Self-worth Market

April 11, 2011 2 comments

Aboard a flight heading to a nearby city (in case the people involved in this incident are reading this), I sit there quietly reading The Battle for God on my Kindle. Two Arab  girls were on the two seats next to me. They were probably in their late 20’s or early 30’s, and it was obvious that they were the ‘Americanized’ type.. or ‘Processed’ as I’d like to call it. You know the too Americanized type? The fake kind? As in Americanized just in clothing and language, but none of the brains?
Anyway.. since they were a little loud, just a little bit,  naturally I overheard some of the things they were talking about. The conversation was mostly about some mutual friends that they had, and what updates took place with each one. I wouldn’t have remembered this if it wasn’t for what one of the girls said to the other, with a very matter-of-fact tone. For the sake of visual effects, girl no. 1 will be Curly (for having curly hair) and girl no. 2 will be Shorty (for having short hair), and it goes as follows:

Curly: let me tell you something about myself, and it’s something I don’t normally say to others…

Shorty: go ahead…

Curly: if a girl is not very close to me on a personal level, I try not to interact with her a lot.

Shorty: (nodding in approval)

Curly: I mean there are girls whom I’m friendly with and say hi to and what not, but I intentionally put boundaries because they’re not close enough to me.

Shorty: that is so wise, you know. It’s important.

At this point, evidently, it wasn’t the end of their conversation, but there is something that grabbed my attention right there and then. And it is this: what the hell was she talking about?? They’re not close because they’re not close?? If you’re not close on a personal level I tend to keep it that way??

I believe we are all judgmental, even though we like to deny it. But immediately I thought how shallow people can be. Seriously, what does it mean when someone believes that others are queuing up for a chance to be close to them? It’s like that other ridiculous thing people say “I’m a very quiet person, but when I’m angry, I get ‘angry’…” – I don’t want to even comment on that. Simply because people do get angry when they’re..angry!
But let’s go back to what that girl said: is it that people feel more important, or empowered maybe, when they say this to other people? Like pointing out the obvious or giving out very useless information, as in the case with the conversation between those two girls.

Then I started having ideas. What if it were true? Your worth increases if you start saying stuff like that? Now, imagine what would happen if a financial market gets hit again. It shouldn’t be a problem, see! Government will speak up, they’ll say, “The financial crisis will not affect us; it’s not anywhere close to our investments.. because it’s not close to our investments.” And that’s it, the confidence in the Stock market gets reinstated and all is good and dandy. Another superpower would say, “We’re usually a very peaceful nation. But when we’re upset, we get really upset.” And people should go like, “Whoa! Easy there, Chief!”

The disturbing thing is that it is partially true, though. What is it called….oh, yes! .. Marketing. Because basically a lot of hogwash contributes to most marketing campaigns, and a lot of it is exactly like the conversation between Curly and Shorty. You do get kudos for saying nothing of value. And when you really listen to yourself, you’ll realize that you do it all the time too, without even noticing. It’s intrinsic.
Ultimately, that conversation ruined the flight journey because it broke my line of thought and focus on the book. See, I usually am very focused when I read, but when I get distracted I just can’t focus anymore.

Categories: Silent Shouts

Kindle. Aramex Kindle.

April 6, 2011 2 comments

So I ordered Kindle from Amazon, based on a recommendation I got from a user. I’ve always been reluctant in getting it because it just.. well.. how can anyone trust a paperless book? I mean sure it is a nice idea and all, but how would all my other books feel if this ‘eBook’ walked in on them? You can read a book anytime you want, and this has always been the case. But not being able to read a book because it’s out of battery? That is flat out absurd!

Aramex building / warehouse in Ardiya, Kuwait. I got there one hour before they closed!

Now this other user told me that she’d felt the same way about getting a Kindle, that she didn’t quite figure out how to feel about having all her books on the go wherever she is. But that actually sounds quite nice, doesn’t it? Indeed. Yet, I think if a person is more of a serious reader, then the eBook will not sit well with them. If a person, however, is more of a gadgets geek, then the eBook will probably be the natural next step.

Service counters upon walking in. I really liked the red on the wall.. gave me thoughts for my crib.

So I went ahead and ordered it. I myself am a very impulsive buyer. I buy first and then think about whether I need it or not, like many other people. I mean, I do try to keep Warren Buffet in mind and remind myself of his tips for better financial management, yet the heart has its own agenda. Actually, I guess a lot of the motivation came from what I heard from this other user. Heck, she said it was worth it and she was all about reading! Who am I to question her judgment?

An hour before they close and they had 243 visitor for the day. Healthy business, huh?

It took around a week for it to get here. And it was perfect because it arrived one day before I left to Dubai, so it was good that I was able to read something en route, albeit the only thing on there to read was the Oxford Dictionary. Which is another issue I need to resolve soon; I can’t seem to find the right books for Kindle. Books that suit me, I mean. Considering that I’m big on everything that’s Japanese, it’s a bit of a concern that I’m not able to find anything on Japan, except for a Tokyo tour guide.

So the number on the screen showed mine with a shy beep, but found no one at the seat. Aramex employs ghosts, too!

And this is another thing about eBooks. What if you don’t find ‘your’ kind of books? Obviously I’m very new to this Kindle business, so I wouldn’t know if there is a solution out there already, and I’m too lazy to visit the online forums that discuss issues concerning every gadget on the planet. But at least I have it! That’s what I keep telling myself. The other side of my brain, on the other hand, tells me that I should have gotten an iPad. Sure it would be perfect for my one-year-old daughter, but why would I need it if I got a desktop PC, a laptop, and an iPhone? I mean, there’s a limit to being an impulsive buyer, right?

The moment the box and I first saw each other. Romance at its best!

Honestly, no there isn’t. People these days are competing against each other to get ‘the latest’ in everything. I guess we can say marketing people are doing a good job, after all! Forget word of mouth, like this girl who told me about her own experience with Kindle (was she paid to say that??), but I’m talking about the bombardment of hundreds and thousands of brands and ads wherever we go. Walk down the street with your pen and note pad.. er.. sorry, your digital note pad and take note of how many ads you see from where you start your journey to where it ends. You wouldn’t believe it, but they’re everywhere – it’s shoving products down your throat is what it is!

Naturally, I couldn't stand not opening the box in the car! Plus, it's always good to check if you get the right order...

But, as long as you are aware that you are aware of what marketers are doing, then you should be alright. Still it’s always nice to buy something new, isn’t it? I mean the smell of it, the plastic wrap around it, the box with all the crazy cargo addresses on it, it makes one feel as though they’ve achieved something!

Yup. It was a Kindle alright. Thanks, Amazon and Aramex people : )

You know what’s the best unacknowledged part of buying a new product like this one? It’s how much you imagined it would weigh but completely takes by surprise with how light or heavy it actually is. You know what I’m saying? Anyway, now I have a Kindle with no eBooks on it. And I might – just might – think of selling it. Not because I don’t like it, obviously, but because it’s a bit more thrilling to sell something you JUST bought! What can I say.. I’m a natural born salesman : )

Samurai Shmoo!

April 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Hear ye, hear ye!

Beloved people, today I’d like to share with you a thing or two about painting and the importance of shadowing. You know, drawing itself is nothing compared to painting. Painting, or coloring, is what makes a drawing stand out or die out! So I sketched myself (again!) in a Samurai uniform, looking all happy and bald. The reason why I’m happy in the sketch is because I never got to wear a Samurai’s uniform before! And this is why art is vital; it makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do in your everyday life. It is worthy of mentioning that I am bald now, as in the sketch, but stopped smiling.

Anyway, enough of that, let’s focus on the sketch. Simple, clean, black outline. I almost NEVER sketch like that, where I make clean outlines and clear borders. I like it messy and sketchy ; ) But for the purpose of THIS post, I decided to go ahead and demonstrate how it comes alive with color! I could argue, by the way, that the ratio between sketching and coloring is probably 1:2, where for every 1 hour of sketching you’d do 2 hours of coloring, but that’s my personal and very unprofessional assessment. It differs from one artist to another. So don’t take my word for it!

Would you look at that! Alive, ain’t it? But do keep in mind that solid plain colors alone won’t do the trick. Highlights and shadows are not crucial, not essential.. no they are not. Rather, they define the entire process from start to finish! Sometimes sketches are better left without color, why? Because the coloring job isn’t so good; it would ruin the sketch. Other times the black-and-white feel simply speaks louder, so it really depends on the theme of the drawing.
Another very important element is details. The more detailed you are in a sketch, or coloring, the more refined and more alive it becomes. Paying attention to small details on the sword, inside the mouth, the cloth, the shadow, the socks, the physics of how clothes fold with movement, etc.. all of that translates into a better sketch. Of course, you might not notice any of that here, but that was for your information : )
I’m thinking I’d like to draw some of you, so do let me know if any of you is interested and what you’d like to be in the sketch.. go crazy ; )

This is dedicated to the people of Japan. You guys are role models in discipline and self-control. You are all Samurai.

Categories: Silent Strokes

Opium: Part Three

March 19, 2011 2 comments

You would think that 1,432 years after the last Heavenly revelation that God would, at least, give us a clue as to where we’re heading. Isn’t it just astounding that a little more than fourteen centuries after Islam was revealed we’re exactly where Christianity was in the Dark Ages? It makes one wonder how that could happen when we’re supposed to, as Believers with such great teachings, take the reins of humanity and make life.. godly.

In our attempts to pinpoint what went wrong, we spill a lot of innocent blood – and that still continues – along the way. It is the price anyone pays as a fee for wanting to find out a little bit of truth. And rightly so. But here’s the thing: the fight isn’t with evil, Satan-loving non-believers. It is actually with people of religion. And it gets worse, because the fight is among individuals of the same religion, the same faith.

Is it God’s fault, then, that everything is in chaos? Keeping in mind that blaming God for the dysfunctional mechanism of Religion is simply asking for the easy way out. Let’s face it, we have the tendency to blame others for things we don’t understand; that is intrinsic, it’s understood. Plus, blaming ‘higher management’ for things it ‘should have done’ is the closest we can ever get – sometimes – to solving our problems. So we are still left with this dilemma: is it really God’s fault that Religion isn’t working as it should be?

Most religious people are thin-skinned when it comes to criticizing their religion, but beneath that defensive shield, nobody truly cares to consider why it is backwards ever since the Prophets and Messengers left the battle fields, all battered and bleeding. And those who do give it a moment’s thought are coming up with various irrelevant reasons as to why our Religion is failing to keep afloat; well they’re either irrelevant, or delusional in their significance.

When it comes to Islam, the method the religious body constituency – manifested in the form of a large group of long-bearded serious looking men – uses to investigate the shortcomings of Religion is the same method used by Ministries of Education (in most countries around the world) to understand why education is dysfunctional, which is a method based on subjective analysis of details. What that means, basically, is an objective negligence of more urging issues. Many scholars, clerics, Ulamah, and Ayatollahs, Shiite and Sunni, are no longer capable of providing effective and sustainable plans of core-Religion reformation. They do, as mentioned, provide subjective analysis of details within the circumference of Religion; however, that is all they are ever going to provide. The problem with being subjective lies in its limited affect on reality, mainly because it revolves around idealism. For this reason, social reformation is not possible when the tool used is, in and of itself, dysfunctional.

Clerics and religious figures do not need to re-assess their roles in our societies: on the contrary, we the people are to take part in re-assessing their roles and the ones to suggest the parameters of the new social and religious reformation. We cannot afford to work single-handedly, though, because we are not in to revolt against religion, but we must revolt against how religion is being read and interpreted by its keepers. I’m in no way suggesting that there be a religious watchdog, that would only encourage and usher in more useless bureaucracy, the one thing we’re trying to avoid in this new world order.

To live religiously is too oxymoronic of a statement, especially in days like today. For in an era of extreme controversy over what the ‘right path’ is, without excluding the points of view of all non-religious parties and factions, there is simply very little room for micro-analysis of religious issues. There are big efforts and much time wasted into hopes of bringing ideologies closer to each other, and the only reason why these attempts are still alive today is because the perception that the mere act of ‘attempting’ is considered Holy ground. It matters not whether your attempts are working at all; it matters not whether your attempts are destructive; attempting to bring religious views closer is seen as a glorious struggle rather than to accept the concept of live and let live.

However, that is where we – as believers in general – take most of the damage. Because the focus has become the ‘act’ rather than the ‘purpose’. We have enough TV channels pouring in to brainwash an entire generation, and all that one has to do is have the time to sit in front of the TV set and watch. In today’s Islamic environment, the mullahs and the fatwa issuers who are not so far themselves from having their own Fatwa Vending Machines (i.e. “Press 8 for fatwas on killing infidels“) wholeheartedly believe they are doing what pleases God… or do they? Maybe it is intentional. I mean, Tim Osman seemed to be very conscious about a Holy Jihad against the enemies of Islam; but who in the world is he, really? CIA agent? A blowback? A millionaire? A real Jihadist mullah? all of the above? Honestly, who gives a toss? What difference does it make anyway?
The majority of the Sunni fatwa issuers and mullahs were chanting his name and praising the Lord whenever he made a statement. So what kind of religion are we dealing with here? How far is all of this from the message that the Prophet (pbuh) brought forth? My guess is: very, very far. I mean, kill an infidel and dine with your prophet in Heaven tonight isn’t quite what Islam is here to establish. The extremist ideology is so twisted that it is in fact a stand-alone religion, independent of Islam in every way.

And this is the scary part; history repeats itself.

The current revolutions taking place around the Arab world are not unusual, let alone a sign of an impending apocalypse. People have the right to panic, of course, but in order for us to know where we’re going, with some sense of certainty, we ought to know where we’ve been. Everything about life is about historical records and trends. And this is the world we were brought into and the same world we live in today; a world of  coup d’états and rebellions, warring states and civil wars, terrorists and double-agents.
Survival of the fittest” seems to work only in the Animal kingdom. Survival, in the world of Man, is for no one. The mightiest of rulers and the most ruthless of kings could not survive the waves of change. And change, as I mentioned in another article, is the only constant and fixed truth about the world. So whatever is happening is not out of the ordinary; on the contrary, it is expected, anticipated, and calculated.
The landscape of the Middle East is changing, for one reason or another, but it is changing. Could it be the beginning of the separation of religion and politics? Could this separation be the first step into a more Western-style democractic governments in the Arab world? However way I look at it, I see some sort of opportunity for Arabs – the people, not governments.

We cannot afford to stop change from happening. When you don’t adapt, you die. Which is a message I wish Arab leaders would take a moment to digest. It just doesn’t matter what position you have, head of state, prime minister, supreme leader, or king of the umpa-lumpas. If you don’t roll over and adapt to change, you will be changed.

So could this really be the break for religion to prove itself? Can this change, when handed over to more aware and intelligent people whose loyalty lies with their ambition to become, can this change be the answer to solving our problems? Who knows. In principle, I personally don’t agree with the separation of State and Church, so to speak. But given the hopelessness all of us in the Arab world are living in, I don’t see another way out. So then, again, can we really blame God for where religion has gotten us or not?
I think each one of us has ‘the’ answer to that question.

May God help us all.

Categories: Silent Theorist

Street Fighter: The Disappointment

March 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I may be a little late in saying this, but it keeps hitting me one time after another. Street Fighter is probably the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had to deal with when it comes to video games. I mean, Capcom concealed any projects concerning the game for ten years. TEN. For what? The anticipation that was building up was enormous! Thinking that Street Fighter was going to come out to take center stage again. Obviously, they miscalculated the fans’ expectations.

Here’s the other issue: Seth?
Are you kidding me? THAT’s my challenge? I mean seriously, some people are too good for their own good, if you know what I mean. Sure you can be a pioneer and very creative at one point in time, but you have to know what your market is. You must realize how time is changing and you certainly should know what the expectations are! You can’t come up with characters every five minutes, and on whose expense? Original characters, of course! Capcom revolutionized the Zombie concept with Resident Evil. But that was up until Resident Evil 2, and the whole thing was on a downward spiral since Resident Evil Zero came out. Now look at the game we’re playing.. it is so far off from the original that you wouldn’t recognize it. What we’re dealing with now are anything but Zombies, and it pisses me off!

Back to Street Fighter. Same story. Hey, I mean, maybe the market is happy! But I know whoever played the original Street Fighter as a kid, and had to wait ten years for a better, stronger, and cooler release, must be disappointed. The YouTube teasers were so good I thought it was worth the wait! And now you have to deal with characters like Rufus and El Fuerte, one is an overweight American southerner (I think) with no background story and the other is a Spanish Chef who wants to fight through cooking. Wow. Capcom.. Wow.

Eh.. well.. I missed the old days of Street Fighter, as in the Animated Movie or Street Fighter Alpha the movie. Those were amazing. Really captured the essence of each fighter. And the above sketch is a tribute to Ryu, the master of all.

Frenemy: Review

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

So I watched this movie the other night, released in 2009, and the only reason why I got it was because it had ‘Zach Galifianakis’ in the list of people starring in it. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, this article is definitely a spoiler! So watch out. Unless you don’t mind. Obviously, though, I wouldn’t want to talk about the plot, the characters, the events and the ending. That’s boring. Rather, I’d tell you what the movie’s about generally. Details are left for you to watch : )

When it comes to movies, and much like books, you can actually tell a lot just by looking at who directed it, who the actors are, read the brief on the back, and recognize the genre. Well, let me tell you this: nothing about Frenemy is what you’d expect. Heck, even the brief does in no way prepare you for what’s coming. Did they do that on purpose? I got no clue. They either wrote a misleading brief intentionally, or they didn’t quite hire the right guy to write it, simply because it just does not fit with the plot and events in the movie!
Of course when you read Galifianakis, at least to me, nothing comes to mind except The Hangover. And if you didn’t laugh watching it, well.. you probably lead a very boring life. Regardless of that, and just from reading the title, I had the impression that Frenemy was about Friends and Enemies, and since the DVD had the poster shown above, I thought, “well..this is about Zach having to constantly make decisions that are life-changing but is torn between a friend and an enemey”. Or so I thought. The movie is (brace yourselves) deeply philosophical and at times very disturbing.

You heard me. And here’s the kicker. Zach is only in the movie for mere minutes! But that’s fine. See, sure I bought the movie thinking he’s in it, and I still enjoyed the movie very much, but it just is very confusing to have this… brief… on the back of the case when it in fact has nothing to do with it. Here’s what the brief says:

After a group of friends witness a horrifying crime, they wonder how they were lucky enough to escape, unharmed, while one friend did not. Through this self-discovery they start to understand the meaning of their own hilarious yet twisted fate. As their time starts to run out, the chance at redemption isn’t too far behind.

I got so confused to a point that I still have lingering doubts that maybe.. just maybe.. I misunderstood the point. And it would be nice to know that I have missed the point, actually! So what does the movie talk about then?
Well, ultimately, it explains, throughout the span of the movie, the concept of Evil. What is Evil? Is ‘evil’ different from ‘being evil’? What is God’s role in the presence of Evil?And the scariest part: how can ‘evil’ be rationalized?

We’re talking about the story of one guy here.. just one.. definitely not a ‘group of friends’. This guy has a friend who simply seems to be imaginery however way you look at him, although he does exist. And this friend seems to be the source of influence for our protagonist. They go from one place to another committing hideous murders and talk about it afterwards. And at the end they both meet the same fate, with a rather biblical twist.

My rating? a humble six (on a 10-point scale). Would I watch it again? No. But it was a nice non-Hollywood experience. So go ahead and watch it if you like twists.

Happy New Year, by the way : )

Categories: Silent Laughs

Angry Quick Strokes

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

Much like a writer’s block, an artist’s block can settle in for a long while. And what a tough while it is. The moment you grab that pen tablet of yours and try to sketch something, all that comes out is nothing more than a silly blah. And that’s saying much. Because at the end, you are what you do best. And if the one thing you do best is, well, un-doable, then you’re pretty much in trouble. So before I get up and head to my sheesha crib, I splashed something for you guys on Painter. If it looks like crap, don’t worry, because you’re more than likely to be correct.

Categories: Silent Strokes