Blog Archives

INSTAGRAM: 18 facts and statistics you probably never knew

Instagram is currently one of the world’s most popular social networks by usage and membership. Owned by Facebook, and lovingly known by its fans as simply ‘Insta’, the site is a valuable treasure trove of pictures and memories and offers a glimpse into the lives of its 600 million or so active users. While Instagram has developed a reputation as a bit of a narcissist’s heaven with many users flooding it with selfies, posing like there is no tomorrow, it also has become a valuable resource for creatives such as photographers and graphic designers to showcase their work, and many celebrities use it to give their fanbase a way of keeping up to date with their daily goings-on. And of course, if you ever feel hungry or have no idea what’s for supper tonight, then Instagram’s impressive collection of food photos is the ideal place for culinary inspiration. Not to mention those awesome filters.

 

 

With the help of content, social media and online marketing blog The Social Ms, here are twenty facts and statistics about the photo-sharing network you probably had no idea about.

  1. By the end of 2016, Instagram reported it had 600 million active users, that is, people who use their accounts and upload photos or images. This is an additional 100 million shutterbugs joining the service since September 2015
  2. Instagram has a rapidly increasingly ‘growth base’ with rises of 15 per cent, and there is no sign of it slowing down. In the United States alone (its biggest market), the number of users is expected to hit 116.3 million (34.8 per cent of the then population) and become the second-most popular social network, overtaking Twitter, fellow photo social network Pinterest and micro-blog Tumblr, according to recent figures by eMarketer.
  3. Not surprisingly, just like all social networks, Insta is a hit with the young ‘uns. For all age groups of Internet users, 28 per cent use it, 55 per cent of people between the ages of 18-29 are Insta-fanatics, forming its largest demographic, according to the Pew Research Center in the US. The centre also reported that 52 per cent of teens aged between 13 and 17 were also fans of Instagram.
  4. Instagram has good product loyalty. Fifty-nine per cent of its users post daily, and another 17 per cent use it at least once weekly, according to the Pew Research Center.
  5. The site has enjoyed massive growth rates in some subjects, according to MediaPost. Beauty (74% growth rate), ‘big box’ (128%) and household goods (149%) have been some of the most popular topics, at least for businesses using their Instagram accounts to promote their goods to private users. For the rest of us, I assume selfies probably have a growth rate of 100,000 per cent (I kid).
  6. Instagram is big money for marketers. In 2015, it netted advertising revenue of USD $500 million (GBP £407 million). It is expected that this year, Insta will make more money from its advertising platform on American mobile handsets than Google and Twitter, claims eMarketer.
  7. Although Instagram is US-founded and run by a big American tech company, most of its success has been from outside. Eighty per cent of its users are non-American.
  8. Over 80 million photos are uploaded per day. There is believed to be more than 40 billion images crammed into Insta’s servers and users generate an astonishing 3.5 billion likes per day, says ClickZ.
  9. The most prestigious account, going by popularity and celebrity anyway, is the one owned by U.S. singer Selena Gomez. She has 99.5 million followers allegedly.
  10. The most liked photo over all of Insta was one by reality show star Kendall Jenner. The picture of her lying on her back, eyes closed with her hair spread out and arranged into hearts got 3.5 million likes.
  11. If you post a photo, fifty per cent of comments will appear within six hours, meaning a good post will stick around and not get lost in the noise.
  12. Instagram is quite secure, with only eight per cent of its accounts said to be fake, according to an unnamed Italian security firm.
  13. Like any social network, people sometimes do get bored of posting or other things happen in their life that pull them away. The same Italian firm discovered that nearly 30 per cent of account are rarely used or inactive, usually posting one post per month or less, according to Business Insider.
  14. For businesses, Insta is marketing gold. Forrester published stats that suggest people engage with brands ten times more on Insta than they do on Facebook. Facebook ads are annoying, I grant you that.
  15. One-third of Instagram users have used their mobile to purchase a product online.
  16. Fifty-three per cent of Instagrammers, as fans are sometimes called, are following brands.
  17. As humans love seeing faces, this fact is probably not surprising, but selfies and group photos on average are 38 per cent more likely to get liked, than other kinds of pictures, such as inanimate objects.
  18. The most Instagrammed food is… pizza.

 

SOURCES:
HEM Bloggers List, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-bloggers-list
Susanna Gebauer‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/dreckbaerfrau
“20 Instagram Facts And Statistics You Should Know” – Susanna Gebauer, The Social Ms/Friendly Fellows UG (haftungsbeschränkt) (23 September 2016) https://blog.thesocialms.com/19-instagram-facts-and-statistics-you-should-know/
IMAGE CREDIT:
freestocks.org via Pexels (13 January 2016) https://www.pexels.com/photo/lg-smartphone-instagram-social-media-35177/

STREET-AND-SKY SCENERY: Photo ‘exhibition’ by Anjali – an HEM special

Vijay Shah (editor)

with Anjali Shah (photographer)

A few months ago, my youngest sister Anjali received an iPhone as a gift. One of the things iPhones are renowned for is their impressive photographic capabilities, considering the phone’s camera is far smaller and more pressed for space compared to the usage specificity and technological prowess of specially made cameras from the likes of Canon, Nikon, Minolta etc.

The iPhone, one of the most successful exports of the House of Apple, Inc. boasts a 8 megapixel camera and has become a weapon of choice for ‘pocket photographers’ who don’t want to be burdened by expensive and clunky camera equipment, and its numerous and easy settings have also made it hot property for the casual amateur or semi-professional shutterbug.

I’m not much of an iPhone fan myself. In fact I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini which takes some pretty impressive snaps itself, but my sister is very much on the side of the techies in Cupertino. She was thrilled to bits to finally get her mobile after a lot of searching and loitering on online auctions. One of the most pleasing things I see as her older sibling about Anjali having this iPhone is that it has really opened up her passion and flair for photography. It is nice to see her asserting her talent and surprising me with her creativity. A chip off the old HEM block, no doubt.

(c) somegif.com

Lately, Anjali has used her phone’s filter and effects settings to produce a handful of shots of scenery while out and about in Seven Kings, a suburban area to the east of London. Influenced by the natural play of light and colour, these shots are simple, but captivating homages to the beauty of the sky at its most vivid. Taken over a period of around two months at different times of the day, Anjali’s ‘street and sky’ pictures capture a series of atmospheric moods and environments. Anju has kindly allowed me to reproduce some finetuned versions of her outdoors imagery, which save for a bit of standard auto-fixing using the imaging website piZap, are exactly as she envisioned and created them.

The ‘Street and Sky Scenery’ gallery contains seven photos. The album can be seen in greater detail on the HEM Flickr page.

IMAGE CREDITS:
Anjali Shah via Vijay Shah, The Half-Eaten Mind, Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/110818734@N02/
“Blue camera girl nail polish nikon gif” – Somegif via Google Images.

 

DIWALI 2014: Festive family photos

Yesterday, on Diwali day itself, I was able to spend time with my family at my mother’s house. It was a beautiful and magical occasion of enjoyment with some of the most special people in my life. There was lots of hugs and smiles as we greeted each other “Happy Diwali”. Mum treated me to a dish of her very delicious vegetarian chilli-con-carne and tasty Indian sweets. We had a quiz game on my brother’s PS4 (out of five players, I came top with a final score of 4,000 points) and later went around the house lighting diyas (lamps) in honour of the festival of lights.

Prompted by a blogging friend who saw my previous post on this year’s HEM selection of animated images on the theme of Diwali and suggested I post up pictures of the event, I here present a gallery of photos of Diwali in the Shah household. Many, many thanks to Anjali and Arjun for contributing pictures to this gallery, and to Suraj, who offered me a chance to take some pictures after he had lit some candles on the mantelpiece.

You can find full-resolution versions of the images in this gallery on the Half-Eaten Mind. Just look out for the square moving Flickr icon on the top of this page. Once you’re on the Flickr site, search for the “Diwali 2014/2070” album. Images refined and watermarked with piZap.

May thousands of lamps light up your life
with endless happiness, richness, health & wealth forever
wishing you and your family a very
“HAPPY DIWALI“

diwali64
ADDITIONAL SOURCE:
“[*Deepavali*] Happy Diwali Messages In English 2014 *[Msgs*]” – Happy Diwali/Happy Diwali 2014 Wishesms http://www.happydiwali2014wishesms.org/2014/09/deepavali-happy-diwali-messages-in-english-2014.html

MOAF 2014: A photo collection from the Mauritian Open Air Festival

It’s that time of year again.

For the second time and after a two-year gap, the blog editor in his capacity as the official representative of the Half-Eaten Mind took a trip to Down Lane Park, in north London to visit the Mauritian Open Air Festival, the biggest outdoor celebration of Mauritian culture, music and food outside of the island itself. This is my first return visit since 2012, and what can I say, it is even better than back then.

(c) animatedimages.org

While I made my own journey there through London’s tricky weekend commuting lines, I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my sisters (Anjali), my Mum, two of my aunts (Aunties Fifi and Fareeda), and my cousins Shaun and Soraya. We first did a tour of the stalls, sampling authentic food from our country, such as dhol puri (flat bread with a filling of lentils and with a curry sauce containing butter beans), napolitaine (cake-like biscuit with a covering of icing, usually pink), pudin vermicel (dry pudding made with vermicelli pasta) and the usual soft drinks, as the temperature was hitting 25 degrees Celsius. The youngers ones went off to get Mauritian flags painted on their cheeks, before my family managed to deftly secure themselves ringside seats near a pair of deafening woofers.

Occupying the stage was local Mauritian talent DJ Vish who played a succession of classic and new sega and soca hits in between acts. We also got to see live performances by Synergy, Belgian rapper Supershane, Mauritian singers and husband-and-wife team Laura Beg and Alain Ramanisum, who are like chalk and cheese in looks and personalities, but actually compliment each other very well in their mission to keep Mauritian musical culture as relevant as ever. Alongside them was Jean-Claude Gaspard. His longevity and back catalogue could easily make him the Mauritian equivalent of James Brown, but with less of the exuberant shouting and booty-shaking. He and Alain spellbound the hundreds-strong crowd with faithful and peppy renditions of the kind of classic songs like ‘Bhai Abou’ that my mother grew up listening to. Other highlights were the gorgeous and very elastic members of the Jalsa des Iles sega dance troupe (a reliable MOAF fixture) and the superbly breathtaking Omaz Sega Band, as well as a meet-and-greet with Mr. and Miss England. All of this plus a funfair amidst the serenity and tranquility of a inner London park. Just like myself, MOAF is a diverse and awe-inspiring amalgamation of the best of England and Mauritius. Well maybe not so much myself.

There were some funny and downright strange moments. The distinctive smell of cannabis wafting through the air at a couple of points, a malfunctioning turntable, unicorn balloons floating off into the stratosphere, crazy family dance-offs, arms stacked to the top with plates of food and a drunken fat concertgoer in a red t-shirt and Switzerland cap who couldn’t help but invade people’s personal space with his inebriated attempts at the sensuality of sega dancing. All this while a drone armed with cameras hovered across the ecstatic flag-waving crowd. It is probably no coincidence that ‘Mauritian’ and ‘madness’ both begin with the same two letters. I kid, I kid!!.

Though I nearly lost my hearing because of standing too close to the speakers, it was a great day to be had. It’s not often that I get chance to really involve myself in Mauritian culture but MOAF is the perfect time to do so. Us Mauritians certainly know how to party. This event is the latest reincarnation in a long tradition of outdoors cultural events for the UK’s Mauritian community, and I would say it is the best such event yet, that really makes me glad to have Mauritian heritage and to be a part of a very unique and positive-minded people and island. Plus you get tonnes of freebies. Everyone loves freebies.

 

To celebrate MOAF and all good things Mauritian, we have brought you exclusive and perfected photos of the event, taken by myself and Anjali and edited/improved using our reliable fixture, the pizap website. For those of you who have not yet had the chance to be at this spectacular festival, this will give you an idea of what it is like to be right there.

 

Nissa la monte!!!

  • The special MOAF flyer and CD of sega songs sent to me via post. This was a free thank you gift for ordering a couple of tickets online for this event.

  • A stylised view of apartment blocks near Tottenham Hale station on my way to Down Lane Park. Tottenham, in north London is home to many Mauritians and is the venue for MOAF every year in August.

  • My lunch – Mauritian style. Dhol puri (like a tortilla stuffed slightly with dried lentils), a can of soft drink and ‘napolitaines’ bought from a stall run by ‘Mauritian Temple’ volunteers.

  • Me and my younger sister waving the four-colour flag proudly.

  • All smiles at MOAF 2014!!

  • Selfie of my sister with my cousin – with obligatory Instagram filter. So sweet these family snaps!

  • What is life without some random Mauritians to rub shoulders with.

  • An infographic explaining the meanings of the colours in the Mauritian flag.

  • We were fortunate to meet one of the guest singers from Mauritius backstage. Jean-Claude Gaspard has been in the industry for decades and is highly respected on the island.

  • Sega dancers from the group “Jalsa des Iles” strutting their stuff on the purpose built stage.

  • Popular modern sega singer Alain Ramanisum speaks to the audience.

  • Mr. Ramanisum was quite the talker and really got the spectators fired up!

  • Laura Beg, romantic chanteuse and dearly beloved of Alain, also got her chance to warm up the audience.

  • Jean-Claude Gaspard – an old-school sega stalwart made two appearances on stage, singing several classic songs beloved of my mum’s and aunts’ generation.

  • Bright and sensual, the swirling dresses and fluid movements of the sega dancers brightened up the stage. All eyes were on their story in motion.

  • Even the singer was an explosion of tropical hues, like a million Hawai’ian flowers had clustered together to lend a burst of riotous colour to his vibrant vocals.

  • The singer owns the stage while young men with the distinctive and hefty Mauritian drum or ‘ravanne’ tap out some percussion beats. The ravanne is a signature instrument in the sega tradition.

  •  He belts out a classic while the accompanying singers take to the ‘catwalk’ promenade of the stage. No, they are not doing zombie impressions!

  • A closer look at the ravanne quartet. The drumming was incredibly intense in that way that Mauritians know how to be.

  • The lead singer from a band, Synergy. He sang soulful English numbers over a Mauri-style backing beat. I remarked to my sister that he did look rather like a Mauritian Bruno Mars. Also reminds me of that unfortunate sergeant from the Police Academy films.

  • Two of the Jalsa dancers in a sort of sega ‘waltz’.

  • A traditional singer with a modern twist.

  • Mr. and Miss. England 2014 also put in an appearance. They had recently visited Mauritius and the Miss even spoke some accented but good French.

  • A wide-view of the attendees at MOAF 2014 looking towards the Ashley Road end of the park. The crowd was several hundred by around 5:00 pm.

The Half-Eaten Mind visited the Mauritian Open Air Festival, in Down Lane Park, Tottenham on the Sunday 3rd August 2014.

 

If you wish to see the pictures from the Mauritian Open Air festival in better and higher resolution, then visit this link to the Mauritian Open Air Festival 2014” album on the Half-Eaten Mind Flickr page.

Further links and info:

IMAGE CREDITS:
piZap www.pizap.com
“Mauritius Flag: Animated Images & Gifs” – animatedimages.org www.animatedimages.org/cat-mauritius-flag-826.htm
…and of course, Vijay and Anjali Shah, siblings and photo-geniuses!

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Looking down on Dubai – Joe McNally

(c) J. McNally via Mindblowing Pictures

A daredevil snaps a picture of their feet several hundred metres off the ground while perched on a ledge of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

The death-defying snap was taken in 2013 (last year) by expert photographer Joe McNally, who is employed by geography and wildlife magazine National Geographic.

According to Belgian news site SudInfo.be, McNally snapped this incredible view of central Dubai’s much smaller skyscrapers and expansive swimming pools from a height of 820 metres and had then tweeted the photo.

While speaking with the Huffington Post, Joe said that he had climbed the tower for a bit of fun and was not on official reporting business. Nevertheless this photo would have made the perfect submission to National Geographic’s image competitions, which attract some of the best wildlife and environment photographers from all over the world. The magazine has long been lauded for its stunning shots submitted by both staffers and contributors.

After somehow climbing the tower, McNally then gingerly stepped across to an outer support for LEDs installed to warn nearby aircraft of Burj Khalifa’s presence before happily snapping away. It is not known whether he used safety climbing equipment or had notified local authorities of his climb. Risky it may have been, but the effort paid off with a truly memorable and jawdropping image of one of the fastest-developing and most prestigious cities in the Middle East.

Links:

Joe McNally’s Blog

Joe McNally Photography

Joe McNally – Expert | National Geographic Expeditions

National Geographic

Visit the Burj Khalifa — The Tallest Building in the World

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter https://twitter.com/VShah1984
“Joe McNally est monté au sommet de la tour la plus haute du monde, Burj Khalifa, pour faire une photo à 820 mètres” – Sudinfo.be, Rossel Advertising (22 March 2013) http://www.sudinfo.be/688481/article/fun/buzz/2013-03-22/joe-mcnally-est-monte-au-sommet-de-la-tour-la-plus-haute-du-monde-burj-khalifa-p
Google Translate, Google Inc. https://translate.google.com/?hl=en&tab=TT
IMAGE CREDITS:
Joe McNally, National Geographic (private work) via Mindblowing Pictures,  Twitter https://twitter.com/GooglePics

PHOTO MOMENT: Cool photos of Rare and Amazing Things

Vijay Shah (editor)

Joy Barnes (contributor)

Today’s photo moment comes courtesy of an email forwarded on to me from an old friend and former housemate I lived with until two years ago. The Half-Eaten Mind offers you a selection of photos depicting amazing animals and places that will inspire an equal amount of awe and amazement, with a hefty dollop of cuteness thrown in for good measure.

The pictures you will see here are reproduced exactly as I received them, with original captions maintained. This Photo Moment reminds us of the cool and amazing things that exist in our world and that great photo opportunities are available to everyone. To make and to witness. There are many rare things and sights in this world that many of us will be lucky to see even once in this lifetime. This Photo Moment could be the closest to seeing these spectacular events outside of actually being there.

Zoe the White Zebra has blue eyes and golden stripes.

A small cheetah training to be the fastest in the universe.

‘The cat without fear’

Hotel Four Seasons Bora Bora

Conservatory of Music in China

So embrace the zebras

Kiss in Paris

Premature elephant born only one minute ago.

Each year in February, the sun’s angle is such that Horsetail Falls waterfall lights like fire. Yosemite, USA

Houseboat, Iceland.

Panda, scared after the earthquake in Japan, embraced the leg of a policeman.

Dubai dawn with fog

Kalapana, Hawaii where sea meets lava

”I think I’ll try to take a picture of myself.”

”The sand burn, burn, burn!”

Beijing Airport by night

Two-year-old chimpanzee feeding milk to “Aorn,” a small tiger 60 days old.

A duck tends to continue throughout his life to follow whoever he first sees at birth, whether or not it’s his mother.

”Otter by teaching your baby.”

Highway in Japan with snow around more than 10 meters high.

Puma cub

Spectacular rice fields in China

Austria’s Green Lake is a beautiful park in winter. The snow melts in summer and creates a very clear lake.

Undersea tunnel linking Sweden and Denmark

The world’s highest swimming pool is located in the skyscraper Marina Bay Sands, Singapore. Views chilling.

Amazing lightning storm over the Grand Canyon.

The so-called ”Tunnel of Love” Ukraine

A rancher was not allowed to build shelter for his horses, so he built a table and a chair, without breaking the law.

Baby chameleons

Panda helping another

“The road to Heaven,” a place in Ireland where every two years the stars align with the road

World’s largest swimming pool in San Alfonso, Chile – more than 1,000 yards long

Crystal Palace, Madrid

”Heaven’s Gate,” Zhangjiajie Tianmen Mountain, China

True friendship is not being there when it’s convenient, it’s being there when it is not.

The Northern Lights, Alaska

Llamas after fleecing

White owl

The famous Rosa Moss Bridges, Ireland

Eiffel Tower, romantic and beautiful Paris, France

Road to Hana – Maui, Hawaii

Hanging restaurant, Belgium

Baby giraffe

Sea otters hold hands while they sleep to keep the current from separating them

There are animals with more sensitivity than many people.

Fireman giving drink to a baby koala in Australia fires

Amazing view of Manhattan, New York from above

Frozen bubbles in the Canadian Rockies, Canada

Spiral iridescent cloud in the sky in the Himalayas – phenomenon observed on October 18, 2009

View of the semi-submerged cataract, Hawaii

Northern lights over the Canadian Rockies

Winter in Paris

A pink lake due to a harmless bacteria – Retba Lake, north of the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal

This dog saved her puppies from a fire at home and put them safely in one of the fire trucks.

Infinite Cave, Vietnam

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IMAGE CREDITS:
Original copyrights belong to the photographers who took the above creations. Images derived from email by Joy Barnes and forwarded by Suzanne Nungesser.

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Mum’s Christmas decorations for 2013

Vijay Shah 

One of the fondest, and most persistent memories I had of growing up was a yearly ritual that my mother would perform towards the last few weeks before Christmas, along with many other British families. That ritual involved running around with a stepladder, clutching fancy objects made of tinsel and LED lights, and then transforming the living room into a kaleidoscope of shimmering metallic colours, flashing bulbs and festive knick-knacks. Cardboard boxes and bits of Sellotape surfaced everywhere, not to mention the occasional broken bauble or chair leg. Loads of rustling and troublesome tinsel that will not stay put on the walls. This is festive home decoration – Mumsy-style!!

This year is no different, and this photo moment is dedicated to my mum’s skillful, playfully over the top, jaw-dropping-ly fantastic Christmas decorations, which can take her several hours to perfect and finish.

Though no-one in our family celebrates Christmas for religious reasons (although we do respect the message behind it), it is customary for families in the United Kingdom to erect a Christmas tree in the living room and festoon it with tinsel, baubles and more wattage than Oxford Street. My mother is very fond of decorating the house for Christmas ever since Day One, and this year she has really made an effort. It is not just the living room that gets the motherly festive touch now. Since my mum and younger siblings moved to a much larger suburban house five years back, she has now has more space to place decorations, and now not a single room in the house escapes my Mum’s festive cheer. In addition to the Christmas tree (we kept the same plastic pine tree for several years), my Mum would also pull out a ladder or chair and hang special decorations made from metallic foil from the ceiling. That is also an important sub-ritual we have enacted for as long as I can remember. I was fascinated by them as a child, and now, more than two decades later, my niece, who is four years old, is just as fascinated. In fact when she saw them, she thought yesterday was the great “Happy Christmas Day” and wanted to “reach up to the sky”. She was mesmerised by the hanging ornaments.

This year, Mum went all-out. Additional kitschy lighted ornaments were placed in windows and in the passageways of the house. The decorating project was a nice effort by Mum. She stayed up until 2.00 in the morning last week on one occasion, doing nothing but hoisting up and sticking down all manners of festive decor to the walls. She had picked up some new additions from eBay and some local stores to add to the ones we box up after every New Year for storage. When I visited her yesterday, I even got stuck in a bit myself, although most of my help extended to lugging a large mattress across one of the bedrooms (don’t ask) so my Mum could get access to the window. My Mum was understandably very proud of her efforts and the hard work she put in to make sure that the displays were perfect and had the right effect of awesomeness. She even badgered me to go around and take pictures of the various decorations, while giving me a back story about some of them, especially how she got hold of them.

I walked around the whole house and even stepped outside in the freezing col minus jacket to take a selection of photos. I was suitably impressed, so much so in fact that today I have decided to upload them to the blog’s newly created Flickr account and then share them with you in today’s Photo Moment. Hopefully these pictures will get you deeper into the holiday season spirit and maybe even give you some decoration ideas of your own if you haven’t yet decked your halls with holly and other such Christmassy things.

Lit-up reindeer grace the front door of my mum’s place. Even the ornaments get their own bespoke ornamentation (c) V. Shah

Festive metallic card banner suspended over the door leading to the living room (c) V. Shah

Wide-angle view of living room decorations. The chains of ‘icicles’ at the top of this photo contain red and blue LEDs that alternate between the two colours. Witness the array of shapes hanging from the ceiling. (c) V. Shah

The Xmas tree. Traditionally we used a green one, but for the last couple of years, the colour scheme has been switched to snowy white. (c)V. Shah

A closer detail of Mum’s trademark ceiling ornaments. A red star jostles for attention with a ‘sea urchin’ and two snowflakes. Old is gold. (c) V. Shah

Model reindeer under the tree. My niece was smitten, but mistook is for one of those ‘My Little Ponies’. She refused to believe me when I told her it was a reindeer from Santa. (c) V. Shah

The Christmas tree. Notice the gold star at the top. We did not steal it from the Kremlin. (c) V. Shah

Brightly-coloured deer and Santa decorations set up in the living room window. (c) V. Shah

“Merry Christmas” light display and a few dangling snowdrops to lend that wintery feel from an upstairs bedroom window. Seen from the driveway. (c) V. Shah

Simple chain of electric blue LEDs above the threshold of the front door. Why do I suddenly feel like singing the “Bad Boy” song? (c) V. Shah

Freshly kidnapped from the National Santas Convention – a trio of ornamental Father Christmases. One appears to have been hired by a call centre. (c) V. Shah

A ghetto Christmas tree – in reality a branch ornament in the dining room which has not escaped the LED frenzy of my Mum. (c) V. Shah

The tree in all its finest glory. I managed to the get the blue lights at the top to snake around the body of the tree to make a good contrast between blue and white – good winter theme. Not bad for someone who is hopeless at interior design. (c) V. Shah

This Santa decided to jack in Rudolph and the sleigh and deliver prezzies with added locomotion. A long-established heirloom with fibre optic lighting that gently changes colour. (c) V. Shah

Miniature Xmas pine trees that look like the main tree’s sapling children. The empty drinks can is not a permanent decoration. (c) V. Shah

The train Santa again with full illumination. Kitschy but a good reminder of snowy Christmas evenings by candlelight. (c) V. Shah

Not quite a decoration but arguably one of the cutest Xmas cards I’ve seen in a while. A reindeer with glittery red nose, robin, and candy cane. (c) V. Shah

We even have a festive doormat. Jolly Santa and Xmas greeting. (c) V. Shah

Handheld fibre-optic tree, as demonstrated by one of my sisters. (c) V .Shah

I moustache you a question. Where did you get this bauble? Movember may be long over, but you can’t argue with a bauble sporting its own glittering lip scarf. (c) V. Shah

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IMAGE CREDITS:
Half-Eaten Mind on Flickr LINK

PHOTO MOMENT: Is Putin giving Van Damme a stunt-run for his (Volvo) money?

Vijay Shah

A recent advert by Swedish motor vehicle manufacturer Volvo has practically set the internet alight, being shared countless times across social platforms and becoming the talk of cyber town. One of the best attempts at both standard TV advertising and viral marketing in recent years has already clocked up nearly 50 million views on YouTube alone.  The slickly-made advertisement, made to showcase the stability and precision of Volvo’s new “Dynamic Steering”element, features Belgian action man Jean-Claude Van Damme. With his arms firmly crossed and his mouth delivering a monologue to camera in that unmistakable Flemish accent, Van Damme fearlessly does the splits between two reversing trucks bracing at a comfortable speed down a closed-off desert road.

Jaws drop as wide as Van Damme’s legs stretch apart, and those same legs are eventually completely horizontal as he is perched precariously on the lorries’ wing mirrors, while the viewers’ astonishment is accompanied by the melodious soundtrack of Enya’s “Only Time“.

But it’s a competitive world out there in adland. Whenever someone gets a over-stuffed suitcase of money from an ad agency to push the televised stunt bar to stratospheric heights, there’s always someone else who has to jump in and push the bar even higher…literally.

Step aside Van Damme. Meet Vladimir Putin. President of Russia, quintessential macho man, keen hunter, dictator-in-the-making, West’s bogeyman of the month (since 2000)…and now…super stuntsman and future father of a thousand internet memes. A picture has begun showing up on Twitter showing Putin straddling the wings of two military fighter jets high above over what appears to be Moscow. If this doesn’t put the wind up Washington, then nothing will.

Here is the Russian Federation’s answer to the Van Damme commercial (as shared by @yamphoto and @DaliaEzzat_ ) :-

(c)9GAG.com

The picture was sourced from 9GAG.com, an online gallery of funny pictures and content, so we can safely assume that despite Putin’s self-described awesomeness, this stunt was more of the Photoshop variety than the “I am the Man!!!” at 10,000 feet variety.

Death-defying sky-warrior he probably isn’t, but Russia’s leader has proved his mettle in more ground-based pursuits (with the help of a well-oiled PR machine and sympathetically doe-eyed news editors). He landed in the war-torn capital of Chechnya, Grozny’, in 2000 flying in a Su-27 fighter jet, despite risk of assassination by Chechen separatists; he has created a tough, outdoorsy, hard man image in the media and takes frequent trips to the harsh tundra of Siberia to angle for fish; he is said to be adept at martial arts, driving racing cars and scuba-diving. Russia’s superman is not without his controversies however. Vladimir Putin has also come under fire for dominating the political sphere in Russia, dragging the country back to Soviet-style rule;  and is considered responsible, or at least taking a blind eye to, the persecution of political opponents, religious minorities and most recently, LGBT Russians.

Looks like JC’s claim to stuntmanship fame is safe for now.

The Volvo ad with Jean-Claude Van Damme and two heavily-built Globetrotters:

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SOURCES/IMAGE CREDITS:
Vijay Shah { विजय } on Twitter LINK
Marcus Yam on Twitter LINK
Dalia Ezzat on Twitter LINK
“Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split feat. Van Damme (Live Test 6)” – Volvo Trucks, YouTube GB LINK
“About 9GAG” – 9GAG LINK
“Vladimir Putin” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. LINK

 

WALLPAPER: Diwali 2013/2070

Vijay Shah (writing/editing/images)

Anjali Shah (images/contribution)

To celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, this coming November, the Half-Eaten Mind is unveiling not one, but two special created images to celebrate the festive season – one produced by me and the other made by my youngest sister Anjali, who very much initiated me into the hallowed ways of online image design. With just over a week left until the big day to go, we spent last night simultaneously working on these commemorative images using our old favourite, piZap. There was plenty of coordination and correspondence via email and Twitter. Because when we celebrate, we celebrate in (graphical) style!!

ANJALI
(c) A. Shah/piZap

(c) A. Shah/piZap

Anji has produced this festive fun montage which I think captures the spirit of one of our greatest festivals perfectly. She has achieved a good balance between Diwali’s spiritual roots and the joy and light that forms part of its related celebrations the world over. On the religious side of things we first have the “Aum” symbol”. Aum is the symbol of Hinduism and identifies our faith in the same way that the cross represents Christianity or the star and moon do it for Islam. It is the first sound that appeared after Lord Brahma created the universe. It is used to begin our prayers in Hinduism, and even western practitioners of yoga and meditation have realised the peaceful transcendence and tranquility that repeated chanting of “Aum” places in their hearts and infuses through their minds. There is also a swastika using a traditional Indian design. Please note that this symbol is not intended to have any overtones of Nazism. In Hindu communities, the swastika is a symbol of prosperity and goodness, and was appropriated by the Nazis who reversed its position and turned it into a symbol of evil.

Also we have a image of Lord Ganesh, also called Ganpati Dada in Gujarat. God in this form blesses the beginnings of all new years and beginnings generally. He is the remover of obstacles and blesses devotees during this joyous occasion.

On the cultural side Anjali has included scenes representing a perfect Diwali celebration. The lamps are an important fixture of events in temples, businesses and homes across the Hindu world. Known as ‘diya’ in Hindi and ‘deevo’ in Gujarati, these often ornate candles have an important religious significance and in fact lend their name to the festival. Diwali, or Deepavali, literally means “festival of lights”.

Anji also has included a delectable selection of sweets (mithai) which are offered to family and guests who come around your home. Interestingly the sweets are arranged in a ‘thali’ (dish or platter) that looks very much like a ‘diya’!! 

This image works so well because firstly it makes me nostalgic for my childhood Diwalis . As I look at this picture I am reminded of the glowing warmth of the many flickering diyas and candles placed around my old family home on a dark cloudy autumn morning. The lights become even more beautiful at night, with fireworks exploding on a thousand bright colours across the night sky. Anjali’s montage is very busy visually/content-wise which reminds me of the frantic hunting for suitable presents and trinkets in the run-up to Diwali and the New Year, as well as the stalls  I used to visit in Upton Park with their “hard-to-choose” displays of greetings cards, diyas, incense sticks, and other Deepavali goodies. 

I am going to be using this image as the official festive wallpaper for both my personal and blog Twitter accounts. I am really proud and grateful towards Anjali for taking the time out to create this image and she cordially wishes all the blog’s readers a Happy Diwali full of peace, prosperity and joy.

VIJAY
(c) V. Shah/piZap et al.

(c) V. Shah/piZap et al.

My image was made with the blog in mind and features a solemnly powerful image of a single lamp set in a rangoli pattern made with coloured powders, which is an activity done by people at their homes especially in India. I used Creative Commons search and found this image on Flickr, a popular photo-sharing site. The original image was created by Abhinaba Basu and was available under a free licence. I then added an image of Lords Ganesh and Lakshmi Devi which I had more-or-less cut and pasted from a online Diwali e-greeting card, of which you can find tonnes online. I added a special background filter to give the image more vibrancy in colour and wrote the text in three different fonts, partly to tie in with the new header image I recently installed on the main body of the blog, and partly to reflect the kindness of the message. Then throw in some pinpricks of light to make things look even more festive. The image did not take that long to make. Indeed I spent more time fine-tuning it than I did actually putting the individual components together. Our mascot Woodsey the Owl also gets a special mention, because no HEM celebration now is complete without our conifer-loving friend. 

My plans for this image is to transform it into the background for the Half-Eaten Mind site during the Diwali season.

I really hope you have enjoyed taking a peek at these images.

Here’s a quick Diwali story which explains how this enchanting festival kicked off…

Once upon a time there was a great warrior, Prince Rama, who had a beautiful wife named Sita.

There was also a terrible demon king, Ravana. He had twenty arms and ten heads, and was feared throughout the land. He wanted to make Sita his wife, and one day he kidnapped her and took her away in his chariot. Clever Sita left a trail of her jewellery for Rama to follow.

Rama followed the trail of glittering jewellery until he met the monkey king, Hanuman, who became his friend and agreed to help find Sita. Messages were sent to all the monkeys in the world, and through them to all the bears, who set out to find Sita.

After a very long search, Hanuman found Sita imprisoned on an island. Rama’s army of monkeys and bears couldn’t reach the island, so they began to build a bridge. Soon all the animals of the world, large and small, came to help. When the bridge was built, they rushed across it and fought a mighty battle.

When Rama killed the evil Ravana with a magic arrow, the whole world rejoiced. Rama and Sita began their long journey back to their land, and everybody lit oil lamps to guide them on their way and welcome them back.

Ever since, people light lamps at Diwali to remember that light triumphs over dark and good triumphs over evil.

(Reproduced courtesy of Activity Village)

The Half Eaten Mind wishes you and yours a truly wonderful and prosperous Diwali, and even if you aren’t celebrating, we wish you a day full of happiness, merriment and good vibes.

……:::—+{{{@HAPPY DIWALI##SHUBH DIWALI – 2013 CE/2070 VS. @}}}+—:::…..

(c) Ben707.co.cc

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ADDITONAL SOURCE:
“The Story of Diwali” – Activity Village/Small Publishing LINK
IMAGE CREDITS (Vijay’s image) :
“Diwali 2009” – Abhinaba Basu (abhinaba) at Flickr LINK
“Maa Laxmi On Diwali Greeting Cards” – greet2k.com LINK
piZap LINK
IMAGE CREDITS:
“Picture Comments – Happy Deepavali” – BeN707 Grafix/Benedic Doray/Ben707.co.cc (30 September 2009) LINK

PHOTO MOMENT: My 29th birthday

You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.
–  Bob Hope

Vijay Shah

So yesterday, the 4th of October, 2013, was my birthday. That day marked the 29th year of my arrival here on planet Earth. I usually don’t make such a big deal about my birthday, but this one was special, depending on which way you look at it. It is the last year I can consider myself a “twenty-something”. That final twelve months of my 20s where I can still be a bit cool and down with the youngers. Where I can get away with still being a bit childish, although really I am more mature than a lot of late twenty-somethings. That last year where I don’t feel so geriatric that I can start smelling mothballs and feeling the warm snugness of a pair of incontinence pants. Where I can feel contemporary and up-to-minute, and not start bleating about the ‘good old days’…actually scratch that…I’ve already started bleating like an old goat about them. I can look in the mirror and still not be overly concerned about the white hairs appearing on my barnet or those slowly deepening worry lines. I’m still young, I’m still fly. I’ve still got it.

Well, I am also only one year from waving goodbye to my twenties forever. It will be soon time to buckle up and prepare for the big Three-Oh. The decade of responsibilities, family, children, running a house, working a fast-paced and respectable job. No more lounging about. Yep I’m getting old. Already my sister, who is only slightly more than three years younger than me, has dubbed me ‘granddad’ – and I feel embarrassed to mention my age now to people. Very scary.

Anyways, today I bring forth a special edition Photo Moment to mark my 29th birthday. All these photos come courtesy of my Twitter feed.

1175727_10153243074290381_1534539450_n

This is the greeting card I received from my colleagues and friends at the database research and integrity departments at my company offices at Maple House, on the Tottenham Court Road in Camden borough, London. Among my mates at work, I am notorious for my massive sweet tooth, so this card was very appropriate in a way. It’s made by a company called Fay’s Studio (www.faysstudio.com) and has probably the most gorgeous and physically attractive doughnut I have ever seen revisualised in print. By the way, Informa is the company I work for. It’s a conglomerate with major interests in publishing, conferences, training courses, MBAs and many other technical things.

Twitter - VShah1984 A bottle of legit French 2013-10-05 14-39-14

In addition I got delivered (courtesy of Luiz)a couple of edible gifts too. A Belgian white chocolate and cherry sponge cake which was very delicious and has the most yummy buttercream topping. I have still about four slices leftover for lunch today. The other gift was this 75 cl. bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from the Valle Central, bottled under the Isla Negra brand. Isla Negra is the name of the seaside village where the Sauvignon grapes for making this wine are harvested, and the wine bottle describes the product as having “aromas of grapefruit, lime and gooseberry” and is “perfect for drinking with seafood and salads”. I thought this was a beautiful and luxurious gift. 

I don’t drink that much in the way of alcohol nowadays, but I still like a tipple every now and then socially or when winding down. I’m not much of a wine connoisseur either. I got the wine’s nationality completely wrong on the picture above as well – although Sauvignon grapes are from France originally. Nevertheless I do appreciate a good vin blanc!

If getting the country wrong wasn’t bad enough, I also uploaded the photo to my Twitter account – from my phone’s image gallery – without bloody checking to see if the thing was upright first. As Homer Simpson,  that great rotund lover of doughnuts, would say “D’oh!!”. Still it’s a lovely enough photo, with good lighting that shows the body of the wine and contrasts it well with the metallic red fancy old gift bag. Very debonair. I will be looking forward to a few glasses of this Reserva with my chicken balti tonight. No seafood or salad in the fridge unfortunately.

Twitter - AnjiShah HAPPY BIRTHDAY 2 THE BEST BIG 2013-10-05 15-02-59

This really cool and snazzy picture was drummed up by one of my sisters, who has already contributed some fine examples of her piZap-inspired artwork to the Half-Eaten Mind. She made a couple for my birthday. With this one, she used an old picture of me from I think, 2007. Sorry about the West Side gangster pose, I was fresh out of university, a bit young and silly. Respect!!! Thanks so much to Anjali for this crazy birthday pic. I can imagine this being one helluva greeting cards. Donuts, rap poses…it’s all berry berry good. I like the photo’s strong use of birthday decorations too.

Vijay Shah { विजय } (VShah1984) on Twitter 2013-10-05 16-31-33

This one was made with a far more recent picture, which was taken just after I was brought to the ground and mercilessly tickled by my family. My mum, three brothers, two sisters and one brother-in-law all jumped in (or watched from the sidelines) while my niece broke down in tears because she thought I was being beaten up for real. In honour of an old family birthday tradition, I was dragged to the centre of the living room carpet, tickled, punched and even sat on (sleep with one eye open, Ameerkat!! 😉 ). By the time I was set free I literally couldn’t breathe. I had to run to get a glass of Coke to get my energy back!.  Despite having five people fully assault me, I don’t look remotely like I was even pinched. Not a single (white) hair out of place. I got off lucky though. The original plan was to dash eggs on me. I managed to weasel my way out of that escapade. I didn’t fancy smelling like a cooking class gone wrong and having to shower again when I got home.

My 29th wasn’t the most eventful, but I still had much to enjoy. Sadly my family presents were ordered a bit late. so no pictures are available. What mattered though, was the love expressed to me by my nearest and dearest. No amount of presents could ever match that love and caring.

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ADDITIONAL SOURCE:
“Birthday Quotes” – BrainyQuote, BookRags Media Network  LINK
IMAGE CREDITS:
Vijay Shah { विजय } on Twitter LINK
♥[Cm] Pu[N]k = BITW♥  on Twitter LINK