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.