Saturday, December 31, 2011


cover story

It was a year of shakeups – political, economic, and even seismic. The last twelve months have reshaped the world we live in, while changing our lives, thoughts, and perspectives. As we bid adieu to 2011, we take a look at some of the significant events of the year:

- Arab Spring: From the very start of the year, it was fairly obvious that 2011 would not exactly be the best year to be a dictator. Sure enough, the uprising of the Arab people eventually led to many leaders stepping down or being ousted. Fuelled by a desire to seek change, the waves of protests resulted in the fall of the governments of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (January); Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak (February); Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi (August), who was overthrown and later killed in October; and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, who signed an agreement in November to relinquish office the following month.
- Terrorist attacks: Terrorism continued to rear its ugly head periodically throughout the year. 2011’s major attacks included the bombing at the Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow (January) that claimed 37 lives; the twin attacks in Norway (July) that resulted in 77 casualties; and the bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia (October) that killed a 100 people; as well as attacks in various regions of Pakistan. Also terrorising us was an army of mosquitoes that cruelly spread dengue fever in Pakistan, which remained a threat throughout the year.

- Cricket spot-fixing scandal: Upholding the tradition of always being in the news for all the wrong reasons, Pakistani cricket continued to suffer due to the previous year’s spot-fixing allegations. The ICC tribunal found Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir guilty of corruption, and banned them (for terms of between five and ten years) in February; the cricketers, as well as agent Mazhar Majeed, were given jail sentences (of 30, 12, 6, and 32 months respectively) in November. Speaking of the sport, the tenth ICC Cricket World Cup tournament took place from February to April, but we couldn’t co-host it and we didn’t win it, so it can’t have been all that important anyway. What do you mean “sour grapes”?!

- Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami: Mother Nature refused to give humanity a break for yet another year. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook Japan and triggered powerful tsunami waves, wrecking havoc and resulting in the loss of over 15,000 lives. The most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit the country, the catastrophe caused widespread destruction and also damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Later in the year (October), Turkey (Van) was also jolted by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake which took over 600 lives.

- Royal wedding: Prince William and Catherine Middleton tied the knot in a ceremony that became one of the most talked about and watched events of the year, because the Royal Family is not an outdated archaic institution with no relevance in an advanced modern society at all; besides, who wouldn’t want to encourage a parade of wealth at the expense of taxpayer funds? Now let’s all obsess over what Kate and Pippa Middleton wore today because that seems like a highly pertinent issue that requires our daily attention.

- Death of Osama Bin Laden: The US achieved a decade old milestone and solved all the problems of world terrorism by killing Osama Bin Laden in a Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad. In doing so, they also debunked the myth that the US needs to even pretend that international conventions and laws should at least appear to be adhered to. This did not do wonders for the already-strained relationship between America and Pakistan, made worse because of the drone strikes and several incidents (like US CIA contractor Raymond Davis committing double murder in Lahore in January, and then being released in March after the families accepted blood money; and the NATO attack that killed Pakistani soldiers (see November).) In not entirely related news, somebody may or may not have sent someone a memo about something or the other; meanwhile, in a parallel universe, politicians were honest, no one was evasive, and everything made sense.
- The end of The Oprah Winfrey Show: The highest-rated talk show in American television history came to an end, leaving us with the question: what will we not watch now? We are certainly going to miss not watching it.
- Dominic Strauss Kahn’s resignation: Dominic Strauss Kahn stepped down as the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after he was accused of assaulting a hotel housekeeper in New York; the charge was later dropped in August.
- Apocalypse prediction: The world failed to end yet again when the much anticipated Rapture was a no show. People wandered around disappointed as the May 21st deadline (professed by Harold Camping) came and went; similarly, the complete destruction of the world did not follow on the assigned date in October. Or well the end of the world stuff did come true for a couple of things, like OBL’s life, Oprah’s show, and Kahn’s career! We also saw an end to the idea that America has to follow international guidelines when it comes to things like recognising the sovereign rights of countries and other such trivial matters.

- French Open: Chinese tennis player Li Na became the first Grand Slam singles champion born in an Asian country by winning the French Open. Spain’s Rafael Nadal was the victor in the men’s tournament, but the overall year belonged to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic who won the Australian Open, US Open, and Wimbledon.
- Duke Nukem Forever released: Against all the laws of existence Duke Nukem Forever was finally released after being in development for 15 years. It may have taken forever to see the light of day, but it was totally worth the wait because the game was so well made and sophisticated and…wait, no it wasn’t. Instead, it was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (released in November) that wowed critics and was named the ‘Game of the Year’ at the Spike VGAs (December), and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 which impressed gamers and made $1 billion a record 16 days after its release in November.

- NASA Space Shuttle program concluded: NASA retired its shuttle fleet after 30 years of service, with the final flight of Atlantis.
- British phone-hacking scandal: While the space program had been working to explore the stars, News of the World had been busy snooping on stars; the British tabloid, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation was at the centre of a phone-hacking scandal that purported that the paper had hacked not only the phones of celebrities, but also of deceased people and their families, thereby resulting in the closure of the publication and an inquiry into the scandal.
- South Sudan secession: After a referendum on independence in January, South Sudan seceded from Sudan, becoming an independent state and the world’s newest nation.
- Harry Potter finale: The Harry Potter film series came to an end with the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, which became the highest grossing movie of the year, squeezing out the (hopefully) final drops of cash from the franchise and making over US$1.3 billion. Now can we all finally move on? Please?
- Somalia famine: Following a severe drought in East Africa, the worst in decades, a famine was declared in southern Somalia; the crisis has taken tens of thousands of lives and left millions of people in need of assistance, and also affected parts of various neighbouring countries. Humanitarian agencies requested US$2.48 billion to address the crisis, and $1.12 billion were subsequently committed in the coming weeks, leaving them about $1.3 billion short…which also happens to be the amount that people spent on Harry Potter tickets; the number later come down to less than a billion with over 70% of the target met.

- Asia floods: Parts of Thailand suffered from some of the worst flooding to hit the country following heavy rains. Monsoon rains also caused floods in Pakistan’s Sindh, affecting the lives of millions of people.
- Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO: Apple Inc.’s game-changing visionary Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of the company that he co-founded in 1976, ending the reign of one of the world’s most influential businessmen; he passed away less than two months later.

- The Occupy movement: Starting from Wall Street before spreading to “over 1,500 cities globally”, the Occupy movement saw “the 99 percent” stand up to “[fight] back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations.” Well done for standing up for sanity, and good luck with trying to change the way the entire world works; should be easy.
- India-Bangladesh border pact: India and Bangladesh signed a pact to resolve the enclave situation in the countries.

- Seventh Rugby World Cup: The World Cup of that sport we don’t play was held in that country that we’re not. Somebody won. (Ok fine, it was held in New Zealand and won by New Zealand. There. Happy?)
- Seven billion population: The number of people in the world reached seven billion this year; according to reports, the most significant population increases since the last billion have been in China, India, and the house of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

- NATO cross-border attack: An attack by NATO forces on a Pakistani border check post killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in an incident that was universally condemned and further deteriorated the relationship between Pakistan and USA; the incident also resulted in the evacuation of Shamsi Airfield, closure of NATO supply routes, and Pakistan boycotting the Bonn Conference.
- European debt crisis: European countries continued to face financial woes, with the EU scrambling to get things under control through measures like a €78 billion rescue deal for Portugal (May), and a write-down of 50% of Greek bonds (October). The handling of the financial crisis also contributed towards the shuffling of some governments, with leaders stepping down following opposition; this included the resignation of the Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou (November), and Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi (November), who was forced out of office following private scandals and after losing political support.
- 11-11-11: That was kinda cool. Just sayin’.

- Most Earth-like planet discovered: The discovery of Kepler 22-b, an extrasolar planet orbiting around a distant Sun-like star’s habitable zone, was officially announced, giving humanity the hope that maybe someday we can move there and ruin that planet too.
- New Year’s Eve: No, not the horrific Garry Marshall film that came out a few weeks ago; the real thing. As the year reaches its end, it leaves us with many cliff-hangers: Will Barack Obama win re-election? Will Silvio Berlusconi stop embarrassing himself? And will the world finally end? Stay tuned – the next 366 days will reveal all the answers.

Have a great year, y’all!

  • Abdul Hameed (83) – Pakistani writer.
  • Amy Winehouse (27) – British singer.
  • Andy Rooney (92) – American television personality, appeared on 60 Minutes (1978 – 2011).
  • Andy Whitfield (39) – Welsh actor, best known for his leading role in the television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand (2010).
  • Anne McCaffrey (85) – Irish-American science fiction writer.
  • Dan Wheldon (33) – British racing driver and champion.
  • Dennis Ritchie (70) – American computer scientist, created the C programming language.
  • Elizabeth Taylor (79) – British-American actress, star of films such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), BUtterfield 8 (1960), Cleopatra (1963), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).
  • Hakim Ali Zardari (81) – Pakistani politician, father of Asif Ali Zardari.
  • Harry Morgan (96) – American actor, star of series including Dragnet (1967–1970), and M*A*S*H (1975–1983).
  • Jamil Fakhri (65) – Pakistani actor, most remembered for his performance in the TV series Andhera Ujala.
  • Joe Frazier (67) – American boxer, heavyweight boxing champion.
  • Kim Jong-il (70) - Supreme leader of North Korea (1994–2011).
  • Moin Akhter (60) – Pakistani actor and comedian.
  • Munir Dar (76) – Pakistani field hockey player, member of Olympic gold and silver medal winning squads.
  • Nusrat Bhutto (82) – Iranian-born Pakistani First Lady, widow of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
  • Pete Postlethwaite (64) – British actor, appeared in movies including In the Name of the Father (1993), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), and Inception (2010).
  • Peter Falk (83) – American actor, best known for playing the lead role in the television series Columbo.
  • Randy Savage (58) – American professional wrestler.
  • Salmaan Taseer (66) – Pakistani politician, 26th Governor of Punjab.
  • Shahbaz Bhatti (42) – Pakistani politician, Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs.
  • Steve Jobs (56) – American businessman, co-founder of Apple.
- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 30th December, 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Rewind (music in 2011)


A look back at music in 2011
  • R.E.M. released their fifteenth album, Collapse into Now, then disbanded and left us wondering if life was worth living anymore.
  • Adele kept us from giving up on the music-making segment of humanity by serenading us with her sophomore record 21, which yielded hits like Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You.
  • Blink-182 released Neighborhoods, their first new album since 2003. It was supposedly “ambitious” and “deep” and “dark”, and actually quite boring.
  • In news that we wish was made up, Katy Perry became the first female artist in history to achieve five number one singles – California Gurls, Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T., and Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) – on the US charts from one album for the very atrocious Teenage Dream.
  • Global marketing construct and queen of shock tactics Lady Gaga unveiled her new album Born This Way, which became an instant contender for worst album cover of the year.
  • The White Stripes officially disbanded nearly four years after releasing their sixth and final album, Icky Thump (2007).
  • The music world saw a heartbreaking loss of talent as singer Amy Winehouse passed away at the age of 27 from alcohol poisoning. A posthumous compilation featuring some of her unreleased songs and demos was issued later in the year.
  • American Idol returned for a tenth season with Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez joining Randy Jackson on the judging panel. Scotty McCreery became the youngest male winner of the show, while Lauren Alaina finished as the runners up. Meanwhile, J.Lo tried to revive her music career with the predictably awful Love?, and separated from Marc Anthony (which would explain the ? after Love).
  • The X-Factor made its way to America, bringing Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul together again in a bid to find yet another mediocre pop singer. The season was won by Melanie Amaro (while pop group Little Mix won the UK version of the program). Cheryl Cole was first hired as a mentor for the US show, but then eventually replaced by Nicole Scherzinger.
  • Another reality show The Voice also set out to find singing talent. The winner? Some guy contestant. The real winners? Judges Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera, who were propelled to the top of global charts with one of the biggest hits of their careers in the form of the Maroon 5 and Xtina song Moves Like Jagger. The Maroon 5 singer also scored a hit with Stereo Hearts, his collaboration with Gym Class Heroes.
  • World’s most well-known cover band Westlife decided to part ways after drowning their listeners in a sea of saccharine ballads for 14 years. They will never be forgotten forgiven.
  • Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts released her well-received debut solo album, Cinderella’s Eyes.
  • Musicians (including Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Ne-Yo, Jamie Foxx, and Smokey Robinson) gathered to pay tribute to the late King of Pop at Michael Forever – The Tribute Concert in October, the same month in which Cirque du Soleil’s show Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour also debuted. The following month, MJ’s personal physician Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and sentenced to four years in prison.
  • Kim Kardashian got married. 72 days later, Kim Kardashian filed for divorce. If that wasn’t bad enough, the reality TV “star” made an ill-advised foray into music with her single Jam (Turn It Up); the results were just about as bad as you’d expect. The world went from not knowing whether she can sing, to knowing that she definitely can not. The saving grace: a portion of the proceeds went to charity.
  • Speaking of talent-challenged famous-for-being-famous celebrities, Paris Hilton’s second album failed to surface, although the prospect of it loomed eerily over the music-listening world like an impending catastrophe. She did, however, decide to torment us with yet another reality series, titled The World According to Paris, which was thankfully cancelled after one season.
  • Britney Spears churned out more auto-tuned dance-pop in Femme Fatale, which inevitably landed at the top of the charts.
  • Beyoncé told us who run the world (girls!), and released her fourth album, the very creatively titled 4.
  • Take That “progressed” as a five-piece, and recorded the theme songs for the movies X-Men: First Class (Love Love) and The Three Musketeers (When We Were Young).
  • Glee returned for a third season as The Glee Project winners made their way onto the show. The series continued to butcher pop songs and also continued to sell a boatload of records.
  • Death Cab for Cutie’s seventh album, Codes and Keys, hit the shelves, while the band’s front-man Ben Gibbard and his wife actress/singer Zooey Deschanel decided to part ways after two years of marriage, only days after the release of She & Him’s Christmas album.
  • The Grammy Awards went all cool on us, giving Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs the ‘Album of the Year’ award, making them the first indie act to win the accolade. The big winners of the ceremony, however, were country pop trio Lady Antebellum, who took home five honours including ‘Record of the Year’ and ‘Song of the Year’ for their single Need You Now.
  • Justin Bieber made millions with his documentary/concert film Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, and then decided to ruin Christmas by releasing a Xmas album, titled Under the Mistletoe. The set included a cover/duet of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You which basically sounded like Bieber wailing over the original recording of the song.
  • Rebecca Black came under the spotlight when her vanity single Friday went viral on YouTube and became the most disliked video on the website. Suddenly Justin Bieber didn’t seem all that bad after all. Although it kinda was worth it just for the parodies!
  • But Friday’s status as the “worst song ever” was challenged when Design the Skyline’s Surrounded by Silence made its way to unsuspecting ears and then subsequently made them bleed.
  • Pop group Steps got back together, nearly ten years after breaking up, upon realizing that all their attempts at having solo careers had pretty much tanked. Other groups that reunited include The Darkness, Bloc Party, and Black Sabbath.
  • Nicki Minaj tried to tell us what the super bass sounds like (“boom-badoom boom, boom badoom-boom” apparently), and also saw success with her single Fly which featured Rihanna.
  • Rihanna released a new album, Talk That Talk, and about 348162 singles, and was all over the charts.
  • Swedish House Mafia tried to save the world.
  • Jessie J released her debut album. People liked it, for some strange reason.
  • The Stone Roses reunited 15 years after disbanding, proving that if you wish for something long enough, it happens!
  • Coldplay released their fifth studio record, Mylo Xyloto, which fell significantly short of being life-altering.
  • Roxette made their first new album in nearly a decade; after listening to it, we’re not quite sure why they bothered.
  • Panic! at the Disco came out with their first new album as a two piece, and also worked with fun. for the split single, C’mon.
  • Jay-Z and Kanye West joined forces to record the highly praised Watch the Throne.
  • Bruno Mars continued to exist.
  • The Streets gave us their final set of songs in Computers and Blues before ending the group.
  • Elbow, The Decemberists, Kasabian, Bon Iver, Arctic Monkeys, Fleet Foxes, and Radiohead wowed with fantastic new albums.
  • Lou Reed and Metallica collaborated to record Lulu, a project that was deemed as a “catastrophic failure on almost every level”.
  • James Blake conquered the post-dubstep arena with his self-titled debut.
  • Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi unveiled their five-years-in-the-making album, Rome, which featured vocal contributions from Jack White and Norah Jones.
  • Following the destruction of Oasis, Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye made their debut album Different Gear, Still Speeding, while Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds produced their self-titled debut set, with both receiving generally positive reviews.
  • And artists including Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Strokes, Evanescence, Beastie Boys, Daughtry, Nickelback, Eddie Vedder, Limp Bizkit, Incubus, Florence and the Machine, Kelly Clarkson, Chris Brown, Aqua, Selena Gomez & the Scene, Demi Lovato, and Lady Antebellum were among the many singers and musicians who returned to the charts with new albums.
- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 30th December, 2011 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The (Celebrity) Bookshelf


Mustafa Zahid: I recently read Controversially Yours by Shoaib Akhtar and as much as a fan I was of his game in the past, I think he earned twice more respect after that. The book was a total feast and tells the bitter truth about what happens off the ground and in dressing rooms as well. What I liked about the book was that Shoaib emerges as a complete rock star even in the book and does not mind accepting the wrong side of him portrayed by media over the years, although he is a bit protective about it at the same time as well. What I disliked was that he blamed most of the seniors for his career as he claimed he was too young at that time, and at the same time he said he was always a rebel and never listened to anyone, so [I] found it a bit contradictory. Highly recommended to the youth.

Zeeshan Parwez: [I have read] very very few [books], because of the extensive workload. As recommended by friends, I’ve recently read Snow by Orhan Pamuk, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time by Jeffrey Sachs, and The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. It’s a big debate on what I thought about these books in general. I would however encourage everyone to read The End of Poverty. I like fact-driven information and it actually gives you a wider picture about the poverty in third world countries and what can be done to control it to some extent, at least that’s what the book states boldly; the eradication of poverty by 2030.

Haniya Aslam: The last books I read were Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke and Muhammad Hanif’s Our Lady of Alice Bhatti. Both of them were a treat to read.

Annie Khalid: I just finished reading Drop Dead Beautiful by Jackie Collins and I really love the book. She is one of my favourite authors. I don’t think there is anything I didn’t like about that book. I think everything was great. It was basically just like a movie in text form. The best thing about Jackie Collins is that her books are so glamorous and so Hollywood that they take you to a totally different world when you read them. I would definitely recommend it to other people.

Us Magazine, The News - 16th December, 2011

Faiza Mujahid: It’s been ages since I’ve read a good book! The last book I read was Never Let Me Go, five years back, and I LOVED it!! It’s a science fiction novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. You have to read it to know how good it is!

Us Magazine, The News - 21st October, 2011

Faakhir: I read Ford County by John Grisham. The detailing and suspense in most of these stories is compelling, very exciting; however unlike vintage Grisham that we are used to, there’s a certain degree of predictability about the endings – somehow the endings seem a little complacent, if you like. Nevertheless it offers a very interesting read.

Us Magazine, The News - 7th October, 2011

Haroon Rashid: Most recently I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I thought it was engaging but I was really put off by the depravity and extreme depiction of violence. I thought the book didn’t deserve the hype it got and was more about sensationalism. Later I read that in Sweden the original title of the book is "Men Who Hate Women". That seemed to make more sense. It was changed in the English translation to be more commercial. I would only recommend it to adults over 21 who are not of a sensitive nature.

Us Magazine, The News - 26th August, 2011

Natasha Saleem: I read Animal Farm by George Orwell and I loved it!! It’s so pertinent to today’s situation in society, and I recommend everyone read it and switch over to individual anarchism ‘cause as we can see time and again through history that with absolute power comes absolute corruption.

Us Magazine, The News - 1st July, 2011 

- By Sameen Amer

Friday, December 02, 2011

Q&A: Mustafa Zahid (Roxen)


Us: How did the Dil Main Tum project come about?
Mustafa Zahid:
Dil Main Tum just happened out of nowhere. I woke up one day and realised I had this tune in the back of my mind and was humming it. We got together to jam and I told the band I think we shall do a cover of this song for one of our upcoming concerts. The moment we started jamming to it, the energy was electrifying. My friend Umer heard us doing the jam and told me he knew Bunny through someone, and that very moment we decided to take the cover to the next level. I called Bunny and told him we have done something different from what he has done before, and although I don’t think we can ever match the class of that song, but rock ‘n’ roll is what Roxen mostly does; this is what we have done, and if you like the sound we would love to have you on board for the song. He heard the song and loved every bit of it and agreed.

Us:  How was the experience of working with Bunny?
Working with Bunny was astounding. The energy, the vibe, the whole experience was just amazing and I think it was his attitude towards the music and collaboration which took it to some other level. He was so supportive and guided us all the way through the project. I remember the first time he had done his vocals and sent us the file from Karachi; we heard it in the studios and all of us had goose bumps.

Us: Please tell Us about the video.
The video has a pretty similar theme to what Roxen has done in the past. If you look at Sapnay, Toh Phir Aoo, Bujh Hai Gaya, and most of our videos, we prefer going all out as a pop rock boy band jamming and performing to the song, and to be honest this is what we love as well. Also, since this was Roxen’s second video that I directed by myself after Tera Mera Rishta, I wanted to have a unique element going in the video which initially was to have a lot of sports cars and stuff, but I think ultimately Bunny himself was enough to overshadow any other element.

Us: What can we expect from you in the coming months?
A lot of shows in and outside Pakistan. And we are back in Bollywood with Mahesh Bhatt’s Blood Money; all I can say for now is that in case you found two songs on the soundtrack of Awarapan not enough, wait for Blood Money.

- Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 2nd December, 2011