Imagine, if you will.

In nearly 22 years, I can honestly say I have never totally stopped reading books for more than a week at a time (ever since I started, at least). When I did not have physical books, I had ebooks on my laptop. When I did not have my laptop, I had my iPod. When I did not have my iPod, I had my phone. Yes, I shifted books even though I was only half way through them but the advent of technology made sure I didn’t have to bother about keeping bookmarks with my virtual copies and could start where I left off. No, I do not have a Kindle. I do not find it cost effective over a full fledged tablet. Arguments to the contrary about the awesome e-ink technology can please find the under side of their buttocks and stick them there.

With books, there is always a phase when a genre prevails in your life. I won’t go so far as to say it defines what that phase of your life meant because frankly, I’m not even close to philosophical. But I will go so far as to say, they show a certain bent (bend?) of mind at that point in your life. I can clearly remember my own phases. I won’t bother trying to guess what they meant about my bent of mind. But here goes (in no particular order):

1) The Enid Blyton phase:

Everyone has gone through this phase – devouring books of the great author one after the other. It helps that at this stage, your parents are supportive of your extra curricular reading and will allow you to buy or rent books indiscriminately. Allegations of her being racist apart, Enid Blyton was my favourite author as a child. The simplicity of her stories and the rendition of things in black and white (absolutely no pun intended) kept me hooked. And I can honestly say, as someone who grew up reading almost all her books, I haven’t a single racist bone in my body.

2) The Hardy Boys phase:

This is one of those phases when you start loving detective novels. I was in fourth standard when I read Hardy Boys the first time and I didn’t understand most of it. It started making sense only in sixth but by then I had moved on to other books. I name this the Hardy Boys phase but it covers most detective novels I read as a child including the Famous Five, the Five Find-Outers and the Secret Seven. While the latter three were much easier to comprehend, I preferred them more for the image of England that Blyton portrayed. Sweating like a pig inside my room in Chennai, I could only dream and conjure up images of winter in the British isles and how I would’ve loved sitting through the winter just bundled up in a chair with hot chocolate (I still hadn’t had my first coffee sip back then).

3) The Harry Potter phase:

I needn’t elaborate. Every kid I know of my age has read the series and was waiting for the seventh installment as eagerly as I was back in twelfth (or was it eleventh? I forget).

4) The J.R.R phase:

This started for me somewhere around eleventh standard – about the time when I saw the three movies in a trilogy DVD box set my dad brought home. Frankly, I had never heard of the fantasy genre and I was trying my damnedest to understand the movie. But it moved all too fast and I’m not ashamed to admit it. So I resorted to the books with some mild interest. To say I was blown out of my mind would be an understatement. I was mesmerised. My love affair with fantasy fiction was clearly going to last long.

The one criticism everyone makes of JRR’s books is that they contain a little too much graphic information about little things. My friend keeps reminding me of one page in the middle of the Lord of the Rings series where Tolkien describes a leaf falling for one entire page. I am not sure if I was more intellectual (I’m an elitist bitch, as another friend keeps pointing out) or if the others never bothered, but that was the part about Tolkien that I loved. His well crafted descriptions of things that existed in an imaginary land were my most cherished passages in the books. I kept them earmarked with small pen markings in a library book (I defaced those with impunity back when I did rent them out). Unfortunately, my mom returned the book before I could note them down somewhere permanent and I just didn’t get back to it.

Most people know Tolkien for Lord of the Rings but as any Tolkien fan would tell you, his greatest work is Silmarillion. I got that book from some girl in my school in twelfth and it was as good as I expected. This led me on to discover other books like The Children of Turin, The Lost Tales volumes among others. Tolkien remains my favourite fantasy author to date.

5) The elitist phase:

As I previously said, my friend keeps pointing out that I’m an elitist bitch because I can’t stand people who don’t get joke references from famous works of fiction. I call this the elitist phase in tribute to her because most of the books I read are her recommendations. My elitist phase (which still continues) consists of high standard authors – people who’ve won the Man Booker or the Nebula award (science fiction phase comes later on) – like Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, Hilary Mantel, William Dalrymple etc. While their works span from historical fiction (Amitav Ghosh) to actual history told in a fictional manner (Dalrymple), I admire all their works because they have the most important skill to keep a reader hooked – the masterful art of storytelling. I still haven’t picked up a Hilary Mantel but I’m sure I’ll love it as much as I love Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy (or a duology as it remains now). I will probably cover all the Man Booker candidates and winners in my life time because honestly, they are the Man Booker winners for a reason – they’re really good. Unlike the Academy Awards where I feel the best movie never wins the Oscar, I don’t have much complaint about the Booker. Of course, that could be because I see all the movies that release but I probably don’t read even 1% of all the books that release in a year.

6) The DNA phase:

Yeah yeah, it’s DNA’s b’day today. I know that as does half of the world, thanks to Google. My bench mate in class introduced me to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Combine bull shit with really awesome scientific thought experiments and you get somewhere close to what DNA achieved. Futurama may have better bull shit as a serial but DNA pioneered sci-fi bull shitting. With no seriousness to his 5 books, he brings out some *really* whacky concepts. Like the bistromathic drive (thank god for Google and their spelling corrections) where the ship is powered by a waiter taking orders inside a ship’s restaurant. And of course, the crux of the entire story – the infinite improbability drive which lets you travel space based on how improbable it was that you were in a particular place at a particular time. Very nice stuff.

People may wonder how I left out the Wodehouse phase. Honestly, I haven’t read much Wodehouse. Yes, I can hear you gasping. I will get down to it one of these days, I promise. It’s just that I find Wodehouse sarcasm so heavy (I have read a few books) that I need to concentrate on actually reading every single line instead of blithely skipping ahead with half-assed attention as I can do with even the best of books.

I’m also skipping out on the Sherlock Holmes/Hercule Poirot/Perry Mason phase because almost everyone has been through it. I’ve seen very few people who’ve either not seen the movies, the famous BBC series, the Elementary series or at least read the books. The magic is evident. I needn’t sit here and try to explain it.

The DNA phase introduced me to the world of science fiction but it was not until my bench mate told me about Isaac Asimov that I seriously started considering a genre I had classified until then (inside my head) as a minor spin off of classical literature with a wilder imagination. I’ve since then devoured all the science fiction I could find.

This whole post was more to talk about why science fiction is so awesome. The rest of it can just be considered preamble. Yep, that much more to go. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As I said before, I started reading science fiction with DNA. It took me quite some time to read all 5 books (I was having some trouble adjusting that with studying). I stopped after that even though my friend kept pestering me to move on to Asimov. Sometime in the twelfth holidays, I made the jump. I downloaded the entire chronology and started reading them as ebooks. I cannot quantify as to whether it was the fact that I was reading ebooks or the fact that I was doing it in spurts (because my college days were going to start) but I never really appreciated it. Then, sometime in second year, I really read  the books (from the start) and found the magic that had been lurking before my eyes.

The premise of most science fiction (if not all) is a future where mankind has advanced to stages of near immortality or a stage where technology seems like magic. Some science fiction authors like Asimov deal with certain events that happen in this world set in the future. Some others, like Philip K. Dick talk more about how the technology has affected mankind. Still others, like Arthur Clarke create a suspense story in a world where we can never guess what could possibly happen but we still feel we must find out. Then there are others, like Frank Herbert (of Dune fame) who wrote in a similar fashion to Asimov but spanned his stories in a different arc altogether. Of all these stories – short ones or novellas – I’ve found nothing that comes close to “The Last Question” by Asimov. In fact, you can read it here after you finish the post. I won’t elaborate with spoilers, promise.

My greatest problem with famous science fiction authors – be it Asimov, Orson Card, Herbert or who-have-you is that I won’t start reading until I have the entire collection and I can assure myself that I’m going to do it in the right chronological order. I am a stickler in this sense. I’ve shifted from Asimov to Clarke to Frank/Brian Herbert just because I couldn’t find the next book chronologically, even though I had other books in the series. Although it’s an irritating OCD to deal with, I suggest most people do the same. The intermediary stories or prequels/sequels may never be as good as the first book to be published in a series but reading them in order always gives a better experience.

The part I like about sci-fi is that it is so wildly imaginative, so absolutely out of the box that I cannot guess what is going on. To a caffeine addled hyper active brain, that is very important. However much I try to arrange the sequence of events, I just do not have enough information to make a guess at how the story is going to end. This is especially true of the short stories by Philip K. Dick, which are absolutely nowhere close to reality (they were mostly written during and before the Cold War period) and have really out-worldish ideas.

The best science fiction, in my opinion though, are the ones which Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert write. They are truly epic series of novels/short stories which span many centuries and sometimes, even millenia. With shifting focus, they somehow propel you through something like 15-20 millenia and you enjoy the ride because it’s just that un-guessable. Be it the eternal struggle between man and artificial intelligence, or the galactic wars between alien races or the struggle of mankind trying to fit into a society where their every aspect of livelihood is affected by the advent of machines, the stories grip you at every stage – the start (because you don’t know anything about this new world), the middle (when the premise of that particular story becomes clear) and the end (there is just no way you can guess until the last page as to what’s going to happen).

My tryst with science fiction doesn’t end here though. I’ve watched movies (Terminator, Star Wars etc), cartoons/anime (Ghost in the Shell), shows (Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who etc) and what not to quench the thirst for the absolutely bizarre (I’ve carefully avoided use of this term before this point in the post). It just doesn’t seem to die. But I’m not perturbed. As the saying goes, I’m “cool cool cool”.


Curtain Call

Yes, yet another of my last few holidays comes to an end. Only .. hmm .. about 3 more to go. Wow! To think there will be a point in life when there won’t be long stretches of lazing around and hanging out with friends. I definitely need to become an entrepreuner to enjoy life. Or a coder .. basically holiday time since I can do that 25/8 😀

These holidays were just as unproductive as the last few, if not all that boring. My college decided to shorten these winter vacations as compared to the last 2 years. Where it was a solid 30 days last year, it came down to simply 27 this year (Sad, I know) 😦 … But all that apart, I spent most of those 27 days doing something or the other to rid myself of boredom.

There was the PS3. I finally finished Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood in story mode (review coming soon) and most of the non-story mode as well. It’s time to go back to some RDR again. Man, that game never gets boring 😀

My book reading took a back seat though. I bought 3 books – Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynmann (Yes :D) by Richard Feynmann (the man himself) and Nine Lives by William Dalrymple. I’ve started reading Life of Pi and seem to be crawling through the book even though I can see that it is one of the most interesting stories I’ve read in a very very long time. The other 2 books will have to take a backseat. I finished 2 of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot novels – Death in the Clouds and Hercule Poirot Christmas. There is really nothing to say – Agatha Christie is the best crime writer I’ve read in a very long time. Although when you look for pattern in her novels, you find one concerning the killer and the motive, the modus operandi is completely different each time. I have a feeling she wove her tale backwards from how the murder is staged. Also, I got some Isaac Asimov reading done. I finished the third book in the Robots in Time series and am in the fourth one. It is fairly engaging but not exactly something to keep you hooked.

The TV shows have been caught up with. They have been put on hold thanks to the holiday season but no worries .. They shall start again in January. i haven’t seen many movies these holidays either. Of worthy note was Scott Pilgrim  vs the World which was frankly speaking, a very weird movie but it was funny as hell, no doubt about it. And also, I went to the theatres and saw Ratha Charithram or some similar named movie. It basically sucked. And then, today ..

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 : The movie was actually pretty good compared to its predecessors. Apart from the usual extravagance a story with “magical” potential gives special effects a chance to have, it was directed with just enough action and emotion to keep it from becoming complete crap .. but I didn’t enjoy it. I can impartially rate movies since one part of me is always attentive to something so big going on in front of my eyes. The other part made it hell, considering I was sitting near an ABSOLUTE douchebag and the fact that the theatre had a lot of local crowd who basically came there to gawk at Emma Watson and make comments about a movie they could’ve hardly understood beyond the Harry Potter part.

After the movie, douchebag and another friend of mine revealed that they had about 1350 bucks worth of free gaming left for Blur 😀 .. Starting from Air Hockey (which I own’d) till playing car race on LAN in an Arcade (which I own’d as well) and playing Tekken 6 (which douchebag obviously own’d) and other minor arcade games, we had a lot of fun for the money.

Apart from all the fun and frolic, I’ve been preparing for CAT *snorts* , learning python (holy crap, whatte language) and trying to start on writing stories.

The holidays will end this Sunday when I shall leave for college early in the morning. And then, another semester will begin where I will yet again pretend to struggle for gaining academic merit when I know it hardly matters anymore and will develop my hacking skills to another level entirely (hopefully).

Ah well, adios 2010, welcome 2011 and all that. Like I read in a tweet last year .. “The universe is 15 billion years old and we celebrate  every new year. Seems like having a fuckin parade every time I piss” 😀

Return of the Satti

Guess who’s back … Back again .. 😀

Finally, my holidays are here. FINALLY! I dunno how long I’ve been waiting for this one.

So .. I thought about when and if I should blog again. I thought a lot and then, I thought, let’s do it.

What does a holiday entail to a hyper active teenager who is going to be not-a-teenager in a matter of months? For me, it means gaming (a lot), some book reading, some movies and trawling the net and wikipedia alternatively for internships and random information respectively.

This might be the one vacation that I truly plan on using productively. But, when you think about the fact that this may be the LAST vacation I ever have, I feel I should rethink that particular stratagem.

So, a report on my progress:

First, the book reading. I’ve finished 2 books since the last time I blogged – Shantaram and H2G2 part 6 of 3 😛

Shantaram, as I typed before, is about a heroin addict who escaped from Australia and came to India and fell in love with the country. To say the book was good would be an understatement. It actually left a profound impact on me. The highlight, as I mentioned before, was it’s deceptively simple language. The other highlight I found upon further delving into the book, was the fact that the author was very philosophical in the way he looked at the world. In fact, there are some particular lines in the book – parts in which the narrator is pondering over some worldly aspects of life – when it gets really profound and then you realise, the author is actually right about what he is saying. My tweet about the book being awesome got a –1 on a RT (thanks @shridharama) which I partially deserve because I mentioned that it may be close to LotR, which, now I come to think of it, is just absurd. The book tracks Roberts journey from coming to India and living in a Marathi village, moving to the slums of Bombay, opening up a free health clinic there, acting in bollywood, working as a street soldier for the Bombay mafia, fighting alongside the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and a lot more. Should you read the book – Hell Yes!

H2G2 was a very funny book. I’ll be frank though – it wasn’t even close to the reboot I thought the series would get. Instead, it turned out to be a pretty funny sequel-prequel … If you read the series, you’ll know why I can’t call it either. The amount of inconsistency and blatant stupidity the story deals with sometimes gets on your nerves – fair examples being the bistromathic drive, the tender moment – horrible accident juxtaposition (or the lack of it) and some others. Also, DNAs final books leave a big question mark as to where in the space-time region, the protagonist actually is and which dimension he still exists in. But, since the story is meant to deal with absurdities and the notion that a lot of stupidity can couple together to create a great, meaningless and yet, quite an enjoyable story, you can forgive all its faults. Scratch that, you’re actually expected to praise them 😛

Now that those 2 books are ticked off my reading list, I’m getting back to Isaac Asimov and books in his series that other authors have written. Following the chronology can get really boring with this author considering that his science and his stories make perfect sense – unlike any of the H2G2 series. Right now, I’m reading a book written by William F Wu about Robots in Time. It’s the third book in a series of 6 where robots get lost in time and a team of 3 humans and one advanced humanoid are sent in search of them. The reason all these books fall under the chronology of Isaac Asimov, is that the robots in the books always obey the 3 laws he set down. Those 3 laws are so famous, in fact, and so quintessential that all AI systems are planning to be made on their basis. But Asimov’s interpretation of his laws was a lot different than what this author does. William Wu goes so deep into those laws, you sometimes wonder if such complex AI systems aren’t human in themselves and if the paradoxes and difficulties they encounter will simply not lead to a machine rebellion that so many movies depict.

Heavy pondering on trivial and completely abstract issues apart, I have also covered up a lot on the movies front 😀

I’ve seen only 2 good movies since the last post – “Stranger than Fiction” and “Tron”.

“Stranger than Fiction” is a superb movie. Having a storyline unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, the movie was very well taken. All B Grade actors except for one guy who looked remotely like Alec Baldwin. I expected a better climax but I could’ve settled for this one anyway. Must-watch!

I watched Tron mainly because I wanted to be able to follow the storyline in the sequel coming up called “Tron: Legacy”.

“Tron” had a story unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was definitely created by a computer nerd from the 80s. But the graphics are absolutely, phenomenally, totally sucky! When I say, they suck, I mean they S-U-C-K! To put it in perspective, I found the graphics of that epic arcade game – Skyroads – to be slightly better than what this movie offered. Yes, it sucked that much. You want a glimpse of what’s got me so wound up? Here, see for yourself:

Yep, that’s how the majority of the movie looks like. That, btw, is the game of “Lightcycles” which is a very very important part of the movie. No spoilers though. For true nerds, the movie is an epic. It marked a totally different type of out-of-the-box thinking.Giving personalities to programs and creating protagonists and antagonists in a plot that concerned the internal workings of a computer was a major breakthrough in unconventional thinking. Consensus: If you’re a nerd, I beg you to watch this. If you’re not a nerd, give this a miss.

The holidays have also marked the return to the world of TV Shows. I’m still following Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Dexter, Chuck and Lie to Me. To say the least, Dexter seems as epic as ever and Chuck seems to be getting better and better guest stars – what with Linda Hamilton, Timothy Dalton and all that.

Tomorrow is my first productive activity for the holidays. I’m attending this unconference called BarCamp Chennai – 5th Edition. Sounds like fun. But considering I have stage fear and this being an unconference, I have some trepidation about going there. It’s in Shollinganallur. So we’ll see. Abishek is coming here and mostly Ashwin may make it as well. Will be fun, hopefully 🙂

Surprisingly, I still haven’t touched the PS3 since coming back. I guess it was due to the lack of games. No worries – the issue has been solved. Today. With this:

😀 … Yes, that’s right. I got the epic awesomesauce game. Sadly, I still haven’t played it. I’m waiting for the TV to get free so that I can let loose my awesomeness 😀 … I don’t think anything this childish should excite me so much at this age. But what the hell 😀

I also went out with the buggers today. Where did we land up? In citicentre. I dunno why we keep returning to that dilapidated, good-for-nothing mall again and again. But we do. I purchased AC3 there, ate a sub, a veg zynger and a chocolate ice cream 😀

Also, I’m getting my C++ programming back on track. Just finished a permutations program which was eluding me for quite sometime. Should get started on the others 🙂

Apart from this, life is just the usual. I’ve got a thing for Opeth’s jarring death music now. I guess it’s a passing phase. Also, I’m trying to be productive and prepare for my CAT entrance next year. Yes, I’m a very padips and studious fellow 😛

Until tomorrow (when I update the blog concerning #bcc5),


PS: Hashtagging should be made a search engine base for the whole internet, I swear. Metadata tagging is so yesterday.