Thursday, 23 December 2010

Odds and Ends


Shock: Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson favors marijuana legalization | Raw Story

If this has happened, can legalization be too far behind?

Going back to this – blue alleviation

Sometimes it feels such a hard life

And, this from Sam, I’ve heard the song several times, but this is the first time I’m seeing the video. Cringeworthy.

The apotheosis of 80s hair

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Audio Cassettes and Videotapes

I have these boxsets – Buffy The Vampire Slayer (seasons 5 & 6) and Angel (season 2). There are three James Bond movies – Goldfinger, Thunderball and From Russia, With Love. There’s Casablanca and Twelve Angry Men. The Age of Innocence. The Godfather II. Aladdin. Beauty and the Beast. There are the tapes my cousin recorded from Saudi TV – Terminator 2. Tom and Jerry cartoons. Pink Panther. Late 80s Britpop.

My videocassette shelf is dusty. Several layers of dust. The dust must have got into the cassettes. Most of them probably are unplayable now.  There are a couple of cleaning tapes. I don’t know if they ever worked. I need to throw my tapes away. I don’t want to throw them away.

Its funny. We got our VCR sometime in 1990. By 2010, they are obsolete.

I was a member in a video library well before owning a VCR. I used to borrow tapes and take them to my cousin’s place – or my friends’ places. I remember watching North by Northwest in ACN’s place. Mole, Nandu and I saw Roman Holiday twice at his place. I even watched a movie – Raiders, I think, in Gund’s cousin’s place in Alwarpet. It could be embarrassing – Both ACN’s dad and Gund’s grand uncle (?) were sternly disapproving of the movies I watched. ACN’s dad looked sternly disapproving when he saw we were watching a movie where a man and woman kissed each other. The way he looked at us, it might have been a porn film. Gund’s uncle was worse. “Enna kandravi idhu” (What is this obscene crap), he asked when he saw Marion Ravenswood kissing a battered Indiana Jones. We had to stop watching the film.

I think I compensated after getting the VCR. I remember watching Bolero and Lady Chatterley’s Lover  with a whole bunch of guys – eyes popping out at the sight the Sheikh pouring honey on Bo Derek’s body and licking it up. Or legs twisting and hands on laps when Sylvia Krystal jills off.

The tapes are still there. They haven’t been watched for near a decade now. My VCR is long dead, a useless hunk of plastic and metal, gathering dust in a forgotten  corner of an overflowing attic. I just don’t feel like putting it in a garbage bag and throw it way.

It took my grandfather’s death for us to get rid of his radio, a monstrous thing of valves and dials, the size of the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica. Twenty years after we stopped using it.

Monday, 20 December 2010


You're fighting the Tome across Tropes

You can't focus your attention within working, or during much for anything, so you turn between the nuclear solution among boredom: the Tome between Tropes. It's a giant book that explains and gives clever names beside all from the recurring themes about literature, popular culture, and even real life.

There are two things down the book that make it purest evil: the first is that anyone can add except it, so it's always changing and growing larger. The second is that every entry contains several references below other cleverly-named tropes, and touching one over those names sends you off an explanation within that trope's name, complete onto references in other tropes . . . and throughout some point you look about and see you're eight years older than when you started.



These are the things that made my year. They’re in no particular order, but each one of these took up a significant amount of time.

1. Dragon Age: Origins. Bioware’s game was released last year. But I spent several hours – at my last estimate around a thousand hours, playing the game and all its add-ons – Warden’s Keep, The Stone Prisoner, Awakening, The Darkspawn Chronicles, Lelianna’s Song, The Golems of Angmarrak and Witch Hunt.  I was expecting something on the scale of Baldur’s Gate. But it was nothing like BG and not as good as I hoped it would – which did not prevent it from being quite good. High points were the Tower of Ishal, the Mountaintop, the Dead Trenches, especially the Broodmother battle and the Climax – especially the run up to the climax, through the Market District and the Alienage, via the Palace Grounds with a detour at the city gates and the battle in front of Fort Drakon.

Best Moments: Watching your warden evade a lunge by the Flemeth, and leap on its head, hanging on with his knees around its neck and saw through the dragon’s throat , pulling her down  and land the final blow in slow motion. Made all the more awesome if your warden is on fire and all your companions are dead.

Taking Flemeth Down.

Letting your dog take down the Orange Hurlock Emissary in the Refugees quest. The dog knocks the bugger down, and starts chomping on his throat and when he manages to get up charges at him, knocking him down again. Very satisfying.

2. The Mahabaratha. I spent most of the middle months poring over the Mahabaratha, reacquainting myself with the old tales that I knew and reading stories I did not. It started when I came across Arjuna’s rage – and how the only time he had gone berserk was after hearing of his son’s death. This led me to the Abhimanyu Badha Parva, the turning point in the war where the pre-agreed rules of battle were discarded. And it makes Abhimanyu one scary badass. The whole tale – breaking into the chakra vyooha, cut off from his uncles by Jayadratha’s boon, alone and surrounded by enemies, taking down every one who battled him is the kind still provides a rush. A 16 year old kid scares the crap out of the largest army in the world. Its a fantasy, of course, like the climax of a Rajnikanth movie, but it still makes want to cheer.

Best Moment: Attacked from behind, his bowstrings destroyed, his charioteer killed, his standard broken, his shields shattered, the boy jumps down and picks up a chariot wheel.

3.Morrison’s Batman Storyline: Wasn’t very impressed with the Final Crisis storyline. My mind rebelled against the idea of Damian Wayne. I was quite unhappy with the idea of Jezebel Jett, but given her name, I was quite sure she would turn out to be one of the bad ones. But after I started reading Rikdad’s summaries, I got drawn in and before I knew it, I had become a Morrison fan.

Best Moments: Joker’s “Apophenia” speech. The Bat Radia and the Arkham lockdown. The Damien Batman story. Joker “Reiki to the rescue”.

4. The Kingdom of Loathing: As many pop culture references as TV tropes. Including lobstrosities that bite your fingers off and say dad “a chick, dod a chok”, snow queen crowns that “makes you feel like the Queen of the World. For some reason, when you wear it you feel like hanging off the front of a ship, then freezing to death when your lover dumps your ass into ice-cold water.”, rolling stone monsters that try “to roll over you, but can't get no satisfaction” or “Its grotesque mouth puckers and it whistles. A couple of wild, wild horses gallop up and kick the stone so it rolls right over you” and many many others. Also, the weapons, the meat as money, sleaze and stench as elemental. Jick/Mr.Skullface rule.

To put it in their own words,

In the depths of your boredom, you stumble across an amazing game you can play on your work computer. It's an unbelievably detailed simulation of life in both dimensions and both colors, with every simple line of the universe rendered in the same lack of detail you see every day. Even better, the writing of the game is amazingly clever, almost as clever as the disembodied voice that describes everything you do and every item you examine. As you continue playing, you can tell that there's a robust set of mechanics underlying the whole thing, too, so it has endless replayability. But then it starts to get all up its own ass with self-referential fourth-wall-breaking, so you know you have to end it.

5. WoT: The Crossroads of Twilight – book 13 of the WoT was published in October. Since then I have read the book 3 times, updated my collection with “The Gathering Storm” (which I hadn’t bought), The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn and The Shadow Rising – which my niece took without remembering to return.

Thankfully the books I have have the Serpent/Wheel logo on them, and not those horrible scenes from the books.

I reread the series twice and started going to the old WoT websites – and the WoT Encyclopaedia is one of the sites that I look at when I have to wait without anything to do.

More to come…

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Randland and Me

Thats probably all the fiction I read these days. Right now, its another RJ iteration. I first started reading RJ in Colombo, in 2002. Every week, I would go and get me a new book, which I would consume, with multiple bottles of Corex and vodka, along with Muthu’s masala Maggi. 

I remember the first time I read The Eye of the World. The book started off slowly – and the familiar tropes of “stranger comes” – the scary man in the black cloak, the beautiful and mysterious woman visitor on winternight and her badass male companion and then the trollocs hit. Emond’s Field became the doomed hometown. The tension built up, slowly, steadily – the flight to Tarren’s Ferry, the draghkar, Baerlon and beyond.

I could tell that there were sections of the book that dragged. There were places where every character volleyed with the idiot ball. But all this became irrelevant as the book raced to its conclusion. The last chapters zipped by and the next day, I was at the bookstore, looking for “The Great Hunt” and “The Dragon Reborn”

I can perceive the problems with the books, the turgid pace on for long stretches, the dangling plot threads, the occasional terrible characterization, the sniffing and the snorting and the endless braid tugging, the disappointment at the series progressing without any significant deaths, Egwene’s Mary Sueness, Elayne and Faile fighting for the Scrappy award.

Halfway through the books, I was overcome by the sheer number of characters – nearly 2000 named characters at the last count. And the books started getting bad. Long stretches where nothing happened, characters becoming more and more unlikeable, Endless descriptions of dresses and jewellery, battles without stakes or suspense, villains who were stupider than everyone else – reaching apotheosis in  “The Crossroads of Twilight”.

This wasn’t like the other authors -  I had become a fan. I lived in that world, in Randland. I had invested too much time in the T’averen, and too much hate on Egwene, Elayne and other scrappies. to give up. I trawled the web for discussions on the WoT. I read and reread the wot faq. I downloaded and shared alt.shrugged with anybody I could, whether they were into Jordan or not. I lurked on RASFWRJ and AFRJ. I read and reread sections of the books – The Falme section of The Great Hunt, Mat’s encounter with Gawyn and Galad in Tar Valon and the stone of Tear climax in The Dragon Reborn, Rhuidean in TSR and several others. But you can reread the books only for so long and I couldn’t sustain enthusiasm until tCoT

My ardour dimmed considerably after “The Crossroads of Twilight”. The gap between the publication of tCoT and that of Winter’s Heart – or atleast, the availability of tCoT in the subcontinent was too long. I had moved on from RJ to children’s fantasy – reading Artemis Fowl and Garth Nix, Septimus Heap and Robert Rankin.

I came back from Sri Lanka in 2005. One of the first things I did after that was to buy me an XBox. I rediscovered Bioware. I hadn’t read the WoT books for a long time. Then, late that year, I wandered into Landmark to find KoD on the shelves. I bought it, but while the book was better than tCoT, it wasn’t by much. The thrill had gone.

Later, I heard about Jordan’s death. I was upset – after all, he was a writer in whose books, I had invested significant time. And I was vaguely curious as to how everything would have turned out. I saw that a guy named Brandon Sanderson had started working on the WoT. I wasn’t very optimistic about this, and I did not buy tGS.

Then, sometime in this year, I started browsing and I found myself in the WoT page. I read the “Oh Crap” reference there and figured what had happened. I also read Leigh Butler’s review – where she said “tGS was good, ToM is better”. I bought ToM and I was back in Randland, deeper than ever. I have been there since.