Monday, April 30

Meera Syal's Asian Comedy Night

First some full disclosure: I don't think brown people are funny. I think that Muslims are even less funny. Don't get me wrong, I personally know of exceptions (no, not you) like Aziz Ansari and the indefinitely missing Imran J.K., but in terms of those who "represent us" on the circuit I would say a dead pigeon has more humour.

So yes, needless to say I wasn't particularly enthused about tonight's showcase of Asian comedic talent. But since I like to support brown people and the BBC AN anyway, I thought that since I had the opportunity to go I should. Who knows, I might even get a little bit surprised.

Although the night was being hosted by Meera Syal, it was clear that she was not much more than a poster girl on the night. Tommy was more of a host than she was, and the whole faux laboured interview thing they kept doing did get a little tiring after a while. But still, they broke up the acts I guess.

Which brings us to, uh, the acts. Let's take them one by one.

Ah, Shazia Mirza. I don't think hate is the right word to describe how I feel toward her. Perhaps dislike? Obviously it's because she's a woman or something. That said I have to begrudgingly admit that she wasn't that bad tonight and although I didn't laugh at all her jokes some did make me genuinely laugh out loud.

Next up was Mickey Sharma. In a night like this there is always an act that will bomb and unfortunately for Mickey his was the one that did. It's a shame because he does actually seem like a funny guy, you know the type that would keep you amused during dinner... but I guess that just didn't translate this time.

Imran Yusuf was actually one of the reasons I decided to attend tonight. Friends who had seen and heard him promised me I was in for a treat, so I just had to witness him for myself if only to tell these same friends how bad their sense of humour was. And although his content was lacking and I guessed most of his jokes (I can't have been the only one to have played on the Kokni Muslim pun, and the whole English-Sport-Fan-Unless-It's-Cricket could have been seen a mile away), I have to say that his delivery and personality were spot on. Looking at his work on Youtube afterwards I will even say that he's brilliant, so I can only wonder why he was so muted on the stage. Perhaps the audience he was playing to had something to do with it - but more of that later.

Sami Shah was absolutely brilliant, and not just because he was a native Pakistani doing his act live over Skype from Bangkok. He hit that sweet spot of observational humour, delivery, self-deprecation and sophistication that all the other acts lacked in parts, and I will say that he alone salvaged the whole night for me. I'm such a fan that I'm even going to plug his blog, here: Perhaps it's just British Asians that aren't funny?

Even this sentence is too many words for the next act Asian Provocateur. "Help the Kensington poor"? Really?

Hyde Panesar came second to Mickey Sharma in terms of bombing, and it was equally a shame because he did seem quite funny. I can't really remember much of his act but I did laugh a few times.

And then we had Hamza Badman. Since you're on the internet already I won't bother giving you the background. I've personally never been impressed by his stuff, but judging by the reception he gets that makes me the failure, not him. Tonight didn't really change my opinion - he's definitely more style than substance - but the audience lapped him up and I can't knock him for that, since that would make me a hater.

Finally we had Kulvinder Ghir of GGM fame. I've never quite forgiven any of the GGM four for that show (and am always dismayed at how high we actually place it), but I do like Kulvinder et al as people and artists. Even though most of his act was lost on the audience I thought de did okay tonight, doing a bit of roleplay instead of straight stand up and we were even treated to a GGM rendition of Why This Kolaveri Di which was amusing for the first minute of the three it played for.

And finally we had the audience. Without wanting too much to sound like I hate my own kind they were as young and foolish as expected, ultimately showing how unsophisticated brown humour is. And thinking about it further, how Imran Yusuf in particular seems to be much funnier when playing a non-exclusively brown audience, I think I'm starting to understand why brown comics are how they are. It might just be because as a community we're not able to appreciate humour above a certain level and are instead perfectly happy repeatedly laughing at clingfilmed remote controls, curry-in-icecream-tubs and shallow and obvious satire. And if there's no demand for sophisticated Asian humour, why would anyone bother?

But still, I did go away encouraged by tonight and overall I had a pretty good time. I really want to see Imran Yusuf in a different context and really hope that I come across Sami Shah again. Hopefully by supporting the good we can get more of it out there eventually.

Saturday, April 28

Food: HUNter 486 Click for more info

Before you ask, no I do not know the reasoning behind the mixed cased naming of the hotel which contains the restaurant we visited tonight. Still, any fear of tackiness quickly dissipated once we entered The Arch - this was actually a classy little boutique hotel.

But we were there to eat, not gawp, and we soon got down to business. Our intention was to stick to express (or set) menu, so we didn't spend too much time figuring out what we wanted. Despite our Muslim diet the choice was pretty decent: either a carrot and cardamom veloute (or soup) or crab and mackerel fish cake for starters, sea trout or fettuccini for mains and a chocolate shortbread for dessert. The six of us managed to hedge ourselves quite well and although I ordered the soup and fish myself, I did sample the other dishes too. And everything was pretty damned good.

Our chocolate shortcakes got substituted by a chocolate fondant dessert, a strange little pudding with a pipette sticking out, used to inject a passion fruit filling. It all sounds strange but the end result was well worth defying my self-placed chocolate ban over.

I have to note the service of the place - both our servers as well as the restaurant manager were pretty amazing, serving our every need and being polite and helpful while doing so. I was even given a room to pray in without anyone displaying any friction. It was one of those rare occasions where we were all more than happy to pay the recommended service charge (and then some).

The express menu cost £17.50 for the three courses (or £15 if you just wanted the two, which hardly seems like an option at all really). After service, drinks and some side dishes of fries and mash potatoes, our final bill came to a healthy £25 per head, but if I'm totally honest it was pretty much worth every penny.

Sunday, April 22

Ishaq and Sanam

There's so many things that makes Ishaq a special guy, but I think top of the list is his humility. Where the rest of us are constantly vying to show how smart, clever and awesome we each are, Ishaq is the kind of guy who will help you convince everyone of those things. He'll laugh at your jokes even though he's funnier, thank you for your generosity even though he gives much more and be there to listen even though he's the one who needs the lending ear. So yes, all in all Ishaq is a pretty nice guy and one of the most patient, loyal and dependable people I know. I personally feel that I can learn a lot from him, and there's not many people I would say that about.

I never met Sanam before today, but I had heard a lot about her via Ishaq. Still even in that little time the way he's into her is clearly well-deserved, and I can't wait to get to know her better as time goes on.

Saturday, April 21

Food: Flamin' Steak Grill Click for more info

Oh look, another steak house! Of course I can't really comment on the quality of the steak itself being a burger man myself, but the food I did have was pretty good. Potato skins and chicken tenders, chilli burgers, steaks and mango lassis were all on our order, and all pretty well received too. Desserts were okay too, apart from my apple crumble - the server racing back after I had eaten a quarter of it to take it off my hands. Apparently the custard was off or something. Still top marks for service - the dessert was cancelled and complimentary ice cream served instead.

Decor has to be mentioned. Although the place was certainly swank, I have to say the semi circular half-booths were a bit difficult to sit around. Check out the pictures on their website to get an idea of what I mean.

For drinks, starters, mains and dessert we paid the princely sum of £18 per head (a fiver less for me since I went for a burger), which all things considering felt rather steep. Still as an option it's a fair one and I'm sure I'll be visiting again at some point in the future. Avoiding the desserts, of course.

Tuesday, April 17

Indexed Click for more info

I think I'm going to make this my new motto in life:

I was going to tattoo this to my forehead, but then I realised I wouldn't be able to read it there.

Sunday, April 15

Film: The Cabin in the Woods Click for more info

Of course the real trick behind enjoying anything Whedon touches is to go in not knowing anything about it, and I would be doing you all a disservice by talking about this film too much. Whether you're a Buffy fan or not, Cabin gets a full recommendation from me.

Saturday, April 7

Damien Hirst Click for more info

Despite it no longer being fashionable to hate on good ol' Damien, I must stress that this visit was specifically made to point and laugh at all the other visitors who paid to get in, each pretending to "get" the pieces they were looking at. And laugh we all did.

Okay, that's a little harsh. Generally though I think it's better to knock something after you tried it, and now that I'm actually a little more informed at what Hirst has come out with over the years, I can with confidence say that it's all a little boring, wasteful and even a little gross.

I'm sure I actually enjoyed one or two pieces, but I'm damned if I can remember them. Either way I can't say I can particularly recommend the current collection being presented at the Tate Modern, although perhaps if you were checking out the rest of the awesome gallery you could spare a few moments for him. Oh but if you do, just be prepared to be laughed at.

Monday, April 2

Book: Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, Peter L. Bernstein Click for more info

Okay, I'll fess up - when I reached for this book off my uncle's shelf I did actually think it was about religion. I think that's reasonable considering the title and front cover, but I guess if I was really paying attention then the subtitle would have told me all I needed to know - that I was reading a book about risk, something I directly deal with on a day to day basis at work. Urgh.

Still, it turned out that it wasn't that bad a read despite that. Instead of focusing on the technical, Bernstein look sat the history and philosophy behind risk, chance and decision making, including all the human and subjective input into the age old field. As such this was more of a book about economics than technical maths, although that's probably not entirely correct either considering how the constant battle between the economists and mathematicians was brought up during the read.

But still as non technical and well written the book is, I did find it labouring a little toward the end. I think that was to be expected given the half-reference-half-prose style of it, but nevertheless I suppose that means this is a book more for those in search of specific information or answers rather than something to read randomly.

Sunday, April 1

Happy April Fool's Day!

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