Sunday, December 28, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008


Genre: Other
Positives: Quite balanced in portrayal of Team Bush and Dubya himself; I mean, you have to give the guy credit for turning his life around somewhat. He is depicted as being Machiavellian, but in a vulnerable sort of way. Avoided anachronism in depiction of different stages in Bush's life, and had a few genuinely dramatic scenes. Good performances by Brolin, Banks, and Dreyfuss, and direction by Oliver Stone. And Ollie would have had a lot of fun with the shoe-chucker incident if the movie had been made after.

Negatives: Suffered from the same problem that beset another recent "Stoner" film on Alexander i.e. being too "talky" and documentary-like in content. Tried to cram too many events and quotes into the film; we've already heard those "Bushisms", so Stone could have avoided many of them.

Overall: Don't rush to the theaters, rent the DVD if you're not a silver screen type of person.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Taxi Reform in Dubai

Finally, RTA and the Taxi Agency came to their senses. Taxi woes account for much of the griping in Dubai, right behind cost of housing and traffic. Due to the sub-par public transport and the great difficulty people have to go through to get a driving licence here. When Salik was implemented on Maktoum Bridge, I saw my taxi fare to visit my cousin or sister across the creek jump by a third. And that's if I got a taxi; they are notorious for asking your destination before letting you in, so they can avoid traffic or take passengers to some far-off uptown area.

Well now it's bye-bye Salik for taxi passengers, and taxis will also be alloted exclusively for old town zones that would normally elicit grunts of displeasure from cabbies. Now if they could just take it a little further and eliminate Salik charges for large buses and motorcycles, as these actually improve the traffic situation. But for what they're doing so far, good show!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Adorable Spotted Owl Plush

I had a little afternoon out today - watched The Duchess (pretty good movie, especially good performance by Keira Knightley) after a Chinese brunch, and did a bit of shopping and ambling after. That's when I came across this little artifact of teh cyute. I don't normally buy plush unless it has some cultural relevance, but this was too much to pass up.

And it has a wee Christmas scarf. Awww.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

eHarmony's Gay Shakedown

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Online dating service eHarmony has agreed to create a new website for gays and lesbians as part of a settlement with a gay man in New Jersey, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General said on Wednesday.

The website will provide a dating service with "male seeking a male" or "female seeking a female" options, the Attorney General's office said in a statement.

eHarmony said it will launch the new same-sex dating site, named "Compatible Partners," by March 31.

The settlement was the result of a discrimination complaint filed by Eric McKinley against eHarmony in 2005, which will be dismissed under the settlement agreement.

eHarmony was founded in 2000 by evangelical Christian Dr. Neil Clark Warren and had ties with the influential religious conservative group Focus on the Family.

The New Jersey complaint is not the only legal action to be brought against eHarmony for failing to provide a same-sex option.

Oh, puhleez. Regardless of what excuses and misanalogies the militant gay rights activists come up with (they're just homophobic evangelicals, can't deny me burger at McD's cuz I'm gay), anyone can see this is as silly as demanding the eucharist at a mosque, or as Michelle Malkin put it, asking for steaks at a vegetarian restaurant. Maybe straight-oriented adult entertainment websites and clubs will now also be forced to cater to the gay community? Come on! eHarmony's a private business, it has a particular business model it's good at, and now it have been arm-twisted into overhauling to accomodate the sensitivities of the oversensitive. Does McKinley think he's helping convince straight people to support more reasonable gay rights on issues like Prop 8 with frivolous and logic-defying torts like this? His auxiliary list of demands is even sillier, by the way. The only silver lining is that a few gay folks have sensibly voiced dissent at these unproductive scare tactics.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sexual Harrassment to Encourage Breeding,-Russian-judge-rules.html

The unnamed executive, a 22-year-old from St Petersburg, had been hoping to become only the third woman in Russia's history to bring a successful sexual harassment action against a male employer. She alleged she had been locked out of her office after she refused to have intimate relations with her 47-year-old boss.


The judge said he threw out the case not through lack of evidence but because the employer had acted gallantly rather than criminally. "If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children," the judge ruled.

Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room. According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.


This has got to be one of the dumbest and most misogynistic judges of our times. It's like saying that without theft and extortion, there can be no economic growth. The disheartening harrassment and rape rates are also not surprising; Russia is still fairly lawless on the level of human rights, misogynistic socially, and economically backward so that women have few options but to surrender to lusty male superiors in order to secure their livelihood. Given stats like that and men like him, no wonder Russia has a low birth rate (both due to abortion and birth control); what women would ever want to carry his child?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

American Boy by Estelle

This one has a catchy funkiness, and Estelle has an unusual mellow voice.



Saturday, November 8, 2008

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging

Genre: Comedy
14-year-old Georgia Nicholson fantasizes about having a perfect snog session with the dreamiest new lad at school, even taking special lessons (only to learn that she is a natural). Despite having to contend with the snotty school man-eater, and despite having a nose she believes to be "the size of Jupiter", she manages to capture his admiration solely with her enthusiasm and wit (and some contrived set-ups for "accidental" rendevous situations). But her obsession with him threatens to make her as fake and malicious as her nemesis, as she attempts to selfishly use both her friends and his friends to try and get closer to him. To make things worse, she may have to move to New Zealand (the land of "sheep and hobbits"), her parents appear to be drifting apart, and her 15th birthday party might well end up "beyond the valley of losers".

Based on the books from the "Confessions of Georgia Nicolson" series, this movie from Gurinder Chadha (of Bend It Like Beckham fame) illustrates the theme of female teen angst with witty school-day neologisms, esoteric adolescent rituals and awkward social situations. Not quite the height of hilarity, but still a very interesting and often very funny look at coming of age, peer pressure and self-confidence issues in Britain's high schools.

90's Love Jam: Saving Forever For You by Shanice

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks
This is one of the most "interesting" photo-blogs I have seen of late. The blogger is "annoyed" with what she perceives as the "overuse" of quotation marks, and had decided to "name and shame" (that last one was legit). Some are "groansome". Some are "funny". Some are simply "jaw-dropping". Enjoy "surfing" this one!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Israel and Lebanon Double-Dip the Hummus


Aah, hummus. What would I do without it? In cans, in trays or in the typical brown-and-beige dipping bowls at Leb cafes. Chilled on toast, warm with quboos, slathered over this, scooped in that. A drop of olive oil, a sprinkling of lemon juice ... oh, the explosion of flavors.

And the Israelis are probably more crazy about it than I am. Having taken to it like Britons to curry, they scarf it down for nourishment, comfort and pretty much any excuse. They eat,  extol, and export it almost to the extent that some outside the Arab world might come to think it as no longer vaguely "Middle Eastern", but fundamentally Israeli.

And that really bothers the Association of Lebanese Industrialists, who have declared a cultural war against Israeli hummus dealers (Lebanon and Israel are still technically at war anyway), on the somewhat tenuous claim that hummus is their original heritage. Existing concepts like EU protected geographical status given to other foods like feta cheese, champagne, and parmesan have emboldened them, and they are now planning to sue Israel to stop marketing hummus, falafel and other dishes considered traditional Lebanese cuisine (or traditional Arab cuisine - they seem to be happy to let other Arabs take the credit, as long as it's not Israel).

Here's why it's a tough one. Hummus is not named after any particular place, like Provolone or Roquefort. While it is clearly not an Israeli-origin dish, the fact remains that it is not purely Lebanese. And we can't define a protected origin by what something is not. In this culturally globalized age, education and enterprise are anyway more effective and less embarrassing than protectionism. It's not like Israelis claim that hummus is solely theirs anyway. The more mature (and more economically stimulating) course of action would be for the Lebanese businesspeople, government and citizens to work for the development of a national hummus agro-industrial complex and push Israel out of the hummus market by simply making it more and better than the Israelis.

I would wish them the best on that venture. While they are at it it, I hope they figure out how to get mutabbal into a can as well. Now that would really be the scoop.

UPDATE: Oh, and incidentally, the neighborhood grocery took the words right out of my mouth today, when I found out theyactually do stock canned mutabbal/baba-ghanouj. Awesome!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Husband Store

Husband Store

A store that sells new husbands has opened in New York City , where a woman
may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a
description of how the store operates:


You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of
the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may
choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next
floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!


So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor
the sign on the door reads:

Floor 1 - These men Have Jobs

She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads:

Floor 2 - These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.

'That's nice,' she thinks, 'but I want more.'

So she continues upward. The third floor sign reads:

Floor 3 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.

'Wow,' she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth f loor and the sign reads:

Floor 4 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and
Help With Housework.

'Oh, mercy me!' she exclaims, 'I can hardly stand it!'

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads:

Floor 5 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with
Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign

Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this
floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to
please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.


To avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opened a New Wives store
just across the street.

The first floor has wives that love sex.

The second floor has wives that love sex and have money and like beer.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.

Friday, October 3, 2008

YouTube Blasphemy is a "Human Rights Violation"

‘YouTube’ must erase anti-Islam material: KHRS

KUWAIT CITY : Kuwait Human Rights Society (KHRS) Chairman Dr Adel Al-Damkhi has asked the government to put pressure on the officials of ‘YouTube’ — a video sharing website — to delete all derogatory statements about Islam and Muslims from the site, reports Al-Seyassah. Urging the authorities to take the necessary legal action in case the website fails to erase the statements, Al-Damkhi stressed “uttering profanities against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the worst form of human rights violation in the world. Attacks on the values and tenets of Islam are extremely dangerous and unacceptable.”
Al-Damkhi pointed out the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) strongly condemns attacks on the holy prophets and religions. He confirmed KHRS recognizes the importance of freedom of conducting scientific research, exchange of information, and significance of the latest technologies and media on human lives, but it is against how ‘YouTube’ depicts Islam. He said this is an outright violation of the human rights of millions of Muslims all over the world.

Not only is it a human rights violation, it is "the worst form of human rights violation in the world". Nice to know someone got their priorities straight. And all this time, we were worried about trivial issues like sexual slavery and religious oppression.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

David Cook's Always Be My Baby

One of my favorite Mariah Carey songs, as an outstandingly powerful and soulfelt rendition by American Idol 7th season winner David Cook (a win he clearly deserves).


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Experimenting with Monti Fest

To celebrate the the Nativity of Mary, Catholic folks of The Great Mangaloid Race (TM) celebrate the Monti Fest around this time of the year. Given the dearth of available scholarly studies of this phenomenon, I can only recount from observation.

The Monti Fest is technically celebrated in honor of said Nativity, but given that Onam, the Keralite Hindu harvest festival, is also technically a celebration of the legendary hero Mahabali, I'm inclined to think of it likewise as a harvest festival with a cultural tint.

Having not actually attended one of these in years due to my studies and travels abroad, this is my first Monti Fest in recent memory. Food served is to be all vegetarian (it is, after all, a harvest festival), and apparently the number of dishes has to be odd (1,3,5,7, etc). This year, instead of the parental generation preparing tradition dishes, we young 'uns cooked up some relatively exotic fare (with one preparation of dal, or thick lentil stew). Specifically, garlic-butter baby carrots, vegetable lasagna, cashew gravy and potato stuffed into bell peppers, vegetable kofta manchurian, mixed vegetable stir-fry, and a salad. I helped ... a little. At any rate, this unconventional spread for a traditional feast got fairly glowing reviews from the elders of all three families, much to our satisfaction.

EDIT: Apparently there is some more information about the origins of this feast:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

In a world without rumble-voiced trailer narration ...

Chances are that unless you have been meditating on Mount Kunlun your whole life, you have come across Don LaFontaine's voice. His signature baritone has transported watchers of his movie trailers to distant worlds of magic and sorcery, of myth and legend, of chaos and lawlessness, of ... well, you get the idea. His opening catchphrase, "In a world ..." (along with its little brother "In a time of ..." and distant cousin "One man ..."), has become one of the most recognizable cliches of movie trailers. Given how many awful attempts at imitation I have heard, I doubt anyone will ever truly measure up. Fare thee well, "Voice of God".

He rarely gets credited by name and he practically never gets to be seen on TV, so I present one of of his few actual appearances in the mainstream, displaying both his amazing intonation and his imposing presence:


Friday, August 29, 2008

Reptilian Marketing

"My theory is very simple: The reptilian always wins."

A most fascinating interview about cultural imprint and its role in marketing. Clotaire Rapaille, whose resume includes some illustrious names in the corporate world, talks about how marketers have to give products a certain je ne sais quoi and not just price or quality advantages in order to get loyalty. He has this concept of a "code" in which each culture is based, and with which people from that culture have been subconsciously imprinted. Cracking the code is challenging, but doing so gives marketers access to the sub-cortical "reptilian" brain, which handles raw emotion, childhood comfort, and primal drives, and to which they can directly appeal.

Bell Labs Closes Fundamental Physics Research Wing

After six Nobel Prizes, the invention of the transistor, laser and countless contributions to computer science and technology, it is the end of the road for Bell Labs' fundamental physics research lab.

Alcatel-Lucent, the parent company of Bell Labs, is pulling out of basic science, material physics and semiconductor research and will instead be focusing on more immediately marketable areas such as networking, high-speed electronics, wireless, nanotechnology and software.


Without internally funded basic research, fundamental research has instead come to rely on academic and government-funded laboratories to do kind of long-term projects without immediate and obvious payback that Bell Labs used to historically do, says Lubell.


Increasingly, long-term research is being carried out in universities and national laboratories with federal grants, says Lubell.

For Bell Labs, yet another chapter in its storied history of comes to a close taking the once iconic institution closer to being just another research arm of a major corporation.


Sad that a great scientific institution with such a glorious history has to get flushed. But I suppose you can't rest on laurels in a competitive world. Trouble is, much truly fundamental reearch is done in organizations that have some kind of monopolistic backing and are not under pressure to produce economically viable results for parading before stockholders. That means either the government, a private foundation or some market-dominating corporate entity. And this kind of research gives birth and impetus to technologies that are in fact economically viable and are later expoited by commercial interests that would not dare fund the insitutions that produced them in the first place.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Reading Her Lips

China's propaganda ministry moved in Tuesday, deleting many online discussion entries and blocking access to video links showing Miaoke's lip-syncing.

The Beijing organizers weren't the first to use lip-syncing for an Olympic performance. The late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, in great pain from pancreatic cancer, did so at the Turin Winter Games in 2006, although the voice that was heard was his own.

But China has suffered a string of recent scandals involving fake news stories, bogus photos of a rare South China tiger and a sham TV report that vendors filled dumplings with cardboard. Social experts bemoan the lack of morality or trust among government agencies, companies and individuals.

Kang Xiaoguang, a social science researcher with the Chinese Academy of Science, welcomed the online debate over the government's big show, saying it was a sign the society is maturing. But he added that the singing and fireworks misrepresentations are disconcerting.


It is quite unpleasant, I am sure, to be put in the background because of one's looks or physique. I think part of the furore is also a cultural disconnect between East and West. American actors, for example, are expected to sing their own lines in musicals, whereas in India, for example, plain-looking playback singers belting out songs for younger and more flexible actors on screen and on stage has been the way it's been for practically the entire history of Indian cinema.

She is already being called a little Milli Vanilli. That may be unfair as well. Perhaps they will now call lip-sync events "miaoke", as it is the opposite of, but kind of rhymes with "karaoke".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

India's First Gold

India's absurdly high official-to-athlete ratio in Olympic delegations and pathetically low medals-per-capita (or even delegates-per-capita) count in the Olympic rankings have been the butt of ridicule for ages now. Last Olympics, even the tiny UAE managed a gold thanks to a marksman from Dubai, but India, a country of over a billion, has not captured a gold in any individual Olympic sport in the history of the Olympics, and in any sport for several decades. This is a truly historic event for India in the Olympics.

NEW DELHI — India’s Olympic curse has finally been lifted, by the chief executive of a computer game company with a history of back problems.

Abhinav Bindra, 25, became the first-ever Indian to take home an individual Olympic gold medal, beating top Chinese and Finnish competitors Monday in a nail-biting finish during the 10-meter air rifle shooting competition. Bindra, a bespectacled M.B.A. from the north Indian city of Chandigarh, had shown promise as a teenage shooter but failed to win a medal in Athens, and hopes were not high before he competed in Beijing.

Until Bindra’s win, India’s population of more than one billion seemed to be collectively shrugging at all the Olympic carryings-on generated by China, its neighboring emerging global-market superpower.


Incidentally, he beat Zhu Qinan, last Olympics' gold winner in the same game.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Short Story of Standstill: Fifteen Feet of Time
As RarZilla's Philipp Winterberg says, "a book about things that you always wanted to do but never had the time for." And it's so short you actually can read it no matter how little time you think you have. Great story. Great art.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Edible Cutlery: Colorful, Eco-friendly, Crispity-Crunchy

It was an idea that struck Narayana Peesapaty thousands of feet above the ground—on a flight, while he was being served refreshments. What got this 38-year-old scientist thinking was the plastic cutlery accompanying that hot meal. In a jiffy, the concept of edible cutlery—spoons, forks and chopsticks that you don’t need to throw away after use, and are healthy and nutritive enough to eat—was born. And, even if they had to be disposed, they would degrade in less than a day. "The idea was to give an alternative to people who do not want to use plastics," says Peesapaty, a Master in Forestry Management with over 16 years of consulting and research experience behind him. That was 2004.

It took Peesapaty, a former scientist at ICRISAT in Hyderabad, another two years to give commercial shape to his idea. Peesapaty began by checking out the suitability of various cereal flours—wheat, rice and sorghum (johar)—as base for his edible cutlery. He finally zeroed in on sorghum as the base flour. Vegetable pulp—spinach, beetroot and carrot—were used to add colour and nutritive value to the cutlery. Spinach gave it a green shade, beetroot red and carrots brought out a yellow tinge.

The production line, comprising blenders, slicers, dyes and an oven, had to be designed and calibrated to ensure that the spoons retained their hardness, while not losing out on their taste and nutritive value.

Not only are they eco-friendly, they also contain sorghum and vegetable pulp, making them health-friendly and nutritious as well. Pretty neat idea, really. And a much-needed one; plastic is doing enough damage to the environment in India at present, not to mention the infrastructure. The railway people have already proposed replacing the huge numbers of plastic cups used by passengers for quick train platform chai with traditional clay cups (although they will probably have to be mass-produced). This idea has already been around in some form; ice-cream served in wafer cups, for instance. One may also see some pani-puri vendors on the streets of urban India serving their fare in bowls made of heat-pressed layered leaves (my uncle in Central India manufactures such leaf-based cutlery, and industries like these help provide employment to the forest folk too). I look forward to the day when these innovations catch on, and disposable plastic becomes a rare sight. Let us wish this entrepreneur all the best for his venture, and hope there are many more like him.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

最後一次 (Zui Hou Yi Ci) MV

A short but beautiful song about undying love.


在我最後一次 閉上眼睛之前
我想對你說 我愛你
在你懷裡 捨不得放棄
心理有千萬語 還沒有說給你聽
我使勁全力 不想閉上眼睛
這次告別就不能 再相遇
不能再陪你 但不要忘記
你曾經答應我 你會好好活下去

先走了 去了好遠的地方
不能再陪你看日出 等不到天亮
所有回憶 抹去卻並不容易
生死由天決定 不要太傷心

I personally prefer the duet version (the singers of which are apparently Singaporean).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Followup to Benny Lava

I love this about Web 2.0 ... you can parody the parody itself

The Original

The Chinese Benny Lava

And the Acoustic Benny Lava

And one of umpteen amateur dance videos

This is the true greatness of the web ... without it, people from many other continents and cultures would not have known of the greatness of Benny Lava, and we would definitely have not seen the application of their creativity to the same.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Genre: Comedy
I was not so sure ... Dreamworks was, after all, responsible for that Shrek atrocity, and Jack Black is not exactly my idea of fine comedy. But I must say that I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by Kung Fu Panda all the same. Visually stunning, it features grand backdrops, diverse styles and great detail in object rendering and physics. The frequent parody of slow-motion was not frequent enough to be annoying, thank goodness; in fact, it was very well timed. The whole Chinese theme was carried through very commendably, from the opening screen to the finale. The fight scenes looked very genuine and elegant, and the ever-moving point-of-view made for really engaged spectatorship. Character development was also very good, and plot points were funny without being silly. The humor consisted of a perfect harmony of slapstick and subtlety - no small achievement. And the constellation of stars in the voice cast (even for cameo-length speaking roles) did a great job with their respective characters, especially Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane and Jack Black. A strongly recommended film.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

A decent article, actually. I tend to disagree with many points, and not just because I am doing research in semantic web and argumentation (which promise to exceed this guy's nightmare, by giving machines the ability to not just organize and dispense information, but to come pretty darn close to actually knowing and thinking).

I have seen first hand how search engines and other forms of easy information retrieval make people intellectually lazy. Sometimes you see term papers written using what seems to be little more than the page pointed to by the "I'm feeling lucky" button on Google. Students copy-pasting entire (and topically irrelevant) paragraphs off web pages without applying any interpretation or discrimination, based on the mere presence of keywords. And of course, Wikipedia being used as a source, rather than an introductory guide.

The written word eliminated our need to receive information through personal contact. Printing made it so ubiquitous that long-term memory was no longer a necessity. Text messaging made literary flourish (not to mention spelling) a bandwidth liability. The accumulating refinement of search technology and the immediacy of information access over the web threatens to eliminate short-term memory as well. When semantic web becomes a reality, to whatever degree, it may even take on some of our more basic roles as information interpreters.

Still, while I agree that we need to get back our concentration and comprehension skills, I don't think the doom-and-gloom is completely warranted. After all, we still have the same choice we had when all the other information technologies were brought about ... we can use our newly liberated mental space to further our creativity (something humans can still do better than machines) ... or we can fill it with crap.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pooling the Wool over my Eyes

Great news! The denizens of Dubai can carpool again.

What's that? Surprised?

A little background may be in order. This article from Arab News covers it nicely. You see, carpooling has been (at least officially, but sometimes practically) illegal for several months now. Apparently the guvvies decided to lump carpoolers in with illegal cabbies. To make this new "uncivilized" offense sound all the more ominous, they decided to call it "passenger smuggling", which, according to gov, "jeopardizes the standing of the [transport] agency as a service-providing body seeking to deliver optimum services in innovative methods in line with the best global practices applicable in this vital field". Wow, that was a mouthful and a half. And should you dare to give your teammate a lift home, you may have to cough up 5K diddies.

Fact is, the illegal cabbies are doing well because of the dearth of real cabbies ... when and where they are really needed, that is. Dubai taxi drivers, apart from their legendary politeness and consideration, are notorious for making themselves unavailable even when they have their availability lights on. Phone a cab and expect even worse delays, ironically (I nearly missed  interviews because of dis service). Perhaps one can point to safety issues with illegal cabbies who pick up passengers on the kerb, but the legal taxi monopoly can never match the punctuality rates of the illegal phone-a-cab network in Dubai with their attitude.

Anyway, carpooling has finally been declared legal and even A Good Thing so as to mitigate the worsening traffic conditions. Ah, but there's a catch ... or three. First, you have to register yourself as a carpooler. Then you have to register your carpool partners. Then the agency does background checks on all of you. Then you get a certificate. THEN you can carpool legally. Wow, when the agency says they want to encourage carpooling, they really mean it. I'll bet people from around Dubai will be lining up to register themselves, as they have absolutely nothing better to do.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening

Genre: Mystery & Suspense
So I went and watched The Happening this weekend. Not much else was happening, you see.

As usual, Shymalan's creativity and directorial execution was superb. As a concept, the antagonist of the film was quite novel, and so was the way that said antagonist killed. No dramatic slimy writhing monsters ripping people to pieces, just a silent invisible dealer of the most macabre and horrifying sort of death. It was all coming together quite nicely, but my main gripe is that Shyamalan got the denouement somewhat backwards. It would have made for a much better film if he had revealed the plot details almost completely in reverse. Otherwise a great film (and definitely better than his other recent efforts), so it still gets 3 stars.

Cutest Kitten Ever

Is it legal to be so adorable? This video reduced me to a weak-kneed silly-grinning speech-impaired gurgling mess for three minutes. The little scamp just swats anything in sight, but it's so cute you wouldn't mind it swatting your hand right off.

Marry or lose job, says Iran firm
One of the more stupid/oppressive ideas to come out of a theo-fascist state. Unjust (it's a state-owned company) AND unrealistic (how to find a partner for life under pressure): what a combination

Friday, June 13, 2008

Rev. Sun Myung Moon, king of ... Silla?

I followed a lead from an evolution article I was reading onto information about Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, and wandered into an article about his 2004 "coronation". Curious to see some pictures, I did an image search and found these:










I was about to move on to something else when I thought the crown looked awfully familiar. And my first guess was confirmed when I image-searched the crown of Silla and got these results:











I am not entirely sure what to make of it, but I thought the point of the coronation was to recognize him as "King of Peace". Instead, he looks like "King of Silla". The fact that he's of Korean descent makes it all the more interesting. Hey, the Three Kingdoms is a big topic in Korean TV series nowadays, so maybe he will get a role?

韩磊 - 最后的倾诉 MV

I watched Han Wu Da Di (汉武大帝) late last year, and had always liked this opening theme Zui Hou De Qing Su (最后的倾诉). I finally found what appears to be the official music video, which shows Han Lei (韩磊) doing his singy-thingy on a fort. Could have used more clips from the series though.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Neocon Paranoia and the Keffiyeh

Marvellous. Neocon Michelle Malkin has decided to label the keffiyeh "hate couture" because Yasser Arafat and Intifada militants wear it. To be fair, the Rebel Cross and the Swastika are still viewed with suspicion based on the times past when they were worn by the villains du jour. Even so, this is far too broad an attack on an article of attire that is still worn by regular everyday people, not even exclusively Palestinian.

And dropping the ad like a hot potato was certainly far too panicky a reaction from Dunkin' Donuts, who pulled it while explaining in the same breath that it was not a keffiyeh but a simple paisley-patterned scarf.

Yes, neocons have rightly pointed out many instances of oversensitivity in favor of Muslim activists (like the infamous Allah ice cream), but times like these just make them look like hypocrites.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Midori no Hibi

I had been planning to buy Midori no Hibi for over a year. When I first read about the concept and saw a few clips, I knew I had to get it. And I'm glad I finally did, because this one is a keeper. The premise, a sweet girl with a secret crush on the school ruffian literally becoming his right hand by replacing his fighting fist, is so novel that it deserves an award of its own. With just 13 episodes (so it doesn't drag out the concept too much), Midori no Hibi combines high-school crush drama with both slapstick and cute humor and a surreal plot. The best moments are those of tension and chemistry between the distraught ruffian who has had his lethal fist replaced with a fragile girl and the girl who finally gets close enough to shower her hapless crush with her love.

So here I present "Mou Sukoshi", Atsumi Saori's soulful ending theme for the anime, one of the best I have ever heard:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Artifacts of Ancient Sudan

God of the afterlife, with winged uraei flanking sun disc overhead. Meriotic, I think.

I managed to catch this exhibition at the Cultural Foundation of Abu Dhabi just days before it was due to close. I knew that there was much to see about ancient Sudan, and was especially interested in seeing this one after reading the recent Nat Geo special on Napatan Kush ( ), but even I did not expect to spend as much time as I did poring over the artifacts on display. There were pieces from all the major historical eras of Sudan - Neolithic, Kerma, Egyptian, Napatan, Meriotic, Christian and Islamic. The ones from the Egyptian, Napatan and Meriotic period were especially worth a second look. Great sculptures and carvings, and intricate goldwork (couldn't get pics of those, due to resolution constraints). As Nat Geo mentioned, the Nubians were probably the first Egyptomaniacs, and they carried their particular branch of Egyptian culture well into the ADs and past the subsumption of classical Egyptian civilization, even invading and holding Egypt for a time.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Klingons in Dubai

The Klingons have apparently set up an espionage outpost in Dubai, using an innocuous-looking small event company as a front.

I will continue observing them on behalf of the (yet-to-form) Federation to ensure that they do not sabotage First Contact and take over the galaxy. I will have to brush up on my tlhIngan Hol.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Angela Chang - Qin Ai De Na Bu Shi Ai Qing


張韶涵 - 親愛的那不是愛情

Just the kind of soft ballad I like. Meng Li Hua was good, but she's done a lot better with this one.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

g00d 0m3n?

Today on my way back from evening classes, an SUV with the license plate 1337 happened to linger awhile in front of the car I was in. What are the odds?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Street Fighter: Where are they now?

Ten years after the Street Fighter saga began, the warriors regroup for a final fight ... but this time, it may be a mortal combat.

Hey, is it "hadouken"? I always thought it sounded like "aboogit" or something. Well, you learn something new everyday. There are 9 parts in all. The other 8 episodes can be accessed from the "Related Videos" panels.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is proof that fanbase-driven indies can be far better than cheesy commercialized big-name crap. I'm referring to that ridiculous movie they tried to make on the SF franchise back in the 90s. Ugh.

Speaking of which, CAPCOM has apparently not had enough of an embarassment with the first attempt, and wants to have another go at it. Let's see how they handle this one.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Azumanga Daioh

Ah, just finished watching Azumanga Daioh ... nearly 4 years after the first time I saw it. I bought my own copy recently, and it was worth every dollar (plus the relatively exhorbitant shipping). This is truly one of those feel-good Japanese animations. It's not quite a comedy, drama or action series. A bit like Seinfeld, it's a series "about nothing". The series in general is free of serious issues ... just the drama of the completely ordinary lives of 6 girls in high school. But there's something about each of the girls with which we can all identify. I personally feel closest to Sakaki, who loves small cute animals, but can't keep one and has trouble even getting close to one. A great watch anytime.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Garb for Geeks. Nyeh-heh-heh!

If you are a geek to any degree, you will grin ear-to-ear browsing through this site. The designers of these products go beyond mere stereotypes, having creatively come up with stuff that embodies the essences of true geek cultures. Some of my favorites: : The geek love poem. For the non-geeks, #FF0000 and #0000FF are red and blue in hex color code, and All Your Base Are Belong To Us is a well-known geek meme. : Now if only I had an 8-bit suit to go with it. : is the IP address that represents the universal home, or local host, address : Hey, nobody seems to be winning. : Scaryyyyyy! : On the bright side, it's far more robust than your regular LCD watch. : Not quite the popular definition of heavy metal, but technically quite accurate

If you haven't had your fill of geekiness, here's a little bonus:


Sunday, January 6, 2008


Have you ever wondered what the skeletal structures of your familiar cartoon characters would look like had they been real life species. Well, thanks to this imaginative osteo-artist, you can now see how the bone structures of Felis Hello, Homo Powerpuffensis, and Canaria Tweetus might appear if they actually existed.