Where We Are Going Today: Spell Specialty Coffee in Khobar

Where We Are Going Today: Spell Specialty Coffee in Khobar
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At Spell Specialty Coffee in Alkhobar. (AN photo by Jasmine Bager)
Where We Are Going Today: Spell Specialty Coffee in Khobar
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At Spell Specialty Coffee in Alkhobar. (AN photo by Jasmine Bager)
Where We Are Going Today: Spell Specialty Coffee in Khobar
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At Spell Specialty Coffee in Alkhobar. (AN photo by Jasmine Bager)
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Updated 17 August 2023
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Where We Are Going Today: Spell Specialty Coffee in Khobar

Where We Are Going Today: Spell Specialty Coffee in Khobar

ALKHOBAR: At the newly-erected Shorofat Park in Al Rakah, which is a cluster of businesses and trendy eateries, a serene spot in the otherwise bustling part of the city, stands Spell Specialty Coffee. Overlooking a man-made oasis with greenery and a long strip of water with tiny fountains, it is a nice escape from the daily grind.

With elegant and inviting decor, the interior space is small but not cluttered. It’s minimalistic design, which seems to have become the norm in Khobar cafes recently, is a welcoming space for slow sippers or those who want to grab and go.

Their menu includes lavish salads, decadent desserts and one of the few cafes in town that offers good quality hot and cold matcha. Their iced drinks are balanced, not too sweet or too watery, while their hot beverages can be customized to your taste and baristas are attentive to your requests.

Their iced Spanish latte, which is another drink popular with customers in Khobar as of late, is sweet enough without seeming like you’re sipping on sugary caffeine like in some other neighboring spots.

For summer, they are offering a variety of ice creams in a cup. Their cheesecake ice cream has bits of cheesecake, berry bits in syrup and sprinkled with what seems to be Graham crackers. Their cardamom and espresso cake is a loaf of goodness by Deema’s Bakery, another local entrepreneur, who has been providing freshly-baked goodies to several cafes across the Eastern Province.

Spell Coffee is open from 3-11:30 pm daily.

If you don’t feel like going there physically, hungerstation can deliver your order right to your home or office door.

Visit them @Spell.Coffee on instagram.


Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months

Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months
Updated 39 sec ago
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Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months

Summer cinema: The blockbusters coming your way over the next few months

DUBAI: Here are eight blockbusters coming your way over the next few months.

‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ 

Director: Shawn Levy 

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, Emma Corrin 

Release date: July 26 

In what will likely be the summer’s biggest box-office draw, the now-retired Wade Wilson — aka the indestructible mercenary Deadpool — is pulled from his sedate existence by the Time Variance Authority and forced into carrying out a mission with fellow anti-hero Wolverine, of X-Men fame. Both men reluctantly engage in a task that “will change the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” 

‘Hit Man’ 

Director: Richard Linklater 

Starring: Glen Powell, Adria Arjona, Austin Amelio 

Release date: May 24 (June 7, Netflix) 

Action-comedy from one of the best directors around. Gary Johnson (Powell, who co-wrote the movie with Linklater) is a straight-laced college professor who moonlights as a fake hitman to entrap criminals for the local police department. But when he falls for a prospective client, Madisson (Arjona), Gary gets in way above his head, and his lies start to catch up with him. The bizarre premise is actually based on a true story (although Linklater has stressed that his film is not a faithful recreation of events).  

‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ 

Directors: Adil & Bilall 

Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens 

Release date: June 7 

Detectives Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) are back for a fourth big-screen outing. This time, they’re investigating their own, when their late captain is accused of having been working with drug cartels. The two men set out to clear their captain’s name and find out who in the Miami PD could be responsible for framing him, only to be set up themselves and forced to go on the run. 

‘Inside Out 2’ 

Director: Kelsey Mann 

Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black 

Release date: June 14 

The sequel to Pixar’s much-loved “Inside Out” — about a young girl called Riley and the five personified emotions that determine her thoughts and actions — finds Riley entering her teenage years, and ushering in some new emotions (Anxiety, Ennui, Embarrassment and Envy) who throw off the delicate equilibrium achieved by the veterans Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. 

‘The Bikeriders’ 

Director: Jeff Nichols 

Starring: Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, Tom Hardy 

Release date: June 21 

Nichols’ tale of the exploits of the fictional Chicago-based biker gang the Outlaws MC over the course of the 1960s is inspired by the photo-book of the same name by Danny Lyon. What, at first, is intended as a place of refuge and sanctuary for local outsiders where they can feel free to be themselves evolves — or devolves — into a violent crime organization.  

‘Despicable Me 4’ 

Director: Chris Renaud 

Voice cast: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Pierre Coffin 

Release date: July 3 

Gru — once a supervillain, now an agent for good — is living happily with his wife (and fellow agent) Lucy, their three adopted daughters, and their newborn baby boy. But when Maxime Le Mal, the dangerous criminal that Gru helped put away, escapes from prison, Gru and his family (and, of course, his Minions) must go on the run. 

‘Fly Me to the Moon’ 

Director: Greg Berlanti 

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Anna Garcia 

Release date: July 12 

Set in the Space Race of the 1960s, Berlanti’s romantic comedy-drama finds NASA director Cole Davis preparing for the launch of Apollo 11. An already stressful situation is made worse when he falls for marketing specialist Kelly Jones, whom the government has appointed to stage a fake moon landing in case anything goes wrong with the real deal.   

‘Borderlands’ 

Director: Eli Roth 

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, Jack Black 

Release date: August 9 

With video-game adaptations no longer the dross they used to be, thanks to the success of TV shows like “The Last of Us” and “Fallout,” hopes are high for this star-studded take on Gearbox Software’s all-action looter-shooter. Blanchett plays Lillith — a much-feared outlaw who returns to her home planet of Pandora on a mission to find the missing daughter of the universe’s most powerful man, Atlas. To achieve her goal, she teams up with a band of misfits to tackle monsters and bandits and find the girl. 


The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 

The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 
Updated 19 min 6 sec ago
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The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 

The Roundup: 3 pop culture highlights from across the region 

DUBAI: Here are three pop culture highlights from across the region.

‘Drawing Time: Duets’ 

This exhibition, from the collection of Sharjah Art Foundation, runs until August 4 at Al-Mureijah Art Spaces. The show, the organizers say, “grew out of a two-year research project into conserving paper” and brings together works from 15 artists (including Baya, whose “Femme au paon” is pictured here) that “present a composite picture of what drawing is and could be today.” It also “delves into the concept of the double” by presenting the works in “artistic duets.”  

Gultrah 

‘Revival’ 

The popular Tunisian alternative outfit’s second studio album is billed as “Tunisian reggae,” a “distinctive fusion” of “innovative blends” that “delves deep into introspection and self-acceptance.” With touches of funk, ska, and Afrobeat, the nine tracks on “Revival” address a number of social issues as well as “the quest for inner peace,” and should help Gultrah build on the success of their hit single “Win.” 

Dima Ayad 

The Dubai-based Lebanese fashion designer’s latest collection of dresses, pants and coats is based around “a harmonious fusion of nostalgic 90s style elements with contemporary sensibilities,” according to a press release. The collection features “warm earth tones,” blacks, whites, and splashes of bright pink, while the new one-shoulder dress provides “a unique twist to the (designer’s) knitted signature fabric.” 


How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry

How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry
Updated 24 May 2024
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How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry

How AI may push the boundaries of creativity in Saudi film industry
  • From generating story ideas to streamlining post-production, artificial intelligence could revolutionize Saudi filmmaking
  • Digital arts expert thinks Saudi filmmakers will use AI for good and noble ends, but recommends they start simple

DHAHRAN: When William “Wink” Winkler of Samford University landed in Saudi Arabia earlier this month for the 10th edition of the Saudi Film Festival, held in Dhahran, he felt he had discovered a new frontier in cinema and technology.

At the invitation of the American Chamber of Commerce and US Consulate in Dhahran, the instructor of digital arts brought with him a wealth of knowledge and experience to conduct a masterclass in artificial intelligence in filmmaking.

However, during his week-long visit, Winkler also gained a fresh perspective on the Saudi film industry, its burgeoning local talent, and how breakthroughs in AI will transform the way movies are made in the Kingdom.

“I learned that the Saudi people are passionate and excited,” Winkler told Arab News. “They can tell amazing stories, original Saudi stories, and as they start to embrace new and emerging technology, that will help them to do that.”

William “Wink” Winkler

AI is still considered an emerging technology, but one that is evolving rapidly. In just the past two years, generative AI programs have progressed from producing janky text and surreal images to creating prose and visuals that could pass as human-authored.

As a giant aggregator of sorts, AI can instantly sift through vast amounts of data in an instant and use existing scripts and screenplays to identify patterns and generate curated story ideas.

While the creative aspect of AI is still imperfect and causes some discomfort among screenwriters, the technology has many other more rudimentary applications in the filmmaking process.

AI could make work easier by automating parts of the filmmaking process that are grueling and time-consuming, says digital arts instructor William “Wink” Winkler. (Supplied)

In pre-production, for instance, AI can help streamline location scouting by analyzing images and videos in real time to suggest settings based on a prompt. It can also cut casting time by instantaneously analyzing audition tapes to identify which actor best fits a particular character.

Post-production is another area where AI will transform filmmaking by using automated editing tools, which can analyze footage and accurately suggest instant edits based on factors like composition and pacing.

It can also assist with traditionally manual tasks, such as color grading, sound design, and visual effects.

DID YOUKNOW?

• AI can sift through vast amounts of data in an instant and use existing screenplays to generate story ideas.

In pre-production, AI could help streamline location scouting and cut casting time by analyzing footage.

In post-production, AI could automate editing and assist with color grading, sound design, and visual effects.

Many filmmakers already use computer-generated imagery — or CGI — to digitally create an asset, character, or effect that was not caught on camera. This advancement has thereby automated parts of the process that were often grueling and time-consuming.

CGI has also benefited from recent AI advancements with more curated algorithms that can generate realistic characters and create fantastical environments from thin air, reducing the need for extensive practical effects or location shoots.

However, AI in filmmaking is not without its issues. The tool will undoubtedly negate many jobs in the industry, while machine-generated stories might seem inauthentic, lacking in depth, relatability, and human spirit.

AI art by Omar Alabdulhadi

“Films invoke emotion, and they can create feelings because they’re told from a human story,” said Winkler. “And humans have felt feelings and have dealt with real human problems. And the computer hasn’t.

“All it can do is read what has been written and repeat it, but it doesn’t actually know what to say, or how to convey it. It can only try to replicate what a human said before.”

There are also ongoing concerns about data protection and bias in AI algorithms — something that has been an issue for social media for some time, as the algorithm merely mimics what already exists.

William “Wink” Winkler along with fellow US expert Travis Blaise who flew in to Dhahran to conduct workshops for the Saudi Film Festival. (AI art by Omar Alabdulhadi)

AI systems have a tendency to perpetuate and amplify demographic and racial biases. This can lead to discriminatory outcomes that are not inclusive, such as only generating characters it deems conventionally beautiful — oftentimes slim, blonde, and light-skinned.

Another consideration is the ethics of plagiarism, as AI pulls from existing works created by humans and generates an entirely new work without providing credit.

To manage the potential for plagiarism and the amplification of harmful biases by AI systems and those employing them, Winkler believes a thoughtful discussion leading to robust regulation is required.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

“There’s always going to be evil people. We can fight it, just like we’ve always fought it — through rules and regulations,” he said.

“I think that creating communities and discussions at small local levels — to larger governance levels — creates some guardrails around what’s happening. The more ethical, morally good people get involved to help fight the evil, the better.”

Sora is a groundbreaking text-to-video AI model developed by OpenAI — the firm behind ChatGPT — that takes written prompts and converts them into dynamic videos.

The technology can instantly generate high-quality videos with detailed scenes and complex camera movements — with just a few written descriptions.

Surreal AI art collage by Saudi creator Omar Alabdulhadi. (Supplied)

There are concerns, however, about the potential misuse of programs like Sora to create “deepfakes” — digital forgeries that take a human likeness and fabricate images of them saying or doing things that never happened in reality.

These fabricated images can look and seem so realistic that it can be difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Besides the obvious reputational risks, such deepfakes could also undermine trust in institutions and even lead to conflict.

In the film world, such technology could also cost jobs. Why would studios hire human actors if the AI can make their digital likeness do and say anything without rehearsal — performing better than the original, perhaps?

This image, which is part of the "Salt" short-film series by Fabian Stelzer and was created via Stable Diffusion. (Supplied)

Winkler believes Saudi filmmakers will use AI for good and noble ends — but recommends they start simple.

“I think the place that I would start is actually not in AI,” he said. “Start with a journal and a piece of paper and a pen — and document. Get the stories from your mother, your grandmother, your grandfather, your great-grandmother and your great-grandfather.

“Everyone’s ancestors have done amazing things, and that should be documented and shared.”

Surreal AI art collage by Saudi creator Omar Alabdulhadi. (Supplied)

One Saudi creator who is dabbling in AI is Dhahran resident Omar Al-Abdulhadi. While he believes AI technology has not yet been perfected, he is keen to see the market thrive and grow in the creative industries.

“All the anti-AI artists will accept the fact that AI is the future,” Al-Abdulhadi told Arab News, acknowledging the seeming inevitability of the technology’s adoption. But, with the right regulation and careful use, it does not have to be bad.

Winkler agrees. Furthermore, he believes the Kingdom is ideally placed to help this emerging industry grow. With such a young population made up of digital natives, Winkler says Saudi creatives can be future leaders in the field.

“The technology is not available right now, but I imagine that it will be very soon,” he said. “I don’t have the team or the time to do it — but maybe the Saudis can do it and change visual effects forever.”

 


Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung

Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung
Updated 23 May 2024
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Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung

Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung
  • Loss of personal responsibility, the author suggests, can lead to the rise of mass movements and, ultimately, totalitarianism

“The Undiscovered Self,” written by Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung in 1957, delivers a warning about the dangers of modern collectivism, arguing that individuals are increasingly losing touch with their true selves.

Loss of personal responsibility, the author suggests, can lead to the rise of mass movements and, ultimately, totalitarianism. 

The book offers a prescription for individual psychological development and moral autonomy as an antidote to society’s collectivist forces.

Jung explains the structure of the psyche, with the conscious ego and much larger subconscious, which contains universal archetypes, as well as personal complexes and shadows that shape our behavior.

The book emphasizes the importance of understanding and integrating the unconscious rather than just relying on the conscious mind.

Jung also explores the notion of “self,” defining “individuation” as the process of integrating the conscious and unconscious to become a whole, individualized person. 

This requires embracing one’s shadow side and personal complexes, not just the socially acceptable persona. 

True individuality and freedom come from this process of self-discovery and self-realization, Jung believes. 

He encourages individuals to take responsibility for their psychological development, a process that involves introspection, self-knowledge, and a willingness to confront the unconscious. 

For additional reading, I would recommend “The Red Book,” which outlines the development of many of Jung’s major theories. 
 


British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening

British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening
Updated 23 May 2024
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British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening

British directors resign as patrons of London cinema over Israeli film screening
  • Ken Loach, Mike Leigh protest Seret film festival’s links to Israeli Culture Ministry
  • ‘Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre’ covers Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack

LONDON: British film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have pulled out as patrons of London’s Phoenix Cinema in objection to the hosting of an Israeli film festival, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
One of the UK’s oldest movie theaters, Phoenix is set to host a special screening of “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” on Thursday as part of the Israeli Seret film festival.
Loach and Leigh independently confirmed their resignations as patrons of Phoenix over the airing of the documentary.
Directed by Yossi Bloch, Duki Dror and Noam Pinchas, “Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre” tells the story of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on the Nova festival in Re’im through the eyes of survivors.
An unidentified number of staff and managers from Phoenix, along with pro-Palestine solidarity groups, have demanded that the movie theater’s management avoid airing the film, over the Seret festival’s links to the Israeli Embassy in London and Culture Ministry.
Demonstrations and counter-protests are expected to take place later this evening in front of the Phoenix Cinema. On Thursday morning, the site was reported to have been sprayed with red graffiti saying: “Say no to artwashing.”
In 2015, dozens of artists and movie directors, including Loach and Leigh, had addressed a letter to The Guardian calling for a boycott of the Seret film festival.
“By benefiting from money from the Israeli state, the cinemas become silent accomplices to the violence inflicted on the Palestinian people. The festival is co-sponsored by the Israeli government via the Israeli Embassy in London, creating a direct link between these cinemas, the festival screenings and Israeli policies,” said the letter.
Loach told The Guardian after resigning: “My resignation as a patron of the Phoenix shows what I think of their decision. It is simply unacceptable.”
In a response to the Guardian, the cinema’s trustees acknowledged the disagreement from “two of our patrons” and said that the board had discussed the hiring of the venue again.
“The board’s conclusion is that for all private hires, including this one, the Phoenix should not aim to censor or veto the content of screenings, provided they are legal and, in this instance, unless we are advised by the police that it would be unsafe to proceed,” a statement said.
The trustees said they made the decision “with an awareness of our status as a charity committed to education through the arts.
“We appreciate that some do not agree with our decision. Despite this, we hope that most people will remain committed to our vision of a vibrant, sustainable and independent cinema in East Finchley for our local community and for London.”
Picturehouse and Curzon, other UK cinema chains, had canceled all Seret screenings over safety concerns.