencer at the end.
  4. Marcy's House. A bit of a personal one here, but if there's one thing an eight year old will always remember about a place it's an upside down house.
  5. Glen Maye. Although there's a lot to be said about the natural beauty of this and the other Glens on the Island, Glen Maye is of particular value to me – I'm almost compelled to drop by each time I visit the Island, walking along the stream until we hit the pebble beach and cove at the end. It's a magical place, if only for the memories it invokes when I get there.
I guess seeing the place every five years or so makes it easier to visualise certain fixed points in my own life, and ultimately that's why the place is so special to me. Which actually makes it quite sad when I consider that this may be one of my final visits there, as my relatives increasingly look to move away to the mainland.

Of course it turns out that the Island feels the same about me – or at least that's how I chose to read the two flight cancellations, the aborted take-off and aborted landing at City today. Although the Island is relatively close, the normally three hour transit took eight instead. It remains to be seen if that journey becomes another fond memory of another brilliant trip to the Isle of Man.

EDIT: But of course you already know this, seeing as I wrote about my last trip there in 2005. I'm glad to see that my sentiments are the same now as they were then.

Tuesday, December 21

Cyanide & Happiness Click for more info

Following on from the XKCD strip a couple of weeks ago, here's another perfectly valid reason to end relations:

Although this time I suspect it happens more often in the Muslim community than we'd like to think.

Sunday, December 19

Shak's Choice: Anushka Sharma

I'm going to start this post off by saying that I don't actually think Anushka is that stunning. She's not ugly of course, but she's not a raw beauty either.

But then it's precisely this well grounded vibe that makes her so compelling. She's oozes happiness, as demonstrated by that oft-worn cheeky smile, and dances in a way that screams how fun she is. She's talented too - she's obviously on the screen for her personality and acting skills more than her sex appeal.

Anushka just goes to show that positive energy and contentment can be just as attractive as anything physical. The lesson here is to just keep smiling and be happy!

Film: Band Baaja Baaraat Click for more info

You know, sometimes the only reason you want to go watch a Bollywood flick is to have some fun. Not drama, not emotion and not a freaking moral, but just plain and simple fun. Luckily, BBB happens to be an example of a film that delivers on this requirement in spades. Weddings are, of course, fun already, so it kind of goes without saying that a film about a couple of students who go into wedding planning would be too.

But still, kudos to both Anushka Sharma and Ranveer Singh for playing a pair of charming, sweet and, well, fun youngsters. It did take a while for me to warm up to Ranveer but once I got over his initial tomfoolery I was sold. Anushka, of course, had me from the get go.

I guess the beauty in the film is in its simplicity. There's no gimmicks here, no exotic locations or outrageous plot devices to spoil it all. Even ancillary stuff like the songs and costume are brilliantly down to earth. Sure, it's all very predictable and not much of it sticks once the film is over, but I couldn't help but smile throughout.

Masses of feel good factor to be had here. Recommended.

Saturday, December 18

Shoes Glorious Shoes, 2011 Edition

I had a mixed reaction the last time I gave my opinion on the state of ladies' footwear. Some found it quite insightful and even useful, while others considered it the end of any chance I would ever have with a willing woman. But hey, this blog has never been about me being on the pull, and if helping certain girl mates who clearly can't pick footwear means I have to live my life alone, well then that's a sacrifice I'm more than willing to make.

Considering how long ago I first wrote about this topic, I guess girlie shoe fashion hasn't changed that quickly. That said for some reason we've had a raft of new styles come in over the past year or so – and there's no doubt I'm noticing them more now that I'm on a commute.

Judging by the terrible quality of style and design I can only imagine that shoe designers everywhere are so bored that they had to invent anything. What's depressing is how so many are willing to part with their cash in order to justify what can only be described as a broken design decision making process.

But anyway, let's talk specifics shall we? Don't worry there is some good news, but I'll leave that till last.

First up lets revisit that particular bug bear of mine – peep toes. To be honest I've somewhat softened my stance on these, but that's more due to becoming familiar with them rather than liking them for what they are. But that original distaste has now returned after seeing what I suppose some consider to be the natural progression – peep toe boots. Putting aside the fact that these make no logical sense, they just plain look stupid too. It's quite simple really – if you're covering up most of your foot up to your ankle (or higher), then to show your toes is kind of absurd:

And of course, the more of your foot you show in a boot, the more absurd it looks. Fully open toes on a boot? The show of a heel even?

Like I said, absurd. But not as absurd as flip flop boots. I mean look, subject to the feet wearing them, I love flip flops. And of course, like any man, I love boots. However putting the two together is just insanity. I'm actually finding it hard to carry on talking about these bizarre creations of man; that's how much I despise them. They really are the biggest crime I'm going to talk about today:

More awful examples of these monstrosities here.

Next up are brogue shoes. Now I'm going to admit that I have mixed feelings about these than the above and although some are awesome, some do make me feel uneasy. I guess I see a lot of them as masculine and am put off my them in the same way I would be seeing a girl in a men's suit, with a shirt, tie and braces and bowler hat; and we all know that cross dressing is not sexy, even if you just restrict that to your shoes. So avoid these:

But even if you do decide to go for these, then please please please don't forget your socks. On the other hand, losing the laces, adding more colours and a heel make brogues awesome. In short, keep them feminine and we're all good:

But hey, let's end on a positive note. Although I'm normally not too fussed about military boots (see my aversion to masculinity, above), I absolutely love the zipped and deliberately unlaced style making the rounds at the moment:

There's just something totally hot about the comfort, casualness and carefreeness of these things – combine them with a pair of skinny jeans and baggy top (big hair optional) and you've pretty much made my day. The weird thing is that no one seems to know what I'm talking about when describing them - even the few girls (random or otherwise) I've seen wearing them didn't think the style of boot had a name when I asked them for one. Apparently they can be found in River Island and those independent shoe shops you find around Oxford Street or All Saints. I've also seen similar on Ebay. They're awesome and cheap so there's no reason not to buy yourself a pair; the best colours are anything dirty - dirty grey, dirty khaki or dirty black.

Till next time!

Wednesday, December 15

In Conversation with Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif and Farah Khan

The two headlining stars and director of Tees Maar Khan were in town today to promote their upcoming film. Much in the same way they recorded an interview with Aamir Khan, Raj and Pablo were once called upon to represent both the Asian Network and British Muslims to the visiting Bollywood stars. Sigh.

But still, I guess I'm used to Raj and Pablo's train wreck style of interviewing enough to ignore any misgivings I have - between them and the pre-fielded audience questions, the whole thing was pretty much a wasted opportunity. At this point I'll once again cast my vote for Sonia Deol to take over, well, any and all contact with the outside world. A special nod goes to the Asian audience - we represented ourselves fully in our lack of decency, respect and organisation. Forget trying to queue up or anything. Still I must admit I loved the guy in the audience who kept holding up a poster of Kaif each time her name was mentioned.

So now that I've got my various moaning about the state of the BBC Asian Network out of the way, what of Akshay, Katrina and Farah? Well first up it was clear that Farah may as well have not been there. In terms of popularity she was well in third place behind the other two, but respect to her for knowing what her place was.

Next up was Akshay, and once again I was impressed by the live appearance of a Bolywood actor. He was genuinely funny - even though ironically what he was saying wasn't. He's one of those people with the right sense of timing, voice and personality that would make even a serious point sound amusing. According to my friends he was also better looking in real life than on the big screen. Perhaps it was my cynicism (or hate, whatever), but I did detect a little chauvinism in him - he didn't let either of the other ladies complete any of their answers without having the need to cut in and elaborate on their behalf. Not cool.

Finally there was Katrina Kaif. From the distance I was seated (that was, right at the back) she looked absolutely stunning in her little black number. Quite interestingly I noticed that she kept her coat on - not only that but she was constantly adjusting it to cover up as much as possible (even as she was telling us about her concerns and with preparation for Sheila Ki Jawani). Content-wise there were no surprises here and although she was friendly and sensible I can't quite say I was amazed by what she had to say. I will admit to being interested in finding out she had sisters living in London. Still looking as she did she didn't really have to say much, although I have to admit I was slightly less impressed when I saw her a bit closer up as she left the studio.

Still, the whole thing was a lot of fun and I'm glad I had the chance to attend. It was good to see and hear both Akshay and Katrina in person, and of course for me to have the chance to publicly declare my love for Katrina during a quiet bit - her turning and waving toward me was well worth looking the fool. Swoon.

Monday, December 13

XKCD Click for more info

It's the attention to detail that counts:

I may or may not have declined rishta for lesser reasons.

Saturday, December 11

New Music

Tees Maar Khan OST - Tees Maar Khan

Hmm. Not much to hear here. Of course Sheila Ki Jawani gets a big nod (and much more), while I'm still undecided about Badey Dil Wala and Wallah Re Wallah. The rest can be safely ignored.

Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya - Raghav

This is the second Raghav pick in as many releases, and I'm starting to get worried now. It doesn't help how this is such a massive tune. I always knew he had it - I guess it takes a bombing and re-rise to really shine.

Sunday, December 5

Film: Break Ke Baad Click for more info

Despite being a Bollywood fan I think it's fair to say that I always watch a film of the genre from the "outside in". I see it for what it is - a guilty pleasure or classic form of escapism that has no real relevance to my life. But that was before I watched Break Ke Baad, a film that I personally related to so much that it's going to be difficult writing a review about it without making it personal. For that reason I'm going to split it into two.

As a film, I thought it was great. The plot was sensible and made sense, and there wasn't even any of the usual post-interval chaos we usually get. It was well paced and balanced, and at no point did I feel I was watching filler. I can't remember any silliness or scenes added purely for the sake of it.

The acting was standard fare, although the cast were hot - Deepika of course goes without saying, but I even really liked Imran Khan for once too. They had some wonderful support and ancillary characters too. The soundtrack wasn't all that as a soundtrack, but seemed to fit film perfectly as commentary or background music. The script was funny yet down to earth and charming, choosing not to ride on any cheap gags or gimmicks. I did scratch my head over the depiction of the Gold Coast, but that could have just been since I have such vivid memories of the place myself.

Overall the film was very well produced. From the embedded credits to the digital projection, the whole thing was very easy on the eye, smooth and lacking of any of the rough edges we've become accustomed to. So yes, even if you have no interest in the subject matter I'd say that this is still a film worth watching.

But of course I also had my personal interest and connection to what the film was asking and talking about: the whole independence versus co-dependence debate, whether a relationship should be an aside to ambition and if love and happiness really are such separate concerns. Take away Deepika's character Aaliyah (granted, a pivotal part of the film) and you're pretty much left with my story - I am Abhay Gulati. Or something. To be honest I don't think much is answered in the Bollywood world where everyone does manage to get their cake and eat it, but it was still nice to see Bollywood's take on the issue.

Overall I found Break Ke Baad a pleasure to watch and maybe even one of the best Bollywood flicks I've seen over the last twelve months. Much recommended.

Film: Megamind Click for more info

It always amuses me how these animated films almost always come in pairs. Bug's Life hit with Antz, The Wild was put up against Madagascar and now Megamind turns up mere weeks Despicable Me - because you know, villains-turn-good is such a reoccurring theme in film.

But hey, it's not like a lack of originality has ever caused me to complain about a movie. And in fact, despite the particular plot line, the two films are quite different on other levels; I found Megamind to be much more adult, mature and sophisticated than Despicable, both in terms of humour, story and theme. I didn't laugh out loud as much with this film, but it was just as awesome anyway.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the younger kids in the audience didn't seem to appreciate the lack of visual humour and directly told story though, so it's arguable that the film may not be as quite fit for use as the other options out there, but I don't think it's fair to knock it for that.

Otherwise the standard applies here and Megamind certainly delivers the goods: great animation, excellent voice acting and a package that will charm the pants off anyone over the age of seven or so. Much recommended.

Saturday, December 4

Film: Monsters Click for more info

Despite the title you shouldn't go into this film thinking it's some kind of science fiction or horror film; not that Monsters is a deliberate attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the unexpectant - I knew that this was more a buddy-cum-romantic road movie than survival horror before deciding to watch it. It's safe to say that the Monsters of the title provide the context rather than focus here.

So yeah, in that sense there aren't many surprises - boy and girl are thrown together and forced to spend some serious time in each other's company, and finally grow to depend and fancy the pants off of each other. In fact I'd say this journey they took wasn't even that original - the guy's a prat with a heart, the girl devotes to him way too early, but it all works out in the end (excuse the spoiler).

But despite my lack of enthusiasm, I did enjoy the performances on show - enough to keep me engaged and interested throughout anyway. Still, that isn't quite enough to make this a film I can recommend, but if you have a chance to watch it on DVD with your other half then I guess it could provide some feel good factor for a Sunday night or something.