Please Help Me Win A Camera For My Birthday!


An Explosion In The Sky

I’ve been brave enough to enter a photography competition on Facebook. I’ve been doing well so far and I’m currently in second place. I’m not really a birthday person, but the contest ends on September 30th and the prize is a camera. As a budding photographer, I would love to win this prize. My birthday is on October 3rd as well, so it would be a killer present.

Unfortunately, I am not getting the votes I need to win the competition, so I need your help.

Please click here or the link below to go to my photo (the same one as above) and simply “LIKE” the photo. That’s it. It takes two seconds and a Facebook account. If you don’t have a Facebook account, then no worries. If you don’t have 2 seconds, then you need to stop and smell the roses once in awhile. Start by liking my photo 🙂

You don’t have to sign up for any group or newsletter and you don’t have to give out any information. You won’t be sent any messages or emails either. It’s a simple effortless gesture and I would truly appreciate it. While I can’t promise to share the prize with all those who vote, I can promise to keep taking great photos and sharing those with you 🙂 You can check out some of my work here.

A big thank you in advance to everyone who votes. I truly appreciate it. Also, please share, reblog, tweet or whatever and pass it on to your friends and networks.

Photo link: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151769074660208&set=a.10151769074220208.1073741832.92782695207&type=3&theater

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Waiting In Line For An iPhone


I have always had a particular disdain for people who choose to waste their days waiting in line for the next consumerist bauble that corporations throw at us. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never truly understood this practice. What does it achieve? Is it to claim bragging rights? Is it some sort of experience that everyone must go through to be accepted? What kind of jobs do these people have that allow them to take days off to sit in a line?

So many questions, and me without a single fuck to give.

Indie filmmaker Casey Neistat took it upon himself to delve further into this cabalist subset of the “iWantitnow” generation in the short film above. I’m all for having brand loyalty, but this is just sheer lunacy. People are ready to sleep in plastic bags on the sidewalk to protect their place in line. There are actually couples who are willing to go through this process together. It’s likely that they met in a line for something just as asinine, like a self-indulgent coffee. The facepalm moment comes towards the end where people think Casey is delusional for thinking they would settle for anything less than the “gold” iPhone. However, the biggest tool in the video has to be the girl who corrects anyone sacrilegiously calls it “gold” instead of “champagne” colored. She must be a pleasure to wake up next to.

I think the creepiest part of the video comes towards the end. There is a  ritualistic scene  of Apple employees and hopeful customers bowing, praising and cheering as if they just resurrected Steve Jobs with the blood of an  Android using virgin. The ending sums up the insanity perfectly, as does the song “Loser” playing the background. 

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Grand Theft Auto V Review!


Well, the biggest videogame launch of the year is finally upon us. Some fortunate folks have even received the game early, and they’re currently knee deep in divorce proceedings from neglecting their families. Other have gone back to their basements and abandoned any semblance of a social life. Yes, the game that makes reality look about as colorful as the contents of your belly button has arrived.

Rejoice! Grand Theft Auto 5 has landed!

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play the game for a while. I’m a devoted PC gamer, so I have to wait for my preferred version to be released (or even announced officially). I’m sure it will be worth it. For now, I have to get by with reviews and gameplay videos from around the net. So for your pleasure, I have linked to some of the latest reviews of the game below. The overall consensus is that Rockstar has done it again.

Kotaku:

“By the end of GTA V, such as there is an end to GTA V, the player will have stories to tell. One is the story of Michael, Franklin and Trevor and follows the main plotline. That one’s ok. The better story to tell will be the one about all the things that happened at the margins… in the streets and alleys, off the airfields and down in the valleys. Much of that was written by Rockstar, too, and some of it was simply enabled by the marvelous chemistry-set of their game world.”

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CVG:

“Part of Grand Theft Auto V’s magic is discovery, and enjoying the thrilling, unpredictable ride the story takes you on. Whether you’re in the thick of a bank heist or exploring the wilderness listening to Johnny Cash on the country station, it always feels tight, refined, and polished. The world is breathtaking, the script is funny, the music is superb (both the licensed tracks and the atmospheric original score), and, most of all, it’s really, really fun.”

Polygon:

“It’s fitting that the game arrives at the cusp of the next generation of consoles. Grand Theft Auto 5 is the closure of this generation, and the benchmark for the next. Here is a game caught occasionally for the worst, but overwhelmingly for the better, between the present and the future.”

Gamespot:

“GTA V is an imperfect yet astounding game that has great characters and an innovative and exciting narrative structure, even if the story it uses that structure to tell is hobbled at times by inconsistent character behavior, muddled political messages and rampant misogyny. It also raises the bar for open-world mission design in a big way and has one of the most beautiful, lively, diverse and stimulating worlds ever seen in a game.”

IGN:

“Grand Theft Auto V is not only a preposterously enjoyable video game, but also an intelligent and sharp-tongued satire of contemporary America. It represents a refinement of everything that GTA IV brought to the table five years ago. It’s technically more accomplished in every conceivable way, but it’s also tremendously ambitious in its own right. No other world in video games comes close to this in size or scope, and there is sharp intelligence behind its sense of humour and gift for mayhem. It tells a compelling, unpredictable, and provocative story without ever letting it get in the way of your own self-directed adventures through San Andreas.

It is one of the very best video games ever made.”

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OFFICIAL: Voyager 1 Has Left The Solar System!


Stop the presses!

Back in March, I posted a blog entry announcing that Voyager 1 was on the precipice of exiting our beloved solar system. Well, this past week scientists at NASA (gotta love those eggheads) made it official.

Voyager 1 has officially become the first man made object to escape the clutches of the solar system.

It only took the little spacecraft that could 36 years to cover the 12 billion mile- long journey. It’s sibling, Voyager 2, is 2 billion miles behind it. Moreover, the entire mission in 1977 cost $250 million. If we account for inflation, that is approximately $965 million today. If you ask me, that’s some seriously good value for money. It’s certainly better than the millions we spend on bombs that don’t provide any discernible value to humanity. These are the kinds of milestones which are truly inspirational and worth celebrating.

Here is how scientists, after much back and forth, figured out that Voyager 1 had boldly gone where no man-made object had gone before:

Here’s an image depicting the general path of Voyager 1:

Artist's concept of Voyager's distances

Here is something even more exciting. This is what interstellar space sounds like:

I don’t know about you, but I was expecting a lot more “pew pew pew!”. Still, it is fascinating. Just know that after you are long dead, Voyager 1 will continue to explore the cosmos as our emissary. It is currently headed for another star, which will take it 40,000 years. Of course, by then Voyager 1 will have perished and will be a floating beacon for other galactic civilizations.

I imagine that it’s message will be simple: We are here, and you are not alone.

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The Demographics of Rape


Yesterday , The Guardian published an absolutely fantastic article on the Indian rape case that enraptured an entire nation last December. In short, a group of men savagely raped a young woman on a bus and then proceeded to mutilate her with iron rods. The sordid affair didn’t end there. She was then dumped naked on the side of the road with nobody willing to offer any help. After a hard fought and heart rending battle for life in the hospital, she succumbed to her injuries.

As someone who is of Indian ethnicity, I have no particular affinity for India or any other country. I believe that our birth nationalities, much like the religions we are unfortunately born into, are a product of cosmic dice rolls. From there, we find our own way. However, social issues, such as the one highlighted by this despicable inhumane crime, interest me greatly because they speak of existence and the human condition that are so varied all over the world. More importantly, it is a way to glimpse a different culture and learn more about aspects of life we sometimes take for granted. As a humanist, I find all of these to be enlightening and edifying as they teach us more about ourselves, the world and the values that we  hold dear.

The Guardian article is an in depth look at a social and economic culture that very few understand.  Millions of people in India struggle to make ends meet, and the lack of opportunities can lead to these people making terrible life decisions.  For the most part, it is a patriarchal society outlined by corruption, poverty, caste systems and poor healthcare and education. This isn’t true for every Indian, but it is for a significant majority. This is a country vying for superpower status that has left millions of its citizens behind.

Here are some excerpts from the article as it maps the chain of events that led to this horrible crime:  

On the background of the two brothers Ram & Mukesh involved in the rape:

“But if life in the city was better than the brutal poverty of the village, the improvement was only marginal. After a decade, their father and mother returned to Karauli and the brothers stayed on in a one-room brick home, brutally hot in the heat of the summer, freezing in winter. Ram, a slim, dark, small man, married a woman with three children by another man. She died of cancer shortly afterwards without bearing him a child of his own. After her death, he started drinking heavily and fighting. When he drove his bus into a lorry, he damaged an arm permanently. “

On their behavior and image:

“Though they left local girls alone, the Singh brothers were known among their neighbours for drunkenness, petty crime and occasional, unpredictable violence. The younger brother, Mukesh, was personable, if impressionable, according to teenagers in the neighbourhood. “He was fine on his own but different when he was with his brother,” one said, speaking a few days after the incident that would make the pair, if only for a short time, globally infamous.”

“…in the vast northern state of Uttar Pradesh which has 180 million inhabitants and socio-economic indicators often worse than those in sub-Saharan Africa. As in rural Rajasthan, where the Singh brothers came from, women in the countryside of Uttar Pradesh suffer systematic sexual harassment and often violence. Rape is common and gang rape frequent. Victims are habitually blamed for supposedly enticing their attackers. Many are forced to marry their assailants; others kill themselves rather than live with the social stigma of being “dishonoured”. Police rarely register a complaint, let alone investigate.”

On how the men were representative of Indian society:

“The four men were thus all representative of a substantial element of contemporary Indian society. (The median age in India is 25, with two-thirds of the 1.2 billion population under 35.) They were semi-skilled and poorly educated, like so many other products of the country’s failing education systems. They were migrants from the country to the town – four of the millions of individuals who over recent decades have converted an almost entirely rural country into an increasingly urbanised one. They were unmarried in a part of India where men outnumber women and gender imbalances are worsening. They were drinking in a city known for high levels of alcohol abuse. There was nothing very extraordinary about them. Yet within hours they would commit acts that would prompt outrage across the planet.”

On the similarities between the victim and the perpetrators:

“One of the most striking elements of the Delhi gang-rape case is the similarity in the backgrounds of the victim and of her killers. The family of “J” – it is illegal under Indian law to name a rape victim – were, like those of her assailants, from close to the bottom of India’s still tenacious caste hierarchy.”

On the victim’s life ambitions:

“She had wanted to be a doctor, ideally a neurosurgeon, but opted instead for the more modest, and more affordable, ambition of physiotherapist and found a college in the northern city of Dehradun where she could qualify after a four-year course. To raise the 40,000-rupee annual fee, her father sold part of his land in his village and mortgaged the rest. To cover living expenses – a similar sum – J found a job in a call centre in the city.”

On the rape itself:

“Ram Singh first raped her, the girl kept shouting, and one by one all of us [raped her] and [Ram Singh] and the rest of us bit her body.” Medical reports reveal bite marks were found on the woman’s breasts, arms and genitals. J fought back, biting and scratching but the petite young woman had little chance…We tried to push our [penises] into her mouth. We also tried to [sodomise] her,” the juvenile later told police. His statement, corroborated by the account given by the victim to medical staff, does not mention the assault with the iron bar the woman described. Her medical examination – and the retrieval of two blood-stained rods in the bus – confirm that it was penetration by this that caused massive damage to her genitals, uterus and intestines…”The girl was shrieking and shouting so much. Ram Singh put his hand inside her and pulled out flesh. The girl lost consciousness and started bleeding,” the juvenile told police. Her friend later described how, naked and badly injured himself, he heard the men talking. One said that he thought “she was dead”. Another, possibly Thakur, suggested throwing them out of the bus.”

I’ll stop there. You can read the entire article, by Jason Burke, here. I strongly recommend it because it is eye opening and shocking. The good news is that these men have been caught. One of them, Ram Singh, hung himself in his jail cell, deservingly so I might add.  The others have been given life sentences, but the prosecution is pushing for the death penalty. The youngest rapist was given 3 years in juvenile detention. This last part is something that still irks me as a failure of the Indian judicial system. It was a moment for them to really step socially by making these animals pay dearly for what they did. Would you believe that their lawyer is going to appeal the verdict and claims they are innocent and part of a police conspiracy? Fucking disgraceful.

I would like to think that this will change things for women in that country. I highly doubt it as crimes against women continue to make the news. The victim’s family has been provided compensation by the government, but that does next to nothing to address the greater social instabilities and economic discrepancies that continue to percolate and torment the country.

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You Are Being Watched…


Could this game have come at a more appropriate time? If you follow the news, then you will undoubtedly have heard of the whole Edward SNowden vs. NSA scandal where they were revealed to have been “spying” on their own citizens. Placing my personal opinions on the topic aside (i.e. you ave to be naive to think this is some revelation!), I would like to introduce the following game: Watch Dogs.

The game was announced in 2012, but I’m just getting around to writing about it. I try not to get hyped up about games years before they are released. However, Watch Dogs is out on November 19, 2013 and looks bloody amazing.

The plot of the game centers around information warfare and  the interconnectedness of data and technology. It boasts a sprawling alternate reality Chicago complete with espionage,  conspiracy,  hackers, a supercomputer and the requisite antihero of dubious morals. it raise questions of power, corruption and anonymity. In other words, this is Person of Interest: The Game.

I have to say I am excited about the game and it looks to be highly original. Ubisoft usually has strong stories attached to their games, and I hope that this is no exception. From the gameplay videos (above), you can see that there is a lot to do, such as stealing cars, odd missions and hacking. Having said that, I just hope it doesn’t boil down to cheap and tedious mechanics which betray a lack of imagination. For example, in one of the gameplay videos I watched, the hero (Aiden Pierce) has to infiltrate a local security grid before he can gain access to all the technology (phones, traffic signals) within that locale.  This is because it is all connected to the CtOS supercomputer. This is similar to the uninspiring gameplay of Far Cry 3 and Assassin’s Creed where you had to climb towers to “reveal” the area to the player. I really hated that and it drew me out of those games, so I hope this game is more than just that.

The game is out on November 19th in North America for all major platforms from all major games retailers. Pre-Order here.

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