Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Point To Ponder…

Here is something I often wonder…

Painting, sketching, drawing etc. are means by which people express themselves… it could be a representation of their thoughts or it could be a depiction of what their eyes see. Of course, at times art is symbolic but that isn’t what I am considering when I talk about what I do in this post. I am not considering abstract art either.

Artists for ever have depicted day to day scenarios and general scenery along with the more religious or ritualistic art. The artists of the Renaissance or even some of them earlier on were able to paint, sketch, draw and sculpt realistic images (with some artistic liberties, of course.) Some of the artists of today create hyper-realistic artwork… it is like looking at a photograph (only because it is a 2D image.) But when we go back to the ancient civilizations and not as far as cavemen… the art work though spectacular is very stylized and not realistic in anyway. In fact, the styling of the artwork is what mostly distinguishes them as belonging to a certain civilization. I am excluding cave art from this because well, the supplies and time were definitely limited for leisurely artwork what with the struggle for survival on a daily basis… and they weren't exactly civilized back in the day.

So, why aren’t there any realistic art from that ancient civilized age? Why is all artwork conforming to a panel like style which seems to be quite common across civilizations… there is a that lack of depth to the images, a lack of perception in its literal sense. If you were to sketch a scenery while looking at it most people, even kids, would have a tendency to create the illusion of depth by making far away things look smaller and the ones nearby larger because that is how our eyes perceive the scene. Well, unless you are a toddler who finds it difficult to wrap your head around the idea of depth your image wouldn’t consist of mostly all objects (or people) of the same size irrespective of their relative placement in the scene. Then why is that most ancient art looks like exceptionally talented toddlers created them?

Isn’t there a marked lack of perspective in these images? Albeit they are all exquisitely beautiful… I am just intrigued that there aren't many art works from that age which are less two dimensional.

Here are a few examples of various stylized depictions of scenes from around the ancient world… some like the Madhubani art is still in practice.

Madhubani art (India) - Image via Google Search

Detail of the Standard of Ur - Image via Google Search

Egyptian panel -  - Image via Google Search

Sometimes, I just get this weird feeling that ancient people saw only in 2D! :D

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Cuckoo’s Calling - Review

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I got my hands on The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith. To be honest, I wouldn't have bothered to pick it up if I hadn't known it was actually J. K. Rowling.

Did I like the book?  Hmmm… er… ok. It isn't bad… no, it is a decent read. But with all the hype around it I was expecting a detective novel that smashed conventional gumshoe accounts. Well, this is just mediocre fare. In my younger days I have read the Harry Potter Series and I know that Rowling can weave quite a tale. So, yes… I am a wee bit disappointed.

I won’t disclose much of the story as it is…you know… a mystery / detective novel, except that it is set in modern London and revolves around the death of a supermodel of mixed race. Her brother hires a private detective with an unusual name – Cormoran Strike, to look in to her death.

The characters in the novel, including our limping protagonist, are quite clichéd… some of their back-stories are unusual but that’s all there is for novelty. There isn't a feel of the city in it which helps you visualize the scenes… something is lacking despite London being a city with loads of charm and character. In fact, throughout the book what bothered me most was the odd feeling of unfinished characters, lacking a proper fleshing-out.

The book, in spite of its shortfalls is an interesting read and you’d want to read it at one go… cover to cover.
I hear Cormoran Strike is going to feature in more of her novels under the pen-name Robert Galbraith.

In the end, I would have to quote Shania Twain… That don’t impress me much!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Bright Memories…

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It’s Diwali and I am in Kuwait, where it isn't even a holiday. Well, it is Saturday and that ain't a holiday either.

In spite of that, the large Indian population in Kuwait does celebrate Diwali with as much grandeur as they can muster without being hauled off to the police station for noise and /or air pollution. The North Indian crowd is especially eager and the areas where there is a majority of them such as Salmiya see very brightly lit up and noisy celebrations. My apartment towers too have their own celebrations which I have never yet attended in all these years I have been here.

I do miss the celebrations in Bombay, especially in Anushaktinagar. The colony is a delightful place to be whatever the festival. Being a melting pot of varied cultures from within India, every festival has a multitude of flavours and Diwali is no exception. There is the south Indian Deepavali with its Deepavali lehyam, the rambunctious Punjabi & Gujarati celebrations, the extended Maharashtrian celebrations and so much more. And then there is the Diwali we kids celebrated… Noise and fireworks, louder the better, and loads and loads of it. As we grew older, we grew wiser and more concerned about the environment and so the disturbingly loud celebrations were toned down but nothing dampened our enthusiasm.

The days before Diwali, which was vacation time in schools, would be stormy with cleaning and shopping and running around for fixing the lighting and torans and getting last minute spare diyas and rangoli colours. Me being a Keralite did not have too many culinary preparations for the festival, but that did not stop me from planting myself in the neighbours’ kitchens, helping with the sweets and helping myself to the sweets. In spite of being a Keralite… I used to get new clothes for Diwali instead of Onam… because October to December was the festive season (vacation time) and also rained discounts.
In the late evenings, the fireworks would start a couple of days before Diwali… tiny bursts at first and then the bigger, brighter, louder and more sparkly ones would come out on the day of Lakshmi pooja. I am absolutely fearful of burns, but lighting a little cracker off the ladi while holding it in the hand and then throwing it in the air before it burst never seemed dangerous to me. We pulled all sorts of crazy stunts involving crackers and the more sober fireworks, when we escaped adult supervision, which wasn't that hard to do… anyone would have thought we were all pyromaniacs and arsonists in the making. Now that I look back, I know it was extremely dangerous and I would not recommend it to kids.

School gave way to college and then to the workplace. Diwali was all grown up now… it was more about sweets, decoration and healthy competitions and less of fireworks. At my workplace, we had 4 different studios that catered to game development for different geographical areas of the world… the festival was a time for some competing. We had inter-studio bay decoration and rangoli competitions, dance and traditional wear competitions and more. There was tons of fun to be had… and lots of festive hogging.

I look back with nostalgia to those days, even as I enjoy my new life. I think celebrating festivals is important, not just from a cultural point of view but on a personal level too. Even when you are down and out, the diya of Deepavali, the splash of colour of Holi, the reluctant garba / dandiya performance you are dragged to for Navratri, the carol singing of Christmas… or just all that yummy food… they are all enough to give you a few moments to smile, forget your troubles and live it up.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy, safe, brilliant Deepavali

May the flickers of a million diyas light up every corner of your heart and banish all shadows… and may it burst with joy like a sky filled with fireworks.

Device 6 – Game Review

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A few days back, I downloaded this game on the iPad – Device 6, by Simogo.

I am quite impressed by it. It is a game perfect for a tablet (or a phablet... wanting it to come out on Android for my Note 3.) The game is, in a nutshell, interactive fiction in a mostly literal form.

There are no gun fights or action on screen which requires you to be smushing your onscreen buttons. The flow of the game is like reading an engrossing thriller… except you actually reach the conclusion along with the character by working on the clues strewn around in the text of the novel, hidden in at times confusing, at times aiding sound bytes, and black and white images both still and moving which seem to be from the 30s or 40s.

The intro + credits montage at the beginning of the game is very British, very James Bond… and it is sad that it only played at the first opening of the game. I wouldn't mind it being available to be launched from the game by some discreet onscreen button. The game has to experienced with earphones or a headset... it increases the spookiness quotient a lot.

I don’t know if the game has any precedents, but to me it is a unique experience. The game is as fast as you allow it to be, with the text snaking around the screen, literally. You would end up rotating the screen at all sorts of angles to read it, sometimes holding it to a mirror, tapping at text or images which are actually buttons in disguise, solving cryptic clues written and many a time spoken or broadcast. There is an old world charm to it with a very pipe smoking detective vibe.

Screenshot 01

Screenshot 02

Screenshot 03

Screenshot 04

The central character from what I have played is Anna, a lady who loves her smokes, who has woken up in weird surroundings with no memory of how she got there and she has to work her way around what seems like a castle or a mansion or a very large house… perhaps Victorian.

The important part is that the player has to be observant as they read what is essentially a novel… words, numbers and dates or phrases may all be possible clues which you might need elsewhere in the game as you travel room to room exploring along with Anna.

I found the game exciting but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee.)

I have finished 3 chapters of the story and I don’t really know how many remain… but I am eager for more.

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