Category Archives: Books

PopCon, IN, USA 2017

Being present at two pop culture events 8203 miles apart (miles!!! Yes. I’m in USA now) in the same year; both generating the polar opposite emotional response in a manner representing their geological diversity along with distance quoted above, could also be classified as event itself. While the former was tepid, same, boring with few exceptional burst of joy (check the blog here), other was stuffed to the brim with nostalgic, modern, novel and absolute maddening fan service events to the point of bursting out.

Above para also explained the dormancy of my blog for so long. First event I mentioned was ComicCon 2017, Pune, India while the other is PopCon 2017, Indianapolis, USA. Last week I got chance to visit the same during my probably long future working sojourn in USA.

Before I proceed further, first check out below amazing display of Cosplay culture presented by visitors. Please bear the fact that it was such classic display of geekiness which acts as an energy induced plasma to make the fun event more energetic besides professional Cosplayers.

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Merchandise galore; what was more prominent was the milieu of artists and writers of the pop culture world with their latest and best. With pack line of famous artists and TV stars available for signing events along with chit-chat with their devoted fans to you-tubers and twitch channel artists marketing their prowess in digital world what made the PopCon event true to its name.

If I have to describe the event in single word, I would shout “Nostalgia”. Rows of Arcade machines staked up for young generation to gobble up retro-feeling in large area was one of the prime attraction. Stores selling old Gameboys along with prized old titled cartridges along with comic vendors selling old comic runs 1$ each was meant for collectors and aficionados alike. In one large corner I saw rows of players getting their hands on most primeval way of gaming: Board-games. Hexagonal dice and character sheets of Settlers to D&D to civilization, played equal part role with massive rooms dedicated to competitive gaming on large with CoD, Overwatch and many more to entertain the mass. It was enchanted amalgamation of old and new.

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For me, event reached its nerd peak when I found the store of Troma movies along with none other than Lloyd Kaufman himself (I also picked up two movies personally signed by him). Troma movie is the satirical mixture of overtly used grindhouse, splatter, sex, nudity, violence and other 50’s themes in almost superficially farcical way.

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I bought Gaiman to Teen-Horror “Tomie” to R rated Troma movies

The event regarding to pop culture won’t have Star Wars fans is always unusual and hence a whole Star Wars section was dedicated to their fans to get their universe together. Separate section was having Yo-Yo tricks competition for kids and young ones. Indie game developers also got their chance to showcase upcoming or in-development titles to get instant user feedback.

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Yes, Force wants you to join next time.

I would like to end reporting on such spectacular event on its most prominent note which make it unique; uniqueness itself, whether among people who make them differ to established social norms or artists who made their own niche against usual career approaches. These people are rare and unique. Most of the time hiding their instincts against pressure of outer world and due to aloofness but when come to such event they found out that there is lot many like him/her. Let’s not differ. Let’s celebrate. Kudos to fan’s CosPlay for such boldness.

Till next event……………………….

 

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Comic Con 2017 – Pune,India

“More of the Same.” is befitting summary to this years’ Comic-Con, Pune 2017. As if venue and layout almost matching to the last year’s event, there was no variety in terms of shops and merchandise also baring few surprises.

Comic-Con is always celebratory conglomeration of the geeks, nerds and all the fantastic not-so-fit-in-social-conceptions individuals. At the same time Comic-Con is social event all in all. It is fun and frolic event as any other. It can be enjoyed equally by comic enthusiast as well as all of those who believe in superhero fantasy; children and adults alike. Not wasting too much time in establishing the Comic-Con’s reputation as it will always be regarded as celebration with likes of the festival by its devoted fans. Though I would rate this year’s Comic-Con held at Pune, India as lukewarm.

Start was made as ideal as it could be for any Comic-book and DC fan with free giveaway of DareDevil poster for each entrants at ticket pickup counter. Considering the sitcom and binge-watching on rise in India, AXN has grabed the opportunity with both hands to market it with life-size billboards propped at every corners. And usual flair continued then onwards.

Outside the dome same colorful Maruti Alto who is official sponsor of Comic-Con, India displayed which was surprising for those who were first-timers but failed to excite me. Same large Comic-Con peculiar poster to get yourself photographed for future memoirs was also present. Inside the dome, I had deja vu of shops selling same merchandise for fans such as t-shirts, masks, fancy accessories and all other “not so easily available superhero stuff”. Surprisingly, very few shops dedicating to actual comic books which was disappointment for me. In fact only single shop by Crossword book store selling famous DC comics. It was small section and frankly there was no variety in collection also. I could see all those titles which I already owned or read before. I was hoping to lose myself in comic shops this time to find some hidden gems. Alas, no such opportunity presented. Indian comic-shops also selling the same old comics with no new-arrival announcements. Somehow I had the feeling that everyone was going through their zombie-routine to finish the act and not interested in catching the attraction of the audience.

After so much bickering about down-points, let’s move to good points now. Rows of screens connected to high-end consoles (mostly PS4) for visitors to battle out competitive gameplay either against human opponents or AI was always good sight to behold. Along with usual tropes like FIFA and NFS, Battlefield 1, Titenfall2 and Uncharted 4 were more than satisfactory. Promotional booths erected for just released movies Logan and upcoming Indian epic fantasy Baahubali 2 were, I must confess, novel addition. You could live out your fantasy with available props for a while and to be immortalized in digital photo (especially cool for social media update aficionados). Best part and the real highlight for me which has acted as fuel to warm this event review from completely “cold” to “lukewarm” was 30 seconds short animated VR experience (Setup mojo was Radeon Fury with Oculus gear).  AXN booth also held some fun activities such as shooting with blind and passing through laser a la Entrapment imitation to attempt and win goodies.

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At last, let’s not forget the most appealing aspect of Comic-Con anywhere in the world; Cosplay. Fans were fabulous again with their Cosplay as usual considering heat already making news here in India at start of summer . I witnessed lot more variants also amidst all-time favorite lot like Jokers, Batman, Star Wars characters and all. As far as special guest concerns, world-famous artist of V for Vendetta, David Lloyd had graced the occasion with his mild presence and signing event.

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David Lloyd-Prime attraction of this year’s ComicCon

All in all, I am still having mix feelings for this years’ Comic Con. And my disappointment is purely due to comics themselves were put aside to give more emphasize on commercialization of other merchandise. Which was not bad idea but fans like me still want to scour through multiple outlets completely devoted to comics and emerge with something which,doesn’t matter if old or new, but it must be fresh.

End of one more year occasioned me to slap and shake my sleeping personal blog to wide awake and review what has gone well in lost year of 2016 and what’s promising in upcoming year 2017 on measuring scale of reading. At time of typing, I am still 2 books short of my over-enthused resolution of completing 24 books in a year. And that will be the case if I am not able to finish my ongoing massive Japanese thriller Six-Four and Russian classic Anna Karenina; both few hundred pages left. Anyway so maintaining the norm and using the GoodReads provided data, following is my current challenge status.

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Though I easily surpassed all my previous years in terms of number of pages read. Also in terms of number of books.

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My Dickens-obsession grew more and finished two of his classics in 2016. And that will also give me opportunity to declare “Bleak House” as most engaging read of the year. Let’s have the read books be explored in different manner this time. I awarded some weird and whacky titled which will identify specific read absolutely pertaining to me only. Read it and see if it’s fitting to you also.

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Hate Economy, still going to love the book about Economy: The Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

I knew Japanese Horror, but never prepared for this: Uzumaki by Junji Ito.

Never knew Indian origin Graphic Novels are this better: Devi & Ramayan 3392 A.D.

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First time ever, Movie was actually bad but still quite good than its source:  Suicide Squad

Something alluring about J. K. Rowling: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (All these Robert Galbraith adventures are not that much powerful if you compare with other thriller/mystery genre books available. But there is something in writing which will always compelled me to read ferociously once I start)

Never felt that depressed by object called Book: From Hell

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Fillers from my favorite author can be most arduous effort to finish: Bone Labyrinth by James Rollins

Scientific absurdity and enlightenment: What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Story and deep philosophical message without speech bubbles?, Yes Possible: Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli

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Gouging the current reading trend of myself, there will be lot more classics in upcoming years with more of Russian classics lit thrown in. And they all shall be huge. So number of books going to dwindle but pages going to surmount. Still best part to which any reading aficionados agree to be never premeditate anything, you will never know when you come across best read of your lifetime.

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I shall end, announcing my reading resolution as quoting the favorite

“Please sir, I want some more.” – Oliver Twist.

 

While silky smooth, molten-gold liquid silently seeping through to circulatory system, enriching the palate and nose; I must confess that year 2015 “ended” on high note. With all the New Year resolutions in-check as usual, though not completely in influence of the single malt I was consuming; I decided to be adamant enough to stick to them at least for a while in year 2016. Of all the other resolutions, I am pretty much confident enough to complete the one: Reading Challenge 2016. Last year I set goal for single book per month which I successfully completed without much fuss and hence I am doubling the target in year of 2016 so that I must have 24 books completed by the end of year 2016.

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Thanks to the lovely reading-habit supporting site Goodreads, I am able to summarize very easily my reading journey in terms of numbers and statistics for year of 2015 which I am presenting as a blog. So here is the glimpse of year 2015 in Reading.

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Though as shown, longest book I read was J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I must say that I started reading it way back in 2005. After completing first two books (i.e. Part 1 of LotR), my mind deviated to other reading ventures. At the eve of release of first part of Hobbit Trilogy by Peter Jackson, I was intrigued again to return to middle earth and complete the entire LotR saga. So I started reading again from beginning in year 2014. So it happened that all the books of LotR had been completed in 2015, that year got the privilege to get the honor of having beautiful LotR. (And that’s why the massive page count)

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I can sense that I have very unpredictable and erratic reading pattern. 2015 was mix bag, containing all the varieties of fiction and genres; sci-fi, classic literature, historical fiction, crime, adventure, epic fantasy, modern graphic novels, superhero, noire….. To name the few. Though I missed out on non-fiction and my favorite Charles Dickens, I turn towards dependable (And Dickens’s friend) Wilkie Collins to satiate my literary appetite. Then there was also “Lord of the Flies” with other “Lord”.

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Book_list4“The Girl with All the Gifts” was most surprising and engaging read of the year competing hard and won marginally over “Hyperion”. I know that genres are totally different where former is novelty take on zombie apocalypse and the latter is hard-core sci-fi. But still “The Girl with All the Gifts” is that kind of read where once you started, you are compelled to finish it in a single swift go.

“The Terror” was my most anticipating read of the year. And it didn’t disappointed. Slow build, amazing characterization and great adventure mixed with unknown. It made me put Dan Simmons in the list of “Must Read Authors”.

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In terms of graphic novels, if you have anything with Alan Moore as writer then it is not fair competition to others. I started Swamp Thing saga and would like to continue in year 2016, but best part was “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. Wow…. How could I allowed myself to be away from such brilliant novel in Graphic medium?

In crime fiction, I am much obliged to give Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) a go.

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So that’s how 2015 ended, and now I’ll allow my mind to wander wildly, unpredictably and erratically in new Year to come up with something fresh and some classics to discuss about. Feedback/suggestions for New Year read are most welcome. Wish all my reader good Reading.

Reference Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/23689104

 

 

Mumbai Comic Con 2015

One more checkbox is ticked off from the back of the game box titled “Real Life” where all the desires and dreams are listed out to make the “Life” worth “buying”. To attend expos which has “Comic” as their main subject was one of my desire; at east once in a lifetime. As planned out, I was proficient enough this time to attend my first-ever Comic Con held in Mumbai, India on 19-20 December 2015. And how was that, you may ask. I must admit, considering anticipation and excitement, saying that it was fun is gross understatement. It was blast. Though not as big and thundering as its western counterpart, but still noisy enough to notice with mouth wide open in utter amazement.

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Yes, that tiny happy fleck bursting with joy is me

Getting up at 4:00 in the morning and catching a cab for 3 hour drive to reach testosterone imbued highly energetic and insomniac city of Mumbai was refreshing enough to wear down all the lethargy and laziness of the early start. Reaching to venue well in advance of more than 3 hours has its own advantage of seeing volunteers and management completing the necessary activities before the fun begins. Amid handsome faces and beautiful hearts, Comic Con was guaranteed to be as exciting as expected even before it started. When it really started it was more than what I expected. While entering, I was no different than that ogling child jumping with joy and happiness at each new encounter along with us with it’s parents. There is no age of fandom; there is no age bar for Comic Con.

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Super Fan pass for both days has already sold out a month before.

Cos Play on high note, Announcements aired incessantly from various booths and mingling and adding to the cacophony of others, people pouring in from everywhere to get glance of the new on offer and takeaways, superhero quizzes and competitions getting the attention, large center stage accompanied with necessary technological advancements for latest release and special guest interviews, everyone trying to imitate superhero/villain belonging to both DC and Marvel, Plethora of “Jokers” (Most of Heath Ledger version) floating around, superb Indian sketch talent on display with send artist also pitching in, Pop culture dripping out from every nook and cranny; All fitting well to produce the ambience of new and different. It was courageous winning effort for Indian artists and all the publishers of Indian comics. It is not easy to find so true fandom and geekiness, all gathered and geared up among mass of billions until such events. It was special. Like belonging to brotherhood. Feeling is of absolutely satisfaction and joy that so many people are like you and you are not alone.

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If anyone need Medic due to high anticipation stress….
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Harley Quinn was getting popular with DC’s new 52 Suicide Squad comic series along with upcoming movie
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Best platform to display your sketching and drawing skills
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Unfortunately this was only for promotion and not for sale.

At last, I must also make special note on guest available at this year’s extravagant Comic Con. There were three international guest from Rob Denbleyker (Author: Cyanide and Happiness), Joe Harris and Gavin Aung Than (Zen pencils); Also special guest appearance by Sylvester Mccoy (Actor: Doctor Who and in The Hobbit as Radagast). Along with this there were many Indian artists to interact with such as Vivek Goel (Who’s amazing personal persuasion convinced me to buy entire “Aghori” series), Shamik Das Gupta, Abhijeet Kini, Saumin Patel, Reshmi Chandrashekhar, Leena Swamy and many more.

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Launch of new Indian title
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One of my friend has put up so genuine deranged look and style that if Nolan would have encountered him then he must have planned for Dark Knight 2
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Yaa…right. When exiting the Con, I was considerably lightweight with joy and of wallet.
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Resting out super villain personas for little refreshments.

Savour: Don’t rush…

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I would like to start with the incident which acted as fertilizer with enough nutrients to sprout the idea of such blog-post.

First of all, I fall in to that rare human species who defined by their avid reading habits. Why rare? As of now, I am able to meet people who read but to meet those individual who read in abundance and to read like “worm-hole”; scrunching everything which comes in the way and nothing escapes once fall within Schwarzschild radius, is rarity. Though reading is the habit which gradually grows with passing time, I have encountered something missing with fresh readers and initiates who are keen to start but restrained by some invisible mental force. So this post is for distributing the key to unlock metal restraints and get going in the wonderful world of books. But before that….

The Incident: so one fine evening one of my family’s acquaints came to visit us and I was taking out books which were on TBR list from long time. I was planning to take up something massive since I finished out with LOTR. I choose Bleak House from Charles Dickens to take the flame from LOTR, intended for marathon reading which would span over months. I can count myself as fast reader but still speed-run is not my cup of tea. Also usually, I chose to have at least 2 books in reading parallel; sometimes more. More than achievement, I would contribute such behavior to compulsion (Yes, you are allowed to say OCD).

So this person who was not much into reading had chance to observe the tome whose covers were elegantly flashing “Bleak House” in large Gothic black font (A lovely new edition which never looked as old classics generally looked). He took the book in one hand and surprised that there are species in this world who read such 700-page behemoth (may be surprised that you need to have proper forehand and biceps exercise to handle its weight during reading). And he raised the probable question which had acted as spark to ignite this blog.

“How could you able to read it? When will you complete? I can never do that in my lifetime.”

Let’s not consider the not-so-happening later events and tackle the question head on.

I believe that reading and in some other sense all other such luxurious habits have one common trait. Don’t rush them. They meant to be tackled with slow pace. Exactly like savoring the exquisite and rare wine which could never be mistreated with “rushed on” approach. Books, especially the large ones tend to be savored “sip-by-sip” chapter or few pages a day than think about finishing them. It’s this thought of “to complete something”, itself makes one put off the idea of getting into start and much worse persevere.

If the book is going to be good (or in other sense, you are good enough fitting reader for the book) than you don’t want book to end, vis-à-vis if you are not into much than however short the book is, you can only trudge and complain later. Don’t you think this same rule apply to lot other aspects of the life and sometimes the life itself ?

Now that I realized this write-up is getting into paradoxical state where I am divulging reading habits for not-so-avid-reader in “reading format” (If they are not reader why they bother to read your blog, Villpower. Rather they should right away start with some book). So I assume all those who going to read this are themselves avid readers which will bring the importance of the whole blog down to nil. So just take the humorous take-away and savor your reading.

In such tribute sections, I will try to pay homage to those transformative and impactful games, books, movies and other forms of media and/or events which has carved out special permanent niche in my life. As I lamented previously also that this doesn’t mean I am seeing myself standing at the gate of heaven (or hell, as per perspective); contemplating “happy” days of my life. But I think I had backed up by good more than 30 years shaping my life and I could clearly identify such homages which had influential impact to swerve it in positive or negative way. So in this write-up of influential homages I will take up Charles Dickens’s The Great Expectations. I refrain myself to praise it with adjectives as whatever majestic I conjure up, it always falls short in gauging the true literary span of Charles Dickens and his Great Expectations.

I must confess that initial start-up read of Dickens’s literary classic, Great Expectations was not engaging enough for me. I had never attempted Victorian story before, especially language. Being born and brought up in India, Victorian world was that unknown territory which was difficult to tread and explore. Though aware of the Dickens writing prowess, I was adamant to start but not sure from where and how. Due to this dilemma, Great expectation was subjected to such cruel mishandling like no other and put down time immemorial with few finished starting chapter. Though exhilarating, I had my fill from this cult classic within mere 80 to 100 pages of Pip’s journey.

Time was ripe when my life spiraled down and hit the lowest point. Career moving in positive direction and everything else in extreme opposite direction like two same charged particles reined free of strong force. Happy stories had no power left to amuse me and I was in dire need of something psychologically supportive. Dark and crime-fictions were too gloomy for me; dragging me more into the depth of gloominess. At last I picked up Great Expectations again as I thought it would be quite better to know the future of Pip. And I may find solace in his fictional happy life. Alas that was not the case.

I am really not sure how other readers have perceived Great Expectations but for me it was never story with soothing effect in right terms. Not doubting the flawless and extremely fledged out characterization specifically adapted for such story, Dickens strike exact cord in lot many places while expressing emotions; those little urges and desires which I had never believed till then could be expressed in mere words. It was soothing for me at least. Pip’s story became story of someone close whom I knew since childhood. All other characters are not mere portraits in the story but real characters full of various traits with which I could relate to. Though never I met such persons in reality, which itself proves exceptional writing prowess of Charles Dickens as author and how good he was at developing fictional character.

In short, Great Expectations is coming-of-age story of the boy called Pip towards becoming gentleman and hence in search of better life. Deep down, it’s tale of contradiction; hope and despair, amalgamation of relationships and lose, love and revenge, heartfelt and at the same time heart-broken, tragic and heart-warming. Its journey of having expectations and price you need to pay for achieving the same (Though Expectations in title taken in Victorian sense which means incurring large sum of money). And that’s where the core attraction of the book for me lies. Invaluable and priceless. I could go on forever but must restrict myself on treading into spoiler-zone for those unlucky ones who still had not developed taste of reading the classics.

I was so hooked by the end of the book to Dickens’s story-telling that I could only do justice by completing all of his work (still going on). Immediately Great expectations was placed to my “must-read” shelf. I still believe that book has power to reflect on reader’s emotional condition. Whatever be the state; exuberant or in turmoil, one can find what he wished for from Great Expectation while reading.

It also helped me hone my skill in reading Victorian literary classics. I had already laid my hand on Wilkie Collins and moving further. Victorian era has transformed writing in a way renaissance had done to art in Europe.

This might not be considered as review as it would be utterly improbable to review Mona Lisa when only skill you possess while drawing is to produce plain brush strokes. Nope. This is a love letter to Great expectations for mere being exists.

Great Expectations will forever be on my most influential list.