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By Zeeshan

Meghdol is the new band creating a sensation among contemporary Bangla music lovers. With their ideologically motivated powerful lyrics and unique instrumental composition they have certainly commanded the attention of many. Their debut album 'Meghdol' has been a subject of both controversy and admiration. The Rising Stars recently got the opportunity to meet this new band personally. So read on as Meghdol shares many things about their band as well as their views on various matters with us.

Rising Stars (RS): First of all, tell us how Meghdol was formed.
Shibu: At first, Ujjal and Sumon were the ones who were involved in music. We all were inspired by them and came to know each other while studying at Fine Arts. We used to have a designing shop in Aziz Super Market at Shahbagh. Before we even started jamming together, we used to discuss about various philosophical and political issues in our shop. We thought that we would express our thoughts through music, but try to do it a little differently from others. With that motivation, Meghdol was officially formed in December 2003.

RS: Why did you decide to call yourselves Meghdol?
Ujjal: The word Meghdol is actually borrowed from a poem by Bodlair. By Meghdol, we mean our desire to surrender ourselves to infinity in the most desirable way. And also, the clouds hold a special meaning in our hearts and our music to rise above all and see the world without prejudice.

RS: How many live concerts have you done so far?
Ujjal: We've done numerous concerts, but most of them have been in or around Dhaka University, Institute of Fine Arts, BUET and Bishwa Shahitya Kendra.

RS: What sort of response have you had from the public?
Shoaib: Our first concert was on 22 January 2003. Since then we've done a lot of performances but in all those concerts, we have never performed anything other than our own compositions. Considering the fact that the audience was hearing the songs for the first time, our response has always been great. In this regard, we'd like to say that although there are certain individuals who think that Bangladesh lacks a good audience and so try to lower the standard of our music, we strongly believe in the contrary. Our experience has taught us that there are admirers of good music in our country. The responses for our album has strengthened this believe.

RS: Could you share with us any interesting experience you might have had while performing?
Shoaib: Once we went to Bishwa Shahitya Kendra for a concert. We were supposed to play only one number, one of our compositions Om. As usual, when we came on stage, we played our instruments to check the sound first. But when we were done with that and were about to start our performance, the anchor declared on stage that our performance was over. Apparently, he had thought of our sound check routine to be our main performance!

RS: How do you define your style of music?
Shibu: Well, we wouldn't say that we fall into any particular genre of music. But we're experimenting with a style of music called theatrical music. All of us love theatre and we've tried to dramatize some of our songs in that manner, for example Byabochhed, Crusade and Om in our album.

Sumon: I'd like to add that we've experimented on this concept in our live performances as well. As far as we know, we're the only band in Bangladesh who've visualized a song while performing it on stage. It was in one of our concerts that we made an animated visualization for our composition 'Om' and played it on a projector while performing it on stage.

RS: Many of your songs are influenced by current politics. So, what are your political beliefs?
Ujjal: To put it in short, Meghdol stands against all sorts of discrimination, prejudice and atrocities done to people throughout the world. That's why we can't say that we're leftist or rightist. We just think that if our social system were built on the foundation of mutual trust and tolerance, we wouldn't have so many problems.

RS: Does your band have any social/political aims?
Joy: Definitely yes. We believe that although we've been freed from imperial colonialism, we're still being colonized culturally through the media. Our fight is against this neo-colonialism. We believe that if we can centralize all our isolated cultural activities, we can start a Cultural Revolution. And if we are culturally active and aware, we can easily identify our malefactors. And that would lead to our economic independence.

RS: You're talking about cultural independence here, but your music contains both folk and western elements. What do you have to say about that?
Shourav: Culture is not bound by geographical locations. That's why we believe in sharing different cultures. But whatever we borrow from others, we have to try to give a personal touch and uniqueness to it. Modernity is one of our most favorite concepts. We don't believe in the romanticism of identifying one instrument as a folk instrument and another one as western. Music comes from the person, not the instrument. That's why our music is about our lifestyles and our beliefs, and doesn't necessarily fall into any particular category of music.

RS: What are your future plans about the band?
Ujjal: We think of our music as our social responsibility. As we said in our album, every drop of blood in our body is built on peoples' taxes. We plan to continue with our band only as long as we feel that we're fulfilling that social responsibility. But we wouldn't choose music as our profession. Our songs are everything for us, they speak of everything we want and we believe. That's why we wouldn't want to commercialize our music in the name of professionalism. We will continue to sing in the mainstream media, release albums in the future but we'll always try to be true to ourselves.

RS: Thank you guys for your time. Is there anything you'd like to say to the readers?
Ujjal: Thank you for giving us this opportunity. We'd like to say that all the views and ideas expressed in our songs and our comments are entirely from personal observations and are not meant to hurt the feelings or beliefs of others.

The funny man with the rubber face is back. Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni play Dick and Jane Harper, one of those super successful suburban couples. They can't be doing better until suddenly their luck runs out. They reach poverty faster than you can spell out the word. And it seems there is no end to how low they can get. All this is infused with hilarity.

The movie stars Jim Carrey as Dick, an executive of a mega company. He is promoted to vice president in charge of communications just in time to be its spokesman on live cable. This has a sneaky connection to the corporation's stocks going down to pennies a share. So you can guess who becomes the scapegoat.

Tea Leoni plays his wife, Jane, who is a travel agent but has quit her job that very morning because of Dick's big promotion.

He has to trade in his new BMW for a beat-up Ford. Sadly event the dirt poor in America get to drive cars unlike in Bangladesh. With my righteous grief aside Dick and Janes miseries continue with much hilarity. Their meals come from soup kitchens for the homeless. They paid their housekeeper with all their expensive appliances. Those who took care of their lawn come by to roll up the turf and haul it away. Yes, you can actually takeaway grass. What's worse is that they have to give up their high definition plasma TV for which their only son wails the way kids do for a dead pet.

It's how they handle their poverty that is the funniest part of the movie. The sight of the family being reduced to bathing via oscillating lawn sprinkler is one of several very funny humiliations.

Jobs for Dick are non existing because either everything is taken or the interviewers know the scandal story by heart. Desperate times call for desperate measures and soon Dick and Jane are reduced to theft. They face foreclosure on their humongous house and decide to go bonkers. At first they start small time and then on a larger scale. Dick and Jane turn to robbing banks, coffee shops, and car dealerships, always in disguise. Once they even have a gender reversed disguise. They keep it up until all their expensive gadgets are back.

But Dick and Jane are dismayed to discover that Dick's former co-workers have become just as desperate in their joblessness -- cockfighting rings and pot harvesting! Plus, Dick is facing indictment. So he aims his rebellion at the riches of his old boss, played by Alec Baldwin who is trying to get his loot out of the country.

This has to be the year of the remakes and ''Dick and Jane" is no different taking from a 1977 George Segal-Jane Fonda comedy that was based on ''Bonnie and Clyde." Of course this remake is much better being more devilishly funny.

And Carrey's previous forays into seriousness have been somewhat lacklustre affairs. He suits his funny roles much better but maybe that is just me stereotyping. This is a light hearted movie that focuses on slapstick, wigs and false beards. To describe this movie in one word it would be: fun.

The Fly Pentop Computer

By Ziad

The next computer is on a pen near you
This is an amazing gadget and that too at a relatively budget price. The $99 educational toy with no screen or joystick is called the Fly Pentop Computer. An ordinary ballpoint pen designed as an educational tool for 8- to 14-year-olds has become the shopping season's surprise hit in the west.

The design
Apparently Fly's maker, LeapFrog, has become widely successful through its wildly successful LeapPad. The company's secret is the Seven-Second Rule: "If the product's art and audio fail to engage the user within 7 seconds, the user will never engage."

The Fly looks like a run-of-the-mill pen, albeit one designed by Reebok. It's got a computer brain, a software cartridge, a loudspeaker, and a headphone jack, all camouflaged by its rubber-gripped casing. It's a standalone unit that requires no docking with a PC. It does not even need a mini screen to squint at.

What's it do?
The Fly helps users to learn Spanish and math by having them write out words and equations themselves. The Spanish and math tutorware can be bought as add-on cartridges, but the Fly comes with a beginner's pack of simple, fun games like a calculator, notepad, scheduler, keyboard with rhythm section and drums along with a goofy DJ contest where you scratch on paper. The pen also contains a journal, math and social studies teacher and Spanish dictionary. All this while running on one 1.5 V AAA battery.

There are also Fly stickers you can slap anywhere. Tap the pen on the sticker of a guy with a wide-open mouth and the pen belches. Surely 9 year olds will find this hilarious.

The how and why
You tell it what to do by drawing or writing on a piece of special paper called "Fly Paper." The draw-your-own-calculator program tells you to draw a box, then the numerals 0 through 9 and the plus, minus, times, divide, and equals symbols. Simply tap the symbols you've drawn to make the Fly do the math aloud. As long as the pen recognizes your symbols, you get full artistic control over the interface. One tester drew his numbers in varying sizes and arranged them in a flower pattern instead of neat rows; they still worked.

This all sounds tricky, but the pen tells you what to do. When you're creating the piano keys it announces, "Starting from left to right, draw nine vertical lines in a row." If you hesitate it adds, "Vertical means up and down." As you draw the lines, it counts with you: "One. Two. Three …" Sure enough, the pen never lets seven seconds go by without interacting with you, either by responding to your strokes or prompting you to do something.

Your paper calculator doesn't have to look like real one. You can also change from one application to another just by moving to the piece of paper or section of a piece of paper where you have drawn the application. You can even switch between applications in the middle of a particular step.

The hardware
The Fly's most important piece of hardware is a tiny, hidden camera near the tip. The pen comes with sheets and booklets printed on special "Fly paper." Each page is embedded with a grid of tiny dots that only the camera can see. Whenever you touch it down on the paper, the Fly orients itself to the page's geography based on which gridlines the camera sees. As you move it across the page, the pen knows what you're writing, drawing, or pointing at.

The software
You might think a calculator is a ridiculous game. I mean, come on, a calculator? But here it takes on a certain charm. The software's response time is snappy, and you can speed-tap through menu options without waiting for the pen to say them all. It can also tell when you've jumped from one piece of paper to another.

On the downside, the Fly occasionally mangles pronunciations but that is to be expected. Also the software can sometimes be buggy and repeats the same menu option over and over until you switch the pen off and on.

The games are designed (and focus-group tested) to appeal to children without condescending to them. On the outset this seems like a spectacular gadget.

Check out how the pen really works with the videos and Flash demos at the Fly Web site. You will need a very stable and fast net connection though.

The Times
USA Today



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