31 December 2007

The Hits & Misses of 2007

2007; wow, what a year it was. Here i've put together the good, the bad, and the ugly of everything we went through this year, enjoy!

Most watched Youtube video of 2007:

When Miss South Carolina was asked a very simple: "Why are one-fifth of Americans not able to locate the United States on a map?" her answer came out so appaulingly bad that she was the the butt of jokes for days and days, and helped this video to rocket up the YouTube charts for 2007.

The Quotes of 2007:

The Good: (After driving a car off the roof into a helicopter)
Matt Farrell: "You just killed a helicopter with a car!"
John McClane: "I was out of bullets"
- Die Hard 4.0

The Bad: "Dumbledore is gay" J.K. ROWLING, responding to a Harry Potter fan's question about whether the Hogwarts headmaster ever finds true love

The Ugly: "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country." MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, president of Iran

Most Hyped Product of 2007:

If you haven't figured this one out, you've probably been living in a hole. People have been talking about this for the past 2 years; yes, its the Apple iPhone. This gadget, however, is totally amazing for the first two hours, and then starts getting annoying with a not-so-great camera, limited ability to transfer files and messages, the obvious network locks, and so on. Can't beat the touch screen for browsing the internet though.

Biggest Letdown of 2007:

When Apple released the iPod Touch, offering every single feature the iPhone offers (minus phone and crappy camera) with a better screen and twice the memory at half the price, severly bumming out every single person who shelled out their hard-earned cash for an iPhone.

Fastest Spreading Epidemic:

Nope, it wasn't the Bird Flu. It seems everyone on the planet got the Facebook fever, and you can pretty much find anyone you were ever in touch with during your life on there.

Top Gadget of 2007:

Nope, it's not the iPhone, it's actually the Nokia N95 8GB. Same memory, more functions, better camera, no bloody network-locks (and therefore can be used with any operator), WiFi, video, GPS and Navigation and much, much more.

Astonishing Celebrity News:

- Paris Hilton going to jail and then released after spending just three days; but after a media uproar, a judge quickly ordered her back into the slammer, which prompted Hilton to cry in court, "It's not right! Mom!"

- After an appaulting twirl down to the lowest point of her career (including a shaved head incident) Britney Spears made the worst possible comeback at the MTV Video Music Awards; bad performance, bad outfit, bad lip-sync, bad dancing, and every entertainment magazine was on her for weeks!

Biggest Breakups of 2007:

The Good: Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz; after a nearly four-year relationship, the couple finally called it quits and broke up with very little drama

The Bad: Kate Hudson and Owen Wilson; After dating quietly for several months, the couple broke up in May. Hudson quickly moved on, but Wilson on the other hand, was hospitalized in an apparent suicide attempt.

The Ugly: Britney and Lynne Spears; Along with her hair and her dignity, Britney said bye bye to mommy this year.

Biggest News of 2007:

- The Mortgage Crisis: the bubble finally burst, causing billions of dollars worth of defaults on home loans, bringing many of the biggest mortgage lenders in the US to file for bankruptcy, and affecting the world-wide supply of US Dollars.

- The Saffron Protests: The largest protests in Burma, also known as Myanmar, happened in August as thousands of monks took to the streets to protest against the government. After days of peaceful protesting, the government clamped down violently.

- Pakistan: Dominating much of the news in 2007, Pakistan has seen Musharraf pushed to remove his military uniform, an imposition of emergency rule, the return of exiled Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, and numerous suicide attempts on the later, which finally succeeded in killing her.

- Israel/Palestine: Amid mounting tension between the Fatah and Hamas who movements, the Hamas militias seized control of Gaza from security forces loyal to Abbas, and now the Palestinian territories are split between a Fatah-run West Bank and a Hamas-run Gaza. The Annapolis Peace Conference in November was the first formal peace summit between Palestine and Israel in seven years, and was attended by most of the important Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Top Music Singles of the Year:

by Amy Winehouse

by Rihanna

Hey There Delilah
by Plain White T's

Top Games/Toys:

FlyTech Dragonfly: An electronic dragonfly that soars, hovers and glides. The kids will love it, if you can actually bear to give it to them for a while.

Halo 3: Hyped like no other video-game, Halo 3 delivers; The perfect hardcore first-person combat simulator. The game has been refined to give the perfect gaming harmony, with an epic story line and an amazing soundrack.

Top Website of the Year:

www.ammaro.com (ha, ha, ha...)

That's all for this year! See you in 2008 everyone, and HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! :D

(Stealing is bad, ya hear? If you want to use this for your own site, fwd email, whatever, just put a link back to here, and I won't have to call the cops!)

Arad Fort

When you think about it, most tourists to Bahrain have no idea where to go to see historic sights and so on. Most of the history has been wiped out to make way for new roads, business centers and shopping malls, but whatever history is left isn't really promoted well; when a tourist asks where to go, they're usually guided to Seef Mall, Bahrain International Circuit, and a bunch of other modern creations that really don't show any of our past, which is actually very rich with culture and history. I'll cover most of the sites you should take a look at if you visit:

Arad Fort is a 15th century fort (exact date of construction is not known) built by the Portugese. It is located in Muharraq, very close to the airport, so it is probably the first sight you will see on your visit to Bahrain.

The fort isn't very big, but it's definately something to see. Make sure you wear a good pair of shoes (no high heels!) especially if you're planning on walking up the stairs, and take a camera along!

But the visit isn't free; entrance is a whopping 200 fils (approx US Dollars $0.52), so make sure you pass by the bank before visiting!

29 December 2007

Bahrain Through Different Eyes

It's always interesting to see the reactions of foreign visitors to our country and culture, especially to people who have never experienced this region before. A friend from Amsterdam is over in Bahrain for a week or so, and we're showing him around the island; a few comments actually gave me a few things to think about:

- After a walk in Seef Mall:

"It's wierd to see fully covered up women walking right next to women in short skirts and tight jeans"

"That's funny how you have totally traditional clothes shops right opposite westernised fashion shops"

Makes you think about how cosmopolitan Bahrain really is; I mean, true, we know have a varied mix of people here, but seeing it through the eyes of a foreigner is always thought provoking. Also, me and my wife decided to do a little experiment, so I whispered to her that after eating we should just leave our food trays on the table and walk away, just to see his reaction. Honestly, that was one of the funniest things i've seen this year; he was totally confused and didn't know what to do, and looked a little nervous. After I explained that most people here don't usually take their own trays as there are people hired to do that, he calmed down a little :)

Other funny things; "How come you don't have a red cross symbol for first aid?" Then we figured it was the whole islamic/christian thing. Honestly I never actually noticed that; I always figured the symbol for first aid was a red cross.

After Seef, we went for a drive and I introduced him to the whole "cruising" culture of Adliya and Exhibition Road and so on, which he found very odd. Of course, they pay around 8 or 9 times more for gas than we do, so it doesn't make much sense to him to drive up and down a small road for no reason :p I asked him if he wanted to try some fresh juice, and he said ok, so we stopped by a cafeteria and he opened the door to get down from the car. I looked at him and laughed "ok, you don't really need to do that, someone will come to take your order", which sort of suprised him. The driving style here also freaked him out a little, but that I sort of predicted :p

It's always funny to see people's reactions to our lifestyle. Overall, a fun experience, and as he learned things, we discovered things we previously took for granted. He's going to be here for a week, so we'll be going around to all the traditional sites (Arad Fort, museums, Jasra, Seyadi House and so on), and i'll be posting photos of everything over the next few days. Stay Tuned!

27 December 2007

Why do Americans put the Month before the Day?

In line with yesterday's movie post, here's the first movie you should be looking forward to in 2008. This comes from the same guy who brought you LOST, and that in itself should be enough to whet your appetite. But wait, there's more.

Take a look at the trailer. What you see is a few kids having a party, filmed through a camcorder; all of a sudden something seems to happen. Earthquake? Disaster? You follow the story through the eyes of the camcorder. Seems a little Blair Witch like, but it's a lot more vivid, much more enjoyable to watch, and the sort of story that actually has a plot (and hopefully, a good ending).

So what's the story? Well, the lid has been kept on this for quite a while; even the actors coming in for auditions had no idea what the movie was about (the roles given to them during auditions were scenes from other movies and shows). No name has been given to the movie (although it goes by the name of 'cloverfield' unofficially), and all the posters looks like this:

Yup, the only clear thing you do know is that something capable of destroying New York is happening, and that the movie will be released 01.18.08. If you're not American, that's the 18th of January, but the American's somehow have this stubborn factor to them and won't accept the fact that the day should come before the month and year, and in not doing so they manage to confuse the rest of the world (some people actually thought 01.18.08 was some sort of secret code for something).

Movie forums and blogs have been trying to guess at what this movie might be about, and many came up with Godzilla. Well, according to J.J. Abrams (Exec. Producer of Lost), this ain't Godzilla. But it sure as hell looks like it's gonna be something worth looking out for.

26 December 2007

Another Year at the Movies

2007 wasn't a great year for the silver screen. Only a few good movies came out this year, and very few great ones; this year's releases included a few fun to watch (but by no means timeless) flicks such as Transformers, The Simpsons Movie, and Die Hard 4.0. Seems the year was also a breeding ground for sequels, which although came out reasonable, were by no means original - take a look at this list:

- Rush Hour 3 (Jackie Chan is getting too old to kick butt, and the only thing funny about Chris Tucker is the size of his mouth)

- Saw IV (fourth in the Saw series, seriously, how many different ways can you cut up a person before the producers call it quits?)
- 28 Weeks Later (following the great 28 Days Later, and actually good to watch)
- Ocean's Thirteen (the hottest cast in town now with Al Pacino, and I was actually there when they were filming :p)
- Resident Evil: Extinction (I have to admit, the deserted Vegas scene was cool)
- Evan Almighty (sequel to Bruce Almighty)
- Are we Done Yet? (sequel to Are we There Yet)
- Bourne Ultimatum (another good action flick in the successful Bourne series)
- American Pie: Beta House (the millionth follow up in the American Pie series that people stopped caring about like, 100 years ago)
- Another Harry Potter, another Pirates of the Caribbean, another Shrek, another Spiderman etc etc...

Now although some of these movies are good in their own right, they don't exactly push the creativity barrier here, and even some of the few 'original' movies we got either felt like copies of something else, or turned out really crap. There was the very recent American Gangster, and although supposedly a new story, this epic has been done over so many times it really feels like you've seen it all before. Knocked up, a romantic comedy about a girl getting drunk and, well, knocked up by the totally wrong guy, starts off pretty promising but ends up being the biggest possible waste of 2 hours you could spend this year. The Simpsons Movie is funny, but feels more like an extended episode than a movie. Heartbreak Kid, Ben Stiller's latest comedy, is just another "date/marry one girl then meet another girl and realize you made the wrong choice" story, and for a comedy it really falls short on the funnies. Epic Movie, which tried to follow in the footsteps of the sarcastic Scary Movie and Date movie series, was good for approximately 17 seconds, and the rest was utter rubbish.

300 (a huge cult classic, just look up the "this is sparta" parodies online) was enjoyable, and probably one of the few to remember from this year, and from what I heard The Kingdom should also be pretty good.

Oh well, an overall disappointing year for Hollywood, but hopefully we should get something good coming out in 2008 (well, I hope so anyway). Here are a few movie posters to whet your appetite for next year (click for large size):

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25 December 2007

Happy Whatever

Merry Christmas for all those celebrating it today! And Happy Hanukkah! Eid Mubarak! Enjoyable New Year! Blessed Pavrana! Happy Diwali! Great, did I get most of the major religions/holidays falling within the last/next few months out of the way?

What a festive season it is :D Happy whatever to you, whatever your festive celebration is!

24 December 2007

Beginners Guide to Photography; Part 2

Part 1

To take better shots, you need to understand a little bit about light, how a camera captures a photograph, and what sort of factors can affect your final result. I won't go into the tiny details of how these works (if you're really interested there are many detailed guides on how cameras work online), but instead will go over the very basics that you need.

An image is very simply a reflection off a surface; for example, when light hits a tree, any light reflecting off the leaves is green, while any light reflecting off the trunk is brown. A camera is basically a closed box; when you take a photo, a small hole (called the shutter) opens up for a short period and closes again allowing light in; the reflections of light enter the box, and fall on a wall (film) where the image is created.

The image would appear bright or dark depending on how much light actually enters the camera and falls on the film, and this is controlled by two variables:

1- Size of the shutter opening, called the aperture (ie, larger opening = more light = brighter picture)

2- Time shutter is kept open for (ie, longer period = more light = brighter picture)

Now, how does this affect you as an average camera user? Most of the modern cameras today try to automatically detect how much light there is in the photo you want to take, and change the above variables to come out with a good picture. In some situations, this works out fine, but in others the camera doesn't correctly detect the right setting:

In this example, the camera senses a lot of light (coming from the sun/sky), so it automatically sets a fast shutter speed and/or a small aperture. This works fine for the sky, but unfortunatey the building, which doesn't give off any light of it's own, looks dark and the colors don't show clearly:

Another example is this shot, taken in a dark room. The camera should increase the aperture/take a longer shot, but because of the amount of sunlight coming in from the windows, it automatically assumes there is a lot of light and takes a dark (underexposed) photo instead:

This is a typical problem when taking photos of a regular object infront of a bright background. Most automatic cameras cannot differentiate the bright and dark spots in a photo, and almost always base their settings on the brightest area in the scene.

Solution? Well, the most obvious is you can avoid shooting subjects infront of a light background, to avoid underexposure.

Of course, you could play around with the different modes/settings on your camera and figure out what works best for your photo. Now, my assumption is that most people don't bother to read the manual/booklet that comes along with their camera (put your hands up if you're one of those people), and so they end up using the Auto Mode on their cam:

Most modern cameras come with a bunch of settings that look a little like this (the symbols might look different depending on the make of the camera, or it could be a setting on the LCD screen rather than a wheel, and so on). The easiest one to use is Auto (green rectangle here), as it sets up everything for you according to the amount of light it can sense. There are a few so called 'creative' modes, which adjust the settings for specific situations (ie, the running man is for capturing sport shots, so it uses a fast shutter speed to capture runners, cars, etc without blur, and so on). I'm not very keen on using these modes, as I prefer having full control of my shots, but you can play around with them and see what you can do with each one.

More useful is the P setting. It gives you the option to change some of the settings, while still keeping automatic control of things like shutter speed, and so on. The M setting gives you full control of all the features of the camera. I'll go over these in the next post.