Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

I Lol’ed

United States of Obesity Map (2008)

Woot! Congratulations to Colorado (my State) for having the lowest percentage of obesity in all of the States in America, and thus becoming the leanest State comparing to the others. I can substantiate with the provided map and with CalorieLabs findings that a huge percentage of people in Colorado are health freaks, especially in Boulder and Colorado Springs. The students in my university are certainly in top shape, and attending the gym is almost a required schedule in their academic life. I won’t deny the fact that witnessing those athletic youths (whether they were men or women) had certainly motivated me to get into shape and I’m glad to confess that I actually lost tons of weight comparing to the late years of high school in Kuwait. The determination is certainly awe-inspiring.

Good job Coloradoans! Keep up the good work-out!

My Weekend Pick-Ups

Another weekend, another show-off.  Since my Eid sucked ass, I decided to indulge myself with some purchases (and the idea that I have a limitless credit card access), so I bought some stuff that are bound to elevate my heart from the Eid blues. I wouldn’t lie to you, that actually worked and I feel much better thank you very much. Of course, it really helped that your family didn’t forget about you and the fact they transfer some dough to your bank account as an Eid surprise, or an Eideyah if you prefer. So, here goes:

  • iPod Nano (8GB): Even though my iPod Touch serves me very well in the time of need, I always felt the need for a smaller MP3 player, and I thought the new iPod Nano would fill that void quite perfectly. Initially, I wanted to pick up a funkier color (i.e. orange, yellow, green) but the silver was the one that resonated with my senses strongly; it looked sleek, sexy, and cool. Plus, now that I have Nano, I can finally get the Nano + Nike Sport Kit.
  • Men’s Health Magazine: Now that’s Ramadan is over, I can finally quit slacking off and hit the gym once again. And in order to get motivated, a Men’s Health magazine would do just that, but with Gerard Butler‘s excessive manliness and chiseled body on the cover, it seems I got intimated than motivated.
  • Edge Magazine: Another great issue with great articles. The Heavy Rain article looks promising and appealing, and the special report of “How Nintendo fell out of love with the hardcore gamers” should provide an interesting read.
  • Silent Hill 5: Homecoming: I’ve always been a huge fan of Silent Hill games, and I still am. With the American based ‘s “Double Helix” taken charger of developing the game instead of the original Japanese team, I was tempted, and hopefully the new direction of the game won’t fail my expectations or ruin the series for me. Expect a review anytime soon.
  • Tomb Raider Legends (Used): I missed this game when it released on the PS2 two years ago, and now, I wanted to play it before I move to the much improved Anniversary, and gets my hype up for the new iteration of the series. The game cost me a measly $15. It should be good.
  • Xbox360 Play & Charge: Now, that’s a purchase I won’t regret investing my money in. For the last month, the Xbox360 controller has been draining my supply of batteries, and this device should put an end to that.
  • Post Office (Charles Bukowski): Fellow blogger Purg published an inviting review regarding this novel last summer and I’ve been keening on purchasing one for quite some time now, but I’ve always put if off for unapparent reason. With a new bargain price tag placed on the novel, I couldn’t resist and I had to buy one. I’ll probably read if after I’m done with City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau.

Mechanical Spiders Are The Signs Of The Future

It seems that the future is, indeed, now and that the inevitable War of the Machines has come to pass. Sometime in June of this year, sixty foot arachnid appeared on a derelict building near Liverpool’s Lime Street station. The mechanical spider is the work of art collaborative La Machine, who’s previous work includes the Sultan’s Elephant, which captivated London in 2006. The £1.8 million robot was commissioned for the 2008 Capital of Culture celebrations, and is being billed as the highlights of the event.

Expected to “wake up” some day, the eight-legged monstrosity will descend on your House on Thursday night and begin exploring your neighborhood the day after, ending with a “spectacular finish”. I encouraged you to arm yourselves accordingly. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going down into my concrete bunker.

  • Click HERE to check out the Flickr set
  • Click HERE for the BBC News script

Review: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

After the recent slew of almost-disappointing movies from the acclaimed writer/director Woody Allen (i.e. Cassandra’s Dreams, Scoop), I almost lost faith in his films, and started reminiscing the great times I had with his classics such as Hannah And Her Sisters and Everyone Says I Love You. Luckily, however, there was an instant love attraction I had with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Whether it was the charming cast or the beautifully divine location, the film had me from its first scene, and from there, I was smiling all the way to the end.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona sees two young American women; Vicky and Cristina who come to Barcelona for a summer holiday. Vicky is sensible and engaged to be married; Cristina is emotionally and sexually adventurous. In Barcelona, they’re drawn into a series of unconventional romantic entanglements with Juan Antonio, a charismatic painter, who is still involved with his tempestuous ex-wife Maria Elena. Set against the luscious Mediterranean sensuality of Barcelona, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody Allen’s funny and open-minded celebration of love in all its configurations.

Indeed, probably the movie’s pivotal aspect is that it doesn’t pursue the already worn clichés of the recent romantic comedies; instead, it opens up new possibilities and conflictions that are familiar to us but never got to see them in an intelligent direction. The threesome relationship that develops in the film wasn’t inscribed to make us laugh, but more like to open our hearts, minds, and eyes to the complexity of human relationships. The characters are extremely flushed out and totally likable and believable; looking all macho but speaking mostly in a tender, sincere way to his women, Bardem is a thoroughly convincing and affable ladies’ man, while Johansson and Hall demonstrated their polar-opposite personalities but perfect friendship in a most practical and credible matter. The cinematography although not extraordinary, it provided us the sheer enjoyment in exploring Barcelona’s laundry list of celebrated spots (i.e. Gaudi creations, the Miro Museum, the old amusement park, etc.), all of which shimmer with summer luster and a bustling Spanish soundtrack that oozes sexiness and lustful love. Harsh critic might be turned off by the semi-novella narration that accompanies the movie from start to finish, seeing how interesting it would be to see if the film could play without the commentary altogether, but I found it seemingly necessary yet enjoyable and not disrupting at the same time. The ending however is almost original as it is funny, and the open-ended aspect of it would provide an amusing discussion among your friends.

There’s no deny that Vicky Cristina Barcelona is beautiful film; the actors are attractive, the city is magnificent and the love scenes don’t get all sweaty. It certainly provides the perfect conclusion for the summer. It’s sincere, delicately funny, but a little staid, just what would you expect from a Woody Allen movie

The Bottom Line

B+

The Bitch Has Done It!

I was just about to go though my Edge magazine that I arrived in my mailbox early that day. I just came from school and decided to feed my affection for videogame journalism by reading several articles that were written in the magazine when my cell phone rang its familiar Zelda ringtone. For the sake of anonymousness, let’s name the caller Jay.

Jay: The bitch…the bitch has done it!

Me: What? Who’s the bitch? What happened? What the hell are you talking about?

I was startled! I’ve never heard Jay sounded so troubled like that. The guy is usually calm and collective. He even has a peculiar air of refinement that usually reserved for princes and priests.

Jay: Mariah! She came back from her early evening stroll around the neighborhood, and she came dribbled with blood, in her…in her sensitive area. The bitch had sex!

I threw my head back at my seat and eventually my whole body pushed the chair backward, nearly bending it. I made an uproarious laugh.

Me: You don’t know, maybe she got raped.

Jay: No time for technicality. She had sex and that’s it. She’s all broken.

Me: So? It’s not like you were reserving her for yourself. It’s not like she is going to marry you one day. Surely, even you can do better.

My sarcasm flew through the roof.

Jay: What if she got pregnant. Ever thought of that?

Me: Ahh, now, that’s a problem. I don’t think you are willing to take care of her baby.

Jay: Of course not.

Me: I know, just throw her baby in an orphanage or something.

Jay: Are you insensitive or something? I cannot do that, especially in the early months. The baby needs his/her mother.

Was I? Yeah, sure, I might have sounded insensitive, but I was just trying to help the poor guy.

Me: Okay, hang on. I’m coming to your place right now.

I arrived at Jay’s clean and pretentious apartment. Jay’s taste in décor and selective furniture is extraordinary. Hell, he will even amaze the guys from “The Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” so impressively that they will revert back to straight hood. And of course, all of that didn’t do nothing for Mariah.

And there she was, Mariah, setting comfortably at her reserved chair near the window that was facing the balcony. Her “lover” might still be outside right now. She seemed she had no care in the world as usual, not like Jay who was virtually about to explode from the stress. He was cracking his fingers that you swear they were being broken on every crack. That was his way of reliving stress. I always hated that nerve-racking habit.

I looked at Mariah and she seemed to look me back. I always knew she had a resentful feeling toward me. I smirked.

Me: Way to go girl. I never thought you had it in you.

Jay: Enough with your sarcasm. Can you help me out, please?

Me: Well, let’s have a doctor check on her.

Jay: I was thinking about that. You will be coming with us.

Me: What? No, I had my fair share of drama for tonight. That’s a matter between you and your Mariah. Sorry dude, I can’t.

Jay: Oh, C’mon, don’t be such a jerk. I need you. You know that I get easily terrified from these kind of clinics. C’mon, I’ll even treat you to that expensive French sundae ice cream you always love. You know, with lush whip cream and a cherry on top.

Me: Dude, I don’t think it would be appropriate to have cherries on the day that Mariah popped hers.

Jay: Excuse me from your pretentious sarcasm for now and just tag along with us.

Me: Fine. I’ll “tag along”. But I don’t want a sundae. There’s a used game I saw the other day from GameStop but didn’t had the chance to buy it. You’ll go and be nice boy and get it for me. It’s only $19.99.

Jay: Fine, whatever. If I had to be a bitch I’ll do it even.

Me: Dude, I’m just keeping up with the theme we are having here.

Many Days Later

I was with Jay at the clinic. Mariah was having her birth operation in the emergency room, and I was sitting on the sofa reading Pet’s magazine in the waiting hall. Jay was circling the whole clinic and even borrowed few cigarettes from the nurse and went outside to smoke. The poor guy; this incident made him return to smoking all over again after his impressive commitment in quitting 18 months ago. The doctor finally came back from the emergency room and Jay walked swiftly toward him, like a moth attracted to flame.

Doc: Congratulation, young man. You have a twin.

Jay’s jaws literally dropped to the floor from this shocking twisted news. I was just about to sarcastically comment at that when Jay looked at me sharply to my eyes.

Jay: DON’T!

I shut up.

Doc: Ahem, would like to see her now?

Jay: Yes. Please.

I “tagged along”. I might as well watch the finale after witnessing the drama that spanned for two months. And there she was, Mariah, with her two little…kittens. They were so adorable, and even Mariah. She had this glow that only mothers possess. You can tell she was equally exhausted and somehow happy. Jay brushed her furry tiny head and kissed it. He stared at the kittens and stroked their heads gently as well. I sat back and watched the small family that came together throw all of this. Luckily, the girls that were living next to Jay’s apartment agreed on taking care of the two little kittens while Jay continued on harboring his precious little Mariah without any extra baggage from her kittens. However, living next-door meant that Jay could bring Mariah to see her little babies anytime any day, and that would make Jay  happy because he got to spend it with two hot chicks, and thus, everybody’s happy except for me because the game got sold it and didn’t have the chance to get it.

Fin

Review: Braid

  • Platform: Xbox360 (via Xbox Live Arcade)
  • Genre: Puzzle / 2D-Advanture
  • Rating: Everyone (10+)

If you take it purely as entertainment, Braid is nearly flawless. Taken it as an artistic work, it’s like an ambitious film that just overreaches its limits, flawed in an interesting and compelling way. As a whole, it is gripping and original far beyond conventional videogames, and is the perfect antidote for the current sequel-driven industry. At first blush, Braid seems like an exceptionally beautiful Super Mario Brothers knock-off, but there are numerous twists that extend its definition far beyond that.

To put it simply, Braid is a 2D platform game stars a guy named Tim. In this game, you can almost run through Braid‘s levels without a problem, but the true objective is to search out the puzzle pieces in each level, which you can then assemble into still photos that connect thematically to that level, and in order to do that, you control time. Simply by pressing the X button, the time rewinds almost everything, Tim, the enemies, the environment and even the music. This is the pivot point of some of the game’s best puzzles, and it becomes the primary tool you will be using until you reach the game’s shattering conclusion. As you progress through the six or five worlds, you will notice that you will have to think about time manipulation, and especially how to manipulate time with objects that respond differently to it, as each world produces a specific theme or mechanic for time manipulation. This consistent underlying logic ensures that you hardly ever feel cheated by the design. Braid certainly feels like a game that spent a year or two being polished.

By virtue of the imagery alone, Braid presents a true special experience. From the first moment you boot up it up, as it bypasses a title screen in favor of beginning play immediately; you’ll be struck by the look. Braid is like a painting in motion, with lush swirling colors and expressive caricatures. What’s most impressive is how effectively the visuals convey the mood of every area. From light and breezy meadows to disturbingly lifeless parodies of levels you have completed before, there’s instant emotional impact every time you enter a new area. It works as the bridge that gives you to a sense that there’s more going on here than just some tricky puzzles. You’ll also appreciate the soundtrack. Like the visuals, they capture the desired mood, though with it switching between being played forward and backward at the whim of the player, it never quite hits a rhythm. Still, the music is an appropriate mix of mellowness, melancholy, and nostalgia. An absolute musical masterpiece!

It’s pretty important to say that the puzzles can be incredibly frustrating sometimes to the point you would think there is a flaw in the game’s mechanics, and there are moments where will you reaching for GameFAQs every so often. My advice: don’t do it. Braid isn’t about the puzzles and the jigsaw pieces; it’s about the collective, emotional experience you receive at the end. In the later levels, you will absolutely have to think outside the box and try to reflect creatively to solve each puzzle you encounter because the game demands you to be creative.

Even though I usually don’t state anything about the ending of the games, but I’d like you to pay attention at what happens during the end, and also go through the books that were presented at each chapter because the conclusion that you will derive eventually will shatter any thought you might have had of enjoying Braid only for its gameplay. I won’t spoil the end, but do you remember all those times when you spent a great deal of skill and brainpower to finish a game, and were rewarded with a pleasant, tidy ending. Well, Braid‘s ending is the precise opposite. And it is powerful in such a way that you will more likely than not want to start digging into the story a lot more than you did. If you start digging enough, you’ll find out about an alternate ending, which puts an even more interesting spin on things. Without spoiling anything, what you must do to get it affects your understanding of the ending itself.

Life is short. Time is precious yet we waste plenty of it. There’s plenty of money in the world, and fifteen dollars worth of Microsoft Points isn’t much. With beautifully crafted and wonderfully realized mechanics, Braid is a shining example of the intersection between art and technology, love and loss, desire and despondence. In other words, Braid is beautiful. Beautiful is Braid.

Overall Score

9.5 out of 10

Late To The Party: Happy Ramadan

It’s always interesting, experiencing Ramadan in the States. For the past years, I’ve always bitched and moaned on how miserable it is to spend Ramadan away from the family, and away from the homemade Ramadan food you always get to have in your household. But to be honest, spending Ramadan either alone or occasionally with your friends have developed a special taste in my palate. You can witness the cooperation with your friends as they struggle to whip the best dishes they could, and also your effort in trying to contribute a little. For me, I suck at cooking. That’s the only skill I haven’t fully achieved while studying abroad. So, my contribution usually would be buying dessert from Safeway, brining lunch platter of subs from a nearby Sub store, or sometimes if my cooking curiosity has been activated, I would make a large bowl of pasta salad.

Of course, the situation isn’t always glamorous, especially when you have your Iftar (or Fotoor) alone. I mean last night; I had Hotpockets served with kettle-cooked potato chips and a Weight Watchers muffin. Then for Suhoor, I had some waffles served with maple syrup, and finally I ended the day with a cup of green tea and at least a liter and a half of water to sustain my hydration for the next day. But in the end, it’s all good, because I know I have something to eat unlike many people who are suffering from hunger and deprivation. I’m blessed after all. And I wish everyone to be blessed in this holy month of Ramadan; regardless you are a Muslim or non-Muslim. After all, my life motto is always and always has been:

To Live And Let Live

Happy Ramadan

Inside America

I feel like a broken record by now but again, pardon the brief absence. Last week, I traveled back to the States for college, and from the moment I landed, things got crazier by the minute. I’m not going to divulge much further than this but to sum things up, all I’ve got to say:

  • Comcast, you suck ass. I hope you get bankrupted very soon.
  • Xcel Energy, you suck major ass. I hope solar energy get discovered so you’d be out of business.
  • Dr. Asirvatham, you suck extravaganza of major ass. I hope you get the most obnoxious students in your class from now on.

Well, now that’s out of my system. I shall commence my blogging activity once again.

Book Review: My Name Is Red

The American Bookcover of My Name Is Red

The American bookcover of My Name Is Red

It’s so unfortunate that your average Arab has based his facts and intuitions about Turkey through a portal of a TV show, that even though it captivated the hearts of many people, it also agitated many to the extent it won several fatwas from several Saudi and Gulf clerics, condemning the show upon the level of secularism that “exposes”. It’s so unfortunate that your average Arab has neglected the fact that despite that Turkey has one of the most successful democracies in the Muslim world (you might hold a different view in that regard), it still holds its Islamic identity dearly: from breathtaking, magnificent mosques that rival the beauty of churches, from the elevated level of spirituality of the influenced Sufi tradition that would put any sect to shame, and finally, to the superlative paintings and captivated poems that Turkey brought to the Islamic art and culture. Which brings me to the context of this great book that was brilliantly printed by the Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. This historical novel has brought a plethora of information to me through its fictional story that combines the elements of mystery, art and romantic novels.

My Name Is Red is set in 16th century of Istanbul where The Sultan has commissioned an illustrated book to demonstrate his power to the Venetian Doge. Because it will employ controversial aspects of the Frankish style, head illustrator Osman has been bypassed and the project given to Enishte, who coordinates miniaturists nicknamed Elegant, Stork, Olive, and Butterfly. But when Elegant suspects the orthodoxy of the final page and threatens to denounce the project to the followers of the conservative preacher Nusret Hoja, he is murdered by one of his colleagues. Enishte’s nephew Black, newly returned to Istanbul after twelve years absence, is asked to investigate. To complicate things, he revives an old passion for Enishte’s daughter Shekure, who is technically still married to a husband missing in battle, and who has other suitors. The brilliance of this novel comes to light with its distinctive narrative where each chapter is told by the perspective of those mentioned main characters, along with minor ones including the murderer and the subjects of the illustrated book (a dog, a gold coin, a horse, Satan, etc) given voice by a storyteller in a coffeehouse.

As a mystery and a reworked folktale, My Name Is Red has some surprising twists and turns, powering a readily engaging plot; as a historical novel, its setting in late sixteenth century Istanbul is convincingly detailed; and as a novel it offers some memorable characters and complex relationships. But what is most notable about My Name Is Red is the extent to which it is a novel about art, indeed almost a study of Islamic illustration. It contains descriptions of paintings, some of which verge on prose poems. It is full of stories about the great miniaturists and their history, going back to Bihzad and the Chinese influences brought by the Mongols. And it is riddled with discussions and debates about form and style, the relationship of art to morality and society and religion, the effects of Western ideas, the future of Ottoman illumination, and the significance of blindness. Even though Pamuk is a western modernist, his intention wasn’t to destroy his 16th-century artists, but instead, illuminates their world as no one has before. It brilliantly captured the past and present contradictions, but also its terrible, timeless beauty that makes it so perfect that it is deserved to be taught in history courses. Unfortunately, the length of book (500+ pages) and the rigid use of vocabulary and terminology are bound to turn off some people in seeing this novel to the end.  As much I want to recommend this book to everyone, it would be a futile effort to convince those who crave straightforward historical mysteries to pick up this book. Regardless of that, this book deserved the Nobel Prize that it won for, and a permanent place in your bookshelf.

~Rating~