Saturday, August 24, 2013

Close Call in The Suburbs

There are lots of popular bands that I've heard a lot about but never made the effort to listen to. One of them is Arcade Fire (who I keep confusing with Arctic Monkeys - shows you how much I don't make an effort to follow this stuff - if you're a fan of either of these bands I'm sure you're laughing at me, go ahead.) Earlier today I listened to the first Arcade Fire song I've ever heard, while ironing. It's their song "The Suburbs" which comes with a very interesting video, which I haven't been able to figure out yet:

I listened to some of the album via Grooveshark (a great site to stream music) and might pick it up someday, I put it on my list.

Another band I've heard a lot about over the years but never paid attention to is Rilo Kiley. I did see them play actually; back when I liked Coldplay, I went to a Coldplay concert many years ago and Rilo were the opening act. I wasn't impressed unfortunately. But things change. A few months ago my coworker was listening to some tunes and I asked what he was listening to. I was surprised he said it was Rilo Kiley, here's a track off the album he was playing:

This album Under the Blacklight is very country-ish (at least to me). I've listened to the album (again, via Grooveshark) a bunch of times now and quite like it and find the country tracks very charming, so this album is also on my list of CDs to get! That's right, CDs! I don't care what year it is.

Have a lot more indie stuff to post about soon.

- cross-posted on The Ashraf Obsession 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Small Delights

Here's the trailer for my latest short film. You can find more info on the film here:

Thanks for watching! I spent just over a year and a half on this film. I hope to show it to audiences soon inshallah. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I took this grainy photo from my cellphone a few months ago at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. I had put the two labels together and my friend watched me do so with amusement. I later put the photo on facebook and it got a fair amount of attention. Months later, I've decided to actually write about why I took this photo.

I've been interested in what is known as Sufism for some time and I'll be honest, I still don't really know what it is. What exactly is Sufism, and what makes someone a Sufi? Does someone have to be part of an Order to be a Sufi? Is it something that someone studies, or is it more of a state of mind? And does someone have to study in order to achieve that state of mind?

I've been having these questions (and other questions about Islam) for a couple years or so now, and along the way I've been to some Sufi gatherings, in an attempt to learn a bit more, and I've continued along in my journey.

What I realized is, is that I kept coming back to this same thought: aren't Sufis basically just trying to get closer to God? Various orders have various means of doing so, but isn't it all just essentially a way to seek God, to become closer to God? And isn't that what Muslims do in general, attempt to become closer to God, through actions and rememberance?

So, why separate the two? If being a Sufi is about seeking to become closer to God, and if just being a Muslim in general is also about seeking to become closer to God, does this make all Muslims Sufis? And if so, then the terms are just redundant at that point aren't they? Thus there's no need to differentiate between Sufis and all other Muslims, since we're all trying to become closer to God. Or we can keep the labels to differentiate between practices if needed, but basically the reason for the practices are the same: becoming closer to Allah.

And so that was my main reason for putting the two labels of Islam and Sufism together on this bookcase at B&N. Because they're not separate religions, Sufism is a part of Islam and indeed I believe, is just Islam.

I could be wrong. I could be very, very wrong and maybe I don't understand Sufism at all. But at least for me, Islam is about our relationship with God, and our relationships with people. And with our relationship with God, we seek to become closer to God. It's not just about the rules, which people get hung up on, both Muslim and non-Muslim. It's about showing gratitude and respect and using the "rules" or commands, such as praying 5 times a day and abstaining from certain things, to show that gratitude and respect to God, and coupled with sincere intentions and reflections inshallah we can become closer to our Creator. And I think that's what Sufis are doing, and so perhaps all Muslims are Sufi Muslims, or we are all just Muslims.

Please feel free to agree or disagree with me. I'm writing and putting this out there in an attempt to gather some of my thoughts and come to a better understanding myself. 

** In case you're wondering, I started using the term "Sufismo" (Sufism in Spanish) a few years ago. I don't speak any Spanish at all. I took a class in Mexican and Brazilian Cinema in college and heard words like "Mexicanismo"and "Machismo" all the time and they got stuck in my head, and so I started to say other words like that, like Sufismo.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

RBMA Video: 12 Years of DFA

RBMA has been in town in NYC this month. Unfortunately I've been too busy with life to go to their events (and I'm also a wallflower so I avoid dance parties) and the one thing I was thinking of going to with Lee Scratch Perry is now sold out. Oh well! Life moves on.

I did come across this nifty RBMA video which is about DFA Records in NYC. When the Rapture came out with "House of Jealous Lovers" about 10 years ago I did buy the album coz I thought I'd like it. I didn't unfortunately and its one of those CDs that's gotten quite dusty over the years. So I'm not really a DFA fan, but some of the tunes in the video sound quite nifty so maybe I'll check out some of the artists who are mentioned. Anyway this is a great little film that's very well-made, and is quite funny as well. I think what really makes this film work is the hilarious editing. Enjoy.
Film and music! My two favourite things!
- cross-posted on The Ashraf Obsession

Thursday, May 02, 2013

new season, new tunes

Every now and then someone asks me what I've been listening to. I'm not sure how to answer. For the last couple years I've been listening to a lot of mixes found online. So I guess I could answer by saying "mixes" but that doesn't as exciting as "oh this great new band blah blah". But hey these mixes ARE good. And its one of the best new ways to find new artists and tunes.

A few months ago Fahad wrote a bit about Disclosure. They're a dance act from the UK of two brothers. Somewhere in the last few months they got quite big in the dance scene and are now crossing over (perhaps?). Let's see if they reach Daft Punk crossover-levels. Anyway, I've been listening to their XLR8R mix since it went up in December. It has joined my list of favourite mixes that I listen to on repeat. It is very, very good.

And here are some of tunes I wanna highlight from that mix:
This is a really lovely, smooth tune. It has a nice laidback, warm summery feel to it. Let's put in the always great 'unclassifiable' section. This is Leon Vynehall - "Untitled017":

I love the bassline in this one. This is
Native Soul feat. Trey Washington - "A New Day (Spencer Parker's a Gun for Hire Remix)", a nice tune that pays homage to Jamaican influences in dance music. Apparently the original track came out in 1998?

This one is Jhelisa - "Friendly Pressure (From Midnight Mix)". Some nice garage sounds here, and it also makes me think of nice warm sunny days, like the Leon Vynehall track (maybe that's because I'm looking out on a sunny day). Anyway here it is:


I could keep highlighting tunes from their mix, but I'm gonna end with this stomper. Get up and dance! Yes go on. At least tap your foot. Here's a remix of Disclosure's "Latch" by Zed Bias. Zed Bias is a helluva cool name by the way. 

- cross-posted on The Ashraf Obsession

Friday, April 26, 2013

RA Real Scenes - New York

A few months ago I watched and reviewed a short documentary by Resident Advisor that was about the Detroit music scene, part of their 'Real Scenes' series.

Earlier today RA released another short documentary that focuses on the music of a city, and this one's about NYC. I thought this latest effort by them was quite revealing in many ways. First, what I liked most was the beginning where subjects are talking about how hard it is to make it in New York; how hard it is to get by and make ends meet while still trying to find time to be creative and make things. I can relate to this 1000%, as that's my life. I've been in NY for nearly 4.5 years now and I'm still struggling just to survive here, while also trying somehow to be creative and make films and things. Being a creative person and trying to make films/music/art is hard enough, add on top of that struggles to pay rent and bills and spending most of your hours at a job instead of on what you really want to do, makes it all immensely more difficult. This RA video is one of the few things I've seen where people really discuss these things in-depth.

Another aspect I liked about the video is that it discusses gentrification a bit. I'm not a clubber and party-goer (for all sorts of reasons) but I've been to some clubs and parties out in Williamsburg, which is kind of where the latest club scene has been for the last few years. The film talks about how lots of places got shut down in Manhattan due to extremely expensive and ever-increasing rents. An article I happened to also come across today (which for some reason is in the NY Post), talks about this, in which I learned venues like the Bowery Poetry Club are now shut down. I've been there a couple times, and I just think, what's gonna replace these places, and where are people going to go now? At the end of the RA film the subjects are optimistic about cycles of change and how there's always new things. However, Dope Jams shut down at the end of January, and I of course had just learned about it a couple weeks beforehand but wasn't able to get to it before its doors closed. I was so excited to learn about a record shop selling loads of house but now its gone, and as these spaces disappear, its a huge loss to the city and to communities. But I guess the folks in the RA video are right, there is always something new around the corner.

One thing that did bug me about RA Real Scenes: New York is that almost all the subjects were white males, save for a couple of brown men. I think we all know that NYC and the house scene is certainly more diverse than that. I guess this oversight by the filmmakers however is also reflective perhaps of how the scene is seen.

Well, here's the video, and the original link.

- cross-posted on The Ashraf Obsession

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Reading Sherman Alexie

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to read books in which I didn't share a similar background with the characters or authors. I've read a lot of books about Muslims, and about South Asians, and a few about the Middle East, and I wanted to expand and get to know characters who really aren't like me in most ways. And so a lot of the books I've read so far this year have been from all over the place. :-)

A few weeks ago on facebook, a friend posted up a cartoon drawing from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 

I was quite intrigued and looked into it and the author, Sherman Alexie. I had never heard of him but it turns out that he's pretty popular.

The first book I read by Alexie was Flight, which has a teenage protagonist but isn't a YA book. There's a fair amount of swearing and violence, and the character, Zits (as he calls himself) is a really troubled kid, and goes on a metaphysical journey through space and time, landing in different people's bodies (like that show Quantam Leap from ages ago) just as something big is about to happen. A lot of it is insightful commentary on the war between settlers and American Indians, and through this time-traveling Zits realizes he needs to make some major changes in his life.

I liked the book overall but there were some things that disturbed me. Unfortunately, Alexie doesn't have any female characters who are fleshed out and they all get objectified. There are also major characters who are white saviours. Alexie also has a Muslim character who says he's not a terrorist, then turns out to be one. I tried to see the nuance in this but I just feel that Alexie fed into Muslim stereotypes, which baffles me since he's attempting in some way to break down stereotypes of American Indians. It's unfortunate that Alexie has this Muslim terrorist character because when (some) people read Flight, horrible notions of Muslims will be reinforced.

However despite these faults I was fairly blown away by the book in a good way. A book hasn't made me cry in a long time, and this book did, when I read this: "I know that children will always be targets".

The next Alexie book I read is the one that has the cartoon above,
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This is a YA book, unlike Flight. I liked Part-Time Indian, but not as much as I liked Flight, even though Part-Time Indian appears to be Alexie's most popular book. Perhaps that's because its about a high-schooler going through high school and that's something I can't really connect with now, I'm not sure. The writing was fairly strong, and I liked the cartoons as well, but I wasn't as into the story as I was when I read Flight. In this book Alexie did do a better job with the female characters for they were more three-dimensional, yet there were again white saviour characters. I'm not saying white characters in a story about American Indians have to be absolutely terrible (and what do I know anyway), but in both novels the main characters, who are American Indian, find their way by getting guidance and help from white characters. I'll have to do a bit more research and read some more reviews to see if other readers feel the same way about his work, and I'd especially like to know what American Indian readers think.

So, those are some of my thoughts on the Sherman Alexie books I've read so far. Though I'm not a huge fan of what I read, I'm glad that I did read some of his work. I think I'd quite like to read some American Indian poets as well, who I think were mentioned in Flight. 

The return

If you're reading this, welcome to my blogspace. After a hiatus of almost 3 years I decided to re-start this little blog. I initially stopped blogging because I got quite self-conscious about it and honestly, became a bit paranoid, and wondered who was reading the blog. But now, I don't really care about any of that. I also have been itching to write about my thoughts on films, filmmaking, technology, literature, languages, Islam, Muslim communities, South Asian stuff, politics, music, etc.

Basically I have a lot of thoughts and notes and I'd like to get them out there and see if people want to engage in discussions about these things. Also I think my friends might be getting sick of me constantly sending emails about stuff I find interesting so it might better for me to get my thoughts out here instead. Though now of course my friends and family will be getting emails asking them to read this blog. Sorry guys.

And I've got a fair amount to say because unfortunately, I'm into a lot of things, and can become quite nerdy about them. It all bubbles up and makes me want to write! I emailed a popular website recently (which shall remain un-named) and I asked if I could write for them, and pitched about the neat and interesting things I want to write about. I didn't get a response of course. So instead of waiting around, and despite the severe lack of time I have, I decided to go back to this old blog and get my thoughts out here instead. I do have a website ( which I've written posts in previously, but I wanted to keep that as a website. When wondering where I could put up my meandering thoughts, I had completely forgotten about this blog since its been so long I've used it or even looked at it. And once I remembered, I decided, what the hell, let's just open this up again.

This blog is old, for the blog-world. It was started in the summer of 2005, after my cousin prompted me to start blogging (thanks Bastardly). So, there are posts here that are written when I was 19 years old (!). I combed through and took some posts down if they were too embarrassing or too irrelevant to who I am now. But most of the old stuff is still up there. Feel free to browse through and laugh at my pretentious writing. Perhaps you will giggle at some old comments written by old friends, as I did when I re-read the entries. Or you can go ahead and laugh at me and the silly things I wrote. I've realized that this blog is a document in a way of things I thought about, cared about, things that happened to me, and I can tell you that I've changed quite a bit. In fact I'm constantly changing, and that's something I've come to accept in recent years, and also, expect. This blog documents many different versions of me and I will showcase my current state a bit, through blogging again. And I'm sure in months and years from now I will look back at see how much I've changed since writing this post and the posts that I'm about to write.

So, thanks for joining me! I hope you come back and see what new things are up. Comments are welcome and if you really like what I wrote, I'd love it if you shared the blog. :-)