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Maroon 5

Adam Levine - Vocals, Guitar
James Valentine - Guitar
Jesse Carmichael - Keyboards
Mickey Madden - Bass
Ryan Dusick - Drums

Then again, Plan B can put Plan A to shame. Singer/guitarist Adam Levine, guitarist Jesse Carmichael, bass player Mickey Madden and drummer Ryan Dusick would second that emotion, seeing as how their first shot at the big time got them some rave notices, but not much else. Now, their second shot, in the form of funky pop rock outfit Maroon 5, thanks to a song, "Harder To Breathe," has the LA-based Maroon 5 looking like the Cinderella story for 2003.

Released as a single in the fall of 2002, by summer 2003 "Harder To Breathe" is still on multiple radio charts. Over 200 live shows, including opening stints for John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Jason Mraz, and Counting Crows, among others, helped to underscore a list of reasons why Maroon 5's debut CD, Songs About Jane, had already SoundScanned more than 115,000 units and gotten the guys on The Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Last Call with Carson Daly and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn on the strength of that one single. And what a single it's been. "Harder To Breathe" did quite well at Modern Rock, Triple A and Hot AC radio before it became the #3 Most-Added showing in its first week at Top 40 radio in early summer. At the same time, the video was getting over 20 spins a week on VH1's "Inside Track".

But perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves. What about Plan A?

Known as Kara's Flowers, Levine, Carmichael and Madden were the toast of their West LA high school (Dusick, who'd known Levine since they were nine and seven, respectively, had already graduated). Here they were, 17 years old and making a CD with legendary producer Rob Cavallo. Life was grand.

This is where the good news ends. Following a disappointing run with their debut, The Fourth World, Kara's Flowers were granted their release from the label. Plan A had gone awry, leaving the quartet to consider their future. "We were like, 'Okay, what do we do now?' recalls Levine. "So we ran away to college to figure it out." Leaving Dusick and Madden behind to study at UCLA, Levine and Carmichael ran smack dab into Plan B in the dorms at the State University of New York.

"The halls would be blasting Gospel music and people would be listening to stuff that we'd never actually listened to, like Biggie Smalls, Missy Elliot and Jay-Z. The Aaliyah record had come out around then, and we were just blown away. When I think of songwriting, I think of The Beatles, Dylan, Simon & GarfunkelÑthe stuff that I grew up onÑbut then I was like, 'I want to do this.' Stevie Wonder came into my life at that point," Levine mentions, "and I just found a knack for doing it.

"I started singing differently," he told VH1, "and Jesse started playing keyboards; that's what changed it." When the duo hooked back up with Madden and Dusick in LA they were summarily reinvigorated by adding an R&B, groove-based tint to their explosive rock & roll. With the new musical frame-of-mind came a new nameÑMaroon 5Ñ and a fifth member: guitarist James Valentine. "James came along right as we were deciding on the name," says Levine. "We clearly weren't Kara's Flowers anymore, with the addition of James and an entirely new approach to music. Also, if you name a band when you're 15, by the time you're 23 you're probably not gonna like it very much."

Fortified with a new attitude, a new sound and a new name, Maroon 5 quickly attracted attention from labels. Octone Records, J Records, signed the group, and in 2001 Maroon 5 entered the studio with producer Matt Wallace (The Replacements, Faith No More, John Hiatt). "I was all about making a hardcore, straight-up, funk R&B record," Levine remembers. "I have to give the people at Octone credit because they were really trying to push us to do this. Matt Wallace also thought we had so much chemistry as a rock & roll band that it would be a shame to lose that element. We went back and recorded live drums over loops, and wound up making more of a rock record, which I think makes it stand out way better."

The resulting album, Songs About Jane, was released in June 2002. Funky rhythms and classic soul melodies cohabitate with searing guitars and a powerful rock bottom end. On top of it all, Levine's expressive voice belts out tale after tale of an ex-girlfriend. You can probably guess her name.

"Harder To Breathe," a powerhouse guitar workout, is ironically not a song about Jane. "There was a lot of pressure to write," Levine offers. "I just want to make music when I feel like making music, and when I feel forced it's kind of frustrating. Granted, I don't have much to complain about, but I thought that I was done with the album. It turned out to be for the best because it pissed me off so much I wrote 'This Love' and 'Harder To Breathe,' which are the first two songs on the record."

Starsky & Hutch

Movie Review by Gokhra

Cast-- Dave Starsky: Ben Stiller, Ken Hutchinson: Owen Wilson, Capt. Dobey: Fred Williamson, Reese Feldman: Vince Vaughn, Huggy Bear: Snoop Dogg, Kitty: Juliette Lewis, Holly: Amy Smart, Staci: Carmen Electra.

I never saw a single "Starsky and Hutch" episode but grew up hearing there was a cool show by this name. Of course some people also mentioned how the show went down the drain in the end. So it was with a little bit of a comprehension with which I viewed this movie. I end up finding it's a surprisingly funny movie, probably better than most of the other 70's remakes like Italian Job and over the top Charlie's Angels.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson star in their sixth movie together. The good thing about this pair is that they can adlib brilliantly and their presence often makes up for lack of a good punchline. It's a spoof on the buddy cop movies. Both cops are misfits on the Bay City police force. Starsky (Stiller) is the kind of cop who would ask his partner repeatedly if he had his gun safety on. He would go crazy and shoot up an entire area destroying thousands of dollars worth of property just to retrieve a few measly dollars from a mugger. Hutch (Wilson) has the looser outlook and the morals of a gutter snake. For months he has done nothing useful other than illegally stealing from dead bodies. Their captain (Fred Williamson) thinks they deserve each other and makes them partners in a scene where Hutch immediately insults Starsky's curly perm.

The bad guy is Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn) with coils of cigarette smoke constantly rising in front of his face. He has developed an odorless strain of cocaine that smells and tastes like artificial sweetener. It passes undetected beneath the noses of drug-sniffing dogs and Reese is planning to distribute it in mass quantities. Starsky and Hutch discover in the water the body of Reeses murdered hooligan associate and it's their first big case. Hutch's first suggestion is to push it back out to sea and hope it floats to the next precinct.

The movie is a bit of a standup comedy routine which does not mean its bad. There is a plot but the story is mostly about the cranky and sometimes corny rapport between the two cops. Both carry a disagreement about style while agreeing on most other issues such as the importance of partying with sexy cheerleaders as part of their investigation. By-the-book Starsky thinks he's the hippest guy in Bay City. He jogs along the beach listening to Chicago through headphones the size of basketballs. He could hide a set of present day subwoofers in there. The sight of him jogging along with the mammoth headphones is enough to portray just how un-hip he is. Hutch on the other hand is busy with flirting and fooling around with air head cheerleaders.

The supporting cast benefits mightily from Juliette Lewis as Vaughn's mistress and Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear, a combo pimp/superfly/police informer with impeccably styled retro designs. He provides one of the best laughs being unflappable.

One of the most important characters in the movie is not a person but Starsky's beloved bright-red supercharged Ford Gran Torino. Its driven like crazy with glorious tire squeals and jumps. Watch out for the closing stunt. While you're at it you might also want to try out the computer game that has been out for a few months now.

In the end you will find yourself laughing quite hard.

Extreme Gaming

What PC You Need

Cracker Jack

When the first computers were made, games were something even a mad-man didn't think of. But after a decade, games were included mostly for the recreation for the programmers. And now, in the recent years, gaming has become an industry, maybe one of the largest in the computer sector. That tells you how it has developed. It is quite impossible to find anyone who hasn't played any game (except some nerdos who seems like had a 'blast from the past' sort of thing). Playing games has become an important use computers, specially among the children and teens (but I have also seen some 'really' old people (nearly 60yrs) playing 'Commandos' and 'Age of the Empires II'). In recent times, there are many gaming consoles readily available in the market (like PS2, X-box, Game Cube, etc) which are made exclusively for playing games. But nevertheless, gaming in PCs is still fascinating and enjoyable (as there are more titles available).

PC Just For Games
Though many will argue, gaming takes up most of our computing. There are also hardcore gamers who use their PC only for playing games. So, for the ultimate gaming experience you need a PC that has enough juice that can pump out the most from the games. If you want a PC that will deliver great gaming entertainment and make it an enjoyable one, a good PC configuration intended solely for gaming is required. So if you have some primary knowledge about computers and hardware, you can easily make a great muscle-machine PC able to lift-off most games @ of a Ferrari speed. In three volumes, I shall throw some light upon making up a PC able to digest really heavy games. The first part will deal with Processors, the second with Graphics Cards and the final part will cover the other areas of the system.

Processors for nifty performance
Most gamers usually regard the Graphics Card for good gaming performance. But processors do affect it (in fact greatly) as it is the brain/heart of the system. Gamers should not only look out for speed, but also some other features too. Many a times, I have seen a menacing AGP gets cracked for some ordinary CPU. A friend of mine hooked up an ATI Radeon 128MB AGP with a 2.6GHz. Another guy got the same AGP with a Pentium 4 2.2GHz. The result the latter outperformed the former in gaming by many folds.

Intel Celeron processors though dirt cheap, is not the best in gaming it even gets beaten by a P4 or Athlon of half the speed. So gamers who are looking forward for the best may go for a Pentium 4, especially those loaded with Hyper-threading (HT) technology. Intel has also released a new Pentium 4 HT Extreme Edition (initially a 3.4GHz P4EE) exclusively for the gamers. Another chip, code named 'Prescott' was introduced last month a 3.2GHz P4E (look out for the E's).

AMD, the most daring competitor of Intel has created much news by releasing its 64-bit processors (I won't bore with techie stuff just remember that the standard CPUs are 32-bit). The debutants, the AMD Athlon 64 3200+ (2 & 2.2GHz) and Athlon 64 FX-51 (2.2 & 2.4GHz), both beat all P4s released so far, including in gaming. Benchmark tests show that the 3200+ (2.2GHz) and FX-51 (2.2GHz) scored 269 fps (frames-per-second) and 276 fps respectively, whereas a 3.2GHz P4 (with HT) scores 243 fps in the Unreal Tournament 2003 game. This new trend of 64-bit CPUs will become the mainstream in a very short time as other chips will appear this year.

There are some other processors too, like the AMD Athlon XPs, Via C3s, etc. But for extreme gaming, they aren't suitable.

What should you go for
So among the above choices which one will you look for? Though tests show the Athlon 64s are the best for gaming till now, it isn't readily available (I've only seen a 2GHz Athlon 64 3200+ with a price tag of Tk. 22,000 in Bangladesh). The FX-51 isn't available yet. On the other hand P4s with HT are quite common (except P4E & P4EE). So my advice would be if you're impatient and dying to buy a muscle-machine right away, go on for a P4 with Hyper-threading. But patient gamers (scarcely available) may wait a few months and look how the Athlon 64s get going and then decide. Whatever the case, try to get a better budget for the CPU, or an average one might fail to handle new games in a couple of years. Do send your views, comments, etc at <crackjackx@gawab.com>.

The Music Scene of Pohela Boishak

The Hitch-hiker and Rohini Alamgir

The Bengali New Year is around the corner and the music industry is in a flutter of activity to churn out "nobo borsher" albums. We checked out the music scene to see who the most popular musicians of the nation are and what expectations shopkeepers have from the countless new albums coming out soon.

The Loverboys
They absolutely love to sing about love, be it lost love and heartbreak, or newfound love; everything compels them to make up a song. It seems most of them have received a "tchaka" from a Sweety, Priya, Ruksana etc when they were school going/college going youths. Perhaps they fell deeply in love with these blooming beauties, for which reason they felt it necessary to lull their lovers with a sweet, romantic song. These little memories however could never be erased from the corners of their hearts and continue to influence their songs even today. They are none other than the lover boys of this industry.

Propelled to popularity by the song "O Priya tumi kothai" Asif is literally the new guy on the block who can only sing about the separation of lovers, parting of ways and destitution. None the less he is one of the best selling singers. For the New Year his new album entitled " Keno Tumi Shukhe Thakbe" will be coming out soon.

"Asif's voice appeals to the masses. All his albums have sold well, " says one shopkeeper. When asked who Asif's biggest fans are, he promptly replies: "Young people, mostly school or college going." Shopkeepers all over are very confident about the success of this album, as all of his previous eight have done very well.

S D Rubel, the man who is yet to grow out of his teenage shirts is also a popular singer amongst the younger generation. While we were talking to the shopkeeper a big fan of his let us know that the singer recently tied the knot and is now enjoying a married life.

Shubro Dev after making television and telefilm appearances, is all set to release his album titled "Lolita". Ayub Bacchu needs no introduction but a few of his older fans may not recognize their metamorphosed idol. The singer who recently turned very colourful is also set to release his solo album "Pother Gaan".

The Divas
These gems of the industry are not far behind their male counterparts when first love or lost love is in question. Surprisingly however, they also sing about a range of other emotions often missed out by the members of the previous group.

On top of the list is the singer Momtaj. Apparently the diva has so many albums, she herself has lost count. Recently her album "Monta Manush Koro" was released. Most of the singer's countless albums have sold well and everyone expects this one to do the same. On the other hand we have Mehreen with an unusual voice waiting for her prince charming. The only question is, how long will he take?

With poor lyrics, Tishma's album may have sold because of her exceptionally weird and one of a kind style, but shopkeepers we talked to were skeptical of the diva's future albums.

The Others
This group constitutes of those few who dare to be different and more often down right weird. The surprise success of Habib's experimental album "Krishno" has brought the probashi singer Kaya to the limelight. Though many people shake a leg to Habib's music without caring, those who are critical in nature have discovered Kaya's Sylheti accent. The singer however claims, that this was done purposely to maintain the authenticity of the songs. Krishno's success is expected to be matched with Habib's next venture, which is nearing completion. There are six songs sung by Kaya in the album. With her uncommonly aggressive voice Anushae is another star who got married recently. Though she has always claimed that she is not the regular celebrity type she is making appearances in television and films all the same. She is currently preparing for her up coming album, which promises to have a surprise. We wonder what that may be.

These were the stars of the industry. Some are genuinely talented. Some are not. ALL are popular. It is encouraging, however, to see most of them who found their way here sing original (at least nearly original) songs and not some poorly re-mixed Hindi or English number. In a struggling industry, faced with more competition than it can bear, they are the limited few who ensure that Bengali music survives the test of time.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
Pandora Tomorrow

Sam Fisher, the ultra-secret agent of the US government, is back. This time, he's brought some friends. The sequel to Ubisoft's blockbuster hit, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, not only offers more of the same spectacular single-player stealth action, but also boasts a genuinely innovative, new multi-player mode for up to four players, in which small groups of spies must match wits with heavily armed mercenaries.

The multiplayer mode ties in with the single-player storyline, though the two portions of the game are completely self-contained. In fact, both the single-player and multiplayer portions are highly impressive in their own right that will surely appeal to fans of the first Splinter Cell and anyone interested in a game about high-tech stealth, subterfuge, and sabotage.

The title of Pandora Tomorrow refers to a code phrase used by the presumed villain of the game, a guerrilla leader threatening the free world with a biological contagion. In the single-player portion of the game, you'll reprise the role of Sam Fisher and track this culprit around the globe, in locations ranging from a speeding passenger train hurtling across Paris, to a military camp in Indonesia. The first Splinter Cell game took place predominantly in building interiors, which were richly detailed but naturally mundane. One of Pandora Tomorrow's obvious improvements on its predecessor is in how it takes place in more-exotic locales. In Indonesia, you'll creep through the heavy brush, perhaps using the dense foliage to hide the bodies of your victims out of sight. On the passenger train, you'll shimmy along the outside to avoid detection and will come dangerously close to being flung to your death from the fast-moving car. This train level comes pretty early on in the campaign and is the shortest and probably the most impressive of the game's missions. There are only eight in total, but most of them are quite long, so veteran Splinter Cell players should expect a good 10 hours' worth of action.

The core gameplay is basically the same, which, for the most part, is a very good thing. You'll sneak your way through the game's linear scenarios, avoiding or incapacitating any unsuspecting guards (or, sometimes, civilians) who might otherwise threaten your mission of secrecy. It's not difficult to alert passersby to your presence, either by moving too quickly (or otherwise making too much noise) or by blundering into a well-lit area. There are other nasty surprises in store for you. Hidden antipersonnel mines (visible only when you toggle your thermal vision), infrared trip wires (likewise), booby traps, motion detectors, security cameras, and other such devices make the going quite difficult.

You've got plenty of tricks up your sleeve, too. Fisher is typically armed with a silenced pistol as well as his trusty SC20K multipurpose experimental assault rifle, which he can use for some silent sniping when lethal force is permitted or which he can use to fire off a variety of different gadgets. Those who played Splinter Cell will recognize all of these, which range from diversionary cameras to smoke grenades to electrifying (but non-lethal) rounds. Fisher's other gadgets include lock picks, an optical fiber wire used for seeing what's on the other side of a closed door, and his combined night vision/thermal vision goggles. He's fully decked out to get the job done by any means necessary.

Pandora Tomorrow's storyline is somewhat more cohesive than that of its predecessor, and some of the gameplay elements are thankfully a bit more transparent this time around. For example, the game inherits a somewhat contrived element from its predecessor: In Splinter Cell you needed to hide the bodies of your victims out of sight to avoid setting off an alarm, which would possibly result in the failure of your mission. You needed to hide all bodies even when there was no one left conscious to pay them much heed. Pandora Tomorrow at least makes it clear that this is always necessary, and a helpful blip on your stealth meter (which indicates how camouflaged you are in the darkness) lets you know where it's safe to dump a body so no one will notice. Also, in most missions, you don't automatically fail if an alarm is sounded; you'll be afforded up to three such mistakes, though at scripted points in each mission, the alarm stage will reset back to zero, and you'll be able to proceed somewhat less anxiously.


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