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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wii like to Move your Kinect

I know the title does not make sense, but for anyone familiar with videogaming, they would instantly recognize that I am speaking of the new motion control gaming fad that has exploded in the last few years. It was in 2006, when Nintendo launced the Wii to great critical acclaim and the sales proved it was possibly the company's biggest hit console since the Nintendo 64 launched in 1996. Wii brought back the classic gaming of yesteryear where it was all about family entertainment. It was the 1980s and early 1990s, where the family would always get together to play video games. Anyone remeber Duck Hunt? the classic shooter, in which one would aim a light gun to shoot virtual ducks. The Wii brought all that back with their new take on motion controlled gaming, where with just an infra red device that corresponds with your motion controlled remotes: Wii-mote, you can become a golf player, bowler, Pete Sampras and even a Jedi Knight. The remote could basically be used for any thing like a golf club, tennis racket or a light saber. The idea behind the name was simply "We" because it brought back party gaming for all ages. It did not require big HDTV sets like the Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 to utilize its full potential.

The Wii became a phenomenal success upon its launch, eclipsing Microsoft and Sony's next gen game console powerhouses in sales and popularity. The rival consoles were more powerful and could show the best graphics if you had a HDTV at home. Realizing the popularity of motion gaming, Sony and Microsoft decided to bring out their own rival consoles to compete with the Wii. However, these would simply be add on devices to their current consoles. It was news that Sony had apparently been working on similar technology before the Wii launched and it was even highlighted in the new PS3 dual shock 3 controller, which was known as Sixaxis initially because for certain games, one can tilt the controller using it as a steering wheel or a fighter jet throttle. Eventually in 2010, Sony launched the Move add-on to their PS3 console, which basically used similar Wii-mote styled motion controllers with a glowing ball that corresponded to a webcam set on top of your television set. It was said to be more accurate than the Wii backed by the awesome power and graphics of the PS3. Move was followed by Microsoft's X360 add-on device codenamed Project Natal launced as simply Kinect. This took motion gaming one step further. It made the gamer, the controller. A rod style attachment on top of your TV would accurately via a digital camera and possibly infra red would capture all your movements, similar to motion capturing in movie and video games. Basically there would be no controller, but your own body and hands would be used to play Kinect games. It allowed the use of voice commands, as well as the ability of using one's hands to change menus in the XBOX 360's main menu/ GUI interface.


At this point, Wii has also improved their own console with the addition of Wii Motion Plus controller. The Wii still leads the motion gaming market because of an established library  of games since 2006, while their rivals have launched their add - ons only less than a year ago. At this time, we will need to wait for newer titles from Nintendo's rivals and see an eventual winner of the new console wars. It is also important to note that Nintendo has announced the new WiiU to be launched next year which would improve on motion controlled gaming and include the capabilities to show high definition graphics that would rival the PS3 and X360. It is an exciting time for gaming, especially for me since I have literally grown up with a  joystick. Clearly, a gaming revolution is about to happen, and its definitely going to be for the best. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Child's Play

A friend of mine once told me liking superhero films is chidish especially those  that have received critical acclaim, like the 1989 dark and brilliant film by Tim Burton, Batman and the 1978 Richard Donner epic Superman starring Christopher Reeve. Well apparently this friend was 6 years younger to me, and when he got to the movie watching age, superman and batman were probably just kids stuff to him. He wasn’t there to witness the great movies which people of all ages love. 

Superman especially is a character the whole world loves. He is someone that has touched the hearts of everyone for being a hero for the people. A savior from another planet, who lives among us as us, and his sole reason for living is to save our behinds. From a movie perspective, the character was brilliantly portrayed and Christopher Reeve was crystallized forever as the boy in blue. He made us love the character so much and for generations to come, he is the benchmark for future superman actors. Richard Donner directed the most amazing superman film to date, with a very memorable score, brilliant acting and a classic plot that is right out of the comic books. It is no doubt that this movie made superman the most loveable superhero for all generations. 

Coming to Tim Burton’s 1989 dark and morose epic, Batman, one can never think on first view, that it’s a kid’s movie. Actually, I could never watch Batman as a kid. The Joker scared the jeepers out of me. However, when I recently watched it as an adult, I realized what I missed out as a young kid. Tim Burton directed a masterpiece, a dark opera, where two people of opposite sides of the coin collide. The psychology behind the characters was portrayed very well. Jack Nicholson played the most wicked and psychotic villain every portrayed in a movie and was brilliantly acted. No doubt he got first billing. Michael Keaton played a confused and depressed Bruce Wayne, who is haunted by a past that he fights. He plays a very complicated character and its easy to feel sorry for him. When Kim Basinger plays the damsel in distress, she becomes the comfort that Bruce Wayne is looking for in his life, but he comes to reality that he is Batman inside and his public life is his mask. He finds in Joker a wicked version of himself. The connection is superbly depicted. Tim Burton sets the mood right, and gives Batman the treatment it so rightly deserved. No doubt it was the biggest movie of 1989, and gave batman fans the movie they have been waiting for a long time. A movie that is so complicated for even adults to comprehend, because of the dark and complex characters in this neo- gothic opera, that Burton made it his own and depicted the opera of our own lives. My other personal favorite in the same series was Batman Forever, arguably the last great film of the Burton era, had Batman deal with more complex personal demons as well as a complex love life. Add to that, he had to deal with two villains who were causing trouble in Gotham City. He, as Bruce Wayne, also had to help a young adult who recently lost his family at the hands of one of the film villains, and was dealing with the same demons that Bruce himself had to deal and reconcile with. Ultimately, he joins hands with him as Robin, to aid the cause of delivering justice to the city's criminals and to make sure no one suffers the fate which both these heroes have. Recently director Christopher Nolan revived the dark world of the Batman with his two films, Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. Both films did exceptionally well at the box office as well as with critics, joining Nolan to the great list of superhero film makers mentioned above. The Iron Man and Spider Man films, depicting different heroes, also are great films that remind us of the hero inside all of us, and the choice that all of us have: to do the right thing. 

What my point is that superheroes, like science fiction is not child’s play. Some of these characters are very complex and live in worlds that we can connect to. We can see inside a man that has a dual personality. We all carry some hurt inside; there is a side of us always hidden in the shadows, and one that is displayed in the public. We are all Batman in a way. We carry some guilt, some fear, hidden demons inside us, and we fight it every day just to survive. At the end of the dark tunnel, there is always light, and we are all looking to find the end of that tunnel in our lives. Also there is a superman inside all of us, someone who cares for the needy and less fortunate, someone wanting to be a hero for ourselves and other people in our life. Someone who can reach out and touch the sky, he is one person that continues to elude and fascinate us. And then there are some people who call it child’s play. Go figure?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cornered Tigers roaring back in 2011!


I had previously written on the 1992 world cup in this same blog, the post Knight Memories. We  are a day before the big semi final clash of Pakistan and India. This has been called the mother of all finals, and the final that really matters. Fans from both sides of the border want their teams to win, knowing that a victory in the final is the world cup victory. Simply put, the world cup final does not matter, but the semi final matters most. We can equate this  match to the big semi final clash in the 1999 world cup between Australia and South Africa, which ended in a suspense filled draw, putting the Aussies in the final. This semi final also brings back memories of previous Pakistan- India world cup clashes, which were won by India. In the famous 1992 world cup, Pakistan lost to India but won the cup under Imran Khan's captaincy.

The media has been hyping up the match and now the premiers of both nations will be watching the match together. Call it cricket diplomacy. This certainly is a big match, so big, that there may be an official holiday. If not, people will simply make it one. If we look at history, the curse on the Pakistan team is that India has always beaten them. This world cup is the right time to lift that curse. Many reasons why this can happen. Pakistan has perfomed formidably better than previous world cup encounters, and in my opinion, better than their 1999 campaign which took them to the final the second time after 1992. Captain Shahid "Boom Boom" Afridi may do what Wasim Akram failed to do in 1999 and erase the horrible memory of the final against Australia in which Pakistan were favorites. Pakistan's bowling and batting both have worked well at the right time. Also I must mention Shoaib Akhtar needs to play the semi final, this may very well be his last world cup semi final as he is retiring after the world cup. He has had plenty of experience against the mighty Indian batting and his pace will be deadly on the Mohali pitch that is said to be well suited for pace bowling.

Pakistan has what it takes to win this game, but the pressure is tremendously high on them. Afridi's eleven  are playing in India's home ground, giving their opponents a significant edge and home ground advantage. As I write, I am watching the first semi final between the Kiwis and Sri Lankans in which Sri Lankans showed a strong bowling performance restricting the Kiwis to 217 all out. I am neutral, because both teams are strong. Pakistan has lost to the Kiwis and beaten the Sri Lankans in this world cup, but that does not matter. Every game is different. In 1999, Pakistan were favorites to win the final since they had beaten Australia in a tough group game, but they lost the final. Lets hope we dont see a repeat of past mistakes, such as the one Aamir Sohail made in the quarter final against India in 1996, when we were world champions.

In the end, best of luck to Afridi and the boys, and win or lose, play your hearts out and be positive. Pakistan can win, if they focus and play the same team game they have been playing. Boom Boom! Let the fireworks begin. I surely cant wait. Its gonna be an epic match.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Knight Returns

Just a heads up to the knight readers out there, more stuff is on its way. I have a few unpublished articles to post on the blog, which I am currently reviewing. I know I have been way for some time because of personal commitments that took me away from regularly writing on the blog. I am also a contributing writer at suite101.com and have an article published there. I will be writing more articles for both the blog and suite101.com soon.Thanks for the patronage. Hope you like the upcoming stuff on this blog as well. Thanks!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Knight Memories

I remember I was only ten years old when the 1992 World Cup was on. I remember everyone being glued to their television sets. This was going to be skipper Imran Khan's last world cup. He wanted to go out with a bang. This was the tournament that gave our team of eleven future national heroes the "cornered tigers". Imran Khan was known to lead from the front. He had the intelligence, charisma and leadership to take his men to the top. It was his vision and determination that would take us to the final. I remember watching the semi final against New Zealand and the classic final against England. We all had goosebumps. My mom was praying so hard for our victory. before that day, I did not know what it meant to be Pakistani. There was a time in the final, when we thought the English were going strong, until a trailblazer came in the form of the great sultan of swing, Wasim Akram. Akram took out Lamb and Lewis in quick succession. It was Imran's brilliant captaincy that made the decision to bring Akram at this time.It seemed like he knew it all along. It was when Ramiz Raja took that catch which sealed the deal, I was all green and white. The entire nation rejoiced, it was possibly one of the biggest moments of my life. I remember jumping on the bed, when we won the cup. My mother had tears of joy. Imran Khan's smile just said it: he knew his destiny all along. The cornered tigers roared and destroyed the union jacks. It was that day my country was on top of the world. In front of 87000 people, we won the cricket world cup. If that does not make you feel proud of your country, I wonder what does. It is unfortunate, that until today this is the one and only time we came on top of the world. We got very close in 1999 under Wasim Akram's leadership. It was Akram's dream to emulate the lion Imran Khan. We lost a poorly contested final, but we realized there will be another day.

Even though we have won the 20/20 world cup in recent years, and that brought back memories of 1992, that day can never be replaced in history. Imran's cornered tigers are a symbol of determination of the spirit of Pakistan and its citizens to have courage in the face of any challenge, big or small. With good leadership and teamwork, the cornered tiger, our country Pakistan, will rise to be one of the greatest nations in the world Godwilling one day. Back to cricket, that day in 1992 is perhaps one of my greatest childhood memories ever, and it will be remembered forever by all Pakistani cricket fans alike who witnessed that day and rejoiced in celebration and we still do celebrate the memory of that day every time the new world cup rolls around, 1992 will always be special for the cornered tigers, the crystal trophy, the heroics of Wasim, Inzi and company and the brilliant leadership of Imran Khan. I hope that next year, we can try to relive the greatness of 1992 once again or at least try to. Here's to the future: game on!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Pursuit of Happyness- Guest post by LUMS Undergraduate student Tania Rashid


Tania had written this as an academic piece for her Writing and Communications class at LUMS. I really liked it and thought it would be nice to have guest posts on the blog. I hope you enjoy Tania's piece, and I encourage other budding writers to submit their write-ups to be published as guest posts.
'The Pursuit of Happyness'



 

'The Pursuit of Happyness' is a biographical movie based on the life of the self-made millionaire: Christopher Gardner. The film, released in 2006, is actually based on a memoir written by Gardner, which depicts his life during the 1980s. In the movie, director Gabriele Muccino, through his use of imagery and symbolism, shows us some of the most widespread phenomenon's prevalent in the modern capitalist society. This essay focuses on analyzing three of the main themes found in the film: the struggle to stay afloat in a highly competitive society; the desire to achieve 'The American Dream' and the constant efforts made in order to grasp the true meaning of happiness.
The movie revolves around the fast-paced life of San Francisco. Throughout the film, people are shown struggling to fight time- moving hurriedly in order to get to their destinations. The constant beeping of horns symbolizes the urgency which surrounds the city at all times. Moreover, the amount of joblessness prevalent in this city can be measured from observing all those people who are showcasing their talents on roadsides. A number of musicians can be seen during the opening of the film, who's only pastime seems to be playing their instruments on the street to obtain some 'quick cash'. The setting for a ruthlessly competitive society can be seen from the very start of the film.
Christopher Gardner is one of the victims of this highly competitive capitalist society. He has not sold any 'bone density scanners' (which he does for a living) for a while and is extremely low on cash. So much so, that his apartment rent is a few months overdue. Similarly, his wife Linda has her own struggles to put up with. She has been pulling double shifts at a factory for the past four months in order to make ends meet. Later, she decides to abandon her family for a better job opportunity in New York. It should be noted that for a mother to desert her child is not an easy task, and the reason Linda does this is because she can no longer put up with the intense and cut-throat nature of her current job. Gardner meanwhile struggles hard to keep him and his son financially stable, but unfortunately ends up having to leave his apartment. After this, life seems to be very rocky for both father and son. Having no steady accommodation, they are often forced to spend nights in sleazy motels, homeless shelters and even subway toilets! Their struggle for survival seems bitterly tragic.
It should also be noted that when people are in desperate situations, ethics and morals generally cease to exist. The way Gardner pushes a few ladies away to get on a bus before them shows how self-interested a person can get in such times. Had he not done that, he would have had to sleep on the street, because the homeless shelter, where he is currently residing, is a stickler for punctuality. We may therefore, draw a link between the competitive society and individualistic goals which are pursued by the members of such a community.
Moving on, we realize that 'The American dream' plays a very significant role in this film. What this dream encompasses is different for everyone but most people portrayed in the movie have hopes to achieve their respective dreams. A crucial scene in the movie portrays to the viewers what this dream means to Garner. While passing by a stock brokerage firm, he spots a luxurious red car. Gardner falls in love with the entire environment surrounding that vehicle: the tall brokerage firm, the employees walking outside and the entire aura found around him. At that moment he desires to become a stock broker. Meanwhile, a serene music plays in the background epitomizing the desirable nature of this kind of life.
Another object which signifies Gardner's ambition is 'The Rubics Cube': which seems to represent the complex society in which he resides. The cube, whose solution is portrayed as an impossibility, proves to be a true enigma. However, Gardner finds a way to solve the box and this indicates the possibility of a positive event in the future. The scene in which he is solving the cube is highly charged and there is a lot of self-pressure on him to succeed. When he finally manages to accomplish the task, everyone around him seems impressed- even the taxi driver who is also attempting to solve one of these cubes. It appears as if every individual is engaged in trying to 'de-code' the mysteries of their society- but they do not all have the capability to manage this daunting task. Therefore, not everyone's 'American Dream' comes true.
Defining happiness has been one of the most important themes of this movie. Initially, Gardner assumes happiness to be associated with the acquisition of a certain kind of job. However, he constantly mentions the declaration of independence in which Thomas Jefferson speaks about the nature of happiness and that it is a feeling you are always trying to pursue, but whether you ever get to it is the perplexing question. The last scene of the movie establishes the true meaning of happiness for Gardner. He is offered a job which was very competitive and hard to bag. Tears of joy spring in his eyes and we see him in a state of total euphoria. His hard work has finally paid off and he feels valued and worthy. Once again, tranquil music surrounds the scene and Gardner says: 'This part of my life, this little part- is called happiness'. It is interesting to note that the word 'happiness' in the movie's title is intentionally misspelled: perhaps to indicate the lack of clarity in this word. Happiness is a nebulous term and holds different meanings for different people. Thus, why should it be spelt in the same monotonous way?
Like many biographical films, 'The Pursuit of Happyness' has a few discrepancies with the real story of Gardner. His son 'Chris Jr.' is portrayed by a 5 year old actor (Jaden Smith), whereas in reality the boy was just a toddler. However, when it comes to Will Smith's portrayal of Gardner, only praise comes to mind. According to The Rolling Stone magazine, "Will Smith is on the march toward Oscar... the role needs gravity, smarts, charm, humor and a soul that's not synthetic. Smith brings it. He's the real deal" (Travers).
Since the very beginning of the film, the audience is trying to figure out what happiness truly means. Towards the end, we see that Gardner has realized what it represents to him. His intense struggles and unwavering ambitions helped him reach his 'American Dream' and he was thus able to enjoy the fruits of his hard labour. From this movie, we need to learn that we ourselves are responsible for pursuing our happiness and that passion and devotion usually gets us there. The movie concludes at an emotionally charged moment and leaves the viewers overcome with a feeling of pure bliss: as if we were journeying with Gardner himself.

 

Work Cited

Travers, Peter. "Pursuit of Happyness."Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner, 12 Dec. 2006. Web. 10 Mar. 2010. <http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/7605317/review/12812265/the_pursuit_of_happyness>.

A Good Knight's Work

My blog gets its first recognition in Pakistan's  newspaper Dawn. The post "Day turns into Knight" is published in Dawn's letters to editor (http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/letters-to-the-editor/power-outages-a-blessing-730) as "Power outages a blessing?" on March 7. I am planning to get more interesting write ups  soon, so keep a look out as your favorite knight writer comes back with more excellent food for thought. I am hoping to chose some of my best posts and send them to newspapers in Pakistan. Feel free to post suggestions and comments on the posts and I am always glad to look at constructive criticism. Stay tuned to the Knight Writer!