20.11.10

SECRET ORIGIN: THE STORY OF DC COMICS

Finally, something much close to my heart: Comics. And not just any comics, but DC Comics. Narrated by Ryan Reynolds (star of the upcoming Green Lantern movie) the documentary begins before the beginning and takes us all the through the different stages, people, characters in the life of DC Comics. We find out how comics became an established medium and ultimately how comics evolved through the different ages, The Golden Age and The Silver Age. But not just any comics, the focus of this documentary is DC Comics. You can only appreciate that fact when you're a fan of DC Comics and have been so for quite some time.  The really awesome aspect is the interviews with people like Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel Joe Shuster, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and many, many more.



Personally, two people I was shocked to see in this documentary; Mark Waid and Alan Moore. I would have thought these are two writers that would never be seen taking their stuff to DC Comics ever again. But I guess Mr Waid is too much of a fanboy to resist, the moment he starts talking about comics, particularly DC, anything and everything else doesn't matter anymore. Not so with Mr Moore, who is known for his disdain of everything DC Comics. So much so that Mr Moore doesn't even want his names to appear on the movies made from his comics. So how is he featured in this documentary? Through old interviews and footage of course! Clever, Warner Brothers. Very Clever.  Overall, the documentary is truly a love letter to DC Comics. Sure, even I have my own issues with DC Comics, but to see all those people gush over the characters, the stories and the comics, it re-kindles the love for them all, no matter how much recent editors and writers have complete shafted the DCU. Must-watch for all comicbook fans.



Note: This review is for my blog. If you'd like to reprint this, please email me for permission. If you're from SHE Magazine, please stop stealing my blogposts. I hope you get a yeast infection and die. Thank you. 

CATFISH.

This is has been described and even marketed as I think, as the other Facebook movie. Whereas we knew how The Social Network would end, Catfish keeps the audience guessing and hooked scene after scene. I guess the best way to describe this is "What if Jackass were a cerebral shockfest?" They would call it Catfish.



What's the story? Yaniv Schulman is a mild-mannered photographer from New York. He gets one of his pictures published in a newspaper and then a woman contacts him on Facebook.  That's all I'm talking about regarding the story, suffice to say that this documentary looks at online relationships in a stark manner. I can tell you that the best moment in the documentary comes when we actually find out why it was named Catfish—and that's when everything falls into place. But given the nature of Catfish and its subject matter, you can't help but question what you've just seen. Was it all real? Did that just really happen? And that's why this is much better than I'm Still Here. This is definitely one to watch.




Note: This review is for my blog. If you'd like to reprint this, please email me for permission. If you're from SHE Magazine, please stop stealing my blogposts. I hope you get a yeast infection and die. Thank you.  

I'M STILL HERE.

What happens when a movie star retires at the pinnacle of his career and pursues a career in hip-hop? Well the answer to that question is exactly what happens in this... documentary. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Casey Affleck (Ben's younger brother and Joaquin's brother in law) the documentary is clearly trying too damn hard. 



Right from the start we're made to believe that Joaquin has quit acting. Who're you trying to fool Joaquin? The documentary was busted for being a mockumentary, and quite frankly it even did a bad job there. Don't get me wrong, I love mockumentaries. Spinal Tap is probably the best one ever made out there, but Spinal Tap mocked the genre, the larger than life characters, here Affleck and Phoenix mock the audience, culture and the documentary itself. The subject of the documentary, according to Phoenix and Affleck, are actually "celebrity" and "fame". It's the kind of subject matter that Orson Welles would love to have taken on, but we don't have Orson, we have Casey and Joaquin. This is the sort of movie that has come about because of the "Borat" and "Ali G" movies. More driven towards shocking audiences rather than entertaining them. On the plus side, the looks on people, the celebs, and everybody who greets Joaquin, are priceless. But even that isn't enough.

By the end of it all, I just wasn't there anymore.   

Note: This review is for my blog. If you'd like to reprint this, please email me for permission. If you're from SHE Magazine, please stop stealing my blogposts. I hope you get a yeast infection and die. Thank you.  

 

17.10.10

Bistro.

Check out this awesome short film by Sean Gray called Bistro. It stars the awesome Peter Capaldi as Max, Alex Macqueen as the Waiter and Neil Edmond as the Chef. The story, the acting, the make-up and the costume design all are fabulous. Do vote for it here






Bistro from sohohouse on Vimeo.

4.9.10

Rock-and-roll out to save the world

It is the greatest national disaster this nation has ever faced: floods have devastated lands, have laid waste villages and destroyed lives across the country. All four provinces have been affected and it is impossible for those who live away from the flood’s reach to ignore what is happening. All across Pakistan, musicians, entertainers and celebrities have quickly started to mobilise their efforts to try and help those in need.

“It’s more devastating than one can perceive,” says Ali Zafar, “It’s heart breaking to see so many suffer at the hand of one of the biggest natural calamities of our times.”

Ahmed Ali Butt says that there is actually something even more disturbing than the floods and the devastation left at its wake. “The problem is infrastructure. God forbid if we have a repeat of the floods next year, what precautions do we have in place now to prevent what has happened to happen yet again?” Ahmed points out that a lack of relief and rescue infrastructure and plan to deal with the floods is the problem.

Artists like Shallum Xavier echo Ahmed’s sentiments. “The government isn’t doing enough and that’s making the situation worse. It’s a terribly sad time.”

Noori has been actively seeking out opportunities to help the victims of the flood. The band had recently led the charge in Lahore through an event called Celebrity Camp where various musicians and bands such as Lal, Roxen, Noori, Falak, Ali Sher, Noman Javed and Umer Nabeel performed. It also featured a number of celebrities such as Shiraz Uppal, Shoaib Akhtar, Maria B, Muneeb Nawaz, Omair Rana and many more. Singer Ali Azmat and Fareeha Pervaiz were on hand talking about the devastation and were collecting money. The camp collected some Rs300,000.

But camps aside, the band has a much deeper focus for the flood relief efforts. Ali Noor further clarifies: “For us, the focus are the children. We’re planning on launching a venture that will focus on children who have been left devastated in wake of this national disaster. They will need rehabilitation and understanding as to exactly what has happened here.”

Ali Noor says that information about this new venture will be available soon on their website. Besides being part of events post-Eid, the band also hopes to travel and meet these children at camps and bring them new clothes, toys and books. “It’s all because these children are our future and we shouldn’t make them feel left out, especially at this time on Eid,” Ali Noor said.

Mekaal Hasan also spent time working on spreading the word for flood relief efforts. The musician appeared on BBC World’s The Hub programme and spoke in detail regarding the flood efforts and local agencies that are mobilised in the area. He was asked if the international Pakistani community was doing something for the relief fund. The musician/producer responded: “They are, there’s the Islamic Relief Fund in America, there are a lot of student bodies that are working together, there’s the Pakistan Peace Builders who have set up a relief fund; and there has been a concerted effort by civil society.”

Ali Zafar spoke regarding his contributions to relief work: “I am arranging a series of fundraisers with artistes to raise more money to help them. I also plan to work with the Pakistan Navy to actually go into the areas and try to be as much help as I can.”

He elaborated on his efforts by adding, “I plan to release an album and the earnings from it will go to flood relief ventures.” Ali’s efforts do not end there, “I am also trying to get in touch with international artistes and have them raise more awareness on the international platform and convince more and more people to help and donate.”

He has also set his sights on working with credible NGOs, such as the Red Cross to bring in more funds from international avenues.

Similarly, Ahmed Ali Butt from Entity Paradigm (eP) has also been hard at work at relief efforts. “I worked in conjunction with the students at the University of Lahore. We set about a collection drive and have collected more than Rs300,000,” Ahmed said.

“We also arranged for the University buses to take goods to the stricken areas,” he added.

The band hopes to participate in a series of concerts after Eid and will submit all of proceeds from its merchandising sales towards the flood relief efforts.

Meanwhile, Shallum Xavier is hoping to launch a series of events, in collaboration with bands from across the country with the help of an event management company. “At the moment these concerts will have Jal, Call, Mekaal Hasan, Strings, Fuzon, eP and Noori — all performing across Pakistan.”

The concerts, to be held sometime after Eid, will be staged in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and will feature local artistes from each city as well. According to Shallum, “The proceeds from the concert, tickets and merchandising, will go towards relief efforts.”

For musicians like Zeeshan Parwez, national tragedies have a personal meaning to them. It was on a journey back from Islamabad to Peshawar that the musician and a group of friends discovered just how much damage had been wrecked by the flood. “It was then that a group of friends and myself got together and decided that something must be done,” recalls Zeeshan.

Adapting an idea from a friend that worked in an NGO, Zeeshan and his friends quickly set about to develop and make food packets for families that were affected by the flood. These packets contain enough basic food to last five days.

After a careful reconnoiter, Zeeshan and his friends chose the area of Charsaddah where they distributed these food packs amongst 142 families.

This is not the first time Zeeshan has been a part of a disaster relief effort. In 2005, while he was part of an NGO, he mobilised young students as a part of Emergency Radio Stations across the affected areas.

Zeeshan admits that while he has been asked to organise an event for disaster awareness and relief funds, he says, “I’d rather be part of one as opposed to organising one. For the simple reason that I’d want to be absolutely sure that I’d do something that would benefit people on the scale as a whole.”

These are but a few of the many efforts that have been mobilised across the country in the hope to help those in need. They have proved that although there is international support there are those among us who are helping out those who need it most.

Originally published in Dawn Images on Sunday. 

8.8.10

The Season of Munchkins!

There are two yearly events that literally bring life in Karachi to a halt. First is the monsoon that comes once a year and floods it to a standstill. The other annual event is not nature-related but is a musical force to reckon with: The Munchkins.

Performing for almost 10 years now, The Munchkins gig is something that you really don’t want to miss if you like live music. Aamir Alavi, Louis John Pinto (Gumby), Ali Jafri and Murtaza Jafar (KV) need no introduction as they’ve been doing gigs for a while now, and the crowd just keeps getting bigger each time. Even with their infamous ‘last gigs’ every now and then, they keep coming back for more.

During these sessions, Arkam Butt (keyboardist) and Khalid Khan (bassist) would also join the band as guest musicians.

Audioslave’s Cochise started off last week’s performance with a triumphant bang. It sort of said (read: hollered) that The Munchkins are back in town. And it was impossible to miss.

Sting and The Police were covered twice with Message in a Bottle and King of Pain, both enjoyable and electric in feel.

Rage Against the Machine has always been a regular for the band to cover, and this time around their cover of Bulls on Parade was much better.

Also a good cover that got the crowd singing along was Michael Jackson’s Beat It — a special highlight of the song was KV’s solo which took the newcomers by surprise. Another Jacko hit that was covered was Dirty Diana, which went on to show that you can’t go wrong covering MJ.

Duran Duran’s Come Undone could have been played better — another Munchkins’ staple track that they almost regularly play at gigs. This time, I think, they could’ve passed on.

Taking things slow, Aamir and Jaffar performed an acoustic version of Stay by U2 with a little help from the crowd. If there’s any band that The Munchkins are known to cover good, it’s U2. This time, besides Stay, they also covered Put on Your Boots and Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me. Both good covers but we’ve seen better from the band as far as U2 is concerned.

The band also covered Jimi Hendrix’s Fire, another highlight of the evening, thanks to some amazing guitar skills by KV and drums by Gumby.

Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight was interesting. But one felt that the band could’ve chosen a different Collins’ track rather than this one — the band’s energy just didn’t suit the song.

The best song of that night, however, was Sex Machine simply because of the way Aamir Alavi channeled James Brown — not only in his singing but also in his stage presence. Humorously, no matter how many times Aamir would sing, “Get up, get on up” the crowd didn’t take the hint.

The PACC auditorium in Karachi is probably the perfect place to hold a concert. The Munchkins’ gigs, after all, are intimate affairs where the crowd really likes to get in with the music. However, the concert organisers/sponsors oversold the venue. According to the band, ticket sales were supposed to be limited to 200 only, but instead nearly 350 tickets were sold which lead to the venue being overcrowded — to add to the mix the air-conditioning was faulty.

A lot of first-timers got to see their first ever Munchkins’ performance. The problem with that is it brought in way too many yuppies and people who wanted to go to a Munchkins’ concert just so that they could say that they’ve been to one, rather than actually enjoy the music.

They seemed more concerned about what they were wearing and checking their BlackBerrys and iPhones rather than take in the amazing music — terribly insulting to a band such as this one. A lot of true Munchkins fans arrived late — some left because it was too crowded, others just stood where they were and watched their favourite band perform.

And if over crowdedness and faulty air conditioning weren’t enough, the band’s gear — which had been meticulously put together just before the concert — was unplugged so that the sponsors could run their own videos.

Why they did this boggles the mind, considering there was reasonably enough marketing done before the gig. Almost everybody had two to three goody bags with them —bags that would be strewn across the floor after it all ended. The only thing it achieved was that the much-awaited performance started late.

The Munchkins are the cornerstone of underground music in Karachi. Even this gig, with all of its faults, was a musical tour de force. The band played their hearts out with each song and thrilled the crowd with every number. But it’s a shame to see the Munchkins — of all bands — get stuck with a concert like this. Unfortunately, the maxim these days is: “In the era of music industry recession, the sponsor is king.”

7.8.10

Showcase Young World

A mass coronal ejection from the Sun is heading towards the Earth. But there's no reason to panic, as the Sun regularly shoots tons of plasma (ionized atoms) into space and sometimes it heads for Earth. However, as scientists have noticed, this is the largest ejection yet. These are called a mass coronal ejection and the most recent one was caught by the NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), a spacecraft which is dedicated to observing the Sun on different wavelengths. When the plasma comes into contact with Earth's magnetic field it will create a geomagnetic storm — the ionised atoms from the Sun will then collide with the nitrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere to create a spectacular light show, commonly known as the Aurora Borealis. The Sun regularly goes through an 11-year cycle with its last peak in 2001, it is now approaching another peak of solar activity.

The world's sixth-largest river has been found — under the ocean. Researchers working along the Black Sea have discovered currents of water more than 350 times greater than the River Thames flowing along the ocean floor much like a river on the surface would. The underwater river is said to have all the characteristics of a land based river, complete with rapids and waterfalls. The channels of the river are said to be up to 115 feet deep in some areas. Researchers have found the content of the river to be rich with salts and nutrients — which explains how life manages to survive deep in the ocean far away from the essentials to support life. It is theorised that a network of such rivers carry the much needed nutrients to the deep ocean life.

London's Trafalgar Square, a historic landmark and a favourite amongst tourists, has a new fixture. The nearly eight feet tall maze measures almost a 100 feet by 66 feet and has portions of it named after the West End of London. Visitors are encouraged to roam the maze which has information about the area of the West End located within different parts of it. The West End Partnership responsible for the maze said: "By creating the maze and filling it with some of the best examples of what the West End has to offer, we're hoping to encourage visitors to go beyond their usual path and enjoy getting a little lost."

There's a new Sherlock Holmes. The famed detective from 221B Baker Street and his esteemed colleague Dr John Watson have been given a makeover. The BBC has recently commissioned a three-part mini-series about the master detective re-imagined in current times. The show stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson. Una Stubbs appears as their landlady Mrs Hudson, and Rupert Graves as DI Lestrade. The project was developed by writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both of whom were writers for the current run of the British Science Fiction TV show Dr Who. The two writers are also fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his work, and are utilising the writings to the extreme.

This one's for the kids.

Comments like these make it all worthwhile. Thank you all.

1.8.10

The time is now

Only a few existing bands can boast of a career spanning two decades in the Pakistan music industry. Though thick and thin, and lifetimes of many rock bands, Strings have been a venerable force at the heart of our modern music industry.
 Similarly, Atif Aslam has set himself apart from the rest of the pack. After a tumultuous breakup with Jal the band, he has gone on to make his own mark in the music world — in Pakistan and beyond. Now the two powerful entities join forces to release Ab Khud Kuch Karna Paray Ga, a music video (or anthem) describing the current situation and state-of-affairs of our country.


The band wrote the song keeping in mind that it would be a collaboration, and the only person that they had in mind was Atif Aslam. It was his broad appeal as a musician which created the interest — and working with the young musician proved to be worthy experience. Speaking of collaboration, there was one more person Strings was very eager to work with: director Jami.

Both Bilal and Faisal praise Jami’s understanding of the vision of Strings, “Jami is a part of Strings. He understands our ideas and tastes; and most of the time our concepts are very similar,” said Bilal.

Jami reciprocates by saying, “Strings are family, I just can’t say no to them.” He added that they approached him with an idea about doing something for Pakistan in terms of an anthem or a message. “We decided to go completely basic with this video because that’s the only way the concept could have come across. The video features powerful imagery that we haven’t re-created — and instead got from news channels.”

The video of Ab Khud Kuch Karna Paray Ga is very simple but hard-hitting in terms of content. The band and Atif are shot in and around Karachi buildings. It’s kinda old-school like that which is pretty reminiscent of the times when music videos were just that — shot around Karachi with just the band singing along.

The truly stirring stuff is when we see the news footage: suicide blasts, violence, corruption, etc. Granted it may be clich├ęd but that is exactly what the band wanted. “We always show the pretty side of Pakistan in most of our music videos and never the real stuff,” said Faisal. “I think we need to face reality and face our problems,” Bilal added. “Strings have always been a very romanticist band, we’ve never been politically charged — until now.”

“Currently we have quite a few problems which led to the decision of what to show and what not to show. We didn’t want it to be overtly graphic that people would just be turned off by it,” said Jami. “So we selected a couple of shots just to get the message across.”

And what about the message? “The video itself doesn’t have a concept — it’s a neeyat for all of us. The band had this idea of what it was going to be and it was pretty clear to them; we need to do something for Pakistan and we need to do it now,” said the director.

“The easy way out right now,” Bilal added, “would be to go abroad and make music. We’ve done that. But now because of what’s happening here, we’re staying right here.”

However the band admits that because of the current conditions of the music industry, it is now relying on the most powerful medium of them all: the music video (and in part television) to spread their music. “Our focus is music videos now. Simply because it is more effective than churning out a 10-song album. With albums you tend to spread yourself too thin, so we’ve decided to focus on releasing singles — and it is better to have your attention on one project or song at one time so that you get a better results.”

Faisal Kapadia added, “Also the current situation is very bleak. On all levels, whether it’s the music industry or the political landscape. All we hear is people talking about change and not actually taking that first step to change. Music videos like these can inspire a first step in people. And it doesn’t have to be a violent first step.”

In Ab Khud Kuch Karna Paray Ga the content featured is from actual footage which might give it an extra edge in terms of credibility — but will it do good with the masses? The initial response to it is mixed; some love it outright whereas others call its rawness as mediocre.

However, Strings, Atif and Jami are very serious about this music video and its message. Are we seeing a music revolution in the making? Only time will tell. “We’re working on another single at the moment,” said Bilal. “It’s going to be even bolder in terms of concept.”

24.7.10

Young World Showcase

Director Christopher Nolan is known for revitalising the Batman franchise with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. He is also lesser-known for movies such as Memento (inspiration for Amir Khan’s Ghajini) and The Prestige. His latest film, however, will establish him much more than a director that uses material written or published by others (both Memento and Prestige were novels) as he writes and directs an original story called Inception. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page and Michael Caine, the story is much like the Matrix visually. However, that is not the case. It is about how certain people are able to enter the minds of others and steal certain thoughts and plant others. The visual effects and story have been critically praised — expect this one to be a hit!

After much fanfare to the launch and release of the iPhone 4, users quickly complained of signal-loss and dropped-calls. A watchdog group also strongly suggested to Apple to either establish a refund or work on a repair for the error. In the meanwhile, Apple informed its users that the problem is design-based and that it could be rectified by a simple case cover for the phone. Very recently, in a much hyped press conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced a free case for every user and also a refund for users who have purchased the phone. Also in the press conference Jobs said that the problem was hyped up by the media and that it occurs in a very small percentage of phones. The company has also released software updates to tackle the problem.

Photographs from the 1920s have shown that Mount Everest is losing ice. Comparative photography from the 1920s and 2010 reveals that there has been a significant ice loss over a period of almost 90 years. The photos were taken by a mountaineer on Everest in 1921 and have been recreated on the similar spot. The pictures reveal an ‘alarming’ loss of ice from the mountain since George Mallory took photos in 1921. The Asia Society arranged for the pictures to be taken in exactly the same place where British climber George Mallory took photos in 1921. In a statement, the Asia Society said, “The photographs reveal a startling truth: the ice of the Himalaya is disappearing. They reveal an alarming loss in ice mass over an 89-year period.” The statement also said that: “The melted waters of these high altitude glaciers supply crucial seasonal flows to the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow rivers, and hundreds of millions of people downstream depend on it for their livelihoods.”

20.7.10

The Digital De-Clutter

What happened to the days when people would look up phone books to find out phone numbers, when computers were only used to type out documents, and when beepers paged us? They're far gone. it seems.

In the age of multiple accounts, a plethora of accessories and the constant need to be online, we have cluttered our lives with devices, computers and phones. We are swimming in the vast ocean of information and thanks to technology, that ocean is only getting bigger and deeper.

Just take a look at the smart phone; in the space of a beep and buzz, they signal if people are calling, smsing or emailing us. If that's not all, the computer tells us when we've been tagged on Facebook, mentioned on Twitter and been sent an invite to view a Flickr album.

Once upon a time, a messy desktop meant that your workspace was cluttered with bulky files and folders, stray papers running amok around it all. Now, it means that your virtual desktop is pretty much the same—if not as real. The digital age promised us a life free of clutter. It seems to have done quite the opposite; in fact, some people say it has exacerbated the issue. However, there are ways around the problem too. Technology can still save us.

The key isn't to keep folders and folders meticulously tucked away in your computer. That won't help you find what you're looking for because quite simply, we can't be asked to remember each and everything. How can technology help you find them? The answer is simple: search.

Searching on the computer is far quicker than it is offline. Don't go for organising folders; just go with properly naming files and documents. If need be, put in dates as a part of the filename so that when you search you can use the dates as a key. There are many programmes that help you streamline your searching also, like Google Desktop for Windows OS and Quicksilver for the Mac OS.

Paper can also come in use here. When you have multiple backups on DVDs or portable HDs, it's a good idea to have a printout of the file trees to let you help find that file you're looking for. Just take a screenshot of the contents of the DVD or HD and keep it in a folder. It is much quicker and a lesser hassle than to check each and every DVD you may have.

Multiple social networking accounts bogging you down? Don't worry, use sites like hootsuite and ping.fm to keep in touch with all of your accounts within one single website. It saves the hassle of logging in and out over and over again.

Finally, there's the tricky task of managing passwords. There are numerous programmes that help you manage your passwords. But the fact of the matter is, in this digital day and age are we truly secure with sharing or storing our passwords someplace? The only manageable answer here is to do what suits you best.

Some people prefer to have their passwords written down—albeit in a safe location. Some people prefer to keep their passwords within the confines of their memory—with some rather drastic outcomes. Whatever your password quirk maybe, it is imperative to change your password every three months or so. This helps protect you against any forms of hackings or digital attacks.

Finally, the decision to de-clutter also involves one big aspect: you. The user must have the drive within them to be able to de-clutter their lives and to seek out efficiency. Just because it is digital doesn't mean it may help you. Seek out other offline methods if they are better suited to your needs.

11.7.10

It's good to be Aunty Disco Project

Last weekend Aunty Disco Project performed for two back to back nights as Omar Bilal Akhtar, Yasir Qureshi, Ali Alam, Rahayl Sidikey and Giles Goveas took to the stage at the PACC in Karachi. And if that wasn’t enough, the following night they were featured on Coke Studio 3 (CS3). It’s safe to say things are definitely looking up for them.
The concert made for a very intimate show. It’s something that ADP has always excelled at — the band members always talk, cajole and have fun with their audience. It hardly matters to them if people show up or not because ADP fans are always there near the stage to cheer them on.

Being sponsored by a popular audio equipment company has its perks — the band had at its disposal a state-of-the-art sound system and they were their own sound engineers. Instead of having to rely on somebody else, they could tweak their own sound on the go.

The sound itself was quite remarkable, though at times Yasir’s darbuka seemed to drown amongst the rest of the music. However, the bass, which often tends to drown out, was quite prominent. Overall, the sound was very good considering it was a small stage.

The 15-song playlist that the band performed that night included Dastaan-i-Dil, Raat Jaagi, Jaane Wale, Hum Na Rahe, Mujhe Sahara Do and Kisi Aur Kay Intezar that showcased its new sound. Even established tunes like Sultanat and Nazar were performed. Joining them on these performances was all-round musician Miqdaad Mohammad on the saxophone. His subtle influence was something that really infused life into the concert.

Ali Alam also performed a special song that he wrote some 10-odd years ago. Citing that Kitnay Vaday still reflects present times, he said it only made sense to play it today.

They performed a bunch of covers that were very interesting: Madonna’s Like A Prayer (a rocked-up version), a funky cover of Chromeo’s Night by Night, and a very special cover featuring DJ Talal Qureshi (Yasir’s brother) of Aerosmith’s and Run DMC’s Walk Like This. They closed the set with a medley of great hits which drew cheers from the crowd.

These past few years, ADP has taken a visible 180-degree turn on its vision by shirking away from record companies, relying heavily on radio plays, bringing out their own album, etc. The band had a much more rebellious attitude then than it has now. They’ve worked hard to come this far, getting gigs such as CS.

But all has not been well on this journey. After an amicable split with Imran Lodhi who then left for Canada for further studies, the remaining band members could not imagine that they would never see him ever again — the singer-songwriter passed away in Canada earlier this year. Drummer Omar Khalid also parted ways with the band to settle abroad. Rather than fall with the hits, the band mustered on, drawing in not two but three replacements —Ali Alam (singer-songwriter), Rahayl Sidikey (bass) and Giles Goveas (drums). This drastic change would ultimately have an effect on ADP. The beats are now stronger, the songs more melodic and the band actually sounds more rock than it has ever before. Especially more towards the ’90s rock.

Ali Alam brings in his own songwriting aspect to the band which only compliments Omar Bilal Akhtar’s skills.
Rahayl on the bass sets the pace of every song. Being an established bass player, he was the much-needed missing piece that the band now finally has. Also, we’re getting to hear more of Yasir on percussions and the darbuka. He’s a unique element to the band and it’s his input that sets the band apart from the rest. Not to tread over Omar Khalid’s drumming for the band, but Giles approach is much more intense. His beats are packed with layers that help bring about the rock in each of the songs they perform.

ADP’s CS3 performance was far better than some of the established bands we’ve seen. Rather than playing a cover — which others have crashed and burned on — it played its own anthem, Sultanat, which has matured along with the band over the years. The changes reflected in it ultimately reflects upon the band itself. Gone is the melancholy-esque rock track; instead the tempo is slightly upbeat and the rock turned up all the way to 11. They’ve extended the song, given it a middle, thrown in a great solo and given each band member the power to flex his music muscles.
After a rather bleak second episode of CS, all it took was a bunch of Aunties to bring the music back! After all, it’s a band like ADP that really brings out the essence of Coke Studio. Young band, wide audience, established producer; you just can’t go wrong with that mix.

So all in all, quite a good week for the band. And to top it all off, they are all hard at work on a new album. It’s not over for the Aunties just yet.

10.7.10

Young World Showcase

Recently, the fossilised remains of an ancient whale with huge, fearsome teeth, was discovered. Researchers have dubbed this 12-million-year-old, 17 metre long creature, as ‘Leviathan’. This massive creature shared many features with modern day whales except one — the Leviathan was an aggressive predator that hunted down whales and other large fish. Researchers also note that around this time there was another fierce prey in the waters, a 15 metre long shark. It is likely that the two fought each other.

Superman has had it and so has Batman, now it is Wonder Woman that gets a costume change. After 70 years of fighting crime in her traditional attire, DC Comics (the publisher of Wonder Woman) issued the heroine a new costume. The costume, designed by Jim Lee, reflects modern times and yet incorporates her bracelets, tiara, and magic lasso. Wonder Woman was created by noted psychologist and inventor Dr William Moulton Marston in December 1941. Along with Superman and Batman, she is one of three characters to have been continuously published by DC Comics since the company’s 1944 inception.

A sophisticated lost language, dating back to over 3,500 years ago, took years of hard work by humans to be translated. The same task has been accomplished by a computer program in hours. The program looked for correlations and correspondences at the various levels of the language. It then mapped the similarities between Ugaritic and other older similar languages. By cross-referencing and repeating the process hundreds of thousands of times, the program arrives at a fully deciphered Ugaritic. The language was spoken in ancient Syria and closely resembles the language used in ancient Sumeria.

Scientists have developed a smart sheet of paper. This ‘smart sheet’ can automatically fold into a boat or a plane — or whatever shape it is programmed to be. Although a very basic first step, this programmable matter will allow people in the future to carry along tools that can be programmed to be in any shape needed. The sheet is comprised of interconnected triangular sections that are programmed to fold in a certain manner. The shape-shifting sheets demonstrate an end-to-end process that is a first step towards making everyday objects whose mechanical properties can be programmed.

For 25 years he has interviewed world leaders, entertainers and leading personalities. Larry King is set to retire after more than 50,000 interviews and winning numerous accolades along the way. King hosts Larry King Live on CNN, transmitted around the world, but originally started off in radio on May 1, 1957. Though he started as a DJ, he quickly established himself by getting interviews of personalities and hosting shows of his own. He also briefly did some sports commentary but eventually it was his own show in 1978. He eventually moved to CNN in June 1985 where he garnered worldwide respect and attention.

26.6.10

Young World Showcase

In the hope of discovering life in our Solar System, scientists are hoping to do so through a clever technique. Europa is one of the many moons of the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. Covered in a layer of ice, scientists hypothesise that life may exist in an ocean under that icy surface as Jupiter’s gravity might help to create heat and water. If life exists on Europa, scientists could either deploy probes to drill past its ice shell to look for aliens in the ocean below or just go fossil-hunting on the icy surface. Since the drilling might take time — depending on the surface thickness of the moon — this approach is being considered by scientists.

Toy Story 3 has finally arrived at cinemas. Nearly 10 years after Toy Story 2 and 15 after the first Toy Story, the third movie features all of the toys in the last two movies and many new ones too. Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack and Michael Keaton star. The film’s human hero, Andy, also returns and it’s time for him to go to college. As he prepares to leave his toys behind, they are uncertain of their own future. Similarly, it was uncertain if Toy Story 3 itself would be made. Since the film was made by PIXAR which used characters owned by Disney, there was apprehension as to which studio would get to make the movie. After detailed negotiations, and nearly 10 years, the two studios decided to make the film together.

Eclipse, the third film in the Twilight series, promises to be more action driven than the previous two. Starring Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner, reprising their roles as Bella Swan, Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, respectively, and was directed by David Slade. Slade, is no stranger to vampires, having directed the previous horror hit 30 Days of Night. The director brings in his experience of vampires with unique fighting sequences that will make Eclipse a much better hit than its previous movies.

Just as the World Cup begins and people are starting to get excited about Football, the NBA Finals were recently held in the city of Los Angeles. The finals are considered to be the world cup of basketball as teams from cities all across the US compete to be the best. This year, it was the fierce rivalry of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics that played out. The two teams faced off once again in this year’s finals which the Lakers won in the best of seven games. Between the two teams, the Boston Celtics lead in total championships with 17 against the Lakers’ 16. Together, the two teams account for more than half of the 64 championships in NBA history!

13.6.10

Steve Jobs does it again

Only a few short weeks have passed since the launch of the iPad and even lesser time since it became available on the international market, and already the device has sold millions of units. The gadget, which garnered much hype after its announcement, is in between a smartphone and a laptop, letting people communicate and surf the web on the go.

You can check your e-mails, update your blog, post tweets on twitter, check out your friends’ updates on Facebook and keep in touch with your Linkedin account, all with a simple gesture of your fingers.

It can do pretty much anything a computer can and its interface interactivity is through a touch-screen. Like the iPod and the iPhone before it, users can download software applications for the device from the Apple App Store online. The iPad is also capable of downloading and reading electronic books from the new iBookstore.

So far more than 12 million software applications have been downloaded by iPad users and more than 1.5 million electronic books have been downloaded from its iBookstore; clearly showing the popularity and the demand of the iPad.

Analysts are predicting that worldwide iPad sales are expected to come between five and seven million units in 2010 alone. That number will jump to around 14 million units in 2011 and up to 20 million units in 2012.

Keeping such demand and growth of the device in mind Apple had to delay the launch of the iPad due to a surge of demand in the US and abroad. However, as the demand for the iPad grows, so does the demand for an alternative to the sensational device.

Computer giant Hewlett-Packard has already announced the HP Slate, a Windows-based tablet computer, similar to the look and feel of the iPad. The HP Slate uses Windows 7 as its Operating System, which is the rival company to Apple.

Though HP is confident with its tablet computer, it hasn’t generated the same hype as the Apple iPad did. That’s purely because of the ‘wow’ factor generated by Apple upon the announcement of the iPad.

The announcement, usually done by Steve Jobs, is where all the buzz and hype begins—and Apple has been very good at this, constantly creating the thrill and excitement around its latest products.

It was this excitement that has helped sell millions of units of the iPad and the many millions of units of the iPhone and the iPod—a passion that can only be found at the hands of the wonder magician that is Steve Jobs.

7.6.10

Coke Studio Episode 1 Review

So here it is. Finally. The first episode of Coke Studio 3. Just looking at the list of people involved shoots expectations through the roof. And I guess that is a problem that you can't help but have once you find out that the first episode has Abida Parveen and Arif Lohar in it. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the episode.

Coke Studio S03E01 Reason. If anything this episode could have been called reasons, purely because of the reasons to watch it. As I've said before, Abida Parveen and Arif Lohar are huge reasons why Coke Studio 3 will be nothing short of epic.

Na Raindee Hai ~ Arieb Azhar. Last season showcased a hint of what this man is capable of. Very few artists have the audacity to even think about a spoken word track. Even fewer have the voice to carry it off. Arieb not only has the audacity but thankfully the voice too. It's listening to Leonard Cohen speak in Urdu, the words just simply give weight to the music. Definitely a reason to listen.

Yaadein ~ Karavan. Short and sweet. If I only had two words to describe the song these would be it. Karavan have been gone from our music scene for a while now and to have them on board season 3 is definitely a good idea. Our yaadien (memories) of Karavan surely got refreshed.


Ramooz e Ishq ~ Abida Parveen. The Empress of Sufi Kalaam in Pakistan, an industry icon and a venerable legend unto herself, Abida Parveen can't be critiqued. This track was flawless in my opinion. However, I will say this that Rohail Hyatt didn't capture her true essence in this episode. Her performance was something you'd expect out of her, predictable if you wish -- not exactly a strong reason to watch.


Bibi Sanam Janem ~ Zeb and Haniya. After last season, thanks to Paimona, I went on a bit of a persian song listening spree. I found quite a few (such as the awesomely brilliant Lambay by Sajid & Zeeshan) but it was Paimona that was still in my head most of the time. Now, these two ladies have done it again -- this track is clearly a good reason to tune in.


Alif Allah ~ Arif Lohar ft. Meesha Shafi. The Lion of Punjab, Arif Lohar makes his debut in Coke Studio. Along with Abida Parveen, these two overshadow everybody else in this entire episode. A fact witnessed in the behind the scenes video which shows how Meesha meets Arif for the first time and the look on her face says it all. But Meesha delivers the goods when she sings along side the master. It is probably the best track of the first episode (a close call with Abida Parveen) simply because Arif Lohar delivers on all levels, music, performance and for being plain ol' Arif Lohar. However I'm still disappointed that Arif Lohar did not get to perform with EP.

Episode 1 Reason is much stronger than the previous season's first episode. I think the decision to have two icons of folk and sufi music in the very first episode was a good decision. Having two heavy hitters this early in the show means that you can only imagine what's in store for in the upcoming shows.

Let the comments begin.

Do check out the behind the scenes videos here.

Finally, take a moment to fill out this poll.

Photography by Rizwan ul Haq & Kohi Marri


23.5.10

Laser invented: Fifty years and beaming

Like all modern inventions that have revolutionised the world of entertainment, science, technology and medicine, the birth of laser is of great consequences. The invention celebrated its half century on May 16 this year, for it was exactly 50 years ago when Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first functional laser by switching on a gadget at Hughes Research Laboratories and watched as pulses of pink hued light sprang from ruby crystals.

Although it seems straight out of a comic book—since we mostly see lasers in them or in science fiction movies—the laser has become a very important part of our lives. For example, the internet, which we all rely on for communication, depends on lasers which help carry data across—countries and continents—on fibre optic cables. At the supermarket, it helps cashiers process our shopping faster, and in our living rooms it helps play our CDs and DVDs. Cancer patients owe the laser their lives since it helps in treating the disease and other ailments.

The story of the laser is similar to the one of the integrated circuit. It began with Albert Einstein’s theory of stimulated emission, in which basically a photon interacts and excites an atom which then emits or projects an identical photon. This theory was put to the test in 1953 by US Physicist Charles Townes who developed a ‘Maser’ (Microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). This used microwaves to excite atoms, although it wasn’t exactly the laser. Townes then used visible light instead of microwaves and the acronym of Laser was born (light replaced microwave).

When the invention was announced, newspapers excitedly displayed headlines bearing that ‘death ray’ from science fiction movies was here. One couldn’t blame them; it was after all the height of the Cold War where the Soviets were constantly defeating the US on many technological platforms. But the first laser mean was developed at Bell Laborites in 1960 and, since then, more than 10 Nobel Prizes have been awarded for its research and development. The world owes this technology a great deal, so much so, that in fact when man went to the moon in 1969 he placed a mirror on its surface so that lasers from the Earth could be shot on it so that time could be measured. Laser also helps us to track and measure the distance and orbit of the moon.

But perhaps the laser’s biggest contribution lies in its use in computer technology. The top-of-the-line laser research revolves around ‘femtosecond’ lasers which are used to provide denser storage on computer hard drives. In fact, prototypes and initial lasers of these kinds have increased hard disk performances by up to 100,000 times.

From science fiction to reality, we continue to discover the true potential of lasers that will help us progress further. Fortunately—and hopefully—the laser weapons that we see in comics and geeky movies are still years away.

22.5.10

Coke Studio Season 3: Press Conference.


It's safe to say that Coke Studio has become a summer staple for music lovers across Pakistan—and perhaps the world.  They load up their mp3 devices, computers, and phones with songs from the first two seasons, and nearly everybody has their very own personal favourite Coke Studio track.

Photograph by Kohi Marri
Just recently Coke Studio announced its highly anticipated return in a press conference.  It was attended by the house band, featured artist and the guest musicians; and members of the Coca Cola company as well. At its centre of all was maestro Rohail Hyatt, whose constant presence, influence, and guidance has churned out some of the most interesting music to be heard on the airwaves for a while now. It's interesting to keep in mind how Coke Studio came about and the core idea behind it. According to Rohail "I was making an album with Rahat [Ai Khan] and listening to the recordings, I realised nobody would hear see how this was all put together and made. I was sort of privileged to have seen the process and that's what is at the core of Coke Studio."

Coke Studio is not just interesting in its content, it is also interesting in how musicians are paired with each other to bring out some of the finest fusion tracks to be heard. Which is why this time around there are many musicians and many interesting combination of musicians. This year it features Abida Parveen, Amanat Ali, Arieb Azhar, Arif Lohar, Aunty Disco Project [A.D.P], Entity Paradigm [E.P], Fakir Juman Shah, Karavan, Meesha Shafi, Noori, Rizwan & Muazzam, Sanam Marvi, Tina Sani and Zeb & Haniya as the main artists.

Also returning is the house band, however with some interesting new additions this time around, Asad Ahmed on guitar, Babar Ali Khanna on dholak, Jaffer Ali Zaidi on the keyboard, Javed Iqbal on Violin, Kamran “Mannu” Zafar on Bass, Louis “Gumby” Pinto on Drums, Omran “Momo” Shafique on guitar, Saba Shabbir on backing vocals and Zulfiq “Shazee” Ahmed Khan on multi percussions. Newcomers include Sanam Saeed, Sikander Mufti, Zoe Viccaji. Guest musicians include husband and wife duo Ali Kazim on vocals and Noor Zehra Kazim on sagar veena and also welcomes back guest musicians Baqir Abbas on the flute and Sadiq Sameer and his rabab.

The renowned classical singer Tina Sani brings with her not only her voice but also an awe-inspiring presence. What was her Coke Studio experience like? "It wasn't strange or awkward. It just felt normal, we came in to play music and we did." The venerable artist added that, "To be very honest, I actually had a lot of fun doing this."

Arif Lohar, who collaborates with Meesha Shafi, said that "Coke Studio is a beautiful panel whereby we can share cultural activities." The cultural icon added that, "I think this is a brilliant step by Rohail Hyatt not just in terms of music but also in terms of national pride as well." He added that it was important to bring older artists into the limelight for newer generations.

For Omran Shafique, it was exciting being here third time around. "It doesn't get old," says the Mauj frontman, "It's as exciting as it was." Omran enjoys being one of the few musicians who are not only part of the house band but have also been a part of Coke Studio as a part of a band as well. Which does Omran prefer? "I enjoy being in the house band more, simply because it helps me to interact with more musicians, which has always been a goal of mine."

Also this year sees the Aunty Disco Project get their break in Coke Studio. What's it like for them to hit the big time? "It's absolutely terrifying," says Omar Bilal Akhtar, in a good way of course. The band was disappointed in not being able to make it last time around and Omar is quick to address that. "I think our expectations were out of whack, last time around. We needed to be in this position, in our career, to be a part of Coke Studio."

EP returns not only to the limelight in general, but also makes an appearance in Coke Studio along the way. "I think it's an enormous opportunity  and it's something with great meaning,"  says the EP singer, Fawad Khan. However, it's not only Coke Studio that the band have been busy with. "We're going to be releasing our first video [from the upcoming album] very soon, it's in the editing stage at this moment," said Fawad.

Qawwals Rizwan and Muazzam recalled when they were called for the project. "When Rohail bhai called us, it was a great feeling and when we showed up to perform it was an even greater feeling," said Rizwan and Muazzam. The duo, who have been signed to Peter Gabriel’s influential Real World record label, were also excited about playing fusion music with some of the best musicians. "They're all professionals," added Rizwan and Muazzam, "who play some of the best music around."

Tanseer Daar from Karavan added, "It takes you away from your routine, it's something that will stay with me forever now." And what about the band itself? "The album is out, we're doing another video soon."

This is a very special return for Noori to Coke Studio. Their contribution and collaboration last year were extremely well received with a memorable performance with the venerable Saieen Zahoor. How can one top that? You make it a family outing. Joining the brothers are their parents, Ali Kazim and Noor Zehra Kazim—who brings with her a custom made, one of a kind instrument, the sagar veena. "It was an enjoyable experience, particularly it was because with my sons and my wife was playing," says Ali Kazim, father to Ali Noor and Ali Hamza. Was it last year's show that convinced him to come on the show with his sons? "To be honest, it was my two sons that convinced me, I'm not a trained singer by any sort and I admit I was a bit nervous." And adds, "My wife on the other hand is a trained classical singer and musician."

Finally, Rohail Hyatt himself shared what was it like producing Coke Studio for a third time around. "First time we had no idea what we were doing, but we did it anyways." He added, "Second time around it was iffy and difficult. We had a lot more of folk music in and it was very, very risky." However it seems that the second Coke Studio paid off as the third time around there was a very much relaxed atmosphere in Coke Studio 3. "But it was still as risky as ever and I wasn't trying to do another season 2." He also added that in the journey of Coke Studio if the first two was all about starting a journey and opening doors, the third one is about exploring. Season 2 explored a lot of interesting folk and modern combinations, in particular the epic combination of Noori and Saieen Zahoor, and the Zeb and Haniya track Paimona. Is this why they are more folk heavy this time around? "Oh we're not folk heavy, we're more balanced," Rohail said, adding that the key is not having more folk artists but having more combinations of different kinds of artists—thereby creating diversity. Coke Studio is an interesting concept and although it gets bigger and better how can it grow and evolve? "I think the next logical step would be to have these performances live," he said. "It makes sense."

Photograph by Kohi Marri
Finally, at the press conference, there was also a sneak preview of the third season. From what one heard it was clear that Coke Studio is fast becoming a musical experience that would rival even the greatest music from anywhere around the world.

21.5.10

The Laser: Still Beaming at 50

Like all modern inventions that have revolutionized the world of entertainment, science, technology and medicine, the birth of laser is of great consequence. The invention celebrated its half century on May 16 this year, for it was exactly 50 years ago when Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first functional laser by switching on a gadget at Hughes Research Laboratories and watched as pulses of pink hued light sprang from ruby crystals.

Although it seems straight out of a comic book—since we mostly see lasers in them or in science fiction movies—the laser has become a very important part of our lives. For example, the internet, which we all rely on for communication, depends on lasers which help carry data across—countries and continents—on fibre optic cables. At the supermarket, it helps cashiers process our shopping faster, and in our living rooms it helps play our CDs and DVDs. Cancer patients owe the laser their lives since it helps in treating the disease and other ailments.

The story of the laser is similar to the one of the integrated circuit. It began with Albert Einstein’s theory of stimulated emission, in which basically a photon interacts and excites an atom which then emits or projects an identical photon. This theory was put to the test in 1953 by US Physicist Charles Townes who developed a ‘Maser’ (Microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). This used microwaves to excite atoms, although it wasn’t exactly the laser. Townes then used visible light instead of microwaves and the acronym of Laser was born (light replaced microwave).

When the invention was announced, newspapers excitedly displayed headlines bearing that ‘death ray’ from science fiction movies was here. One couldn’t blame them; it was after all the height of the Cold War where the Soviets were constantly defeating the US on many technological platforms. But the first laser mean was developed at Bell Laborites in 1960 and, since then, more than 10 Nobel Prizes have been awarded for its research and development. The world owes this technology a great deal, so much so, that in fact when man went to the moon in 1969 he placed a mirror on its surface so that lasers from the Earth could be shot on it so that time could be measured. Laser also helps us to track and measure the distance and orbit of the moon.

But perhaps the laser’s biggest contribution lies in its use in computer technology. The top-of-the-line laser research revolves around ‘femtosecond’ lasers which are used to provide denser storage on computer hard drives. In fact, prototypes and initial lasers of these kinds have increased hard disk performances by up to 100,000 times.

From science fiction to reality, we continue to discover the true potential of lasers that will help us progress further. Fortunately—and hopefully—the laser weapons that we see in comics and geeky movies are still years away.

15.5.10

Showcase

Book publisher Puffin Books has compiled a list of all-time best books for children. The 70-odd books mentioned in the list contain such classics as Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island and the tear-jerking classic Watership Down. The list also contains The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a bedtime book which according to the publisher is sold once every 30 seconds around the world. The entire list comprises categories, such as adventure, weird and wonderful, mischief and mayhem, to name a few. According to the publisher, Roald Dahl sells more books every year than any other author in children’s categories and his sales went up by more than 35 per cent in 2009. The list can be obtained from the Puffin website www.puffin.co.uk/.

Developed at the Georgia Tech Centre for Music Technology, Shimon is a four-armed robot that can listen to music, analyse it and play along with other musicians. Ryan Nikolaidis, a PhD student at the Georgia Tech Centre for Music Technology, programs and plays music along with Shimon. “We’re interested in improvising like a human but playing like a machine,” says the programmer. The robot is programmed to mimic the musicians’ ability to listen to music, analyse the structure and then become a part of music by improvising along with it. The robot uses complex algorithms in its understanding of music. Besides playing along with musicians, it also interacts with them by bobbing its head when it sees them and hears them play.

Scientists have uncovered the remains of what appear to be a giant duck-billed dinosaur. The Gryposaurus monumentensis, as it is being called, was unearthed in Utah, the United States, and scientists are assuming it was around 30 feet long. The skull not only features a large and prominent duck-bill but also some 800-odd teeth as well. Gryposaurus monumentensis roamed this region in what is now the United States on the lookout for food 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period. “We know the area was wet, humid and swampy,” says paleontologist Terry Gates of the Utah Museum of Natural History, one member of the research team studying the fossil skull. “There were lots of plants, but we don’t know yet what they ate.”

From The Incredibles to Mission Impossible, director Brad Bird has been confirmed to direct his first ever live feature film in the guise of Mission Impossible 4. Actor and star Tom Cruise confirmed the news amid much speculation in and around Hollywood as to who would direct the fourth instalment of the action adventure franchise. This would be the first time Bird directs a live-action feature, he is known primarily for directing The Incredibles, Ratatouille and The Iron Giant. The first Mission Impossible was directed by Brian De Palma, whereas the second was directed by John Woo. Although JJ Abrams directed the third, he has opted to remain on board as a producer only.

2.5.10

Kamijee -- Jeevan

Kamijee’s understanding of the music genre and his experience is collected in his new album, Jeevan. It spans over 10 tracks of diverse compositions that are inspired by classical and contemporary music.

The album also features eight musicians across each of these tracks, which goes to show the diversity available in one album. According to his website, “Jeevan is an album that explores various themes. But mostly it is about our true companion that goes with us on the journey of life. This companion is time.”

The title track features Rahat Ali on supporting vocals whereas the track itself is a power ballad complete with prevailing guitars provided by Sayyam from the band Gurus Trilogy. It immediately sets the tone of the album and is clearly the track which has received the most attention.

The following track, Tum Ho Khafa, features Ali Raza on vocals. Though the track is more of the same, it is the vocal camaraderie featured on the track between Raza and Kamijee that plays out interestingly. The lyrics of the song are provided by Shoaib Mansoor.

Kamijee has a unique sound, and at the beginning of the third song, at the strum of the sitar (played by Imdad), you realise the effort he has put in to make each song sound unique. Again, Sayyam’s guitars under careful direction by Kamijee, bring about a powerful force within the song. This time they are accompanied by the vocal rendition of Mohammad Ali.

Na Janey features Glen John (Gurus Trilogy) on vocals whilst Sayyam continues to rock it out on the guitars. The track has a foot-tapping melody, making it probably the most infectious track on the album.

Arooj Aftab is featured on the ever-so-tricky English track. It’s not surprising that Kamijee ventures towards the English language on this album, he’s spent the last six years abroad and the album itself is available on iTunes and Amazon. Unfortunately, this is one track sticks out like a sore thumb. Not because it’s bad, but because it has a feel unlike any of the other tracks. But a good effort put into it nonetheless.

Half-way through the album is You & Me, a track that shows off the musical prowess of Kamijee. A pure fusion and progressive track, it is short and sweet, which makes you want to put it on repeat.

Rahat Ali joins in again on Har Dum, a special track as it features Oud Guitars as played by Naser Mua. The sound of the album changes drastically here and gone are the harsh, loud and rocking guitars. In its place is a much mellow sound as Kamijee lets us hear his melancholy side.

Yeh Shaam features Hamza Jameel on vocals as Sayyam returns for guitar duty. One of the poignant Vital Signs tracks, it has been covered on and off by various young bands. Kamijee’s cover doesn’t sound drastically different, however it does sound more rocky compared to the ballad that it originally was. Definitely an interesting cover to listen to.

And now for the remix. DJ Ali Mustafa provides a sped-up, remixed, popped up version of the title track, Jeevan. Clearly a bid to try on the Indian market, the song feels rather like a cheaper version of the title track which is light years ahead.

Finally, at the end of the album there is a track written especially for Junaid Jamshed. Allah Hu is a somber yet powerful number written by Kamijee himself. It sounds as if at the end of the album he is giving thanks for the chance given. It makes sense as this album is a worthy listen from start to finish.

25.4.10

The Return to the Moon

It has been described as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. Thanks to a combination of masterful engineering, the enduring human spirit and a dash of political rivalry, man travelled and walked on the moon.

Amid war in the Far East and racial tension on the home front, President John F. Kennedy announced an ambitious plan to send a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. It was a challenge to Nasa—a gauntlet thrown by Kennedy—to take a man to the moon and to return him safely back to Earth.

President Barack Obama is in a similar situation—two wars abroad, a growing economic crisis at home—and yet he has thrown no gauntlet. Obama's cancellation of President George W. Bush's return-to-the-moon mission has caused considerable ire amongst the scientific community and the men who have walked on the surface of the moon.

The Constellation programme has been cancelled and the Space Shuttle is about to be scrubbed. In its place, the Obama administration has decided on a long-term strategy for man’s return to interstellar space travel. In this strategy, there will be more dependency on private companies and other nations to shoulder American presence in space. At the same time there are plans to adapt lighter versions of the scrubbed launch vehicles.

However, these plans are not concrete. Nothing has been drafted, or papers been passed or signed. The proposal to return to manned spaceflight would start around 2025 and an eventual flight around 2030. The plan also adds six billion dollars for Nasa to invest in younger and eager companies that will assist them into space.

Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk is offering to fly Nasa astronauts into space within three years from now. His price tag of 20 million dollars is a bargain for Nasa which already has to pay 56 million dollars to Russia and almost 300 million dollars if it sends astronauts on its own. Musk’s company represents the generational shift in space flight exploration. People like Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bozos (founder of Amazon.com) are the new generation of space travel, far from the zenith of Nasa’s days of glory.

The response from Nasa’s experts has not been warming. ''It is the demise of American people in space except in someone else's vehicle. This is a catastrophe,'' says Apollo 17 Commander, and last man on the moon, Eugene Cernan. Apollo 13 Commander Jim Lovell added that, “The whole thing is flawed.'' And Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, responded to the plan in an email to the press that he had ''substantial reservations'' about the Obama plan.

With a volatile economic environment, combined with the American military budget on the rise, space travel and exploration have taken a back seat. The majority of the public are interested in jobs and a safe future for their children, rather than taking more steps on the moon.

Hence, it would make sense for President Obama to take such measures against space travel. At the same time, however, once the Space Shuttle retires and most of the Constellation programme is cancelled, there will also be job cuts at Nasa. In that instance, President Obama told Nasa workers, "The bottom line is, nobody is more committed to manned space flight, to human exploration of space, than I am. But we've got to do it in a smart way."

Man will return to moon and eventually take another giant leap towards Mars. Though Nasa and the astronauts of yesteryear have often romanticised reasons for returning, it is perhaps the sentiments of astronaut William Anders, who on Apollo 8 (man’s first mission to orbit the moon) took the memorable ‘Earthrise’ picture, that convey the need to return the best: "We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth."

28.3.10

SYMT - Direction Defined

The event attended by the local glitterati started fashionably late. Though once it started, it seemed like there was no stopping it as the band performed its single, Zamana, and the video for the song was also showcased. More songs were introduced and the event ended with a night of house music courtesy a DJ and a dance floor.

But that’s not what Symt is about. The band aims to be the next progressive and modern Pakistani rock band, and its sound is interesting to say the least: its rock, its loud and most importantly it’s catchy. Haroon’s vocals and Hassan’s guitars aren’t the only thing that had the audience’s interest piqued. Produced by Overload’s Farhad Humayun, the band’s rock sound is formidable if not loud. It resonates the same way Noori broke onto the scene with their first couple of songs, especially that of Suno Ke Main Hoon Jawan.

Joining Farhad is Mahmood Rahman also from Overload, taking over duty on the bass. Together, there is a certain harmony in the band. It may seem that Mahmood and Farhad are merely for support, however it is their contribution that makes the sound of Symt complete.

The upcoming album of the band is mastered by Shahi (Shahzad Hasan) and if Zamana is any indication of what the sound of the album will be like then Symt’s album will be something different, unique and a must-have.

Haroon’s singing is quite unique in the sense that his voice, though not as unique as say Atif Aslam’s, has the grunge and yearn of another Ali Azmat in the making. Similarly Hassan’s rock guitars riffs complement the Urdu lyrics (a feat very bands have achieved).

The video is directed by recluse director Kamran Yar Kami. His previous venture, Hamesha, remains embedded in the minds of viewers across Pakistan. Kamran uses the same translation with Symt’s Zamana and transforms it into a bright and eccentric video. As mentioned, the band does emulate the feeling Noori brought in with it when it came round, but Symt takes it a bit further and somewhat darker. This definitely exudes itself in the video, especially if you compare with it Noori’s where you had people dancing around with the band. Symt’s is much darker in tone but quite similar.

The event showcased a band that is eager to prove itself with a strong Pakistani rock sound that has evolved from bands such as Noori, Call and eP. To coin an overused phrase, it’s a breath of fresh air amid an industry that seems to find itself troubled with the times and record label issues.

20.3.10

Showcase

Sony, the makers of videogames and the PlayStation 3 game console, have unveiled their version of a motion controller, dubbed Move. The PS3 will not be the only new contender in the motion sensor controller market; Microsoft Xbox 360 will soon have its own version of motion sensor, called the Nadal. Currently, the market leader in motion controllers is the Nintendo Wii. Ever since its release in 2006, the Nintendo Wii now enjoys a considerable lead in sales over the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. This is because of a much broader appeal across users, which the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 hope to tap into, with their own motion controllers.

This year at the Oscar’s it was all about The Hurt Locker and Kathryn Bigelow. The movie about a bomb disposal unit in Iraq trampled the giant that was Avatar. Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges enjoyed Best Acting Awards, respectively, whereas Christopher Waltz and Mo’Nique won for their supporting roles. Up took the award for the best animated feature and The Cove won for the best documentary feature. This year was different in the Best Picture category where there were 10 nominations, also this time around there were two hosts instead of one; Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

The Large Hadron Collider, LHC, is due to be shut down for over a year. The troubled particle collider — which will hopefully unlock the secrets of the big bang and many other mysteries of the universe — has been continually bogged down with trouble. The LHC is the world’s single most expensive and complicated experimental machine, which is designed to recreate conditions that existed during the Big Bang. The machine will have to undergo design corrections, which were left uncorrected.

New trailers for several of this year’s blockbuster movies have been released. Films like Tron Legacy, Iron Man 2 and Twilight Saga: Eclipse are all scheduled to be released this year. It surely is going to be a festive year for movies with all these blockbusters around the corner, but at the same time, Fox studio is considering re-releasing Avatar for the summer — which will surely boost the films’ already immense box office result. Avatar won’t be the only James Cameron re-release, the Oscar winning is already hard at work at re-working another of his blockbusters, Titanic, for a release in 2011. Cameron is using 3D technology used in Avatar to produce Titanic 3D. Now this is surely something to look forward to.

7.3.10

Just Google It.

Google began as a modest project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were both PhD students at Stanford University in California in 1996. By 1998, the website was up and running and it would only be a few years before the phrase ‘Just Google it’ became a euphemism for looking something up on the internet. Google gained quick popularity for being simple, quick and very easy to access.

Now, almost 12 years later, Google does more than just help you search on the web, and here are the details.

Google Mail
Gmail, or Google Mail, started as an invite-only email service provided by Google in 2004. It became accessible to the public in 2007 and has since increasingly become favourable amongst the public. Its relatively simple interface, much inspired from its own simple web search engine, was the key factor in attracting users. At the same time, it was also one of the first email service providers to offer 1GB worth of space.

Google Chat
Much like MSN Web Messenger or Yahoo Web Messenger, Google Chat is the messenger service that helps you stay in touch with other people who have a Gmail account. It's very simple, requires no installation (unless you install the application separately) and is much more than just a simple chatting service.

Google Chrome
Whilst Opera, Internet Explorer and Firefox were fighting it out for the attention of web surfers around the world, Google launched Chrome in 2008. Chrome, much like the rest of Google's services, relied on its simplicity and easy to use factor.

Google Buzz
In the ever-growing world of social networking, names like Facebook and Twitter are all the rage these days. Buzz is Google's answer to these services, seamlessly connecting all of its users on a social network scale. People can share links, photos and other items of interest on the Buzz tab within their Google Mail inboxes.

Google Voice
Though only available in the United States at the moment, Google Voice will truly revolutionise the way we communicate. This service allows users to communicate through their Gmail accounts via a telephony service. The service aims to attract users of web-phone services and offers alternatives to other programmes such as Skype.

Google Wave
At the time of its inception, a lot of people did not truly understand what Wave was all about. However, now people are realising the true potential of the Wave platform as a medium of allowing multiple users to brainstorm, meet and share ideas online. This is reminiscent of such programmes as Microsoft Net Meeting, albeit totally integrated into the Gmail platform.

Google Android/Nexus
Having a strong base in digital communications, Google’s latest venture is into telephony. The Google Phone, or Nexus, is an evolution from the phones that used Google Android, an operating system Google specially developed for phones. Now, the Nexus is a fully developed phone by Google and caters to all the needs of its users that are used to other Google services.

Google OS
Finally, the next big step for Google is the Google Operating System. Recently announced as being available for the public in the latter half of 2010, Google aims to tackle the likes of Microsoft and Linux. Unlike the two, Google OS provides users with a seamless online experience.

Whatever the Google service, one thing is sure. Google aims to integrate all of its services in one hub, which is Google itself. Just like Google has become synonymous with search on the web, one day with all of its services combined it will become synonymous with the very internet (and forms of communication) itself.

6.3.10

Showcase - From Cosmic Stars to Cricket Stars

Recently, Nasa launched a telescope in space called WISE. The new Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope carries with it a 40-centimetre (16 in) diameter infrared-sensitive telescope, which looks at the entire sky in the 3 to 25 ¼velength range. This range of sight cannot be seen by the human eye and is over a thousand times more sensitive than the previous infrared-sensitive telescopes sent into orbit. And now scientists have been receiving breathtaking images from the telescope, notably the comet Sliding Spring with a tail that stretches for 10 million miles; long enough to wrap itself around the Sun 23 times! The image library developed will have new images and data on our local Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy, and the more distant universe. WISE will also study are asteroids, cool, dim stars such as brown dwarfs, and the most luminous infrared galaxies.

He has been part of cricket for nearly 20 years; the little master Sachin Tendulkar stapled his status as a legend of cricket by scoring 200 runs in an One-Day International against South Africa recently. The 36-year-old hit 25 fours and three sixes in an unbeaten 200 off 147 balls, and led India to victory over South Africa by 153 runs. The previous record holders included, Zimbabwean Charles Coventry who scored 194 (not out) against Bangladesh in 2009, Saeed Anwar 194 against India in 1997, Viv Richards who scored 189 against England and Sanath Jayasuriya with 194 against India in 2000. Not only did Tendulkar raise the level of the game of cricket, it also sheds a more competitive light on the traditional ODI format which is quickly losing ground to the ever popular 20/20 format.

iTunes, the popular online store for purchasing music for Apple software users, has recently sold its one billionth track online. The Black Eyed Peas’ I Gotta Feeling is officially the site’s most downloaded track. In recent years, thanks to the rise of hardware such as personal MP3 players, especially the iPod, music purchase online has been on the rise. Apple’s iTunes is but one of the many ways a user can download music onto their music players and enjoy the latest tunes. Lady Gaga comes in a close second with her hit Poker Face. She also has Just Dance and Bad Romance featured in the top 25 most downloaded songs, according to Billboard. The person who bought the 10 billionth track won a $10,000 iTunes gift card.

Nintendo once ruled the handheld portable gaming market with its GameBoy gaming system for many years. The GameBoy lasted through many generations of gaming systems and also became the most sold system of all time. Now, Nintendo’s next generation handheld system the Nintendo DS gets an upgrade in the form of Nintendo DSi XL. The newer system gets a size upgrade and a bigger gameplay screen whilst maintaining a much lighter weight. At the same time, the system is backward compatible with all DS games. The new DS system appears to have come as an attempt to counter the latest PlayStation Portable system from Sony, the PSP GO.