Sunday, February 27

Film: Tanu Weds Manu Click for more info

Bunty Aur Bubli, Neil n Nikki, boy meets girl. You kinda go into a film like this with a certain expectation of what the next two and a half hours are going to be like. Sassy girl pulls meek boy into her world where he falls in love with someone who he never would have thought of falling in love with, or even hated two minutes ago. You know the drill.

But no. Tanu Weds Manu seemed to disappoint more than entertain, and that not least because of the major spoiler in the title. Tanu wasn't sassy enough, Manu not meek, and the whole thing just didn't work as well as it should have. There just wasn't the chemistry, the flow, that these films need to have.

But even putting that aside you find a film put together with little care, a lot of it not making much sense. This confusion only served to distract you from the charm and humour in the film, although I wouldn't say that the script was immensely funny.

But there was a little bit of charm, and Kangana Ranaut just about pulls off the care free wild girl who needs to be tamed. But this just wasn't enough and so I can't quite recommend this, although perhaps it's one to wait on for a DVD.

Saturday, February 26

Another Level of Happiness

Ask people what makes them happy and you'll get a wide variety of answers, just as you might have expected you would have. Yet despite the range of replies a lot of the time we can arrange them into various groups depending on the type of happiness we're talking about.

So for example, some may talk about things like work, socialising, shopping or sex. The link between all of these is how much effort they take as well as how they are, to some extent, in the hands of others. Of course sometimes it's the effort and lack of control that precisely enables these things to provide happiness, but then this also brings with it a level of risk: the same people complain about having to work through lunch, the hangover the day after a good night out or how someone always gets hurt in a relationship. Somehow these complications seem averse to the concept of happiness; surely it's something that can always be self-determined? Surely it shouldn't cost anything?

Other answers include things like getting married or having kids. Dig a little deeper and you're told that it's the act of sacrificing and serving others that is the real source of happiness. In some ways these people are giving up their own happiness to make another happy, at which point they themselves become happy anyway and everyone wins. It's almost like a surplus of happiness is created out of nothing. Sounds crazy and illogical so let's try to understand how this can happen.

On theory is that there are different levels, or qualities, of happiness; let's call them shallow and deep for the sake of clarity. Using these terms, those in the first group can be said to happy in a shallow way, while those in the latter, after giving up their shallow happiness have managed found room for a much deeper one.

Still, it does seem that a lot of people forget that there are different levels of happiness - the incessant desire to have the latest Apple gadget (yes, that is a personal bias) clearly demonstrates this, as does the need to get drunk or log on to Facebook for two hours a night (in many ways the same thing) just to feel good in the short term. I don't think it's particularly judgemental to describe these as non-deep. The real irony is that due to it's lack of apparent cost, deeper happiness can be achieved much more easily.

And once again it's the "less fortunate" people who demonstrate how little effort it takes to achieve a deeper level of happiness. The poor, the demanded upon, they can sometimes be happier than people much better positioned than they happen to be. If anything the latter are constantly exposed to things that will allegedly keep them happy, and without making this an anti-west diatribe they have their iPhones, designer bags, bling watches, fancy educations and careers and statuses, but often not much else.

There was a time when people with deeper happiness were actually more abundant; for example when family or health or religion mattered the most. The times when people didn't actually mind being carpenters or retailers or, yes, even homemakers. As we "liberate" ourselves with more freedom (which almost completely translates to the ability to afford shiny things), being content in the old fashioned ways becomes more difficult.

Analysing this further we need to ask a few more questions. Does sacrificing in this way then become a selfish act, only done to achieve a deeper level of personal happiness? In that sense, is it really then a true sacrifice? It is even possible to do something completely selfless, or does the joy you expect in doing so make it selfish? Although I personally believe that it is (and can think of a couple of examples), I think the real answer is that it doesn't matter. Although this does give me a reason to reference the episode of Friends where Joey asks Phoebe to give him an example of a truly selfless act.

But even so we don't even have to stop there. There are even further depths of happiness, those based on immovable principles and simply doing the right thing. Those who don't litter, don't push on the tube, don't lie (to themselves as well as others), strive to maintain justice; they all seem to be happier people. It's similar to the above in terms of self sacrifice, but here we don't even need another person to bounce off. In that way you can even be happy in isolation on your own. The people you see smiling to themselves for no apparent reason are these.

The more astute of you will now realise that we're now in the territory of religion proper; since Muslims (for example) will never believe that they're ever alone, their incentive might be to do things for the pleasure of God. To be honest though I'd say that even that incentive can be irrelevant - it is just as possible for an atheist to be deeply happy as it is a person of faith.

Of course it's naive to think that we'll ever achieve a state where we're all deeply happy. And of course this might not even be the ideal state at all; none of this discussion is making a statement regarding the many other variables present - for example a person's work, although considered shallow in the context above, could be changing the world for the better. In this case it might have a higher moral value than not working, even if a deeper level of happiness could have been found by doing that. Neither can I ever claim to be totally void of shallow happiness myself.

I guess the main thing is to realise when we're happy in a shallow way, since only then can we make the decision whether to exchange it for a deeper one or not.

Video of the Day Click for more info

Sometimes the production values that go into a mere videogame trailer can be more effective than those of the largest Hollywood release.

Okay, sure, it's a little deliberately constructed, but I thought it was quite moving anyway. For a videogame trailer, I mean.

Friday, February 25

Food: Lavash Click for more info

Very decent Persian place in Finchley, right off the A406. Lavash gets top marks for atmosphere, presentation and food, loses some for service, which although smart and polite was a tad slow and even managed to get our order wrong (it wasn't written down, which is always a recipe for disaster).

Portions were very sizable, and the three starters and three mains proved to be more than enough for the three of us - we could have gotten away with a bit less, reducing the already fair £20 per head bill we received. The Halloumi, Prawns and Houmous were superb, while both grill dishes (kebab and chicken) were excellent. The Lamb and Ocra dish was much better than I was expecting, with a continuous supply of free oven baked bread topping it all off. Needless to say, I overate.

A great place holding it's own against the other obvious choices for Persian food, Lavash is most certainly recommended.

Monday, February 21

Film: Slackistan Click for more info

I'm not even going to waste words on this. Bad acting, a bad plot and premise, badly edited - there really wasn't much to praise in this film. Even the chicks weren't pretty. In fact, I even regret having a must-review-everything policy for this blog now. If I had a gun to my head I might be forced to admit that it had an inkling of charm toward the start, but then I'd pretty much say anything under torture. And before you ask whether I'm being too harsh on a Pakistani film, well this isn't the first that I've seen.

At least it was nice to go back to SOAS for the viewing, even though the students were ultimately annoying (but that has nothing to to with SOAS or the film).

It's not often that I feel that I've wasted time on a film. Disappointing and certainly not recommended even on DVD.

Sunday, February 20

Game: Lost in Shadow (Wii) Click for more info

As an old man, I no longer have the time to play games like I used to. As such, my gamesplaying has become more focussed - I only give time to the "must-plays", the games I know I'll enjoy. That said, there are games which I randomly hear about about, and then for some reason need to play.

This rolling of the dice brings mixed results. Sometimes the games are actually quite unmissable and I'm glad I came across them. More often than not though, there's a reason why they don't make my gaming list in the usual way.

Lost in Shadow falls somewhere in between these categories. It's very much an Ico-a-like, and for that reason alone I'm glad I played it. Unlike the classic PS2 game though LIS seems to drag instead of getting better, ultimately sinning in the worse way a game can: becoming a backtracking collect-em-up.

As a game, it's not too bad. As a game for someone who doesn't have time to play, it's a bit of a chore to play, even though it's only ten hours or so long. In those terms it's a bit difficult to recommend, but I guess it's something to keep in mind if you ever find yourself at a loose end.

New Music

Sadi Gali - Tanu Weds Manu

More bhangra, and one I can't help but feel I've heard before. Still, that doesn't mean it's at all tired; quite the contrary in fact as it's bound to be a floor filler in the coming months. Tune.

EDIT: As pointed out by @AyishaGulamnabi, this was actually made available on RDB's 2005 album Three and sung by Lehmber Hussainpuri.

Saturday, February 19

Film: Paul Click for more info

Okay, I'm going to admit it: I didn't really find Shaun of the Dead that funny. While everyone else was raving about how hilarious and fresh it was, I just didn't find Pegg and Frost's brand of obvious humour that funny. Forward a couple of years and I went to see Hot Fuzz, a film I found far more entertaining, and that on various levels.

And in the meantime I finally got around to watching the show where it all started, Spaced, which was pretty much a lesson in how to find things funny for me. This was exactly what I first assessed to to be: humour on a basic and very accessible level, but what changed in me was that there was nothing wrong with having an easy laugh. After all, why should being funny be hard or clever? That said, I'm not the only one who's changed - Hollywood too is full of this kind of stuff in the form of Rogen and co., and in fact Paul seems to be the first collaboration between members of this unique collective from both sides of the pond.

Paul is the latest flick from the Pegg and Frost and just like their previous projects decides to focus on a particular genre of classic film - in this case aliens. I won't dwell too much on the plot since a lot of the magic is in that, but I will say that, as always, nothing is sacrificed for the laughs.

But it's the humour which rules here and even if, like me, you didn't really get Pegg and Frost before I would give Paul a try anyway. Their genius is in actually knowing how to get a simple laugh - something that pretty much transcends clever scriptwriting and gag fests. Oh and it's totally worth watching just for Rogen's wisecracking alien.

Wednesday, February 16

Link of the Day Click for more info

Why You're Not Married

A double feature? I swear this was a coincidence - in fact I received this link as I was writing the last post. It's so relevant that I had to post it, so apologies for sounding like a broken record.

If I was a woman, I'd so have written this article. It's all true you know. Men DON'T want someone who's angry. And while we're on the subject, we don't want "challenging debate" either (and any guy who says he does probably has other things in mind).

The rest of the stuff is pretty standard, if not brilliantly written. In particular this bit is especially true in my anecdotal experience, and kind of ties in with my last post about which gender appears to want to sacrifice who they are more:

Because ultimately, marriage is not about getting something -- it's about giving it. Strangely, men understand this more than we do. Probably because for them marriage involves sacrificing their most treasured possession -- a free-agent penis -- and for us, it's the culmination of a princess fantasy so universal, it built Disneyland.

Although of course that reasoning up there about free-agents is purely metaphorical for some. I'm talking about me, by the way.

Thanks to Fatima Cassim (who, by the way, also happens to be a woman) for the link.

Scorecard Research Click for more info

So here's a bit of fun. Well maybe. Let's see how it goes shall we?

The source website does a good job of explaining the methodology behind it all, but the basic gist is that a scientist guy asked a bunch of husbands what they liked and disliked about their wives and collated the most common into a kind of scorecard. But before my female readers stamp and quit their browsers in protest, don't worry, he did the same with women too. I'm sure it's not very scientific and probably horrendously biased but hey, they're worth a look right? Here's the scorecard for a husband:

Here's the personal bit. You see it sounds wet and maybe a little creepy, but it was lists like these (perhaps not literally) that I've personally used to develop what I expect from myself. And indeed I like to think that I've covered most of the points on the scorecard or will do once they become relevant. Some of my friends are quite amused at how I still call home to say I'm running late or will be eating out, even more so when they realise it's a want and not a need. And I say thank you to whoever happened to cook me dinner, be they family or friends, and it doesn't feel odd to do so. Oh and yes, I fully expect my wife to spend more of any money I earn, irrespective of whether she has her own income or not (and no, I'm not counting grocery shopping money).

Then again although I don't think I snore at the moment, I hear it's something that may come with age. That's a bit out of my control, but then I'm happy to sleep in the spare room if it's really bad. Oh and fine I guess the top demerit might be a struggle, but I'd certainly try.

Am I doing too much? I'm not sure. Without putting myself too high on a pedestal I think these tasks are trivial and easy to achieve for someone who's main goal is to be a decent husband and father. Of course basing the implementation of that goal on statistics and anecdotal evidence is rife with problems (in that it doesn't allow the possibility of my wife being, I dunno, an individual), but I like to think I can adapt too.

None of this is new or a secret though, and I repeatedly go on public record, not only on this blog (and sometimes even to rishta during later stages) to claim this stuff - the most powerful way for me to hold myself to it is to make it visible. Of course I could be saying to much in my naivety; not that I believe I'll be taken advantage of (although don't think I didn't see your eyes light up when I mentioned money, above), but more because it does set the bar high. Either I will fulfill them completely, renege on some of them or crash and burn trying. I like to think the odds are in my favour though.

But enough about me. Let's talk about the other side. Don't worry, I won't be too harsh. Here's the scorecard:

Of course, this is all my personal experience, but I can only think of five single women I've ever met (as a rishta or otherwise), who would explicitly say that they are even willing to just try to address all these points, be it willingly or as part of a compromise. For the others, it's not the merits and demerits themselves they have an issue with, but more that they're expected - it's some kind of control thing I guess, or perhaps pride: "take me as I am or not at all". Heck, question a girl's use of nail colour and you'll be on the receiving end of a lecture on women's rights, the freedom of an individual and how girls dress for themselves anyway and so it wouldn't be the concern of a partner anyway. But to be fair, I can only really think of a similar number of men willing to do this too; so if anything we're all pretty rubbish.

Even more concerns are apparent if we dig a little deeper. If someone does try their best to model themselves around the expectations placed on them by their opposite, are they even appreciated? Do they need to be? Are fulfilled expectations the bare minimum or generous bonuses? Does someone need to go first before it's reciprocated? Should reciprocation be expected at all?

But as usual this isn't about who's right or who's wrong but more about the old chestnut of individuality and personal preferences. If anything this is just more proof of how I actually do belong in the 30s. But here's the gyp: if we were to imagine a modern set of these scorecards, I do wonder how many men versus women would explicitly say they're willing to fulfil these things for another, even if that's before having met them. I know what I would expect the results to be (and I'm sure I don't have to spell them out here), but then I'm probably as horrendously biased as George Crane was.

Either way, I suspect the absolute numbers in either gender is pretty low. It's almost as if no one actually wants someone they like enough to change themselves for.

Many thanks to Farah, who happens to be a girl who doesn't wear red nail polish, for the link.

Monday, February 14

Abstruse Goose Click for more info

And yet again I resort to a geeky comic to feel normal about myself:

I used to have a nightly ritual where I would check every nook and cranny of my bedroom before going to bed. If I ever found a spider, well, then that's where my dad came in.

I eventually grew out of this; partly from laziness, but mainly because I realised eventually I would have to be a spider remover for someone else and a fear of the eight legged freaks wouldn't really help with that.

As trivial and amusing as it sounds, getting over my (admittedly mild) arachnophobia taught me a very important lesson in mind over matter, how much control we have over the decisions we make, how we can force ourselves to think in a different way if we really wanted or had to and finally that sometimes responsibility comes before personal feelings.

And for all that I thank the little things.

New Music

Hass Hogia - The Sahotas

If any song can be used as an example of a classic, this is it. It both saddens and lifts me that a decade old song can sound so fresh.

Charha De Rang - Yamla Pagla Deewana

I must admit I was put off this song based on the rest of the OST, but now that the dross has faded off most radio playlists I've finally been able to appreciate how good it is. It's the switch in tempo when the female vocals come in that does it for me.

Grenade - Bruno Mars

I think it because I loved his last track so much that I didn't feel this one at first. That's all changed now though of course - it's one of the very few songs that I like because of the lyrics and the meaning I personally take from it. Yes, that may be wet, but at the end of the day all a guy like me wants is someone to catch a grenade for - and more importantly someone who actually wants a grenade to be caught for them.

The Annual Inevitably Cynical "I Hate Valentine's" Post

The really frustrating thing is that although we constantly hear about the plentiful number of fine women desperate to have a date on this fine day, I'm still dateless and find myself once again at my PC bitching about the whole thing instead.

But I like to console myself with the realisation that a) this day isn't actually for couples anyway, but for singles who want to become the former and b) I don't even want to do anything on this day anyway even if I was able to finally tick that other box on my census form. That's not bitterness, that's being old and wanting an early night.

But okay fine; if the day didn't hold some kind of significance for me then I wouldn't be bothered enough to complain about it in a post. But hey that's explainable enough: for a start I'm a stickler for tradition, but more than that if I ever do find myself on the other side then I'll lose my right to write my repeal of all this bitterness as soon as I give up moaning about it on the way. Yes, it's all about the long game.

Anyway to prove that I'm perfectly balanced about all this let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Valentine's Day whether you're celebrating it with someone or not.

Sunday, February 13

The Watch

The most ironic thing about owning a smartphone is how difficult it is to do the most basic of tasks; checking the time for example.

Now I've never liked wearing watches. They always seemed too big for my skinny wrists, while the bling metal chain types always snagged on my perhaps hairier than normal arms. The final death knell for watches being worn by me was the proliferation of mobile phones. I don't think I'm alone in getting into the habit of whipping out my handset to check the time or date.

But that's all changed now. My Desire is the widest phone I've ever owned and takes a relative age to take out of my pocket (especially since I have to be careful not to drop it while doing so). And once I do, I then have to press a button to turn the screen on, and then again to turn it off.

Maybe I'm just easily irritated by small things (stop laughing in the back), but all this rigmarole multiple times a day was more than enough to convince me to go old school and get a watch. Now I'm not that fussy about these things and there was no way I was going to spend more than a tenner on one... But still, not just any watch would do and I decided to keep my eyes open at what was out there in order to gauge the type that I wanted. After all I wasn't in a rush.

Very quickly I noticed that what I wanted in a watch was very different to what some of my friends and family wanted. Apart from the budget differences, I was more interested in something understated and functional, reliable and dependable - low maintenance if you will. Something that would just work and do the job it was supposed to. In contrast, those around me seemed to go for the high value wares; elaborate in both design and function, a watch that didn't just tell the time but made a statement about who they were. Although some of the watches were quite nice to look at, I didn't quite understand the appeal.

It was in Pakistan that I saw something that I liked. It was an analogue dial watch, with black English numbers on a round white face. It wasn't perfect; it was set in a metal case and had a chain type strap for instance. I couldn't take it even if I wanted it since it actually belonged to my cousin's son - but it was enough to give me a picture of what I wanted on my wrist.

With the watch in hand as a sample I went to browse through the four or five watch shops in the area local to where I was staying. Interestingly there were a few shopkeepers who didn't seem very interested in selling me a watch at all. I didn't understand why they were manning a shop to be honest.

But most of the shopkeepers were very helpful, showing me all of their analogue-watches-with-numbers-and-no-metal-straps. None were what I wanted though. Some were the wrong size, some were the wrong colour and some were the wrong shape. I began to become a little frustrated at the experience as I began to conclude that the simple design I had in my head just simply didn't exist in the places I was looking. I didn't want to admit it, but it really did seem that I was being quite particular after all.

So I left the shopping trip and Pakistan altogether empty handed. I decided to make do with my phone for a while longer, always on the look out for a watch that did what I wanted it to and that I actually liked.

A week later I got back, my parents returned from Pakistan as well. My father surprised me with a watch he saw on the wrist of a relative (who knew where to pick up a new one from) - it was cheap enough so he thought he'd take the punt. Although it was very close to what I wanted (black on white, numbers on the dial, non metal strap) it wasn't perfect (it had a square face), but since I had it and no other choice in my hands I decided to give it a try anyway. What was the worst that could happen?

It took me less than a day to realise how perfect the watch was for me. It fitted my wrist perfectly; the square face actually helping more than a round face would have. Within hours of wearing it, the blurry image I had of my perfect watch faded, to be replaced by a more concrete image of the watch I was wearing.

Of course it wasn't the watch that was fantastic. The appeal of it came from a mixture of me accepting the choice of my father, showing flexibility to adapt to something I had been given, and finally a pinch of realising that what I had thought was important wasn't actually that much. All these things allowed me to enjoy the essence of the watch - accessible timekeeping - which happened to be the sole original reason for me wanting one in the first place. Not aesthetics or ergonomics, and certainly not the specific image I had in my head during my search.

Of course, it being a cheap watch from Pakistan meant that it didn't last that long. Two weeks and the plastic casing of the watch itself cracked beyond repair. I was quite surprised with how upset I was; all of a sudden I cursed my luck - ironically the same luck that had probably brought the watch to me in the first place. Still, the lesson had been learned and I quickly replaced it with a spare watch my dad had lying around the house, knowing that I'd get used to it sooner rather than later and that it wasn't even a big deal if I didn't. It looks completely different to my last watch, but that doesn't seem to bother me since I know it'll tell me the time.

So yes. There is the story about my search for a watch. And no, before you ask, there isn't a metaphor or hidden message here - I have the watches to prove it. Although having said that I do have a different watch for the weekend: you know, one of those old school single function Casio jobs. I'm sure that doesn't mean anything though.

Film: Black Swan Click for more info

A psychotic film about a psychotic ballet dancer for a psychotic audience and probably made by a psychopath. I found Black Swan to be a little too random (even when looking past its pedigree), and a lot of it was just setting up a context to shock and horrify. In that sense it was a little cheap.

Still, I must admit that I was very much on the edge of my seat for most of it and did find a lot of the film leaving the cinema with me. That alone is always an impressive feat for a flick to achieve and so credit must go to it for that.

Regarding its technical make up, I can see why it's being put forward for the respective awards this season. It's certainly well made, both behind the camera and in front, and Natalie Portman deserves all the accolades she's receiving. Mila Kunis was alright too, although not as hot as she usually is. I guess that's just the nature of the film though.

All in all though despite seeing right through it, Black Swan is a film good enough to recommend.

Wednesday, February 9

New Music

Patiala House OST - Patiala House

Of course Laung Da Lashkara goes without saying, but the cheesily titled Baby When You Talk To Me also makes me hop and skip (with shame). I've yet to decide on Kyun Main Jaagoon, but I'm sure it'll grow before fading.

Sunday, February 6

Food: Mandarin Palace Click for more info

I'm constantly impressed by the choice of good quality food I have in the immediate vicinity of my home. It's both a good example of how great local business is, and also another reason why going out to eat good food doesn't have to be a big deal.

As a friend commented, you know a Chinese is good if Chinese people go there. And such was the case at Mandarin Palace, not that we needed our wider company to prove that what we were eating was good nosh. The place wasn't halal (a quality I seem to be taking more and more for granted these days), but even though we stuck to the veg, prawns and tofu we thoroughly enjoyed the food that was served as we were kept busy with conversation.

At £17 per head without drinks Mandarin Palace was quite expensive, especially when you consider the decor and service (both of which were passable at best), but that's only if you consider the many alternative options in the area rather than the food itself. However this does mean that unless you're really craving for chinese (as opposed to any good food) I can't quite recommend Mandarin Palace.

Saturday, February 5

Film: Tangled Click for more info

It can be quite difficult separating Disney from Pixar, especially when we're talking about computer animation. It can also be quite surprising to realise that Disney has only made around five or six of them on their own (did anyone actually watch Dinosaur?). That's not to say that they're not any good without Pixar; I thoroughly enjoyed Meet the Robinsons and Bolt.

But despite that, Tangled is different. Well, different compared to where the rest of the genre is at the moment. You see, along with the last Disney flick The Princess and the Frog, Tangled goes back to classic Disney - you know, the ones with song and dance and princesses. That's not to say it wasn't sophisticated; no, it still had the subtle humour while remaining accessible to whichever kid you've taken along as your excuse to watch the film. So yes, the plot is still deep, the characters still wonderful (with Rapunzel definitely in my top five hottest animated chicks now), and the feel good factor still set to maximum.

It just also had all the fairytale stuff modern stories might arguably be lacking. So it's more a case of taste then - I'm sure many have gotten over what made the classic Disney films so, well, classic. For those of us who grew up with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, Tangled will immediately take you back to those times again. And for that reason alone it's recommended.

Food: Diwana Click for more info

Although Drummond Street is probably best known for it's kebabs, it's fair to say that the veggies are well represented there too. Diwana is another one of those paradoxes; a meat-free restaurant that manages to establish itself, and that not alone (there are identikit places on the same street!). Whatever the case, it must be doing something right... but then if anyone knows vegetarianism it's the South Indians.

Since we were there for lunch, we decided to go for the buffet. £7 got us in, which although sounds like a good deal is quite pricey when compared to the equivalents in other places (like good ol' Green Street). That said, the food, despite being in a buffet, was damn good. Of course, it helps being able to eat everything on offer.

It would probably be fruitless to list everything I tried, but the variety was pretty good - right down to the gulab jamun and fruit I had for dessert. Another three quid each got us drinks (fresh orange juice for me) and teas, and overall the meal we had was worth the tenner. My only complaint would be with the facilities there - the place was quite cramped, but that could just have been us deciding to pick a booth instead of a table. Service was adequate but nothing to write about, but the place was as clean as you would expect.

Overall it was a nice enough place to eat on a random Saturday outing.

Bridge of Knowledge Click for more info

I spent two years studying Arabic at SOAS (but please don't ask me to talk in the language), so it was quite nice to go back there as a visitor to The Brunei Gallery instead of a student. The topic was, of course, Islam; more specifically on the literature that crossed over from Muslim lands to the West.

The Brunei Gallery itself is quite small, so this wasn't a massive exhibition - we spent much less than an hour covering the whole thing in quite some depth. I was also a bit underwhelmed by the material on display; not because of the quality of the collection itself (which was excellent and varied) but mainly because a lot of it I had seen before; after a few years of attending "Islamic" art and history exhibition I don't think it's too arrogant to say that much of it had been seen before elsewhere. I did quite like the Egyptian stuff though.

But again, that's not a knock on the exhibition itself and shouldn't dissuade anyone from visiting on a lazy Saturday morning like we did. It's free too, so there's really no excuse to pop in if you're in the area.

The exhibition finishes on the 26th March.

Wednesday, February 2

Film: The King's Speech Click for more info

Okay, I admit it - I'm not particularly clued up on the history of the Monarchy. I know about the Queen of course. Oh and her kids. And she had a mum too. But that's about it really and as far as I'm concerned they've all been around for ever. Obviously that's not true. The Queen also had a dad, who used to be a king. And this just happens to be his story.

And I think that's what makes this film so great. It's not the acting or the direction, even though both are clearly amazing (and for sure, there have been lesser performances nominated for Oscars). No, it's the relevance, the association with ruling powers, the realness behind it all. Yes, yes, I know; it's probably all been fluffed up loads in order to build something as watchable as this film - but that doesn't take away from the fact that these were real people at some point in time.

So yes, in many ways this isn't about a speech impediment or how a man got over one - in fact I'd say that the whole stammer is just a prop to tell a very human story. And that's why The King's Speech is such a good film and totally recommended for you all to watch.

Tuesday, February 1

Cyanide & Happiness Click for more info

Ah. I love topical comics. Especially when they so accurately reflect what I'm feeling at the time:

Real freedom is not having to pander to the masses just to be known to be doing so. For examples, see your Facebook walls and your Twitter timelines. The amusing thing is how some people think they're different because what they're shouting about is "worthy"... when in actual fact they're no better those who obsessively follow and comment on the latest happenings with WAGs and Lady Gaga. Not that it's a bad thing to have a passion about something, just don't think you have some kind of increased value because of it.