Same old, Same old

Anywhere in the world where any race or religion or cast fanatic takes violent supremacist step with gun and population start talking about psychological impact of interactive media such as gaming on children and young adults as if that is their fundamental right to get closure on such violent anarchy. Its old story; even ancient one when we thought of inception of shooter computer games. Let’s instead of political arguments, de-construct the whole scenario and focus the subject in different light. I would try to address “why” of the blame game and might in process raise more ominous view ( this post is in response to recent tragic violent shooting in new Zealand mosque in response to which one educated intellectual friend of me has pointed finger towards currently most popular battle arena game PUBG as victim in jocular fashion. It came as shock to me how people are perceiving games; even in jokes.)

Why computer games or movies or any other popular media.

“Because it’s there” – this famous quote from world famous Everest climber George Mallory can also work as an answer to our dilemma. It’s easy to blame popular media. And our minds are happy to blame abstract “cause” which can act as righteous step to all of the wrongs. Human minds are bad at comprehending chaos, especially of a scale of gun attack in public places. It represents chaos in otherwise “stable” system. Hence there is need to find settlement to ease the terror or fear. And popular media is readily available for that. Shooter games themselves act as shooting target with bulls eye.

Games are not conditioning environment

All the popular media comes with their governing restrictions either in name of issued age restriction certificates or as moral values when we consider impact of them over minors. Doesn’t matter if such restrictions are carried out strictly or not; games, movies, books etc. should be conceived as the mind influencing environment rather then mind conditioning. They don’t have power to brainwash. If shooting games could have such power then lot of people including me were, by this time, could have been brandishing guns in both hands and having our poor lives “blasted” out of proportion. But looks like after so much digital gun toting, I came out decent and even violence-averting in nature. And the same can be said for those whom I knew as long time dedicated computer gamers.

Child’s malleable mind is far better in fantasizing; no matter what. Given right catalyst, it can be molded with care into something superior. But what we are talking about is not product of any such exposure. Empathy is part of natural behavior expressed from eons old evolved genes. What we are seeing as violent retribution is part of heavily subdued brain with either life altering trauma or tight conditioning or brainwashing.

And when we are talking about conditioning, most frightful conditioning parents expose their child to is religion which not even have any governing body to issue any age restrictions. It is more potent and effective than any violent game nowadays. See any of those ancient religion tomes and scriptures and try to glean the direct or indirect form of violence present (towards non-believer or evil); you will be amazed by ferocity and content.

Why shooting is fun in games

The fact is, gamers worldwide are not actually enjoying the killing spree in games. They enjoy the “feel” of it. That is, games have already established virtual context and world which is in sync with killing “bad guys”. It’s already been established as safe environment. Players enjoy the tactical decision making or super power fantasy or reflexes or mastering challenges; which is far away then actual real world shootings. Evolution has already instilled aversion towards real blood or carnage. Even given the right context, players feel guilty over killing NPCs ( player with no role or context in games. In short, innocent) even in computer games. So any argument pointing towards computer games playing key role in introducing real world apathetic behavior is utterly hogwash.

What’s the ratio

How many gamers worldwide actually converted to homicidal maniac ? Or how many deranged killers are actually gamers ? I bet even though we come up with exact statistics, numbers are quite high if we asked the same question with some other general attributes such as how many killers have dogs or how many go to religious places or how many are single or ……

Is it that having dogs or no-dogs is killing factor ?? Absolutely foolish, right !! Then why games have such attention. Games get the disadvantage of being “special” apart from other common variables. Games are highly visible. They are unique. And have high attention grabbing visibility. And playing games is still not the norm, hence has to face scrutinized stare of the society over such incidents.

It’s time we need to reign our basic instincts and think rationally before generalizing.

Even though I’m predictably irregular with year end resolutions which were only put through proper observation during few initiated months of the new year and logarithmically dissolved into daily soup of chores by the time year ends; I can still count myself pretty overachiever while considering challenges related to reading. Reading has been emerged with renewed ferocity with each passing year. With end of the one more successful reading year 2018, here’s summary of good, bad and ugly with courtesy to goodreads.com for organizing it in accessible way with spiced-up stats.

As evident below, 2018 is the year with most number of completed reads of all time which is due to large numbers of graphic novels and comics.

Most popular read this year was, as expected, belongs to literary classics: Crime and Punishments from Fyodor Dostoyevsky which is in continuation to my ongoing tradition with Russian classics after Anna Karenina.

Let’s take the trip down the reading lane for past year and have some reminiscences of most special and most boring read.

1. Tomie by Junji Ito: Scary-cum-body horror mix is potent and effective. Weirdness is mutually offset-ed by Japanese manga presentation and horror heightened due to minimalistic but effective black & white clean art.

2. Miracleman Book 1: Collection of short stories told artistically in universe of Miracleman. Some are really strange and some allegorical considering Gaiman at the helm.

3. Origin by Dan Brown: Dan brown can still connects real location world-wide with real scientific research and some interwoven fictional tale with most famous “symbologist” doing what he is good at. But still Origin was balloon whose air is fizzling out as time passes. Still good for Dan Brown fans.

4. Swamp Thing Vol. 2: This years my Alan Moore read continuing brilliant Swamp Thing saga.

5. Patience: Time-travel story with emotional central plot. Bit muddled and not as good as Clowes’s Ghost World.

6.wytches: Completely new urban take on traditional witches with eye-popping color splatter art in the wake of Jackson Pollock.

7. Murder on the Orient Express: Foray into Agatha Christi’s world. I am fan of closed room mysteries and this is as good as I was looking forward to.

8.Fun Home: One of the best read of 2018 or of any year. Sharp, poignant and at the same time touching.  Bachdel’s quest for exploring her complex sexual leaning along with relationship with her father, in turn makes her understand her father more profoundly. It is the tale which sounds more serious than the way its told.

9. Grindhouse: Cheap comic-con “earn” which was good considering value for money.

10. The Trip: One more new-stand pick-up fast read; picked up in Comic-con 2018.

11. Whiteout: Nice wintry chilling read.

12. The Alienist:Victorian age serial killing mystery set in Newyork – And I’m sold. Though it missed the mark of hitting the “Jack the Ripper” goal. Still readable for clever writing and historical research.

13. Summer of Night: Homage to Stephen King’s very popular “It” with very similar horror plot involving kids in some suburban US town. But its very good homage at that. Dan Simmons has uncanny ability to advance story through characterization. And that is very good sign of any famous author. Story take its own time to get into grooves, but that’s what the recipe of the good taste; let it be cooked on slow burn.

14. Harley Quinn Vol 1,2,3 (New 52): Dripping with feminism and bravura of style and art. Incorporating various artists for single story seamlessly is fun to read (and goggled over)

15.Maggie the Mechanic: One more title which celebrates the feminism with tale of band of girls in futuristic world where large complex machinery is the way of life and effective mechanics are reverential. Its collection of short stories, characterized by light weight tone of its nature even in the face of sheer calamity.

16. Crime and Punishment: Every year I shall indulge myself with one (or more) literary classics and I was flattened by last year’s Russian take of classics like Lolita and Anna Karenina. So continuing the trend, I attempted Fyodor Dostovesky. If the whole year reading list was consisted largely of comics and light read then it might be because of Crime and Punishment, as if I could not afford more serious read. It was dark, satirical and at the same time brilliantly translated as well as elaborated.

17. Preacher Book one: Garth Ennis’s pulls no stop in this ultra-violent offending story. Its good and serves what reader expected from such adult comic read.

18. Zero Hour: Short sci-fi story collection of the early comic golden age era. Some good, some thoughtful and some borderline geeky; but all entertaining.

19. The Outsider: Stephan King’s latest (but not best). Story is gripping and if it could have been 100 pages short than it would be more fun. Still lovely King experience all and all.

20. The Revolutionary Genius of Plants:  Humankind actually not liking the spicy taste (spicy is not actually a taste belongs to primary tastes but sensation), we are addicted to it. And plants of pepper family has deliberately made us addictive. Interesting !! There is lot more in this revolutionary new book throwing new light aided by latest research. Excellent and enlightening.

21. Black sad: With popularity of Graphic novel medium arising immensely, aided by large number of adapted movies, some of the European gems are sipped to mainstream US market. Blacksad is one of the lot. Blacksad has to be seven course meal laid out for eyes. Excellent color filtered panels with water-color feel should leave you keep staring at each page for eternity. Noir crime drama is perfect match for such beautifully presented panels. Must read for anyone.

22. Four Color Fear: One more anthology of short campy horror tales from 50’s and 60’s decades. Not all are very enticing, but still comfy reads on wintry dark nights.

23. Sherlock The Great Game: Last season episode of very famous series Sherlock presented in Japanese manga style. Artist has done great job with sketches which resembles real characters of the series precisely.

24. A Study In Emerald: One more story referencing most famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Given the fact that Neil Gaiman has written this short, expect lot many other famous literary references and allusions. Not for everyone but Gaiman fans.

25. Magpie Murders: Anthony Horowitz has done some great job to revive the classic characters like Sherlock Holmes in House of Silk or James Bond in Trigger Mortis. Magpie murders was homage to Agatha Christi’s style of murder mystery. Though written well, for me, it was bogged down by its own set high expectation. Little vapid all and all.

26. The Troop: Story is waffer-thin. But you don’t read horror for only story. Story of band of children stranded at island with something inexplicable- sounds very familiar and scary. It is more of body horror and sometimes King-style snippets of news articles and interviews embedded between chapters, won’t have desired effect. But still good beach read all and all. P.S. Go for classic “Lord of the Flies” to which Troop pays homage.

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Novelty is the name of the game

Everything is composed of systems; interconnected and interacting. And each of this systems are designed and governed by specific set of rules. If you know the rules, you know the system. Sometimes rule-set can be exhaustively large and complex which will, in turn, increase the complexity of the system itself. Break it down to small chunk of systems and you find out more specific relevant rule-set for smaller systems. Our mind is evolved to understand such systems in peculiar way of creating the model of the system rather than actually solving rules by which it is governed. Let’s take example. Lionel Messi’s brain not always go into resolving friction equations or movement of round object in curvature to have quick pass or amazing goal; Or Federer’s mind won’t do all force formulas to quickly come up with number to use in back-end shot, nor their, or in such case anyone else, minds capable of finishing calculations on the fly. Minds just do what they supposed to do “as per learned model” which in turn needs regressive learn pattern.

Why I have elaborated so much was the phenomenon gamers worldwide face in their day-to-day gaming sessions. Games are most prolific “systems” which gamers learn to play. Each new game present new set of rules to learn. Game designers face most daunting task of devising the system driven by elaborated rule-set, make users learn them fast, mold their minds to think with provided rules and along with all;most sought accomplishment; make it all fun and enjoyable. Some games fail due to one or other of above. And some excel with the same. Let’s explore few of the games in my gaming life which has garnered the awe-inspiring amazement along with joy due to their unique appealing trait: novelty (in no particular order).

1. Braid ( Creator: Jonathan Blow, Artist: David Hellman )

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There are puzzle platformer. There are excellent puzzle platformers. And there is Braid. Uniqueness of the Braid was not time-manupulation, but the way each level introduces new aspect based on time. Starting with fairly straightforward time reversal, Braid just pulled all kind of time-trickery in the each advancing level. One level adds time-unaffacted objects, while other introduces “time-ring”. And my favorite one where time moves when protagonist moves. Without spoiling much novelty (especially the last absolutely genius level), Braid has achieved cult status with its underlying deep philosophy which was fan-favorite discussion topic amongst various forums.

Also Braid had been the flagstone of revolution which has moved gamers focus on indie development like never before.

2. Her Story ( Creator & designer: Sam Barlow, Actress: Viva Seifert )

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Gaming industry is always fascinated with idea of merging movies with gameplay from initiation of digital interactivity. FMV ( Full Motion Video) games were at some point considered as major step ahead while era was mostly composed of low res sprites and environments. Tex Murphy adventures or Phantasmagoria were few series which got attention for their novel FMV interactivity. Most recent Late Shift or partial FMV AAA title Quantum Break are testimony of gaming industry’s unabated love for integration of full motion video in games. But nothing has succeeded so profoundly as Her Story which has changed the idea of FMV gameplay. Best part of Her Story is that FMV seems the inevitable design aspect rather than just another “back of the box bullet-point”. Brainchild of sole person; Sam Barlow and exquisitely acted by Viva Seifert, Her Story puts you in shoes of investigator trying to glean the connection out of disjointed interrogation videos of old case. Not spoiling much, Her Story is addictive short campaign.

3. Untold Stories ( Developer: No Code, Publisher: Devolver Digital )

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Most ancient genre of gaming which is again getting traction due to most innovative take like Untold stories on them; text adventures. Untold stories has coat of new graphic processing power but core element is text adventure. Short, precise and genuine ; Untold stories is pinnacle presenting “New wine in old bottle”.

4. Portal/Portal 2 ( Valve corporation )

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In 2007, at the most ripening time to reap the popularity benefit, Valve released most audacious game bundle of all time called ” The Orange Box”. Riding high with Half-Life 2 and preceding episodic instalments, Orange Box was going to provide most value for money playtime to gamers. Valve Corporation knew it was going to be hit. But what it never gleaned was that the small title thrown in; almost like Santa’s small free present, along with other biggies in the Orange Box, called Portal, was going to steal the show and going to force Valve to cash in with its follow-up, Portal 2.

To say that Portal was ingenious first person puzzler is disservice to the game as whole. It was cleverly designed to incorporate Portal rules and way of overcoming them. Concept was simple enough to have ability to generate two portals on any (not all though) flat surfaces so as player passing through one emerges out of other. Throw in exemplary physics engine to take care of gravity and hence velocity out of other portal and you have sandbox rule set to play around.

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Portal 2 has high expectations given the popularity of the first. But so rare the event in this world in any media has happened here also; second part surpassing the first. Once Portal 2 introduces the varying gels, rules got more complex and playful.

However intelligent gamers felt by solving the puzzles in Portal and Portal 2, one fact was appreciated by all that at the end game designers of both were true genius of all. After completing the game, if you look back you’ll realize how much complexity your brain has gone through and that also in very simple and fun way.

Kudos to games.

Little wanderings

As onset of summer has kicked the mercury into 80s and 90s like a solid front going for full attack, however lucrative it sound to stay at home, it was equally improbable to not utilize the hot weather after freezing winter in Indianapolis. No longer trips in sight, I have to settle with little wanderings to nearby places in and around Indiana. Each doesn’t deserve full length writing but at the same time doesn’t qualify for complete ignorance. Hence, presenting collage of short trips in one delectable blog as below.

1. Marengo cave

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There are 4 show caves in Indiana. Marengo is one of them. Its situated in Crawford county, about 2.5 hours drive from Indianapolis city. There were multiple variation in circulation for the discovery of Marengo cave and all are equally enticing. But eventually all agree to point that cave has been discovered accidentally by two Hiestand children while playing in the woods.

First sensible effect of entering the cave was drastic temperature drop, especially in hot summer. Our tour guide said that cave was maintaining constant temperature no matter outside atmosphere. Dimly lit corridors and large areas were covered from long years of stalactites and stalagmites formation from floor to ceiling. At some locations, they were so bizarre and oddly formed that whole scene was looked like part of HP Lovecraft’s Chulthu mythos and bizarre imagination from H. R. Giger’s paintings. Human mind will always try to attach some shape and semblance of meaning to chaos and hence you might see with guide’s directional observation the likes of great wall of China (in miniature format), Elephant heads, swinging girls in shadows of torchlight and whatever your mind can comprehend (chulthu older ones for me).

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2. Indiana Dunes

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It is basically shoreline of lake Michigan. Beaches dotted along the line don’t have the seashore level playfulness of waves and spread, but still vastness of lake won’t allow your mind to latch onto such thoughts either. So basically you have few sandy trails where you climb and trudge through send hills and after that, cool off at nearby beach. Hotter the day, double the fun. Don’t forget your tanning apparatus and good camera. As late evening summer sunset over lake might present wonderful vista of red spectrum colors with usually beautiful scattering effect found in northern hemisphere.

3. Chicago (again)

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Next Chicago tour was more of architectural. We had river tour of famous Chicago architectures along with ample dose of its history mostly centered around destruction of Chicago in great fire of 1871 and its Phoenix-esq rise from the ashes.

 

Sin City: A hard goodbye

Last day in Vegas. It was a bit of charting away from “symbolic” Vegas attractions. No more betting or bar-hoping. No more slot machines or roulette. Like we want to reshuffle the  impression of Vegas as amazing visiting spot for “sins” it was known for in our mind.

First we visited the unique museum, not only from Vegas standard but world around, having real human body on display with view to its innards in a way which can make doctors go crazy and ogling all over. Pun asides, it was something which you could not experience in such presentable manner. From birth to last stage of life (the death itself), passing corridors would give glimpses of various biological systems with all its participating organs.

Next spot was very famous (and now available at lot many popular visiting spots) Madam Tussaud’s wax museum with very limited “celebrities” (I am gravely offended that they have not included my favorite A Jolie).

As I already pronounced early in this blog that we were specifically looking forward to something which was not “signature” Vegas on our last day. MARVEL’s superhero experience was something like that and beyond expectation. Staff role-plating to visitors as SHIELD agents who wants to recruit new members (that is you) to their secretive group and in turn make you visit various rooms propped with original and “almost-original” replicas of various MARVEL studios designs was believe-it-or-not experience for any superhero (and Marvel) fan. There was captain America’s WW2 motorbike. There were shields and large-scale machine (used in Captain America’s movie also) where  Steve Rogers transformed into superhero. There were full size costumes of Ant-man, black-widow, Nick Fury and various others. And at last whole collection of Iron-man suits;all the versions included along with Hulk-buster armor in its real size. Have I mentioned that there was free demo of very cool VR game to play. In short, it was MARVELous.

Day (along with that Vegas trip also) was concluded with few shopping sprees and lovely sea-food along with local beer.

 

Sin City: Booze, Broads & Burgers

In Vegas, you count your stay in nights. On second night of our visit to Vegas, we choose milder “approach” to experience women’s company; most popular and high-profile night pub: Omnia. After queuing amidst scantily adorned beautiful ladies for almost an hour, entry to pub was more like entering the darkest dungeon for “surprising catch”. All the tropes of night pub was merrily present and if something required to be criticized then it was not registered by our alcohol incapacitated minds.

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As the night wore on, heat increased as well the party-goers. Leaving around mid-night, we ventured more in vicinity till decided to retire in company of roulette and Jack. Offering more of “hard-earned” money on the altar of betting God, we decided to call it night. Next day we had already planned to cater our taste buds rather than giving all the pleasure to intoxicated mind and liver.

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Next morning we queued up for famous Gordon Ramsey’s Burgers. There were other Gordon Ramsay’s variant also present in Vegas such as Fish & chips and Steakhouse. Burger was delicious and nothing like I had tested before. After satiating the sweet tooth at Hershey’s chocolate factory, day was accomplished without much fanfare till late evening when we decided to take cab and indulge Vegas in old ways at Fremont street.

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Fremont experience mainly composed of light show via covered ceiling, old cheap souvenir shops and casinos, live cabaret, a hard rock show, a very weirdly themed but hilarious restaurant (see photos at last), zip line stretching the whole street and lots of old style pubs and bars. Beautiful, nostalgic and unique.

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Live show at Fremont

At night, we have secured seats for famous show Mystic, the Cirque du Soleil presentation of jaw dropping live stunts, enchanting music, kaleidoscopic colors, alien costumes and creatures and some of very humorous live pranks with audience.

Sin City: Family Values

Considering Vegas reputation, day started off sluggish and late on the next day of our arrival. Sunlight glinting off with golden hue from glass facade of Trump tower poured in as soon as marvelous strip view emerged from our Treasure Island hotel room window once curtains were aside. At other side of the strip two identical structures corresponding to hotels Encore and Wynn were showing off their best attractions on large size digital billboards. Day was just starting for Vegas at 10:00 in the morning.

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Trump Tower at Las Vegas

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Identical designs of Wynn and Encore

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Shining Venezia

Due to coming Christmas festive time, all hotels on the strip were decorated with various Xmas fairy themes. Apart from that, all hotels also bear their own theme. Lynn was heavy on blossoming Xmas theme where flowers were main ingredient along with quaint little dreamy miniaturized towns. Dings of the slot machines and cacophony of roulette and blackjack tables intermixed with jingle tunes were doing spectacular effects of uplifting the mood for festivity and fun. Life-size carousal entirely made of flowers was taken straight out of the Disney’s fantastical movies.

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Carousal made of Flowers at Wynn

Next on the list (and on the strip) was Venezia, residing beside Lynn. One of the striking feature of Vegas strip is all hotels were interconnected via cross-bridge or passages so that visitors can only leave when they really spent out, whether money or energy. Apart from imitating Venetian architecture adorning the outside of enormous hotel, inside was also furnished with famous canals and gondolas. Most striking feature was the false dome with eternal diffused blue sky with scattering of scarlet giving off the impression of setting sun.

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Venice in Vegas

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After capturing Caesars Palace’s in digital format from outside, we went ahead with flying visit to Flamingo’s famous food street.

During evening we had already planned to secure place in front of signature Vegas symbol, the famous Bellagio fountain. What time we had before fountain show starts was utilized to marvel at Christmas themes of the Bellagio hotel. Colorful Shogan warrior was adorning the foyer. In the back, impressionistic north pole created in wide area where polar bears made of white flowers frolicking around massive Christmas tree. Sky created in the dome was inspired from some of Van Gogh’s paintings (la starry nights).

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In middle of 8.5 acre water body, thousands of spritzers shooting water jets to maximum of 460 feet in tune with Frank Sinatra or Jackson was sight to behold. Most calming and at the same time most energetic.

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Bellagio Hotel at Las Vegas

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Once the show finished, you turn back to marvelous re-creation of Eiffel Tower and arc de triomphe in all its glory at night-time accompanied by hot air balloon to complete the Paris world fair picture at and around Paris hotel. Though we had visited the real monuments in Paris it was the deja-vu of reminiscing past. Inside the Paris hotel, Casino floor was all bathed in Parisian vista of eye-catching props of small apartments  showcasing various stark black silhouetted couples against yellow light engaging in various activities. In one corner, theater stage was created mimicking opera style grandeur.

 

After witnessing the fire show at the Mirage, We had good north-Indian food at Tabla restaurant to get ready for long poisonous night.

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Sin city: Hell and back

I am not good at numbers. Never was. I had barely the sense and mental prowess due to intoxication to solve the probability function which could have been not much beneficial anyhow considering how feeble human mind is when to choose between prayer and numbers displaying the probability. All I had was few seconds to decide; to envision the pattern and bet. I realized that bobbing of small roulette ball is most “adrenaline injecting” moment while you sip through Jack Denials. And getting what you predicted was elicit force to put more risk in next round.

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Vegas at last. It was dream of me to be there. Not sure why. Might be due to that Bellagio fountain scene in “Ocean’s Eleven”. Might be due to fond memories of illuminating strip even in post-apocalyptic Nevada in “Fallout:New Vegas”. Might be due to impression from all entrainment media outlets promoting Vegas as kind of “pilgrimage” for the inebriated souls. Holy power center of all the probable sins humankind think of. And mostly due to the fun way you can take risk and get rewards. Trinity of money, girls and booze. If temples are created to search gods residing within human soul, purify it with prayers and faith to get ready for salvation and in the end heaven; places like Vegas might just want to find your inner demon, purify the body through most potent “alcohols”, satiating deepest wild desires burning your soul and mark it ready for hell. If you had will (and money), Vegas has the way.

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So I had four nights and three days planned in Vegas during first week of December. Thought to accommodate other nearby places, mostly Hoover dam and Grand Canyon, but Vegas strip was more than exhausting enough for all days.

We arrived at the Vegas at early night on Friday; the initiation of blooming weekend. Nevada was devoid of any human presence from the air. Not a single twinkle of light. Sea of blackness and dark matter where still no star formation had started yet. In this vast black space, Vegas was illuminating like life supporting galaxy with thousands and thousands of heavenly bodies. Vegas is all about light and grandeur.

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Hotel Treasure Island on the strip was our new home for Vegas stay. Travelling to the hotel gives flying night overview of the strip at night. Check inn was smooth. Rooms were comfy. And to relive the tiredness, my friend decided “to draw the first blood” at hotel’s casino.

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Beginner’s luck on the high point of “pendulum” swing, roulette draw few lucky numbers on multiple occasions on which I choose to bet. Here it goes the vicious cycle of money, reward and luck. Economics or not but there is simple rule with money; more the reward, more the risk and more human greed.

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Cashing out my first “earn” and again spending it on either alcohols or slot-machines or more roulette rounds was the recurring activity on the first night. Dings of rows of slot machines churning out “digital coins”, floating numbers everywhere, royal decor, kaleidoscopic view of drinks on the bar table, and alluring tune to invite people to bet, were the prime aspects of the dreams I had with whatever meager hours of sleep I managed to have.

Next day was planned to have trip of the strip in day to get hold of the lay and Christmas spirit and embrace the nightlife to wear off all the tiredness.

PS: This meant to be introductory blog to my three-day sojourn at Vegas. More coming up in parts with lots of amazing captured memoirs.

 

One more year passed by in blink and here we stood again at same conjecture to review gone year, wearing reading glasses with courtesy of goodreads.com.  Passed year in terms of reading could be summarized in short as “the year in prose”. Where I still clung to tried-n-tested authors for modern literature; number of classics raised in significance.

I deliberately set reading challenge to one book per month so not to include short, anything on the way to reading list, just to complete the challenge. I had inclination of devoting time for classics. And reading classics can take time. Still I was ahead by 3 books at end of the year 2017.

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Let’s see what was hit and what was miss among these.

Book with most pages I read (Frankly speaking completed) in current year was “The complete collection of Sherlock Holmes”. It was long reading project. The book contains all the four novellas and almost entire collection of stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Though started reading long time back, I could only conjure up enough time to return the salutation to Holmes “Last Bow” in the year of 2017.

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There are two candidates for “most surprising and enlightening read”. One is old world Russian literary classic “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov and the other modern world literary supreme “The Voice of Fire” by Alan Moore. Let me clear one thing. Lolita is controversial. But there is not a single word, prose or snippet which could be classified as vulgar or titillating. It is masterfully crafted in monologues. And served with one of the best prose writing competing to Charles Dickens. I had never had such eliciting experience of reading the word-formation in such delight.

 

When we are talking about prose writing, then let’s not forget only modern era master class in prose writing or any kind of writing; Alan Moore. “Voice of Fire” was his first novel after very successful writing history in Graphic Novels (From Hell, Watchmen, V for Vendetta are just few gems). Moore experimented heavily with first novel in terms of writing were interconnected stories’ timelines vary from initiation of mankind to Alan Moore himself; incorporating various historical events in process. He had started something called Geo-psychology where he traces the history and events of particular place and put it in more weird, contextual, and sometimes magical view. Not spending much time as it will take forever to discuss Alan Moore.

“You can always count on a murderer for fancy prose style” – Back cover of Lolita

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Other notable reads are “1984” from George Orwell (Again classic) and more Russian literary classic “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy. One short, depressing Orwellian account of dystopian world  which has started “All seeing Big Brother” concept; while other was sprawling storytelling covering Russian aristocracy and class divide intermixed with love, family values, relationships and marriages (along with issues).

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In terms of Graphic Novels, it was dominated by well-knowns. Great was the wine soaked narrative of Eddie Campbell on existence of Greek gods in modern times in “Bacchus”. At the same, though I’m crazy of such stuff, to-much-meta references has killed my interest in Grant Morrison in ” The Multiversity”. While Alan Moore’s “Top 10” was pleasingly light read, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier” (again by Alan Moore) was fun take on his own brilliantly conceived original TLEG.

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In modern novels, “Metro 2035″ was satisfying but not as much as the previous two installments of Metro universe. ” “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”  was unnecessary addition to Lisbeth’s (Novel’s protagonist) journey. Dan Simmons “The Fifth Heart” was as I expected but still nowhere near Holmes magic created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Most disappointing read for me was “Black Water Lilies”. Though it might be good for others but I had somehow “guessed” whole crux of the twist and story arc from very beginning and hence just dragged myself to complete it.

That’s it for gone year of 2017. While I am slowly but progressively sucked into more of literary classics, getting into more prose reading, once a while I’ll get my hands on modern popular. With few more Russian classics in-line along with “most diverse read I had ever done”, coming year is going to be really sensuous and enthralling.

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Happy Reading. (And also new Year 🙂

PS: Ready player One was not meant to be present on “to read” list in near future, even after promising trailer of upcoming movie by none other than Steven Spielberg. But rifling through its pages in one of the book outlet at Las Vegas airport, I came across something which couldn’t be ignored. A statement; defining all geeks and nerds  and book itself a love letter to all grownups like me who spent their childhood in 80s (and 90s and 00s ….)with videogames. It was instant buy. And more rapid read. So this last-minute update changed above stat by +1 book.
Being human totally sucks most of the time. Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable – Ready Player One.

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Chicago Blues

Only three and half hours drive away, Chicago was neglected like a rotting flower which was never meant to be visited when whole lot of other places flashing their most beautiful visage to attract visitors like me till one weekend I reservedly complied to forceful request of my friend to accompany him in touring Chicago.

Though adorning one of the most memorable skyline and one of the tallest structure in the world, I was skeptical about liking it altogether. It was never meant to have blog on it.Continuing above analogy of rotting flower, sometimes you need a different pair of glasses like UV spectrum used by some of the insects and birds to visualize the true nature of it ( Some birds and insects use UV spectrum to choose flower for visitation which is not visibly evident to us as our eyes evolved only to be useful in visible spectrum).

Visiting the Willis Tower (Formerly known as Sears Tower) and witnessing spectacular night vista of the Chicago from its 103rd floor glass boxes was just tipping my “interest measure” above 5 on the scale of 10 till I observed something which I shamefully ignorant of. Having donuts as pre-dinner energy food at roadside deli late evening, Chicago downtown looked bit familiar. Imitating sodium vapor lamp, lampposts were feverishly illuminating underway which was surrounded by buildings with metro tracks passing overhead. Not at much height but just looming there as ominous steel serpent ready to devour anything in the way; crisscrossing the city with “rattle” of passing tram periodically. I imagined drive under it (which was not possible at all considering my under-driving skills). It had that deja-vu moment but if I had not experienced it then it means it had to be from my active imagination fueled by movie scene. And if I remember it so soundly it means it has to be from The Dark Knight.

The movie I so adorned and in love of that I have seen it so many times that I left counting after counter reached to double figure. How could I be so ignorant about its shooting locations? Chicago was there on my “liking chart” almost approaching 10, just after that particular moment.

So we visited other places like Shedd aquarium, Navy Pier, had experienced beautiful Chicago skyline, tried to be creative at Cloud Gate structure at Millennium park, had Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza and also lost in countless “Diwali” like illumination of city itself at night from Willis Tower which is evident from photos herewith.

But still for me the moment which instilled the “that’s what I want” moment was the self-realization that city which I was visiting was no other than Gotham city itself.

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Navy Pier