Friday, November 17, 2017

The immaculate cat

cover story

Fluffy, king of the garden
Cats are awesome, and they know it. They are so amazing, in fact, that they were even worshipped as deities in ancient cultures (and if you’ve ever met a cat, then you know this historic divine status is something that the feline has never forgotten). But popularity breeds haters, and that is exactly what has happened in the case of these magnificent furry creatures. There are some misguided – and, let’s face it, clearly quite envious – humans who have been levelling completely baseless accusations against our feline overlords companions, calling them things like annoying, aloof, fickle, and – excuse me while I gasp – useless. But that smear campaign ends today, for not only are cats cute and cuddly and altogether adorable, but they also happen to be the most selfless, hardworking, and useful creatures that have ever set paw on planet Earth. That’s right; the cat diligently serves many functions in various capacities all around us, tirelessly toiling all day long just to help others. All you need to realize its many roles in our lives is a little bit of love (and a lot of imagination).

Renovation instigator
You are lazy. That’s ok, I’m not judging you. But we both know that if it were up to you, you’d never bother to renovate your living space and would just end up with the same curtains and sofas and blankets and carpets for a decade. Left to your own devices, your life would be stagnant. Thankfully though, the cat is always there to help you, slowly nudging you on by shredding your drapes and using your rugs as his own personal scratch pad, all in the hopes of inspiring you to give your house an overhaul. The cat isn’t doing any of this for himself; the cat is doing this all for you. Because he loves you and cares about you. You’re welcome.

Alternative interior decorator
If you are a human being, then i) I’m sorry for your luck, and ii) chances are you keep all your possessions inside cupboards/drawers or on tables. O ye of little imagination! We humans are bound by mental constraints revolving around things like “order” and “arrangement”, but unlike us, the cat is not afraid to think outside the box. “What would everything look like if it was on the floor?” the cat wonders, before promptly throwing everything on the ground. Because changing the way the room looks has a positive impact on the mood, of course. Sure you may not be very pleased that your porcelain doll has parted ways with its head and your favourite coffee mug is now in pieces, but that’s just a small price to pay in order to enjoy the cat’s creative decorating skills.

Kitty in a tree
Nature documentary participant
The majestic cat moves with impeccable grace. Ain’t she a beauty! Suddenly, she sees a sparrow in the distance. She slowly, stealthily moves towards the unsuspecting bird. Crikey! She jumps at her prey, lunging towards the sparrow … and promptly smacks straight into the window between her and the bird that she had failed to take into account!
Cats are funny.

Comedian
See: nature documentary participant.

Gardener
Digging? Check!
Grass pruning? Check!
Applying fertilizer? Check!

Jolly performing a balancing act
Gymnast
The cat is an acrobat and the world is her circus. The consummate entertainer, the feline gymnast will swing from trees, climb to vertigo-inducing heights, make astounding jumps, and (cat)walk on impossibly thin beams, all in a noble attempt to keep us humans amused.

Financial advisor
The cat keeps meowing. I think she’s saying she wants something to play with. I should get her some toys. ($10)
Aww, doesn’t the cat look cold? Time to buy her a little cat house. ($15)
Yikes! The cat is coughing. I should take her to the vet ($50)
Oh no, we’re almost out of dry cat food. Must get some more. ($25)
Almost forgot, also need to get the wet cat food. ($25)
Might as well pick up some treats while I’m at it. ($10)
Doesn’t the cat seem like she could use some…
Wait, why am I suddenly broke?!

Motivational meower
Yes, you better not lose your job or the cat is going to have you for dinner. Work harder, human! The cat needs those fancy yumyums!

Alarm clock
The cat is nature’s alarm clock, guaranteed to wake you up in the morning. And by morning I obviously mean the middle of the night at a completely random time of her choosing. The cat knows that spontaneity makes life more exciting. Dependable digital alarm clocks that wake you up at a time of your choosing – where’s the fun in that?

Paradox generator
Just ask Schrödinger.

Lee proving that chairs are redundant
Innovator
Humans invented chairs.
Cats discovered that humans are idiots who come up with redundant inventions, because if people had the slightest common sense, they would’ve figured out that just about everything can be used as a chair.
Cats are clearly smarter than humans.

Muse
The cat has been the muse for many artists, writers, and filmmakers, dutifully inspiring them to produce some iconic works that would have simply been inconceivable without the feline.
Just think about it.
Would people have flocked to the cinemas to watch That Darn Hyena? I think not.
What would have become of Puss in Boots? Dog in Clogs just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?
The Cat in the Hat simply wouldn’t have worked without our furry friend, because The Dolphin in the Beret doesn’t even rhyme!
And Lewis Caroll would’ve been in a real pickle if it weren’t for the cat. The Cheshire Carp? Cheshire Caribou? Cheshire Cassowary? Cheshire Cormorant? Cheshire Chamois?! That’s just madness, I tell you, madness!

Uggy striking a very elegant pose
Model
Aware of its natural beauty, the cat is always gracefully catwalking and striking a pose to give you a chance to capture its gorgeousness in photos, which is a good thing because otherwise you wouldn’t know what to do with your smartphone camera.

Internet content provider
As we all know, the Internet was invented so that we could share cat photos and videos with each other. If the cat were to suddenly disappear, the World Wide Web would turn into a barren, desolate wasteland, with tumbleweed blowing down its fake news streets filled with depression and despair. But that will never happen, not on Lil Bub, Maru, Colonel Meow, Venus, and Tardar Sauce’s watch!

Jolly, always there to help when I'm working
Bookmark
The cat makes a very effective bookmark. When you’re reading something, there’s a very high chance the cat will sit on it. WHILE you’re trying to read it.
Also quite effective as a paperweight.
Come to think of it, the cat is not just a bookmark and paperweight but, in fact, a full personal assistant, personally assisting you no matter what you’re working on by helpfully sitting on whatever it is you’re working on. Always so helpful.

Lucky the brave explorer
Explorer
Marco Polo, Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, Neil Armstrong, and, of course, our good friend felis catus – some of the world’s greatest explorers who have boldly partaken in brave and daring expeditions all in the name of discovery.

Food critic
That thing you just spent an hour chopping, shredding, mixing, boiling, cooling for the cat? Yuck. Discarded. Because your cooking sucks.
That thing the cat found lying on the ground that had been sitting out there, getting coated in dust for a week? Yum!

Christmas tree ornament
Aussie, my friend Anny's beloved cat, displaying how to be a Xmas tree ornament

Fur donor
Real fur is cruel and fake fur looks, well, fake. But don’t worry – the cat knows how weary you are of both fox and faux fur. That is why it very helpfully leaves a layer of fur on all your clothing. Now you too can be posh and trendy and proudly walk around with a real fur covered top or sweater, cruelty free and prepared for you with love by your very considerate feline friend. See? The cat gives and it gives…

Hitler impersonator
Hitler, pensively wishing I had named him Chaplin instead
Hail Kitler! Because we must remember the past so as not to repeat it in the future. Or something.

Friend filter
What kind of a person doesn’t like cats? Block, delete, buh bye!

Fitness trainer
Like we talked about earlier, you’re lazy. Don’t worry, still not judging you. But laziness isn’t good for your health. That’s why the cat is worried about you. And since he only wants what’s best for you, he has made it his life’s mission to keep you on your toes. No need to join the gym when you are owned by a feline, because the cat takes his responsibility as your fitness trainer very seriously. Yes, he has you running around doing chores for him all day, but that’s just because he wants you to get some exercise. And when he goes missing and makes you frantically search for him all over the neighbourhood, it’s because he wants you to get that extra cardio.

Social interaction initiator
Speaking of frantic neighbourhood searches…
In a tech obsessed world that is leaving many of us increasingly isolated, where our messed up priorities have ended up trapping us in the 24 hour news cycle… we somehow seem very pleased with ourselves for knowing what’s happening in a random place on this planet a million miles away, yet have no idea what’s going on with our own neighbours. The cat realizes that this needs to chance. That’s why she keeps coming up with different ways to get you out of the house and socialize with the people around you. The cat wants you to know your neighbours, and for your neighbours to know you too, so that the next time they see you, they can think “ugh, there’s that insane woman who keeps showing up at our house looking for one of her five million cats. Quickly hide before she sees us and comes over again and starts jabbering away about how great cats are. Oh no, too late…”

So yes, cats are awesome, and they know it. And it’s about time everyone else knew it too.

- By a crazy cat lady Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 17th November, 2017 *

Friday, November 03, 2017

I, Tonya - a darkly comical biopic powered by Margot Robbie's charm

trailer review


Sports rivalries can add excitement to games by raising the stakes and making the experience more intense and thrilling for both the participants and viewers. But there is also a dark side to such rivalries, especially when they get out of control and turn ugly as overzealous fans or over-competitive athletes take things to dangerous levels. That is exactly what happened in the case of American figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan, when the former went too far in her attempt to surpass the latter in a shocking 1994 incident. The story of this scandal and the woman at its centre is now being brought to the big screen in the film I, Tonya.

Directed by Craig Gillespie, the biographical sports black comedy is based on the real life of Harding (portrayed by Margot Robbie), who rose to infamy because of her involvement in the attack on her fellow skater.

The trailer suggests that the film takes a look at various stages and aspects of Harding’s life. The movie sheds light on her tough upbringing – the wonderful Mckenna Grace plays the protagonist as a child, while Robbie portrays the former U.S. champion as an adult. Also explored in the biopic is her relationship with her eventual ex-husband Jeff Gilooly (Sebastian Stan), who, along with her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), hired an assailant to break the leg of her competitor, Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), to keep her from competing at the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Robbie seems like a good choice for the lead role. The Australian actress has already proven that she is great at putting comedic and crazy together in her terrific performance in (the otherwise disappointing) Suicide Squad. While her character in I, Tonya is completely different from Harley Quinn, Robbie seems to be bringing the same charm and pizzazz to this performance, which will hopefully make for an enjoyable viewing experience. The other standout actor in the trailer is Allison Janney, who is very well cast in the supporting role of Harding’s strict mother, coldly pushing the young girl both on and off the rink.

I, Tonya combines an interesting real-life tale with an impressive cast. The film seems to posses all the major component that make a movie compelling and entertaining, and the trailer definitely leaves you looking forward to its release this December. It remains to be seen if Steven Rogers’ script is as sharp as the project deserves, but from its first few glimpses, this sports comedy sure looks like it could potentially be a winner.

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 3rd November, 2017 *

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Hitman’s Bodyguard - clichéd action, terrific cast

movie review

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Élodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Kirsty Mitchell, and Richard E. Grant
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Tagline: Get triggered.
 
Even when the script they have to work with isn’t quite exceptional, talented actors still have the ability to elevate the mediocre material they’re provided and turn it into an entertaining cinematic experience for the audience. That is exactly what Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson have done with The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an otherwise middling action comedy that benefits from the chemistry and charisma of its leads.

The actors portray two bitter rivals who must set aside their differences and work together to evade countless armed baddies on a journey across Europe.

Reynolds appears in the role of Michael Bryce, a “triple A rated executive protection agent” whose reputation takes a hit after one of his clients is shot in the head. Jackson portrays Darius Kincaid, a notorious contract killer who is incarcerated and facing two dozen counts of murder in ten countries. When a ruthless dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), is put on trial for crimes against humanity, Kincaid agrees to testify against the brutal tyrant in exchange for the exoneration of his beloved wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek).

But when even a squad of Interpol agents can’t protect Kincaid from Dukhovich’s assassins, Amelia Roussel (Élodie Yung), the inexperienced agent in charge of transporting the witness, is forced to ask a very reluctant Bryce – who happens to be her ex-boyfriend – for help. Not eager to protect his long-time nemesis, the bodyguard eventually agrees to accompany and transport Kincaid to The Hague so that he can testify against the vicious despot at the International Court of Justice.

Protecting his new client, however, is easier said than done. The duo is chased by armed criminals for much of the film’s duration. There are car chases, combats, fights, explosions … and it all starts to get a bit tedious. The problem isn’t that the action scenes aren’t competently shot or well executed but it’s simply that there are just too many of them and they often go on for longer than they should.

Luckily, though, the action is accompanied by a near-constant stream of banter, and the combination – while too violent and profane for some viewers – works quite well, primarily because of Reynolds and Jackson’s acting talents and their seemingly effortless ability to exchange barbs like pros. Also terrific in the film is Hayek in a performance so amusing that you’re left to wish her part in the film had been longer. And Oldman is suitably menacing in the role of the film’s antagonist.

That said, even the entertaining acting performances can’t hide the fact that the proceedings are predictable, the story is clichéd, the script isn’t very inventive, and the movie on the whole is overlong and repetitive. This isn’t the first – and it certainly won’t be the last – time that a Hollywood film has tried to generate humour by putting together two opposite or conflicting personalities. But even though director Patrick Hughes and his crew have mostly stuck to the generic, conventional route here, it’s the competence of their impressive cast that has rescued this vehicle and made it amusing and watchable.

On the whole, while it isn’t exactly an example of great filmmaking, The Hitman’s Bodyguard does take you on a fun, two hour long ride. Just don’t expect it to bring anything new to the genre or surprise you in any way.

Rating: 3 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 19th October, 2017 *

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner - an impactful, impressive cinematic effort

movie review

Beatriz at Dinner

Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Chloë Sevigny, David Warshofsky
Directed by: Miguel Arteta
Taglines: She was invited, but she's not welcome.

It’s a clash of personalities and perspectives as two very different people end up at the same gathering in Beatriz at Dinner, an odd but touching drama with an impressive cast and a terrific performance by its lead actress.

The protagonist is Beatriz (portrayed by Salma Hayek), a massage therapist and spiritual healer who works mainly with cancer patients at an alternative clinic. One of her private clients is the wealthy Kathy (Connie Britton), the mother of a Hodgkin’s survivor, Tara, who Beatriz helped during her cancer treatment and recovery.

After a session at Kathy’s posh residence, the masseuse heads back to her car, hoping to drive home where her beloved dogs and goat await her, only to realize that her run-down VW won’t start. Sympathetic to her predicament, her client invites her to stay over for dinner and attend a party that Kathy and her husband (David Warshofsky) are throwing for some of their business associates.

The working class immigrant soon finds herself in the company of the mega-rich. Among the dinner guests is Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), a real estate mogul who likes to hunt animals in Africa for sport.

Things get awkward as the classism manifests itself and the ideals begin to clash. It’s an intriguing premise and a compelling piece akin to watching a stage play. Clearly a lot of love has gone into the making of this film, and director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Mike White deserve props for bringing this offbeat project to life. But the filmmakers haven’t quite been able to make the most of Beatriz at Dinner’s promising plot and setting. Its humour is understated and subtle, but the politics are so in-your-face that the movie often ends up sermonizing instead of offering a sharp or incisive satire. And the characters sometimes seem more like caricatures than well-crafted individuals – there aren’t enough shades of grey at work here to make the film as forceful as it should be.

But even when the tension is lacking or the movie seems a little lost in itself, the cast always elevates the material. Britton is sublime as the privileged Kathy and Lithgow masterfully embodies the despicable Doug. But the MVP here is Salma Hayek, who delivers a riveting performance, perhaps the best of her career. Her gentle portrayal of the sensitive and sincere but a tad unhinged Beatriz is absolutely outstanding. As it starts to become clear that the protagonist is going through some sort of a breakdown, Hayek handles the role deftly. The actress expresses her character’s emotions so well that it becomes impossible not to be affected by what Beatriz is feeling and going through.

It’s a piece more sombre than comedic, more dark than humorous. And while one may wish that the filmmakers had made the setting more claustrophobic and the ending more satisfying, Beatriz at Dinner is still a very impressive cinematic effort that – thanks in large part to Hayek’s acting – makes a powerful impact on viewers and leaves you with something to think about.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 17th October, 2017 *

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Logan Lucky - a slick, fun heist comedy

movie review
  
Logan Lucky 

Starring: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Seth MacFarlane, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank, and Daniel Craig
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Tagline: See how the other half steals.

Steven Soderbergh makes a triumphant comeback with Logan Lucky, a heist comedy that sees the acclaimed director return to filmmaking after a four year hiatus from big screen ventures. The movie – his first directorial effort since 2013 – follows the adventure of three siblings who are attempting to pull off a daring, elaborate robbery.

Things aren’t going too well for the down-on-their-luck Logan family as the film commences. Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) – a Southern, blue collar construction worker who once had a promising football career that was derailed by a knee injury – is let go from his job “for liability reasons involving insurance”. His brother, Clyde (Adam Driver) – a war veteran who lost his left forearm in Iraq – runs a bar, while their sister, Mellie (Riley Keough) – the only one of the siblings who seems to have escaped the Logan curse – works as a hairdresser.

Struggling with financial and family issues (which are exacerbated by his ex-wife Bobbie’s (Katie Holmes) decision to move with their daughter Sadie (Farrah Mackenzie) to another city), Jimmy hatches the plan to carry out a robbery during a NASCAR race by exploiting the pneumatic tube system that the race track uses for moving money. After his siblings are on board with the scheme, Jimmy has to recruit the convicted Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them get into the vault; the latter insists that his dim-witted brothers (Brian Gleeson and Jack Quaid) must also be brought in on the plan.

This motley crew of felons and would-be criminals must work together to pull off everything from a prison break to a vault breach (that uses a combination of bleach, gummy bears, and a salt substitute as an explosive) to make off with their loot and evade the FBI.

Will things go according to plan? And will the Logans finally be able to turn their luck around? The film takes you on a suspenseful and often amusing ride that delivers a few twists and turns along the way before you finally get the answers to those questions.

You can easily tell the same hand that was behind the Ocean’s Trilogy is at the helm of this project as well. Logan Lucky may be low-key and stripped of the glamour of the director’s Clooney-starring heist capers, but the execution is just as slick here.

Despite the overall impressive filmmaking though, there are a few subplots that aren’t handled quite as smoothly as the main arc. The rift between a snooty businessman (Seth MacFarlane) and his sponsored driver (Sebastian Stan) doesn’t really add much to the proceedings. Plus the FBI investigation towards the end – featuring a lacklustre performance by Hilary Swank as an agent assigned to the heist case – could have been more interesting instead of just seeming like a drag.

As for the cast, Tatum and Driver embrace their Southern characters as well as the film’s deadpan tone and are very well-cast in their roles. Keough also has an impressive screen presence. And Craig easily steals the show whenever he’s on screen.

All in all, this caper comedy may not bring anything particularly new to its well-worn genre but it still offers an enjoyable adventure populated with well-crafted characters. Logan Lucky probably won’t be the most memorable film you watch this year, but it will still take you on a fun, entertaining 2-hour-long ride.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune Blogs - 14th October, 2017 *

Friday, October 13, 2017

Vet to the rescue

cover story: interview

Any animal lover will readily tell you that having an animal friend in your life can be very rewarding. But just like us, our little companions too can suffer from the occasional malady. It’s a good thing then that veterinary doctors are on hand to provide both preventive and curative treatment to our furry, feathered, and scaled buddies.

Dr. Faheem Ahmad is one such vet, dedicated to helping the animals – both pets and strays – that are brought to his clinic. In a conversation with Us, the veterinary surgeon tells us about the experience of both studying and working in his field of expertise …

Us: Please tell Us a bit about yourself.
Dr. Faheem Ahmad: I’m a veterinary surgeon. I’m the eldest child in the family – I have two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. I recently got married, so now I feel I have more liabilities, fulfilling not just the responsibilities of a son and brother but a husband too. I completed my D.V.M. (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree in 2015 from University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) Lahore and recently completed my postgraduate (M.Phil.) degree in veterinary surgery from the same university. Professionally I am running my father’s private clinic, Saleem Veterinary Clinic and Pet Shop, in Lahore.

Us: What prompted you to become a veterinarian?
Dr. Faheem: Since I opened my eyes, I was involved with animals as my father is a vet. Growing up, I became more interested in them. My father used to take me along with him when he used to go for visits, and gradually I started indulging in his clinical activities. I simply loved watching him and sometime even assisted him in handling the animals. I was very intrigued. It was then that I decided I would become a veterinary surgeon and Alhamdulillah (by the grace of God) I am one now.

Us: How has your experience of studying at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Lahore been? And how do you feel about the standard of veterinary schools in Pakistan as compared to their international counterparts?
Dr. Faheem: It was a different type of experience, as university is a unique part of life where one has to prepare oneself to get into a practical field. I learnt a lot at university; I was one of the most active students and was the university proctor (representative) throughout my university life. I was a member and held key posts in different student veterinary clubs. Under the banner of those societies, I organized many free deworming, vaccination, and medical treatment camps at different villages, especially before Bakra Eid festivals. I also managed to take part as a veterinary officer in a carpet vaccination program organized by the Livestock Department. We went to flood affected areas of Pakistan to provide free veterinary services. So it was a very active, practical experience.
University provided me with a platform to sharpen my skills. UVAS is always thriving hard to get advanced equipment and impart the latest knowledge so that we can easily compete with the world.

Us: What are some of the salient features of the veterinary science curriculum?
Dr. Faheem: It is a very diverse field. From learning the basic anatomy of large and small domestic animals to getting familiarized with the physiology, understanding the basic pathological pathways, genetics, bioinformatics, drugs and clinical medicine, along with surgery. It also involves the knowledge of animal products, like milk, meat, wool, etcetera.

Us: Can you please tell Us about your work experience so far?
Dr. Faheem: I did internships at Lahore Zoo, Bahawalpur Zoo, and with Houbara Foundation Pakistan. I was also nominated for training by International Fund for Houbara to U.A.E. for the duration of 45 days. I received training at Falcon Hospital Abu Dhabi, Al Ain Zoo, and National Avian Research Centre, Sweihan, U.A.E. I just returned from China after attending a training program on traditional Chinese veterinary medicine and acupuncture techniques in animals. Adding to that, I have also attended many other international and national trainings and workshops. I am also serving as a consultant at an equine farm. I have not given up on voluntary work, most importantly stray animals on the streets. I provide free check-ups for the stray injured animals at the clinic. I ran a pilot project of shelter for small, stray animals with the collaboration of USAID back in 2013. Currently I am working on a proposal for the welfare of stray animals.

Us: How is the experience of working as a veterinarian in Pakistan? Have you felt a significant difference between working in Pakistan and abroad?
Dr. Faheem: It’s very challenging to work here, as for most owners their pets are not their priority. There is bare concept of regular health check-up and no proper vaccination or proper care is given to pets. So far, I have experienced that the majority of people bring their pets to the clinic in very poor condition after trying home remedies which makes it very difficult for us to treat them. In my opinion, this lack of attention to pets is due to the care free attitude of most of the owners who complain of their busy schedules, although getting an appointment from a vet is easier and the cost that is incurred is a lot cheaper than in the west.  

Us: You have treated many different animals so far. Which animal is the easiest to deal with? And which is the most challenging?
Dr. Faheem: In my opinion, no animal is difficult to treat if it is being regularly checked up and brought to the clinic for early diagnosis. On the other hand, every animal becomes challenging when brought at a critical stage specially when the initial stages were ignored or the animal wasn’t given proper care.

Us: You must come across animals that you can’t save. How do you cope with that?
Dr. Faheem: I believe every patient brought to my clinic, or those I treat elsewhere, is my responsibility. Being a surgeon and physician, I always try my best to save their life. Despite the fact that God is in charge of both life and death and one can only try, let me tell you honestly, seeing them go away or putting them down when there is no solution has never been easy for me. 

Us: Along with the animals, you also have to deal with their owners. Is there anything you wish pet owners would do differently?
Dr. Faheem: Yes indeed! I have many times faced great problems as we don't only have to treat the animals but also deal with the owners. We should only keep a pet if we can take care of it like our own children. There are many owners who keep a pet just to boast about – it’s more of a status symbol. They don’t bother to take proper care, like general check-up, vaccination, grooming, etcetera and it is only when their pet is in critical condition that they feel the need of seeking medical help and rush to us, the vets. Secondly, they should trust their vet. Most importantly, animals are very sensitive to care and love in terms of not only getting proper healthy nutrition but also time and attention; otherwise animals go into stress.

Us: What advice do you have for animal lovers who can’t afford veterinary care?
Dr. Faheem: Call a veterinary clinic that provides free consultation for those who can't afford treatment, like our clinic – we give subsidized rates to people who can’t afford it. But do get them checked in time.

Us: Human medicines seem to generally be prescribed to animals in Pakistan. Why are veterinary medicines not (easily) available here? Is there anything that can be done about this issue?
Dr. Faheem: Yes, unfortunately we have no option other than prescribing human medicines due to the lack of proper finances and attention to veterinary pharmaceuticals as far as small animals are concerned. 

Us: You did internships at the Lahore and Bahawalpur Zoo. How was the experience? How do you feel about the state of zoos in Pakistan? And how do you feel about zoos in general?
Dr. Faheem: It has always been an amazing experience working in zoos. We have huge potential and it needs further assistance by government and non-government bodies.   

Us: You are passionate about helping stray animals. What can the rest of us do to help?
Dr. Faheem: The most important thing is, if you see an injured or sick animal, give them first aid only if you have the knowledge about it; otherwise bring it immediately to the nearest veterinary clinic for proper treatment.

Us: Do you have any advice for students who are considering adopting a career in veterinary medicine?
Dr. Faheem: It's simply the best and most satisfying career, especially seeing an animal recover. It is a vast and diverse field; after D.V.M., one can join several areas, like dairy, meat, poultry, wildlife, etcetera. If you have passion for animals and you know that you can handle it, then you should go for it. Good luck.

- Sameen Amer

Have any questions for Dr. Faheem about animal care or want to know more about the veterinary field? Then send Us your queries at sameenamer [at] hotmail [dot] com, and we’ll print his replies to your questions in an upcoming issue.

Us Magazine, The News - 13th October, 2017 *

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The family friendly fluff of Fuller House

series review

Fuller House
Season 3 (part 1)

Starring: Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, Andrea Barber, Michael Campion, Elias Harger, Soni Nicole Bringas, Dashiell and Fox Messitt, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Scott Weinger, John Brotherton, and Adam Hagenbuch
Created by: Jeff Franklin

It may not have impressed critics, but – just like its predecessor – Fuller House sure seems to have struck a chord with the viewers. The sequel to the popular sitcom Full House – which ran from 1987 to 1995 on ABC – arrived on Netflix last year when the streaming service brought the cast back together for this spinoff revival, which focuses mainly on the recently widowed D.J. Tanner-Fuller (Candace Cameron Bure) raising her three sons with the help of her sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and best friend Kimmy Gibbler (Andrea Barber).

Thanks to the massive nostalgia-driven popularity of the first outing, the show was quickly renewed for a second season, which arrived later in the same year, and was soon followed by the news that the sitcom had been given the thumbs up for an 18-episode third season which was to be split into two parts. The first of these instalments was recently unveiled by Netflix on the 22nd of September, which marks the 30th anniversary of the premiere of its parent series.

Despite being released on the first day of fall, this 9 episode set takes place during summer break.

The adults are navigating the same kind of familial and romantic issues that you’d expect from the sitcom. D.J. continues to be torn between her feelings for her boyfriend and colleague, Matt (John Brotherton), and her high school sweetheart, Steve (Scott Weinger), who is now engaged to C.J. (Virginia Williams) and planning their wedding which is set to take place in Japan. Stephanie, who has a broken ankle (to accommodate Sweetin’s broken leg), and Kimmy’s brother, Jimmy (Adam Hagenbuch), are still an item, and the middle Tanner daughter is also struggling with the fact that she can’t have children. Kimmy is still being wooed by Fernando (Juan Pablo Di Pace) who has bought and renovated the old Gibbler house.

The kids are off from school, all except Jackson (Michael Campion) who is forced to take summer classes to improve his grades. Max (Elias Harger) is very excited about the holidays and dreams of having the “best summer ever”. And Ramona’s (Soni Nicole Bringas) relationship with Popko (Isaak Presley) has been going steady but is about to hit a snag.

Clearly its themes aren’t very clever or cerebral, but it wouldn’t be wise to expect that from Fuller House in the first place. These are your basic sitcom storylines, centred on a love triangle/will-they-won’t-they relationship that would be tiresome had viewers not already been invested in it, although the fact that episode 9 ends on a cliff-hanger and gives us no resolution to this romantic entanglement just becomes a test of patience.

As for the cast, while they will probably not be showered with Emmys anytime soon, they do perform their comedic duties with fervour. The young actors seem more comfortable in their roles, and have honed in some of their more grating tendencies. And the grownups – especially the members of the “She-Wolf Pack” – appear to be having fun making the show, and their joy can be somewhat contagious.

As for the rest of the original Full House regulars who have recurring responsibilities in this spin-off, they only make sporadic appearances in this set of episodes. There are no big family reunions in the first half of season three. John Stamos, Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and Lori Loughlin appear in one episode each; Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are still a no-show. As a result, this season is relatively light on throwback moments so far and makes you hope that this will be rectified in the second half. While the series may be trying to establish itself in its own right, the writers and showrunner would be wise to remember that this show exists solely because of the powers of nostalgia. (Also, if Jeff Franklin and co. are so enamoured with doing songs and musical performances, then they could at least make them seem less shoehorned and more natural.)

Ultimately, just like Full House, Fuller House, too, specializes in family friendly fluff – everything is always drenched in saccharine sentimentality, and there are scenes featuring cute animals and babies sprinkled throughout each episode so that the audience can go “aww” every few minutes. It all ranges from cheesy to corny, and whether you’ll find it heart-warming or cringe-worthy simply comes down to preference. If you want something intelligent, then this clearly isn’t the best option for you, and obviously there are plenty of other shows that you can watch instead. This is Netflix after all; if you want something dark or edgy, then House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are just a click away. But if you’re a fan of traditional sitcoms and in the mood for some silly fun, then this 9-episode arc of Fuller House will keep you entertained for a four hour long binge watching session.

Rating: 3 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 8th October, 2017