Monday, December 18, 2006

A Celebration of Arab Culture

...

Watching the closing ceremony of the 15th Asian Games was an astounding experience. The stunning and spectacular display of light and sound from Doha’s Khalifa Stadium was a feast to our eyes and a delight to our heart. And, those who have missed it..…well….they have missed it.

In these largest-ever Asian Games - since its inception in 1951 in New Delhi - there were 8050 athletes from 45 countries in 39 different sports, contesting to win 428 gold medals from a total of 1393 medals. And, an amazing $ 2.8 billion was lavished on this entire sporting event.

After an exemplary organizing of these games in the Arab world, the Closing Ceremony, I felt, was itself a celebration of the Arab culture, and an invoking of the oneness of nations.

There was everything to make the Arab world proud. Glorious and graceful enactments from the much-loved literary works from Arabia – Stories from 1001 Arabian Nights and from the Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor. A riot of colours, a kaleidoscope of costumes and the magic of music have all together kept the spectators spellbound.

The handsome Ali Baba with his 40 thieves , the winsome Aladdin with his Magic lamp, the beautiful Scheherazade on a Crescent moon, the valiant Sinbad on make-shift ships, a Qatari boy on the Magic Carpet - it all seemed like one big joyful indulgence in a very well-deserved extravaganza.

Meticulous planning and methodical precision was clearly evident throughout the show. From the beginning, with the magical melody of the oud, to the culmination into a magnificent pageantry of fireworks, the ceremony seemed flawless; and we cannot but applaud the organizers for orchestrating this event to such a superlative degree.

It is extremely rare that a sporting event like Asian Games is held in the Persian gulf. And, unfortunately, its also extremely rare that such an inclement weather, as we see now, disturbs this region. Therefore, spectators had not showed up at many sporting venues of the games, in the numbers expected, fearing rain. And rain was really a spoil-sport here. But still, the spirits were up, and sports are now done, for these 15th Asian Games.

More than just the glitz and glamour, its the oneness and brotherhood that one gets to see in the Closing Ceremonies of Games that makes it more remarkable.

When all the athletes finally come together into the stadium - young and old, black and white, tall and short; When we see them laugh and smile whether victorious or not, and whether your country’s or not; When we see people of different cultures and creeds, of different religions and races together - it’s a special thrill. Its a special hope that people can live in peace, that we can make still this world a better place.

These 15 days of rivalry and competition is so much better in testing human skill and strength, than months and months of war and strife. These Games are so much better in testing human endeavour and enterprise than battles that rage to only ravage lives of innocents.

It is, therefore, in games like these that countries can come together. It is in these that nations can work together. It is in this triumph of Oneness and Unity that we must revel.

A stirring ballad written as a tribute to the athletes of the Doha Games was wonderfully performed by Lea Salonga, the star from Philippines. It was very aptly titled “Triumph of the One” !

And this oneness – let us hope - will be visible, in word and deed, everywhere as the youth of Asia now prepare and look ahead to the not-so-distant Opening Ceremony of the 16th Asian Games, at Ghuangzhou, China in 2010.

Photographs can be seen here

........

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Making of Manamahattan

...

DRIVING from Budaiya to Manama is now a special pleasure. Going non-stop, up and down the undulating flyovers, is a newfound joy.

Also, negotiating that curvaceous carriageway at Pearl Roundabout; navigating on the meandering motorway in Diplomatic Area; watching the superb sunset on Seef district; ogling the marvellous moonrise on the 'Manamahattan' skyline ... well, nowadays ... these are a few of my favourite things.

Like a floral sprout, in slow-motion - as in a TV documentary - the buildings are blooming into the beautiful blue sky. Like spikes slowly rising out of ground - as in a science fiction movie - the buildings are bursting into a brilliant array; tall, tough and tenacious.

When I arrived in Bahrain about seven years ago, the tallest structure I saw - from anywhere in the city - was the National Bank of Bahrain (NBB) building. But the rise of the Almoayed Tower saw the fall of NBB Tower's reign. And even before this new kid on the blocks (of black) could bully anyone, the bigger boys arrived.

Towering above the town, dwarfing the once-egoistic edifices, these two new sets of twins - Bahrain World Trade Centre and Bahrain Financial Harbour - now give Manama the majesty it deserves.

The growing giant of a cylindrical structure in BFH, the colossal construction site in Sheraton complex, the sudden sprouting of a tower near the fish-market at Marina Mall, the making of the car-park building in the Diplomatic area, the soaring up of Abraj Al Lulu; all bear testimony to the fact that, truly, uptown is soaring upwards.

We also see these now-familiar cranes - extremely-tall, yet surprisingly-slim - silently hovering over the sky, around these sites. They are seen smoothly lifting blocks and blocks of building-material from, and towards, gloved and helmeted men in brown and blue overalls.

We also see here - often at nights - these long, brightly-lit, bejewelled cranes, continue shifting slabs of cement, undeterred by intermittent sounds of the clanging of steel and iron. We also see those fiery-sparks that cascade around the night-shift welders who seem to have the wrought-iron will to build it good, and build it quick.

The final 'handiwork' would of course display wonderful designing and planning. But the 'hard-work' behind it, describes the dedication of the people who give credence to the essence called persistence.

This story of concrete quite evidently conceals in it the strength of character. It is the character of a country that refuses to rest, and continues to command. It is the commanding of respect by its determination to move forward, and by its doggedness to move fast.

Yes, there is, of course, that traffic bottleneck at the signal near the Intercontinental Hotel. Yes, there is the inconvenience of those traffic diversions. Yes, there is the annoyance of driving around ditches with men-at-work. Yes, there is the frustration of our delayed meetings due to all this. But then, we must accept, there is no smooth driving in a city on the move.

So, let's look forward and look ahead. Let's look up and look higher, as we proudly participate in the making of our own 'Manamahattan'!

On books that become movies

...

"Don't judge a book by its movie" is a slightly twisted version of an axiom we all know.

With one of the most controversial bestsellers of recent times, The Da Vinci Code, ready to come as a film soon, would be worth watching and judging. After all, for the first time, the great Paris museum, Louvre, has permitted shooting in its premises. In fact right where Leonardo da Vinci's masterpieces, including Mona Lisa, are exhibited.

Now, will this movie be as good, and as racy, as the book? We have to see. But a better question would be - Do movies do justice to their books?

A reasonably widespread belief holds that movies are never as good as their books, but it is unfortunately an opinion of a select few. The rest, which is a majority, is actually blissfully unaware, and without a care. To them, who don't read a book, how does it matter? They ask - these days, does anyone have time to read a book? That they have time to watch a movie or watch TV is, of course, an entirely different matter!

Today, a successful book would soon be a movie says common sense. If its fantasy and if it's appealing to children, it's even better. If it's actually a whole series of books, it is even better. For, it now makes commercial sense. In today's filmdom with an overdose of R-rated movies, how often would parents find movies appealing to children? Won't the parents and children flock to the cinemas? And won't the producers and actors laugh to the banks?

So, book after book we are treated to dose after dose, of mutated movies of hitherto books. The Harry Porter series of J K Rowling, caused a sudden resurgence of love for the fantasy of yesteryear authors. And, it was soon followed by The Lord of the Rings trilogy of JRR Tolkien. Now, after that, has come the first of the Narnia Chronicles by C S Lewis. Very soon, I am sure; we will see the movie-making of the remaining six Narnia Chronicles.

However, this trend is not altogether new. Ian Fleming may not have - in his wildest dreams - imagined the fame his hero, the now ubiquitous Bond.... Yes....James Bond, would acquire. Today, not just double-oh-seven, but his boss M, Money Penny and Q are all well-known to all moviegoers. Particularly, to the non-readers!

Movies on books of Alistair McLean, Agatha Christie, Arthur Hailey, Jeffery Archer have done well. But as per the IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base), the top four authors with movies to their credits are John Grisham (13), Isaac Asimov (21), Michael Crichton (25) but way up ahead is the horror writer, Stephen King (81)!

While we can argue that movies rob us of our imagination, prevent us from learning the language, desist us from becoming more articulate, we cannot deny the ease of enjoying a movie, compared to the trouble of comprehending a book. So, when someone does the reading and makes it into an eye-appealing display, isn't it better to watch it, than to read?

An average reader can complete an average book at possibly an average movie-time. But this new law of averages doesn't work. Who wants to spend three hours reading and understanding when it can be spent watching and enjoying? Who wants?

Well, there are some who do! But they are usually called crazy!

Ahem... ...well... ...call me crazy, but I am half-way through Michael Crichton's, State of Fear. It's got so much research and data, that I'm now wondering if I should stop reading, and wait for its movie! Or shouldn't I??

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cool Commercials

Commercials are so cool

I was experimenting the cool option from google. To be able to embed videos into the blog.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

No. I don't make errors.

...

Excuse me. I am not at fault! I made no error. Why should I be blamed? Why should I be the scapegoat? Why should I face the flak? Why should I be called guilty?

Uh-oh...Did I come straight to the point? Very quickly? Well, let me go slow then. First, I'll introduce myself. My name's Computer. Yes. Computer. No. Not Computer Error. Error is not my last name. In fact, that's what's bugging me.

Actually, 'Computer' is my last name. I have a number of cousins. Mainframe Computer. Mini Computer. Personal Computer. Laptop computer. Palmtop computer. So, you see. Computer is my family name. And I love my family. That's why I hate it when we are taken lightly.

We've been around for quite a while now. More than 50 years. The origin of our species was from somewhat gigantic structures like ENIACS and UNIVACs to the current species. Over the years, We have become more smaller, more faster, more colorful and more friendly.

Even children and old people find us friendly nowadays.

From our earlier habitats of huge rooms in universities and corporate jungles, we have now migrated and dispersed into desks, briefcases, and even pockets. I am, therefore, proud of my race, and its growth of these far reaching proportions.

Now, what bugs me most are not the bugs in my software, but when I am said to be in error. We have been known to do our duty. We do what we are told. Then why call us wrong, when we are not? Uh?

Recently, on a quiz show on Bahrain TV, USA was considered as an axis power in World War I instead of as allied power, and the poor contestant was not given points for his correct answer. When some viewer asked, through the columns of GDN, how it is possible, the reply from Bahrain TV, was 'computer error'!! Computer Error???! Now, that gets me blinking mad. That gets me all worked up. Yes. it does! Why are you defaming my poor cousin at Bahrain Radio and TV? He just stated what he was told. He performed as he was programmed. He gave only the data he was given. He displayed the information he was fed with. He is just a faithful computer. Like all other computers. And we computers are always faithful.

It's the manufacturers, programmers, data entry operators, end users who make mistakes. Not us.

There's no such thing as computer error.

It's people who make errors. Why blame computers?

...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Love for Lyrics

...

Songs, I believe, are not just music, but the 'words' that make them up.

Of course, there are many people who feel that music alone can be enjoyed, without lyrics. And I somehow, reluctantly, agree, with them to an extent. Because music, we all know, transcends cultural and social barriers, and can effectively display a range of emotions.

When a soft rythmic music thumping increases, in tempo, to an ecstatic beat, it could mean a heightening religious fervour, perhaps in a hindu temple.

Or when the boom-booms and tom-toms swell to a deafening crescendo, it could mean the climax of a tribal dance leading to a human sacrifice, perhaps in an African jungle.

Or when the strumming of strings begin to twist into ear-piercing frequencies, it could mean the long-haired headbangers are gloriously playing to the crowd, perhaps on a Rock-group's stage.

But - no matter how good or bad the music is - I somehow delight in the 'words', and in the formation of words into tunes. Mere music can be great. But when words in songs tell a story, or convey a connection, or bring out an emotion, I feel excited by them. By the lyrics.

That's why I am a lover of Country Music, and not of Rock Music. So, music of Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton or Garth Brooks are what you will find in my home and car and computer, and not of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, or Led Zepplin.

Take for instance, words from Garth Brooks' song, The River which I think are great inspiraion, for those who are risk-averters. [You may click on the link to hear the song later, if you wish.]

Too many times we stand aside
and let the waters slip away
Till what we put off till tomorrow
has now become today
So don't you sit upon the shoreline
and say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
and dare to dance the tide


Wow. The last two lines "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tide", I think are amazing lyrics, that spur you to go on with life, with a firmer resolve. Hearing these words, as I drove home one frustrated afternoon, I was reenergized and rejuvenated!


Lyrics like the one below I believe are even more amazing. Imagine writing a song on a painter. And imagine using words creating the vivid imagery of his paintings! And also bringing out the pathos, and the struggle of the painter. Check out Don Mc Lean's song 'Vincent', written on the painter, Vincent Van Gogh.

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colours on the snowy linen land

or these..

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds and violet haze
Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue
Colours changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artists' loving hand

You can listen to this song, vincent, by clicking here

Listening to these words, sung so well, can only tell you the power of words within a song. It's such a great masterpiece - a fitting tribute to that great painter.

I can go on and on, on the power of lyrics in songs, but i'll list a few songs and link them so that you can hear and enjoy.

Until next time, Adios Amigos.