Friday, January 28, 2011

Top 10 Bars in Ann Arbor for Non-Alcoholics

Just some places I like hitting up over the weekend, enjoy!

10. Red hawk: A quiet bar which normally caters to an older crowd, Red Hawk actually has a bit to offer for college students. If you are looking for a place to go chill out, play some cards and have some nice conversation, Red Hawk is the place for you!
X-factor: They have root beer on tap. ON TAP!

9. Scorekeepers: An honorable mention to my past employers, Skeeps is not exactly the most upscale place in town but it can be loads of fun. Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday nights it’s the place to be if you are looking for a crazy time with lots of people.
X-factor: Best staff in town. Fact.

8. Jolly Pumpkin: I really liked this place in my inaugural visit a couple of weeks back. It would be rude not to include them since they have a special section on their menu for non-alcoholic beverages.
X-factor: The ambiance. The lighting is simply fantastic, surprisingly rare for bars around here as Ricks and Skeeps so aptly demonstrate.

7. Connors: No town in America would be complete without an Irish bar, there is one on every block in new york for crying out loud. Connors is good for catching a champions league games, the food is great and reasonably priced.
X-Factor: Bread pudding. Amazingly good and at a couple of bucks a real bargain!

6. Bab’s: A less known bar located just behind Main Street on Ashley’s, this place was quite the discovery for me. It is underground with two layers in the bar and a unique ambiance inside. There are pool tables to chill out or at the lower level a nice social area to mingle.
X- factor: It actually is a cigar lounge!

5. Heidelberg: The restaurant itself would make this place worth visiting, the bar underground just adds to the appeal. Even on slow nights the atmosphere down there is alive, I attribute that to the unique architecture. My housemate tried to explain how it had some awesome acoustic set-up, all I know is that it works!
X-factor: This place has the best Wiener schnitzel this side of the Huron River.

4. Bar Loiue: if there is a straight laced honest to goodness Muslim in this world it’s my father, and I took him to Bar Loiue when he came to visit me two years ago. He loved it. The food is awesome, and their virgin pina-colada reminded me of Papasallis back home in Islamabad.
X-factor: Dollar burger Tuesdays. Need I say more?

3. Charley’s: Everybody’s favorite college bar, Charley’s is the place to be. It has by God the greasiest food I have come across since Blimpy, and it is so good. The burgers just drip with deliciousness (except for the veggie burgers, please don’t try it, I did, took me weeks to get the taste out). The root beer float is nothing fancy, just IBC and ice cream but something about the atmosphere makes it taste so much better!
X-factor: Pizza sticks. Whether you go for the non-pork option like me or the pepperoni sticks like the rest of the world, you can’t go wrong. I should probably warn you that you might die of a heart attack eating these things, but you will die in bliss!

2. Rush Street: No root beer. No food. No worries. If you want to get down tonight, go to rush street. It has the most insane beat going through the club. And the crowd there is high class, none of that Rick’s garbage. I used to be a shy dancer, barely busting a move. Then I went to rush street and could not help myself.
X-factor: Live drums on the dance floor. There is this guy playing the bongos and some other drums and the cymbals, matching up the beat to what the DJ is spinning. Insane.

1. Ashley’s: The best of the best, Ashley’s will always be my No. 1 bar to go to. The BBQ burger is about as good as I have ever had, the pesto fries are delicious but way better are the curry fries. The only way I can explain them really is if someone poured haleem on fries, what a bloody brilliant idea!
X-factor: You guessed it- root beer! The root beer from the gun is awesome, cheap and refills are free! If you are in a fancier mood as I sometimes am, root beer is also served of some brand I can’t remember. It is expensive at just over 3 bucks but wow is it worth it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Sports Rundown

So a lot of our stuff has been quite serious lately, and we have lost focus of the most important thing in the world, SPORTS! Here is the rundown of sport stories the Rickshaw has been following:

Hearings of Asif, Aamer and Butt: After months of speculation and venting, we finally get to the point where the three musketeers were supposed to be dished out their punishment. Oh wait, the damn verdict was delayed to the 5th of February. Now I am not in favor of allowing any of these three to play in the World Cup, but this delay basically all rules them out of our World Cup Squad without any conviction which is just stupid. Zaheer Abbas called the delay ‘absurd’ and I have to agree with the master batsman. The funny thing is that during the hearings the three started to turn on each other, each of them having a different version of events and Butt seemed to come off the worse; he is now the only player to be under investigation for the Oval Test as well as the Lord’s Test. I have no idea what is going to happen, but it looks like Aamer may get off easier than the others, which a lot of people are okay with. Personally, I would like to see some remorse from him and a public apology but whatever, as long as the other two morons get put away I will be happy, especially Butt!

New Zealand Tour: In the midst of the madness of the hearings Pakistan cricket continued in traditional fashion. Martin Guptill, who no longer has to deal with his worst nightmare Aamer, put Pakistanis to the sword in the first two T20s as the kiwis easily won the series. In the last T20, though, Pakistan murdered and I mean MURDERED the kiwis. Never in all my life have I seen a scorecard like this one, the first 4 batsmen had ducks! Typical. Moving on, Pakistan managed to win its first test series since 2006 as Misbah has just caught fire lately. Well done Pakistan! Shame on those who say test cricket is dead, I love every second of it! Anyway that ODI’s start later today, and a strong looking Pakistan start as favorite, what do you know!

Michigan Football on the UP! After a New Year’s mauling at the hand of Mississippi State former pizza extraordinaire and current Athletic Director Dave Brandon got rid of Rich Rod. Goodbye and good riddance. Thanks for the 3 most miserable of the 4 years I got to enjoy the Big House. At least he got Denard up here though, and he is here to stay! New coach Brady Hoke managed to convince the most dynamic guy on the planet to stay, and why wouldn’t he? He is a god amongst men on campus here. I see him often in the Union, still working up the courage to say hi, one of these days… Anyway, the most awesome thing to happen after Hoke getting hired was that somehow, almost inexplicably he recruited former Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison to be the defensive coordinator here. The Ravens have consisitently had the most awesome defense in the league over the past couple of years, and his hire will help us get back on the map. Michigan is on its way back baby, watch out! I don’t know what 2012 holds in store for me, but I know that even if I have to sell my house and car and goats and camels and cows, I will in order to get to Cowboys Stadium to watch Michigan vs. Alabama. Be there!

Rafa Slam: Finally our eyes turn to the Down Under where Rafael Nadal is going for the ‘Rafa Slam’. Rafa has won the last three majors and will go for an unprecedented fourth in a row, being the first guy in a lonnggggg time to hold all 4 majors at once. My personal favorite, Federer, looks a shadow of his old self, needing 5 sets to get through some no name that he already lost to twice. Things are looking good for the Spaniard!

The Pakistan I Remember

In my last post I took quite a bit of flak from a few friends for being overly optimistic and not being quite in touch with reality. In hindsight perhaps I was a bit over the top, but that was the point. One point that drew particular wrath from a friend of mine was where I said 'Our Generation' was a cause of hope for the future. Maybe I wasn't quite clear about what I meant, all I was trying to get at was that Pakistan 10 years ago was on average a better live for Pakistanis then it is today. My younger brother who is 9 years younger then me does not have all the same privileges that I did while growing up. Anyway, I recently came across this wonderful piece by Manal Khan, and expresses what I am trying to say a lot better. Now the direction of the article is a little different, my top 10 was about things to look forward to whereas Manal is comparing the glory of her childhood to the current state of affairs. However the part that I really enjoyed is where Manal described the Pakistan where she grew up, and it is a Pakistan that I can relate to but my younger brother can't. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hearts and Minds

You’ve got to hand it to the American government: they’ve got their priorities straight and hearts in the right place when it comes to renouncing extremism. It’s a quality our representatives lack, a fact that’s become even more evident in the wake of the Taseer assassination.

Exhibit A is a speech – a wonderful, inspiring, honest speech – from Obama in remembrance of the victims of the Arizona shooting. It was a speech you wished President Zardari had the courage and temerity to give. But that, alas, is wishful thinking.

Exhibit B is a letter from Representatives Israel, Ackerman, King and McCaul, addressed to Hillary Clinton, which requests that further visas “should not be issued to people (visa holders who condone the crime) and that applications for new visas from those who have endorsed this heinous crime be denied.”

Another great gesture? Not quite.

Now I’m sure King et al. mean well but, quite frankly, the latter of these requests is one ridiculous stipulation. For multiple reasons. I am not, by any means, condoning or even tacitly supporting the Fanatic Qadri Supporters (FQS). Our stance on that is clear, obvious and appropriately sensible. What I really want to understand is how the State Department, Homeland Security and the US Government in general hope to implement this ridiculous idea and identify those who endorse the assassination.

Here are reactions to a few ideas:

(1) Stalk Facebook: Never thought those seemingly pointless hours checking out that girl from LSE would count as valuable training for professional life? Think again; the US Embassy needs YOU. It wants you to sit 9-5 scouring and stalking visa applicants for any information that suggests membership of the FQS. But that itself will be tricky: sure, the vilified Gaga/Cyrus/Qadri fans will be easy enough to detect. But what if we expand the definition of FQS members and, for example, include those not actively condemning Qadri on Facebook as a signal of tacit consent, approval and surreptitious winks for the Right? Why, I bet 80% of all internet users in Pakistan would be disqualified. Who cares, though? Jobs don’t get any sweeter.

(2) Rigorous interviewing processes: I can imagine what this process will be like, if past experiences provide any evidence of DHS competence:

“Do you support Qadri? No. What colour is your hair? Black. No, it’s dark brown. Now go into that corner until you’re ready to stop lying and renounce your extremist ways.”

Alternatively, they could be smarter and pick up on common trends members of the FQS exhibit: “Identify this song: ‘Babyy-Babyy-Babyy-ooh…’” “Umm…that’s kind of a weird question but Justin Bieber?” “Aha! I knew it: trying to slip your fanaticism past me, boy?”

(3) Pinpointing petal-showering lawyers/clerics: That’s a pretty good starting point, right? Those lawyers deserve not being able to visit Times Square for the 2012 ball drop. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’d still be marching on the streets and garlanding Qadri even if they had the option of becoming taxi drivers on Devon Street, Chicago.

(4) Stringent screening procedures: I find it extremely difficult to believe that any screening process, barring those that border on the extreme, would provide sufficient evidence of FQS membership. Even if it did, it would inevitably be questionable. And again, what if you were to expand the logical grounds for FQS membership to include tacit consent? No visas for those extremist Pakistanis, I’m afraid. But I’m sure Zaid Hamid and Ahmed Quraishi would be happy with more evidence of American Zionism (!). Next conspiracy theory: they’re just trying to round us up in one place so they can finish us all off with the next HAARP-induced flood.

So I’m sure creating a policy that bans visa issuance to Qadri supporters is the best possible way to condemn the tragic Taseer assassination while simultaneously mitigating security threats and reversing what seems to be a growing tendency of Pakistanis to endure injustice. In fact, I really think the prospect of not meeting Lady Gaga in person will get the FQS to change its views. And Rehman Malik, too. Or is there an exception for incompetent government officials in this policy?

My point, condescending sarcasm aside, is that there are no reliable and reasonable metrics to ascertain support for Qadri, especially when the bounds of the definition are stretched. Salman Taseer could have been remembered more appropriately, for example, by another exceptional speech; homeland security would have remained unchanged; and ‘growing extremist tendencies’ could have been addressed better by supporting and strengthening local policies. To expect stricter immigration rules to address the matter is, in truth, a bit like expecting Twitter to initiate an uprising in Libya.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Will The Political Establishment Wake Up?

Here is an article written by Haider Raza about the recent murder of the late Salman Taseer. I could not agree more about his take on how Islam is being distorted by extremists, so I though I'd share this with you. You can read more of what Haider has to say here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

RIP Salmaan Taseer

Death, as they say, has a strange way of defining legacy. In life, you have critics, detractors, even enemies. But in death, when introspection gradually turns emotions to rationality, you see a far clearer picture of what life represented.

Which is why who would have thought that Salmaan Taseer, until minutes before his death the flamboyant villain in the Sharifs' Punjabi fiefdom, would turn into a martyr for minority rights? Who would've thought that everyone from the United Nations to the United States would eulogize a man who until two years back was a peripheral figure in the country's political scene, to say the least?

The cause he championed is a critical one for Pakistan's future. But the failure of a cause is not the failure of a nation. Minority rights are a prickly issue anywhere in the world. Ask a Western European politician to speak out for Muslim immigrants and hear the silence. Even in the US, the bastion of religious freedom, the Ground Zero mosque was contentious for all and sundry (including the President, who backtracked from his initial support). This is a world enveloped in intolerance. Sadly, Pakistan ends up raising the bar from time to time.

That is where legacy comes in. Most politicians would shirk from such issues because they have deep political consequences. In violent countries like Pakistan, they have human consequences as well. So for those for whom the present trumps the future, it makes sense to acquiesce to the crowd. Many would even climb on their backs, against their principals, as we've seen happen recently. But where does that leave them when it is all said and done, and the historian picks up the pen to define them?

Clearly behind the tiny sliver who choose to take a stand, irrespective of the way the wind blows. These men and women risk it all not because of some innate goodness, but because they believe in a small thing such as hope. That standing up for what you believe might, just might, also be politically successful. Sadly, more than often it is not, and they pay for it with their lives.

Salmaan Taseer was never a great politician. Yet, his death has ignited a firestorm of opinion, some of it grotesque yes, but one that is also far and beyond the stature of the political role he had during his life. Only those who take a courageous stand and risk losing it all earn that king-sized legacy. When the emotion wears off, his killers will wonder how killing a man who raised a voice for an innocent woman implicated in a false case, was wajib-ul-qatal. When this intolerance consumes one of them, because it is only too long until there is difference of opinion on something, they will wonder why they unleashed this monster.

So, RIP Governor Sahab. They might curse you, celebrate your death, but they will never, ever forget you. No one will. That is the legacy men like you end up with.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Top 10 reasons why 2011 won't be 2012 for Pakistan

In no particular order, here are 10 reasons why the upcoming year is not the end of the world (2012!) for Pakistan. There might by 100 better reasons, but this is what I could come up with, enjoy!

Mian Iftikhar: The tale of Mian Iftikhair Hussain, Information Minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is one of the most heart wrenching stories of this past year. His son was mercilessly martyred by the Taliban, and in response, Mian Sahib gave a press conference with great poise and elegance where he spoke of his loss and how he will continue to fight for what he believes in. There was no time for Mian Sahib, who soon after losing his son had to deal with the catastrophe that the floods brought, but like the true patriot that he is, he was in the news every day giving updates and asking for help. As long as even one person like Mian Iftikhar Hussain is in our government, this country has more than a hope of turning things around.

Abdul Razzaq: Abdul Razzaq has had his troubles with the Pakistan team. After being inexplicably dropped from the first T20 World Cup squad, he spent time in wilderness. While he has recently crept back into the line-up, he hasn't been the Razzaq of old, who was once compared to the great Jacques Kallis. All that changed when, in the midst of the ongoing drama serial that is Pakistan cricket, he strolled out into the middle against South Africa in Abu Dhabi. The rest, as they say, is history. Here are the last 12 balls of that epic innings. No matter how bad it gets for Pakistan cricket, we are always in with a chance. Don’t count us out of the World Cup just yet.

Pakistan Army: The Army’s ill-advised forays into politics over the last 60 years have been well documented, but things this year were different. There were no explicit political statements or moves made from the GHQ, instead they were doing what they do best, helping people. International response to the floods was slow, but from the first second the heavens opened up, the army was out there airlifting supplies and doing everything else. Let's hope that continues. Pak Fauj Zindabad!

Blackberry app: A good story to highlight the potential that Pakistan has is this one. The bestselling Blackberry app is made in Lahore. Quite the achievement!

Asma Jehangir: Umair already mentioned this, but like Aisam this is worth repeating. The lawyer community has been at the epicenter of change recently with Asma Jehangir being in the thick of things. She has made a few trips to jail for her troubles but her success this year serves as inspiration for all and in particular women to get out and do something!

Roshaneh Zafar: This story caught my eye in the New York Times a while back. The story is that of a women fighting terrorism in the way it should be done. Rather than go in guns blazing, Roshaneh Zafar goes a different route. One way to tackle terrorism is to address a major root cause: poverty. But as Zafar says in the article “Charity is limited, capitalism isn’t”. In 1996 Zafar returned to Pakistan and founded Kashf, a microfinance organization which now has up till now dispersed more the $200 million to more than 300,000 families. If that’s not a reason to believe in Pakistan than I don’t know what is.

Aisam ul haq: Again, Umair beat me to the punch by highlighting the triumph that is Aisam ul Haq Qureshi so I won’t go into much detail, but if anything belongs on this list it is Aisam’s ability to unite two countries and do his bit to remove misconceptions about Pakistan. An honorable mention is made here to the Bryan brothers, who define the sport of doubles tennis. They won the final at the US Open but were very graceful in victory and donated a share of their winnings to the Pakistani flood victims.

Our generation: The older I get the more I realized how privileged I was. Blame Musharraf for whatever you like, during his time, at least from 1999-2006 Pakistan was a stable, progressive state. The Karachi Stock Exchange was amongst the fastest growing markets in the world. Ties with India were at an all-time high, (I even got to witness a Pakistan-India cricket game at Gadaffi stadium!). Things are different now; my little brother does not get to watch a Pakistan-Bangladesh cricket game in Pindi, let alone anything else. The generations before us had to put up with the horror of Zia’s era, but we were privileged, at least I think so. There is optimism amongst our ranks to make things right again, and better than they were. The general feeling I get from talking to my friends is that we are going to go back to Pakistan with quality education to change things for the better. Only time will tell, but I have a good feeling about us.

Cowasjee: I will leave this story to the far superior writing ability of my uncle, which actually inspired me to write this piece, but to sum up, we have seen worse and got through it.

Music: through it all, our musicians have managed to inspire and a voice for a cause for change. Nothing sums that up better than this song by Atif Aslam and Strings. A special shout out to Talal and Zoi who are making waves in the music industry. With tunes like this to lead us into the future something has to go right!