Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Modhesh Rocks Hollywood

The horror-sequel genre remains the best bet for our super hero to make it big in Hollywood, I think. Do you agree?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The True Essence of Ramadan

Even for a non-religious person like me, the message that Ramadan (word originated from 'ar-ramad' meaning 'scorching heat') offers goes beyond spiritual reflection and adherence to religious principles.

Setting aside a month every year 'to be a better person' may seem absurd to some, but for those of us who are lucky enough to indulge in some guilty pleasures of life, it serves as a timely reminder that there is a world out there that is struggling to survive without the basic needs like food, water and shelter. It is also about self-discipline, self restraint and generosity.

Having said that, Dubai offers a different perspective of Ramadan unlike my hometown where scores of desperately poor people visit Muslim homes expecting a few grains of rice or some money to get through another day or two. Despite witnessing the very many excesses in the sandlands, I was a little taken aback by this Emirates Palace advert which urges us to celebrate the Holy Month in it's 'lavish' settings 'indulging' in a buffet in the 'luxurious palace tents'. Or you can even 'unwind with sheesha', 'relax with a complimentary beverage' or to top it all, participate in a 'Lucky Draw' for a free nights stay at the hotel.

Not far away, a non-Muslim man must be trying to get on with his daily life munching a burger inside his car, hoping that the religious police is out of bounds.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Looking for Etisalat?

Searching for the 'Etisalat Homepage' in Google can throw in some surprising results. Especially the first one.

Arabic Calligraphy - Words come to life

The absence of figures in the visual culture of Muslims and artists based in Islamic countries has proved to be a blessing in disguise for Arabic Calligraphy, which has evolved into one of the most intricate artforms existing today.

The virtual barring of figures and it's representation among Muslims has always baffled me and to my knowledge, the Quran does not even endorse such a view. I have heard people quoting some verses in the 'hadith' to point out that hanging a painting in your home is 'undesirable' for a Muslim. However, I regard this as an outcome of 'Islamism' (a desire to impose an interpretation of an ideology) or a view which evolved out of a culture and later misinterpreted as a religious diktat.
Calligraphy which literally means 'beautiful writing' may not be fully appreciated without knowing the language that is used. However, Arabic Calligraphy has managed to transcend the language barrier, thanks to the unique aesthetic perfection it achieves and the efforts of various artists and the intricate skill developed over the centuries by proponents of this artform.

Contemporary Arabic Calligraphy reflects new experiments and brings in influences from other artforms, cultures and scripts. Beyond the banal 'dome-shaped arabic logos' being passed off as Arabic Calligraphic creations, the art scene is discovering talent of a different kind. They might not have achieved the same flair as what the traditional artists could do with the 'calamus', but artists like Hassan Massoudy are 'making words dance' indeed, not with reed pens and parchments but with 'opalescent washes, flows of emerald, monochromes of beiges enriched with deep wood tones and sandalwood fragrances'.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Googling the Google Logo

There are few who reckon that the famous Google logo was done in Powerpoint which I think is a bit far fetched considering the drop shadow doesn't work all that well in the software designed to create the world's most irritating sentimental slideshows. But, nevertheless there is no doubting the amateurishness of the logo in terms of typography and graphic design. Save the unique Catull typeface designed by the versatile designer Gustav Jaegar, there is hardly anything in the logo which suggests professionalism. But whether it is a deliberate attempt to reflect the much hyped 'light-hearted simplicity' of Google or just plain deception is open for debate.

Besides the logo serving the purpose of reaffirming Google's self-styled image, it also gave 23-year old Korean Dennis Hwang a full-time job. The idea of graphic transformations worked wonderfully well for the logo and Dennis is the man behind all the creativity. The Van Gogh one is my personal favourite. Which is yours?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Where do you live?

You live in a perfectly 'crafted' villa with an ancestral Puebloan fa├žade, just like what the brochure said. The salesperson who couldn't pronounce 'Puebloan' reassured you that the villa 'reflects your identity' and you are now a part of an 'elite community'.

That is until you step out to look at another 100 of the perfectly crafted villas exactly matching yours and each of them reflecting their 'identities'. By that time, you can almost hear the salesperson laughing. Thankfully, I am not rich enough to hear him.

Many years ago back in my hometown, when my dad decided to add an odd looking orange coloured structure to our home, already burdened with his architectural exploits, the protests of a wannabe graphic designer in me was dismissed without much consideration. As years went by, I somehow started liking this 'orange circle' which stood like a hallmark of his identity and his profession.

In contrast as I looked around, Mr.P L's house looked like a 'lavender train', Mr A.F's home made me redefine the notion of a 'concrete jungle' within a house and Mr. H.T's house looked like a 'floating lighthouse'. But together we formed a community, comprising of many different, distinct 'identities'.

I could jump over to Mr. H. T's compound to taste the gooseberries or to Mr. P.L's house to fetch the cricket ball. Even today, the neighbourhood is always lively with conversation across the walls, the walls themselves rarely rising above your shoulder. Most of them know when I return from 'the Gulf' or how much weight I have put on since they saw me last. The cold 'how are you's?' are missing and so are the sweaty handshakes. But here I feel a part of a community, where I have much more than a Puebloan or a Mexican Hacyienda identity.

Everytime I visit one those 'self-sustainable' communities in Dubai like the Meadows, Springs and all things Keats, I wonder how they feel like. Whether they really smile like the perfect families in the royalty-free photos shown in the brochures. Whether they enjoy the safety, security and the dubillion features and facilities.

I'm sure it must be better than my old cramped apartment with 2000 more irrelevant, unrecognisable neighbours.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Also-Rans

Prometheus' hilarious take on all things e e cummings reminded me of the good old days when I considered myself worthy to be another of the 'scheming the rhyme with Roget' poet.

My early retirement from poetry came in the form of a certificate of recognition for the silliest among my wonderful works of art which got shortlisted among 4 other entries for a competition.

The excitement lasted only till I found out that a poem by a friend of mine which made Backstreet Boys' 'Show me the meaning of being lonely' look like a classic, also made the cut.

Here are my famous last words in Poetry.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Overheard on September 11, 2006

The Best Corporate Logos in Dubai

Now this is the difficult part. It is really not easy to judge a logo on how successful it is in terms of representing the brand identity, aesthetics, creativity, signifying the product category, impact on the customer depending on the type of the product and a regional relevance, if at all it is important for the product.
I did ponder on some of the more fanciful logos like that of City of Arabia (development by I & M Galadari ironically), Thuraya and Dubai World Central, but settled on these five. You are all welcome to differ.

5. i-mate
Not many of you would know that the 'i-mate' which is being marketed in over 100 countries is actually a 'Dubai brand'. The global appeal of such a brand is vital to the success of the product. i-mate went for a no-nonsense logo representing 'a modern and reliable brand' with a reasonable typographic uniqueness and clarity.
Agency: Created by Jim Morrisson, the CEO of i-Mate. (Thanks to Martin at FlipCorp for the update)

4. Burjuman
If the old Burjuman logo was all class with a typographic flourish, the new one broke away from the complicated and sometimes tacky logos of other malls in Dubai. A brand known for it's consistency and to some extent, creativety in advertising and marketing, Burjuman has got the basics right as far as their logo is concerned.
Agency: Team Y & R (B is for Burjuman, that is until Bloomingdales gets to Dubai)

3. Emirates Airlines
They can be excused for choosing an unimaginative name and a Calligraphic logo(they were one of the earliest ones though), but like Burjuman they got their basics right, they improvised (wisely avoided using the Arabic Calligraphy logo in the international market after 9/11) and were always consistent with their branding all the while maintaining the faintest of links to the region with the help of a beautifully designed custom typeface.
Agency: Impact BBDO (I am not quite sure)

2. Flip Media
'Unique and unexpected. Effective and business driven. Surprising with innovative technology.' - says Flipcorp. Atleast the logo tries to live up to the claim. Flip you will. But not the way they flipped Wordpress, I hope.
Agency: Designed by Dinesh Lalvani, founder and managing partner of Flip Corp. No one-eyed camels this time. Thanks to Martin at Flip Corp for the info.)

1. du
When the company has a name which sounds far more exciting than 'Etisalat' or 'another Burj in the name of Jumeirah', the branding agency is bound get carried away. Leo Burnett did not and the result is a logo which looks clean, professional and above all makes sense. Too early to say how well it will perform but having an image of Etisalat 2 wouldn't have helped them much in any case.
Agency : Leo Burnett (Kind of made of for their lacklustre effort with Dubai Holding).
Update: Turqouise, a UK-based branding agency seems to have created the logo. Thanks again to Martin for pointing it out.)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dubai's Worst Corporate Logos

Here is my personal list of the 5 worst logos of Dubai based companies/organisations. I might have missed out on a few other masterpieces - in which case do drop me a comment and I shall try to include them among the 'other five'.

5. National Bank of Dubai
There was a time when NBD was perceived as 'unfriendly' and 'arrogant' offering 'poor customer service'. Landor's million dollar solution came in the form of a curve with radio waves representing the 'willing-to-listen' change in their outlook. 6 years on NBD seems every bit arrogant as it was and the logo still reminds me of a dysfunctional speaker.
Agency - Landor - Depite the usual reviews claiming it creates a 'positive subconscious impact' on a customer, not their best work, I think.

The first time someone sent me the DTCM logo to be used in an artwork, I mistook it for a badly scanned fax of a surreal painting. Fortunately, my fascination lasted only till I visited their website where they haven't displayed it too proudly either.
Agency - (Dan Brown or Da Vinci Code, whichever came first)

3. National Bonds
The circles are back again. This time, there are quite a few representing two arrows pointing upwards. Believe me, advertising agencies like Grey Worldwide have people who can convince that a silhouette of the World Trade Centre will make an ideal logo for an airline company.
Agency - Grey Worldwide (The supporting advertising campaign was equally unimaginative.)

2. Dubai eGovernment
What do you get when you make the 'e' which represents the worst software ever produced to resemble the monster in the world's most famous arcade game. The enigmatic Dubai eGovernment logo; not Monster Truck Madness, silly.
Creative Agency - Unknown (Their press release does not specify the agency but comes up with an interesting observation regarding the logo.)

And the winner is..

1. I & M Galadari Group
Whoever convinced I & M Galadari Group that a half-hearted attempt by a bored marketing manager to create two lines and a circle in Adobe Illustrator could represent their corporate identity must be lauded - because they still stick to this illogical piece of crap which is supposed to resemble the sun and the sea.
Agency - Unknown(My money is on the bored marketing manager or the chairman's kid.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Secrets of the Arabian Canal

In the land of twisted, stretched and rotating towers, matchbox communities, outrageous masterplans and artificial islands of all shapes and sizes, a project of epic proportions is taking shape without the usual fanfare. The largest man-made canal might not sound exciting to you, but when completed The Arabian Canal will shape the new Dubai.

Apart from some vague mentions in some websites and some company press releases, Nakheel has centred the spotlight on the Dubai Waterfront which itself will be the biggest waterfont development in the world extending the Dubai coastline by 820 km, 12 times the current length and housing 750,000 people (if they can find them). But Dubai Waterfront,which will be completed in 2010, is only the tip of the iceberg compared to the Arabian Canal.

So what is this enigmatic Arabian Canal that no one talks about?

When you look at the major masterplan developments in Dubai on this map, you can see that the Arabian Canal(marked in light blue) is massive in terms of scale - 80 km to be precise. But what makes it interesting is not this image but glimpses of another plan as inadvertently shown in the Dubai Waterfront Video. It has been said that the shape of Dubai as it will be in 2025 is already planned and well in place - but just look at the extent where the Canal extends to the whole mainland.

It will be hardly surprising if this plan does go through because there has been a mad scramble to increase the Dubai beachfront from a mere 45 km to an unbelievable 1500 km through the construction of artificial islands. Now options are getting limited because of lack of space and going inland with the canal extension might be the only way out to create more waterfront. Which is lucrative to the real-estate industry by the way if it will be able to sustain this momentum, considering that waterfront properties are priced a lot higher than inland properties and has several other advantages as well.

It is also important to keep the water running, in which case inland lakes are definitely out of the picture and the canal seems to be a viable solution. The other possibilities the canal offers are limitless - waterfront communities and other developments especially with the grid like extension as shown in the video. The Arabian Canal might not attain the legendary stature of the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal but is definitely destined to change the shape of Dubai when it is completed in 2013.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Internet Access in UAE - What to Expect in Future

A few changes in the internet access policy and some info provided by some 'inside sources'.

  • From this month onwards, Etisala' will lose the right to block sites directly. From now on Etisala' will have to send a recommendation to TRA and TRA will decide on whether to block the web site or not after an evaluation process.
    TRA does not appear to be a bunch of friendly folks - so not exactly exciting news.
  • du will have to undertake the same procedure when they start their service. All websites blocked by Etisala' previously will remain so. Which essentially means websites blocked by Etisala' will also be blocked by other service providers(if there are any in future).
    So those people who do not like Etisalat and is thinking of switching over to du, you know what to expect.
  • du is also a semi-government company in case you thought otherwise. The recent blocking of Skype and other VOiP services inside Media City was initiated by du after they officially took over the telecom service control from Media City.
    Et tu du?
  • Incase you want a website to be unblocked- you will not be able to contact TRA directly but will have to request the service provider (Etisala' or du) who will then forward the same to TRA for approval.
    Which further complicates the process and a sensible outcome less likely.

  • Etisala' actually has a separate department which monitors websites. The websites which gets most no:of hits are monitored selectively apart from a standard automated monitoring process - which means that the more popular 'undesirable' websites are more likely to be blocked than less popular ones with almost the same type of content.
    Google Video and the rest, here comes Big Daddy.
Bleak, indeed.