Friday, April 30, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Genre: Action & Adventure
After the flurry of negative reviews regarding the attempted 2D-to-3D conversion of this film, I decided not to totally waste my money and go for the 2D version. The film is definitely a visual masterpiece, with fast-paced multi-angle battle scenes and spectacular sweeping outdoor views. I am quite skeptical, however, of much of the costume design, especially the armor. The Greeks seem to have used up all the ancient world's supply of kohl for they eyes. And why was Zeus dressed as a Cylon?

Regarding the myth on which this was based, it was ok on a lot of important points, but someone really needs to tell the writers that the legendary Perseus did become a king, and in fact has a major Hellenic dynasty named after him. Other than that, the new Kraken was magnificent, and I liked the characterization of Medusa in this version better than the one in the original stop-motion film, but what the flip was Io doing in this story? I mean, someone had to do the talky background/introduction bits, but that could be have been achieved in more subtle ways. And some of the lines in the film were aggrandized to the point of sermonizing.

Ah, well. See it for the visuals, see it for the action, but leave your brain at the concession stand.

Dubai RTA finally opens DIC/TECOM Metro Station

And 6 other stations, including Ibn Battuta mall and Karama. Goodbye, morning taxi and evening bus. Hello, practically every significant location in Dubai.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Luuuuke, who's your daddaaay?

I was exiting a movie theater when I felt the Force guide me to the merchandise section. Then I heard a voice saying "Lightsabers, you need. Cough up the dough, you must."

Kenobi vs. Vader, the famous duo from the first duel in the first Star Wars film. Yes, they light up on command, hum when you move them, and shriek when you hit stuff. It took me a few paralytic injections to temporarily wipe the grin off my face for this here photo. Now I just have to find/make a mount for these babies.

Metro train interval reduced to 6 min; much more room onboard, for now

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sharjah couple arrested in morality crackdown
Sharjah Police have arrested an allegedly unmarried couple who lived together and are thought to have had two children out of wedlock.

An official at Sharjah Police said the arrest came two days after the launch of a campaign targeting couples who live together illegally.


Srsly, SHJ P.D., WTF?

The tablet stylus is stronger than the makhaira
My kind of protest! Instead of foam-mouthed fist-waving, some subtle but effective Iranian artists have taken to art to glorify the ancient Persia that was given bad prop in Frank Miller's 300. Perhaps we may yet see a graphic novel and/or film on the Battle of Carrhae or something like that.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

When art meets biology: Caddisfly jewelry
Jewelry "designed" by insects ... is that cool or what?

Spicy Saturday

Grilled skewer chicken with tikka marinade (store-bought), and my special explosive concoction "nuclear foul".

Blag Hag: In the name of science, I offer my boobs
Witty atheist artist attempts to experimentally verify Iranian religionut's "hypothesis". Not sure the chosen means have my full support, but hey, Mr Sedighi came up with those terms, not she. In other news, the residents of Dover, Kansas are still holding their breath for Pat Robertson's predicted smiting.

EDIT: I stand corrected ... she is actually a genetics grad student.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Metro hasn't dented taxi business, say cab drivers§ion=theuae
I do sympathize with the cabbies' overall decline in business, although I can't help but feel a little smug reading this line:

With greater competition and fewer passengers, one perennial complaint against cab drivers has come down significantly — that of being choosy when it came to picking up passengers. Now, they can’t afford to do that.

This used to be a major annoyance, cabbies choosing only long-trip and/or high-demand-destination passengers. Some of them still do this, as I have witnessed in heated negotiations at taxi points. A couple of years back, getting cabs for a journey within the old town was near impossible due to this practice, and overall higher demand.

City of Life to test nascent UAE film industry
First native-made feature film about Dubai releasing today in theaters, after months of anticipation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gulf states run the risk of duplicating strategies


And where there is a mega-project, there is the artist's impression of what the future holds - sketches of towering office blocks, villas, marinas and ports. Often, the images are accompanied by statistics highlighting the benefits the developments are intended to bring.

"This visionary development project will promote economic diversification, create over a million new job opportunities, homes for 4m-5m residents - and . . . contribute $150bn to Saudi's GDP," boasts the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority website of plans for four economic cities.

This is all great stuff for power point presentations - but what will appear in reality?

One of the most notable aspects of travelling around the region is how Gulf states seem to be following similar paths.

To borrow some of the official language, this is about "leveraging off" hydrocarbons resources; moving down the "value chain"; developing "clusters"; attracting "knowledge-based industries", and creating skilled jobs deemed best suited for nationals.

In simpler terms, the race is on to become the regional financial, air and trade hub, with tourism, culture and media also in the mix.


The regional race to develop knowledge economies started because of two factors: a native generation born in the relative purple, and the universal recogition that a rapidly growing population of idle youth is bad news. As the article points out, though, one cannot have an economy composed entirely of knowledge workers. It is merely a capstone on a pyramid built of service and labor foundations.

And as the article also points out, every other city cannot be a hub for every other trade. The question of who will live and work in all those slick new buildings and research labs, or even who will study in all those imported universities, is going to become a touchy subject in a region that is by and large very culturally and religiously conservative. I have to especially wonder what Saudi Arabia is going to do in this regard. Unless they plan on making all their "economic cities" more like those expat compounds that dot the country, I have low hopes for their ability to attract skilled foreign (or even national) workers there for the long haul.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Backside-Slapping Warning Spawns Internet Debate - ABC News
As for the excuse that the FB fans of the BSAS are merely poking fun at the university's breathless warning, I call bollocks. If that really were the case, instead of making a fan page for the BSAS pervert, they would be making parodies of the email itself. But hey, can't pass up a good opportunity to vent some latent frustration at how modern sensibilities have gotten in the way of what used to be "harmless fun".

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Experimental BioSpecimen N3T9EDJD89J23

Pancit Canton with mashed tofu, snow peas and baby corn, stir fried with blended sweet and savory sauces. The subject is a little heavy on the ginger, yet has excellent thick base and combination of texture. Rated E for edible.

RTA opens 7 metro stations on 30 April, 3 others on 15 May
Huzzah! In a suprising (but very welcome) move, the RTA has moved the opening date for my neighborhood metro station, Dubai Internet City/Tecom, from undefined-but-much-later to April 30th, which means massive savings of both time and money for yours truly.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Anna Deavere-Smith at NYU-AD

Anna Deavere-Smith is not only an accomplished actress and playwright, she also happens to teach at NYU. And while I was expecting only a talk about her work and influences (which we did get at the NYU-AD event), I was pleasantly surprised with more than half-an-hour of her performing her signature, pioneering style of "documentary theatre" live for all of us. Wow ... just wow. All of it was amazing, but my favorites were the impressions of the New Orleans doctor from her recent vignette series on healthcare, and the one of the imam from the series about grace. Not only were her impressions of very diverse characters supremely convincing, the material being acted out was poignant. So not to be missed!

Age of Creativity

Organized by Innovabia and Dubai Knowledge Village, Age of Creativity featured creativity consultant Jonas Michanek from Swedish innovation institute Idelaboratoriet. The speaker did a great job of contrasting creativity age thinking with "industrial age thinking", describing the generic components of an idea culture, and outlining the stages of a generic idea process.

We got a lesson in the history of creativity science, and examples of how shifts in both technology and the priorities of today's generation enable novel phenomena such as crowdsourcing. Of course, he discussed global innovation, including how Sweden became the global leader in innovation with the highest indices of "rational-secular" values and "self-expression" culture.

Paraphrasing Einstein's saying that “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it,” Jonas also discussed how a sense of humor is essential to the creative process, while suggesting a safer two-pronged approach of having a radical development strategy in parallel with a continuous improvement strategy. Great seminar ... thanks, DKV and Innovabia!

New in the collection: Hanafi (Sha3biat al Cartoon)

From way back during the Dubai Shopping Festival. Just came across an episode of Sha3biat al Cartoon, and remembered it. This local comedy, made with an attractive and unique style of animation, features cultural context as well as plenty of slapstick humor and character gags.


Friday, April 9, 2010

Art Dubai 2010

The fourth Art Dubai for contemporary art, held at the beautiful Madinat Jumeirah, was quite ... Dubai. Apart from the emphasis on regional art, there were other major differences from international art shows.

One was the political censorship, which was kind of strange given that I saw some pretty political pieces at the Bastakiya Art Fair. And an art show with a Ladies' Day? Why does every other thing here have to have a Ladies' Area or a Ladies' Day? Like a bunch of despo boors could crash, of all places, an art fair.

But things looked good this year at Art Dubai, despite the economic climate. There were works by hundreds of artists from tens of countries, including some of the top galleries in the world.

As usual, there was strong representation by regional artists, especially by emerging Arab and Iranian artists, often with corresponding themes.

One could catch one of the regular artist-led tours, mine being the last available one. Led by the fleet-footed, mystery-mouthed (toy) laser-armed "Sci-Fi Wahabi", it was exceedingly brief, and we were sometimes literally running from exhibit to exhibit. Most intriguing and most befuddling.

There were not very many Indian artists' works on display (M.F. Husain's paintings were there, but he is now Qatari). This set "India Shining", featuring Gandhi wearing a call center headset and in an easy chair, was one of the few I did find.

Down at the Bidoun Lounge, visitors got to see Persian film shorts, as well as some local works by Emirati art filmmakers.

And here's my little artsy contribution, taken from a walkway near the venue ... "Sailing into the Past"

xkcd: Literally
Well, I suppose you could say he meant the word "literally" itself to be a figurative. Oh, well, LOL!!!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

12-year old Yemeni girl dies three days after wedding
Ah, the swinging lifestyle in patriarchal tribal cultures ... where barely nubile girls can be "swapped" among the guys like videogames. In this case, our man's plaything "broke" after a few days of use (extended warranty?), so his family went over to his swap partner and retrieved his chattel (probably so she can be swapped to some other man for a more "robust" article of exchange).

A Yemeni 12-year old girl died three days after her wedding to husband in his 20s in Hajja north of Yemen, medical and human rights sources said Wednesday.

The bride Elham Mahdi Shuee, died in the hospital of Hajja where she was admitted after acute bleeding caused by sexual intercourse, said Majed Al Mathhaji, spokesman for Sisters Forum for Human Rights, NGO, concerned about the child bride.

Al Mathhaji confirmed that the medical report showed that Elham had suffered rupture of the womb.

Elham was married off in what's known in Yemen as swap marriage. Her husband's family, did not pay dowry, but instead, they married off a girl in the same age to the brother of Elham, according to Al Mathahji.

After Elham died, the family of the husband went to take their daughter from her husband, said Al Mathhaji.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bak HyoSin - Snow-Flower (Live)

박효신 - 눈의 꽃

Original 雪の華 by Japanese singer Mika Nakashima / 中島美嘉

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Columbian Exchange
"Before the Columbian Exchange, there were no oranges in Florida, no bananas in Ecuador, no paprika in Hungary, no tomatoes in Italy, no coffee in Colombia, no pineapples in Hawaii, no rubber trees in Africa, no cattle in Texas, no donkeys in Mexico, no chili peppers in Thailand and India, no cigarettes in France, and no chocolate in Switzerland."

Boy, oh boy, do we take some things for granted!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Taste of Dubai 2010

Taste of Dubai is here again, tickles the 'buds in 2010. An annual event for the last couple years, this year's ToD (17th - 20th Mar) saw the heavyweights of Dubai's restaurant scene and F&B-related industries converge on DMC Amphitheatre to sell teaser morsels and hopefully brands as well.

Few freebies to be found - just samples of cookies, coffee and iced lemon. Hats off to the Fair Play Projects for some more-than-fair playing of music.

We did catch a free demo of the preparation of sea bass baked in a salt/herb crust with asparagus risotto, courtesy of the Tefal Chef's Theatre. A demo by none other than Atlantis' Giorgio Locatelli AND his mother.

Enough free stuff! Time to cough up big heap "dellah" coupons for little heap food. For starters, pea gazpacho, from Magnolia.

Then melt-in-the-mouth fish & chips with a pea mash, from Rivington Grill.

Followed by delicious tenderloin with black bean sauce and pepper, from Zheng He's.

Topped off with absolutely dreamy iced strawberry with clotted cream, from Gary Rhodes's restaurant Rhodes Mezzanine.

Bastakiya Art Fair 2010

Why have another art fest while Art Dubai is on? I guess they had to take advantage of the dying gasps of Dubai's "winter".

Despite a packed weekend, I managed to squeeze in a book reading. Yes, you read that right. "A Case of Exploding Mangoes". That's my copy, autographed by Mohammed Hanif. The few chapters I did read thus far were rather engrossing, I have to say.

A theatrical monologue followed, derived from the book and performed most superbly by Nimra Bucha. Although the book seems to be set in Pakistan's days of military rule under Zia, the play gave me an impression of the Musharraf era.

Yes, I had to return the next morning, for the galleries awaited in-depth browsing. Before the browsing began though, I did brunch at the art cafe XVA (founders and organizers of the BAF) so I could catch the brunch talk among curator Rose Issa, curator Nour Wali, and art paper editor Anna Somers Cocks. It was a very interesting talk, especially the bits about freedom of art criticism in the region, the analogy of Dubai as Hong Kong to the Middle East as Red China, and the dichotomy of the functional vs the artistic.

Normally a place for tourists to brush past the old buildings, grab a camel burger or Arabic coffee, and pace about the small art shops and museum, select buildings in the Bastakiya were, from 15th to 21st March, transformed into one grand fringe art gallery district.

These alleys, houses, apartments and courtyards were once part of the living town that was old Dubai, and every little nook in the parts of this heritage site that had been opened to the art festival was used for display.

A number of independent artists's works were on show, as well as works in several prominent collections from Pakistan to Lebanon.

With sense-rattling canvas art mounted on what were once family living room walls, giant prop pieces set up in old yards, and beaten iron sculptures hanging from what were once children's balconies, the constrast between fringe art and heritage site was stark - and captivating. I do hope they have this again next year.