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Compiled by Sabrina F Ahmad

The Essentials
Name: Maksim Mrvica
Pronouced: Maxim Marrrravista
Birthdate: 3rd May, 1975
Birthplace: Sibenik, Croatia
Nationality: Croatian
Currently based: Oxford Circus
Zodiac Horoscope: Taurus
Chinese Horoscope: Rabbit
Languages: English, Russian,
French, Serbo-Croat
Has lived in: Sibenik,
Zagreb, Paris.
Wife: Ana Plavic
Married for: 10 years
Children: let me quote ~
'too busy'
Other family
Father: an engineer
Mother: a shop assistant
2 Elder Brothers: sailors
(their names are
Slavko and Stipe)

Maksim Mrvica (pronounced 'Máravitsa' with a rolled 'r') was proud of Gestures, his disc of contemporary Croatian piano pieces, but he was realistic. He expected it to shift a handful of copies and languish on the shelves like so many other experimental CDs. But he was wrong. It became one of the fastest-selling classical recordings ever to be released in Croatia, and ended up winning four Porin (Croatian Grammies) including one for Best Classical Album. Maksim was even invited to open the Porin award ceremony - an honour not usually granted to a classical artist and caused a sensation with his performance of The Dance of the Baroness. The reason for this success? Maksim believes passionately in attracting young audiences to classical music, and communicating with them in new and exciting ways. His performances involve drama. He's not afraid to create atmosphere with video-screens, lighting and laser-shows. Articulate in his manner he likes to dress at the cutting edge of fashion. Most importantly he believes in the power of the music itself to reach people. It was this belief that sustained him when he was putting up his own concert posters in small Croatian towns. It also sustained him when grenades started exploding during the Croatian war, but he remained in the music school basement to practise. And it continues to sustain him now that he has the chance to reach larger audiences than ever before. Maksim's musical training has been rigorous. He was born in 1975 in Šibenik, a town on the Adriatic coast. He began piano lessons at 9 (giving his first public performance at the same age) and performed Haydn's C major piano concerto with an orchestra just 3 years later. War broke out in 1990, but both Maksim and his professor Marija Sekso were determined that he should continue his musical studies. 'There were a thousand grenades a day in my town,' he says, 'but you can't just stop living - you must go on. And the only thing I could find to help me was my piano.' Despite the awful circumstances, Maksim entered and won his first major competition in Zagreb in 1993. 'I've always felt that that was my greatest victory, and the most wonderful memory of my whole career,' he says.

After five years at the Music Academy in Zagreb studying with Professor Vladimir Krpan (a pupil of Arturo Benedetto Michelangeli), Maksim spent a year at the Ferenc Liszt Conservatoire in Budapest. During this period (1999) he won first prize in the Nicolai Rubinstein International Piano Competition. In 2000 he moved to Paris to study with Igor Lazko, and in 2001 he gained first prize in the Pontoise Piano Competition held in the French capital.

This proved to be a turning point in his career, and when he went back to Croatia he found himself in the middle of intense media interest. There were frequent television appearances and interviews, and soon he was recording his Gestures CD. The spectacular launch recital, in the 2000-seat Lisinski Hall in Zagreb, included a laser show, dry-ice and a video wall, and half of the audience was under 30. 'I always wanted to take a different approach,' says Maksim. 'But when it comes to the music, I don't allow anything to interfere with my performance or the people who are listening. When I start to play, the lasers stop. I just want to create an exciting atmosphere.' For the second half of his concert, Maksim threw aside the lasers and videos, donned a suit and performed Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto. 'I didn't want to give the critics a chance to bully me!' he says with a laugh.

Soon after this he was spotted by the musician, author and poet Tonci Huljic (composer of several tracks for crossover string quartet Bond), and he put Maksim in touch with impresario Mel Bush. Bush had been looking for some time for an exciting new pianist, and immediately recognised Maksim's enormous potential to appeal to classical, crossover and pop audiences. EMI Classics was just as excited by the young pianist as Bush, and soon a new album was underway. What are his hopes for this new 'crossover' project? 'Well, it's not a question of money,' he chuckles. 'I was earning quite enough from touring and playing classical concerts. It's a question of experimenting. I always want to try something different, something new. I just want to reach as many people of all ages with classical music. That's my dream.'

Game Review

Rome: Total War

The Royal Emperor of Strategy Game

In a real way, Rome: Total War is the absolute exemplar of PC gaming. It's about what only PCs can really do: that is, everything, and everything at once. In an age of comfortable genre-games, the Total War series have always stood slightly aside from the main thrust of culture. Anything brainy and PC-centred, they take from, with even trace elements of RPGs showing up. However, the two great halls of Rome's bulging heart are labelled "Strategy" and "Tactics". In the former, you organise your growing domain on a Civilisation-styled map. In the latter, you lead your massed forces into action in deliciously rendered fully polygonal 3D worlds.
It's very big.

The full campaign game will cause fear-related heart attacks on the more casual gamer. This places you as one of the three families in Republic-era Rome, setting forth to carve an empire from the yielding flesh of B.C. Europe. Even if you choose to auto-resolve most of the battles, set on the lower difficulty levels, you're looking at some serious game playing time before you turn on your masters and become Emperor.

Senate aspects are particularly welcome. In previous Total Wars, the latter part of the campaign, where you mopped up the remaining resistance, was where attention began to fade. Here, at the exact point where you're in a position to bully almost anyone into surrender, your allies turn on you for fear of your growing popularity, leading to a suitably dramatic final act as you take on Rome itself. The move from slaughtering rag-wearing barbarians to commanding the cities with disciplined ranks of legionnaires is particularly memorable.

Eventually, you'll be victor, turn to the game options and realise that you've only just begun. Forget about altering difficulty levels - with both tactical and strategy AI capable of being set individually - leading to a genuinely different experience on replay. You'll also find that you've unlocked the opposing races as playable factions, allowing you to play the campaign as the Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, Carthagians and so on and so History Channel. While previous Total War games have differentiated the races both on the strategic and tactical scales, Rome pushes it even further. The challenges you face as Pharaoh of the Nile are fundamentally different to those of an ale-smeared chieftain in Briton. Play the latter and you're separated from the world, resource-poor with barbarous troops. Play the former, and you possess a surplus of riches, with expansive realms it takes aeons to march across and a population that you'll have trouble stopping growing even if you wanted to.

By playing through as the Romans, you're learning invaluable lessons about the game, which means by the time it comes to play as their foes, anyone will be capable of attempting the task. There's none of Shogun choosing of a simply inferior side - Total War games' strong basis in history means that they've never pretended that all sides offer an equivalent challenge. Even here, taking over Europe as a lesser side is going to be a much harder proposition than if you're at the head of the legion - and getting hammered from your lack of experience, then giving up bored and alienated. For those who just wish to experiment, there's a (excellent) shorter tutorial campaign, an abridged version of the full campaign, the tactical-scale multiplayer and the genuinely lush historical battles - which are also some of the best historical lessons I've ever seen included in a PC videogame. It's just as friendly to get into as a Total War game could ever be.

Take, for example, how trade is introduced to the player. It's stressed that it's important in the tutorials. By ordering a market or a port constructed you start to see ships heading between various destinations. It's possible for a player to just see this and get on with it. However, if they investigate further, they'll find that on the settlement they can summon up the hard Civ-style data of exactly what's being traded with where and utilise that to gain greater efficiency. Anyone can play Rome... but it allows the very best people to play it really well. And that's the secret of accessibility.

And... Oh you can go and on. Rome doesn't need reviews to discuss it properly - it needs entire books.

It could be argued that there are better turn-based strategy games than Rome - but not by much. It could be argued that there are better RTS games than Rome - though not nearly as convincingly if you limit it to pure tactical combat games. And it's not even that Rome manages both, which would be an impressive game design feat but of no actual natural worth... it's that Rome manages to integrate both, and by doing so elevate both. In any strategy-scale game, you construct armies, but thanks to its real-time side in Rome you know the units in a far more intimate fashion that makes the acquisition of elite troops suitably powerful, since you know exactly why they're feared. In any real-time strategy game you'll fight desperate battles against hopeless odds, but here, thanks to the strategy side, you know the precise cost of loss will be. It's a magical, beautiful synergy and there's nothing quite like it in the entire gaming dictionary.

Oh yes - the graphics are as spectacular as a large-numbers strategy game has ever been. Look at the screenshots. But what they don't show is how the polygonal models actually improve how the battle plays out. Information which was obscured in the previous game's muddy sprites is transparent in the animated figures. For example, you can tell when a phalanx is prepared to meet a charge and when it'll be vulnerable at a sudden attack. City Sieges especially have been paid proper attention, with battering rams, wall climbing and firestorms sweeping across a city providing ironic set pieces. The terrain in which the battles take place has also been given unprecedented importance.

So - then! Best Strategy Game Ever! Rome claims its laurels and marches up the throne...

The game was provided by AZE CD & COMPUTERS

Alien Vs Predator

Review by Gokhra

Schwarzeneggar made it a classic line in the first Predator movie when he faced off with the creature and muttered, "You are one ugly m*********." Next moment he got his teeth punched out. That line was there in the second movie and in third with the humans getting their teeth punched out each time. The third movie of course of course has a whole bunch of ugly whatchamacallits.

Its like two movies packed into one. On one hand you have the invisible, human skinning, skull preserving Predator and on the other hand you get the extremely slime dripping, seemingly cold infested Alien. And you get them in groups. Big groups! Since these murderous creatures are very good at being murderous against humans, we have a bunch of wise cracking humans fresh for the slaughter. So that pretty much packs up the plot on a paper napkin about a three-way survival match.

Lance Henriksen plays an obsessed billionaire adventurer Charles Bishop Weyland. Curious about mysterious heat radiation from beneath the Antarctic, Weyland has assembled a crack team of glowering or wisecracking victims-to-be. The team is guided by hard-as-nails mountain-climber Alexa Woods (Sanaa Lathan) echoing past Alien slayer Sigourney Weaver. They head down below the ice masses where they stumble into a mechanized, centuries old Aztec-style series of chambers and mazes that include a lot of death defying jumps and swings.

There the team discovers that the place is overrun by the Predators who breed the slimy Aliens as practice sessions for their fighting skills. It's a war that has been running for centuries between the two alien races. As the movie ads were telling us, "Whoever wins, we lose." The humans are just in a wrong place at the wrong time. Also we get to find out that the Predators were the forces behind the creation of the ancient Mayan, Aztec and Cambodian civilizations. Its history you never knew, eh?

That's so much for the story line. The whole thing is shot in a lot of gloomy murkiness. You get the usual amount of stereotypical plot twists and the sudden beheadings of the human victims. As all slasher-death-carnage movies go, humans should know better than to separate into groups. The whole movie has a slow eventual buildup to the climax when the actual carnage between the two monster races begin with the human s running to save their hide literally.

Alien vs. Predator follows on the heels of such mostly unmemorable super-monster match-ups as "Freddy vs. Jason" and "Godzilla vs. Mothra." That's a lot of double trouble that often does not pay off. As for AvP, the action is pretty slick and it's a good guessing game trying to figure out who goes out next.

If you love the movie be prepared for a sequel as hinted by the last cliched shot.

Sites Unseen

By Niloy

A real treat for Astronomy lovers
No, the gorgeous images in this site are not from NASA or the Hubble telescope. They are courtesy of Stuttgart-based (Germany) Stefan Seip, humble IT consultant by day and fearless astronomy photographer by night. His quest for the best images possible takes him to the depths of the Black Forest where ambient light isn't a factor. From his lonely perch he captured comets, shooting stars, the aurora borealis, and other atmospheric phenomena as well as the galactic "big guns" like supernova remnants, double stars, planetary nebulae, and pinwheel galaxies galore. Click around to see what a little moonlighting can do for the soul

The best comix for you, if you are a gamer!
I love these comix! And you will too, if you are a real gamer…like the gamers who stop only playing to eat or sleep. As for the non-gamers, you are missing some real treat, but as you won't understand a thing about these comix, move on to the other links.

A game with numbers
It's a nice little game in which you have to chase some numbers. But if you hate numbers, Maths, Equations and those kinds of devilish stuff, then this one isn't for you.

Heaven for Car Lovers!
This site is a must-visit for all the car lovers out there. Latest news, rumours, gossips, official snapshots, spy photos and loads of more stuff by Mr. Jalopnik. He loves automobiles of all kinds, "flying cars, vintage cars... and sometimes just because the curve of a hood." Naturally, his site features photos of everything from Corollas to concept cars to hot rods. Also included are celebrity rides and industry news, as well as design trends from Detroit and beyond. Especially cool are the spy photos, taken by gear-head paparazzi who'd rather snap camouflaged cars than chase after Britney.

Wanna buy an Island?
www.vladi-private islands.de/home_e.html
This site is for the extremely privileged ones who want to buy or rent a whole island! Nothing for us do over there, just for marvelling, that there are people rich enough to buy an Island and there are people weird enough to sell them!

Learn all you could about OIL
It's not just something to run cars with, it's in our clothes, CDs, medicines, and plastic. Oil is everywhere -- fuelling modern life. So unless you live in a cardboard box, you are a consumer of black gold. And when the "easy oil" floodgates close forever, what extremes will we go to drill in unexplored terrain? To better understand the world's crisis, follow the BTC pipeline's winding geographic and political route from the Caspian through to the global market. Then dig into oil's dark past to uncover how fossil fuels first formed, when we learned to tap it, and how crude oil became a commodity. Like it or not, oil is the lifeblood that feeds our appetite for consumption. Before it all goes away, we have critical issues to tackle.

That's all for this week. If you need to contact me about anything, mail me at niloy.me@gmail.com


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