Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Story This Year...

When I last wrote here, I had teeth, I was healthy, didn’t have mold growing on my bed and it was nice and sunny in Kodi and my father was still alive…

That was more than a couple of months ago.

As 2012 comes to a close, I reflect on the year.  It was certainly a strange one, full of changes, false promises, and forlorn hopes and interesting people. 

The year started off well enough.  I met one of the most wonderful people I know in January with whom I started a budding friendship.  Today she is one of my closest confidants and a pillar of support when I need it.  In February and March I started looking for teaching opportunities in India and I was getting very positive feedback and in April I finally chose this job here at KIS.  In the meantime, Delhi was great; I made some great friends, ate great food and spent many warm evenings on balconies, drinking wine and contemplating what future awaited me.  I was also living on a Munirka DDA rooftop with an old friend and his mother.

In May, there was a wonderful trip to Dharamsala with old and new friends which ended with a destroyed hard drive and the news of my father’s hospitalization.  I quit ICF after four wonderful years, with melancholy in my heart.  I said goodbye to good friends and spent my last couple of weeks, just staring into space on my balcony.  It was time to say goodbye to familiarity… yet again.  The first of June, as I left Delhi, was particularly a difficult day. I felt as if my stomach and spleen had been ripped out so my heart could fall into that cavity… I came back to Kolkata.

June in Kolkata was perhaps one of the lowest points in the year.  Dad and I constantly argued about everything.  We were due to shift into a smaller flat we had bought, but he refused to move.  Everything that I did or said was wrong and I fell into a severe pit of inconsolability.  Even my friends who came to visit were treated with disdain.  I don’t know what caused this change in personality, but instead of dealing with it with patience I dealt with it with anger and hate.  Suddenly all the Zen habits I had cultivated over the years kicked me in the groin and left me writhing in the ground… I could not wait to get out of Kolkata and head to Kodi to start anew.

Coming into Kodi was a novel experience.  Everything was new.  I knew no one, and no one knew me.  I immersed myself into the place.  I tried to get caught up in my life at KIS, but at every instance there was a nagging feeling in my bones.  Every evening when I sat in my cottage by the fire, I was reminded of a certain voices, the sound of an echoing laugh, and the sense of a familiar touch… and I would end up feeling melancholic and spend the dusk hours contemplating the world in a daze.  I spent several hours writing poetry about certain memories and it would make me smile, but all the while, what I really longed for was to run away from my responsibilities.  Not to mention, constant issues with the water, the mold, the dampness, and the utter destruction of both my LP players made me feel cursed. 

The days rolled by… there were camping trips and long hikes, and even a herpetology and nature camp, but still I felt imprisoned in my own mind.  Continuing my spate of poor luck, I also chipped and broke my three front teeth in a hiking accident – the healing and capping process for that was quite painful.  I was also attacked by a dog and suffered severe allergies from the mold in the house.  In mid-September, dad started complaining of his health again, but I didn’t pay much attention to it.  He kept urging me to quit my job and just come home and I thought it was a ploy to get me back to Kolkata.  I ignored it.

Then in early November, I got a call saying my dad is severely ill and that I should come back.  I made emergency preparations and rushed back home… three days later dad passed away of a heart attack in the hospital.  We didn’t get to speak before he died.  When we took him to the cremation grounds, he was just a shriveled up body – a far cry from his imposing aura that he carried around with him all his life.  Watching dad burn, for the first time in my life I truly felt alone and mortal.  There was a strange and unfathomable emptiness.  True, relatives and friends came out of the woodwork when dad died… but in the end I was alone.  I did my penance.  Thirteen days of wearing a dhoti and a small piece of cloth, sleeping on the floor, eating boiled food, shaving my head and doing the last rites. I did it all like a machine.  Even now it hasn’t sunk in that there is no longer anyone looking over my shoulder.  Perhaps it will when I am alone in my cottage in Kodi…

I have now made the move to the new apartment.  I am in the process of furnishing it and dealing with the enormous amount of paperwork that goes with the aftermath of death.  I suppose even dead men must pay taxes.  There is a lot of work to be done, and some moments, as of right now, I feel overwhelmed and lost.  I have a goal to work towards.  There are things I need to and want to do and I will do them.  Not just for me, but for the people I love and care about.  All I ask for is a little patience.

I wonder what tales 2013 will bring.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

End of the Cycle...

It’s the end of the third cycle.  There are no weeks here at KIS… they follow a system of a six day cycle.  It’s horribly confusing at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense.  I’m not even going to attempt and explain it, but suffice to say that the schedule of classes shifts every week as per the 6 day cycle.  If there is a holiday, that day’s classes will be held the next day and so on.

I’ll say this.  Teaching is really hard work.  I like the engaging aspect of it.  I love sharing all the esoteric junk in my head with the students and tie in all my various experiences to seemingly silly ideas.  It’s the repetition and test paper prep that I’m beginning to dislike.  Repetition, because there are always students who miss a class because they are ill or had to go for football, who want a catch up one-on-one class.  I have a new found admiration for teachers.  Kids can be infuriating, you have to talk when all you want to do is shut-up and close your eyes. 

Sometimes I forget that my students are 15, 16, and 17 and expect too much from them, but at least I was not expecting someone to say “Lenin” when I asked who started the First Gulf War or give “Air tax” as an answer for government taxes.  I’ve taken it upon myself to make my class more than just economics.  Yesterday, we talked about the atom bomb, the Korean War, definition of a second, CIA and the paintings of Jackson Pollock, 9/11, the economics of politics and why e2πi = 1.

So at final count I have 88 students in the 11th grade for economics and 17 students as my advisees or in my tutorial group.  The kids range from the bright and studious, to the suck ups, to the smart and lazy and the downright delinquents.  Basically every classroom you’ve ever experienced in the world, it’s just strange being on the other side of the fence and imagining which one I was. 

I’m also the new co-advisor for the National Honor Society, but, as the name suggests, these kids are so good that I usually don’t have to lift a finger.  I was disappointed that there is no school newspaper or a debating club at KIS, so I’ve started a debate and speech club… let’s see how it goes.

Apart from the school work, which eats up a lot of my time, I’m still enjoying hiking and poker on the weekends, and table tennis in the evenings with the other staff members.
Kodi is a beautiful place, and teaching is great, especially for a self-advertising braggart like me who loves a captive audience… but there is still something missing.  A panging loneliness in the quiet and gloom of an old mountain cottage… even if there is a roaring fire to warm me.  Can’t put my finger on it...

And oh yeah, I saw my first herd of bison, about fifteen strong, last week a little ways from my house...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Till Classes...

So a week has passed since I arrived at Kodi.

Classes are going to start tomorrow.  I'm both anxious and excited.  The week has been interesting to say the least.  I've met a flurry of new faces - teachers, administrative staff, support staff, new students, old students, parents.  I remember perhaps 10% of the names...

Some things have been a little annoying.  I'll get the complaining out of the way first.  I found two snakes sunbathing on my driveway... later I realized they were dead, but still.  Not the biggest fan of snakes.  My bathroom roof has a small leak - classic problem with old houses!  My kitchen light doesn't work, so I've been cooking by candlelight whenever I crave Maggi in the evenings.  And worst of all my Aquaguard water filter is spilling out yellow water.  That needs replacing.  Maintenance, I've learnt, is the most important department here at Kodi and I'm trying to make friends with most of the people there.

Ok complaints over.

Oh and, I am yet to see a ruddy bison that I've been hearing so much about!  The new French teacher had a herd in his front yard, and I had two dead snakes!

Ok, really, complaints over...

I have worked out a great dinner system though.  My neighbor, who is an excellent cook has decided to cook for me and another neighbor dinner everyday as long as we contribute to supplies and company.  We have had some great meals so far...

The week's also been a beehive of activity.  Preparing lesson plans.  Learning how to make lesson plans.  Learning how to use the hi-fi software to make the lesson plans.  Filling out paperwork, shopping for the house, more orientation work, learning where stuff is on campus, meeting more new people, more orientation activities... I am a bit exhausted.  And classes haven't even started yet.  I go to bed with a sigh.

Then I wake up in the morning to a bright sunshine, and the mist rolls onto campus at about noon, and all is sublime.  Sometimes, when I need a break, I stand by the window of my departmental office with a cup of coffee and watch as the mist covers the lake.  It is then that I wish that the people I love could be here with me to see this in silence...

Next update after the first week of classes!

Monday, July 09, 2012

Early Morning Impressions…

(Photos on Facebook… not uploading them here too)
Over the last couple of days I’ve explored tiny sections of Kodi.  I went for a walk around the lake which is deceptively large.  Covering the circumference of the lake takes about an hour or so and along the way there are little benches and information about the various trees growing around the lake.  There are always random young tourists taking photos in abandoned boat houses, and strangely a lot of people on tandem bikes.  I got caught under a tree with a stray dog in a massive downpour and took the time to pen some thoughts, the result of which is the previous post.
The lake is a bit more commercial than I would like, particularly in the afternoons.  There are a dime a dozen kitsch shops and boating and other random fairground stuff around the Eastern side of the lake.  The western side of the lake is more remote and desolate and surrounded by orchard estates and perfect for a lazy afternoon.  I am, however, yet to find a suitable location for my hammock.
I woke up the second morning to the sound of namaz.  Kodi, I learnt, is home to an equal presence of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian populace.  It’s like a peaceful Jerusalem.  I was walking around the streets and saw random halal biriyani joints next to churches selling the most massive jackfruits I have ever seen (6Kg+). 
But perhaps the most surprising thing about Kodi so far is the sheer number of “Eucalyptus Oil, Organic Spices, and Homemade Chocolate” stores there are, all apparently sanctioned by the TN government.  I am yet to try one of these places though.  Also on the list is the Kodi Cheese Shop which is supposed to have really good locally made soft cheeses and parmesan.
I was invited to dinner at Ketaki’s home, who is part of the HR team here, along with Amit Roy, my neighbor from Bombay, and Katrina, and Eric (also from Minnesota), who teaches World History and TOK.  Ketaki and her husband, Josh recently moved here with their two sons Kartik and Noah from Maryland, and we had a lot to talk about NOVA.  Ketaki, who is half Bengali, made payas for us all and it was great.
My shipment also finally arrived, albeit fairly damaged.  A lens on my telescope broke, and so did my portable LP Players turnstile, and some crockery.  I’m most disappointed about my LP player, but luckily I have two, though the second one is not nearly as good on sound.
I have also started eating at various places around Kodi.  Some have been less than impressive, some quite good.  I’ll cover food in Kodi in the next installment.

Test the Water

These days,
Rain comes hurtling
In my general direction,
Like arrows from a cruel bow.
I fend them as best
As I possibly can, but
When you join the quiver,
I am crestfallen.
My courage wanes
And tears choke me.

But my love triumphs.
For I know:

If you are the rain,
Then I am the lake.
You make me who I am,
You are a part of me.
Whether you are
Warm and gentle,
Or harsh and heavy,
Or sleet and hail,
My body will always
Embrace you as you fall.
For without you,
I would not be me.

And together,
We are sublime.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Getting Here...

Day 1
I left for Kodaikanal from Calcutta on the 6th of July with a very strange feeling in my gut – a combination of excitement, apprehension, and the tension of leaving behind everything and heading towards a new land and a new lifestyle.
The flight to Chennai was rather unremarkable, except for the elaborately plump young Bengali couple sitting next to me.  The wife emasculated her husband all through the trip while elbowing me in the stomach while I was clutching my pillow and trying to catch up on some sleep.
Chennai to Madurai was also eventless except that my iPhone charger blew up at the Madras airport and I flew in a propeller-Vayadoot plane.  I had never been in one before so I kept staring at the engines from the window throughout the flight.  Yes, I’m very easily fascinated.
At oven hot Madurai ours was the only plane at the airport!  Mr. Rajni Siva picked me up in an Indica taxi and we were on our way to Kodi.  The 137 km drive takes about 3 hours with a couple of breaks in between and Mr. Siva happily taught me some Tamil phrases and basic counting along the way while telling me about his family, and about the local flora.  As we hit the Palini hills, the climate suddenly chilled and a light mist descended around the peaks. 
It was about 8 in the evening when we pulled into the Main Gate of Kodaikanal International School where Katrnina Derrick, the drama teacher from Wisconsin was waiting for us to show me my new home.  KIS is spread across Kodaikanal with multiple campuses and staff housing.  Mine turned out to be a little cottage in the middle school campus called Hiawatha House about a five minute walk from the lake.  My neighbor, Amit, who I will be meeting tomorrow at a dinner with our hosts, lives in a cottage called Minihaha. 
Dropping my stuff off, I went out for a little tour of the area with Katrina and her husband Naveen who is a free-lance nature preservationist and motivational speaker from Mt. Abu in Rajasthan.  He told me what he really missed here in Kodi is his old Enfield motorbike and we talked about Motorcycle Baba and Rajasthan.  We finished the evening with a dinner of dal-bati at a new Rajasthani family run place called Aby’s Café.
Back in my really large (2 and a half bedroom) and tastefully furnished cottage, it was really chilly and slightly damp, as is common with these hillside cottages, so I started a small fire in my fireside boiler and went through all the introductory paperwork that HR had left for me at the cottage – which included Maggie, coffee, biscuits, oatmeal, and a carton of Slim Milk.  There is a eucalyptus oil distillery close to my cottage, so leaving the windows open allows the minty smell of eucalyptus to waft into the room.
I went to bed after making a few calls, wrapped in the linen and thin blankets the school had provided but couldn’t sleep.  I was hit with a sense of longing for familiarity and people I love who I’ve left behind.  I wanted to write about it, but it was too cold to think really, and I got too lazy to go stoke the fire…
So here I am now, seven thousand feet up in the Palini hills, en-route to becoming a lonely high school economics teacher.   Who would have thought…

Friday, July 06, 2012

Breath and Fog

As I rest my warm cheek
On the cool pillow,
I imagine it is your bosom.
I trace my fingers and
Imagine it is your arm,
Goose bumped by the cold
And my breath on your ears.
You let out a soft groan
As you squirm and shift
And I bury my face deeper,
Inhaling deeply your scent.
I kiss you and you sleepily
Push my face away
Crooning my name.
Then your hazel eyes open
And you stare at me mysteriously;
And I wonder
How can I not help but
Be in love with you?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Favorite Place

Of your mind, your face,
Your panache, your grace,
The crook of your neck
Is my favorite space.
It tastes so true
Striking the root of my base,
That when you’re gone, I feel,
Damn, I really miss that place…

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

There’s the great pita,
There’s the great white,
One you eat,
The other eats you,
If you haven’t figured that out,
You’re not too bright.

Friday, June 22, 2012


In the gentle breeze
And a soft drizzle,
With smooth polka sunlight
Streaming through the foliage,
You and I,
In a red cocoon,
Entangled in an embrace,
An approving twang rang
As our lips touched.
Thoughts and questions?
What need have we for these?
All is bliss, all is bliss.

Peylooshe [1]

It was the penultimate day,
The day before the end,
When we were all,
Destined to cease.

I caught your eye,
And we were lost
In a cascade
Of hair and arms and backs;
In the joy of being

Sounds drowned
People stood still.
We lived a lifetime
Between heartbeats

In that moment.
Freedom didn’t
Come at a price
You waited for me
In the valley of Death
And I gladly rode to my doom
Into your arms.

The world exploded
Around us
But Mother held us in the
Palm of her hands
The world ended,
But we were quite calm
For together
There is no fear,
Just the warmth of a

[1] Peylooshe is defined as a state of being in a permanent, warm, comforting, and loving embrace.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My room 
Is completely dark at noon,
Massive storm clouds
In the horizon loom.

Are they what
My mind has wrought?
Controlling the weather?
I think not.

For what reason should I
Want my sun be blot?

The earthy smell
Of the rain.
Washes away a
Very human pain.

Pitter, patter
Pitter, patter
All your shackles,
I’ve come to shatter.

The rain you see
Is really me,
It’s only my arms,
That will set you free.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The Gloom of the TV

In a dark, empty room
There is only
The gloom of the TV.
It is late,
But I write because
Sleep escapes me.

A happy memory and a
Half-filled thought,
Reminds me how
Your face would look,
Bathed in,
The gloom of the TV.

And if you heard me
Say these words,
Your eyebrows would arch,
And your lips curl,
I would melt,
And all would be right.

By The Horns

See me,
Let me see you,
Make the world
In our heads real.

For the time we
Won't have tomorrow,
Make today,

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The City Burnt Brightly

Raging towers of inferno
Swirled in an ashen night sky.
Trees looked angry as smoke
Bellowed from their fiery crowns.
Buildings crumbled,
Engulfed in columns of fire.
The billowing ash made the moon
Seem cold, blue, and distant.
Scorched earth and hot sand
Burnt the naked soles of my feet.

The city burnt brightly behind me
As I waited for you at the pier.

Panic swept across
The ordinarily serene harbor.
People ran frantically.
Men and women and children
Families, friends, and lovers
Dashed to the nearest boats
To rescue their
Hopes, dreams, and fantasies.

I waited for you at the pier
With nothing else,
But the memories of us together.

As the boats began to fill,
Mad men threw themselves
Into the murky toxic waters
To swim for the distant shore
I watched in wonder and
Lamented their fall, and

I stood there waiting at the pier,
Wondering where you are.

What lengths we go to escape?
Fight the choking hand
Of Fate and Destiny we might.
But there is no relief
From this mortal coil
If you are not here tonight.

All the ships had sailed away
And I still waited for you at the pier

I stood there alone
As the city burned brightly behind me.
You never came,
But I still waited for you at the pier
Hoping you’ll rescue me,
As the flames danced in closer.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Fool's Voyage

I will sail my ship
Against the raging sea.
I will steer between
Scylla and Charybdis,
Battle one-eyed demons
And challenge night terrors.
I will fight sea monsters
And seductive sea nymphs.
I will dance with danger
And risk against my instincts.
All to come back to you;
So I can drown,
In your harbor.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Come With Your Sorrows

Come with your sorrows.
Your back hunched
Bearing the weight of this
Dire and wicked world.

Come with your pain.
A contorted face,
So small, dry, and weak,
Tired of the masks you wear.

Come with your jaleb.
A soft ringing laugh
That echoes around,
Long after you purse your lips.

Come as Yourself.
With a pocket of dreams,
And all your misgivings.
I will still be here, always.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

I will squeeze your hand
When you are scared.

You will feel my touch
Even when I am not there.

I will stand beside you
But cast no shadow.

Don't be afraid of the dark
I will be your Jesus.

I ask for nothing in return
But your love...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

DOSCO Class of '03 Fallen Comrades List

As our 10 year reunion date approaches, I was just putting together a list of my fellow Class of 2003 DOSCOs who are now married.  This list includes DOSCOs who left after A-form as well; so all in all about 80 odd people.  Not in chronological order:

1. Angad Singh Gand
2. Shashi Vaish
3. Ravinder Brar
4. Kunj Behari Maheshwari
5. Abhimanyu Singhi
6. Bishen Singh Arora
7. Ankit Khaitan
8. Abhenav Khettry
9. Jatinder Pal Bhattal
10. Abhishek Singh
11. Yeaffer Ahmed
12. Kaushlendra Singh
13. Akhil Jain
14. Ruchika Sabrewal

Did I miss anyone?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Comic Quotient 2012!

So Delhi hosted the 2nd Comic Con this weekend.  Among other things, my friend Aniruddho Chakraborty launched his new comic book company: Chariot Comics with three titles: V.R.I.C.A., Damned, and Eklavya: Godslayer.  Do check them out.

We were going to host the Comics Quotient Quiz too, but due to "technical difficulties" we did not, so I thought I would just post all the questions here.  Be warned this is some cold, hard, geeky stuff... not for the comically causal ones. 

I'll put the answers in the comments section in a week or so.


1. The Wachowski Brothers claimed that a Masumane Shirow manga - which was also made into a movie and an anime series, was responsible for the visual aspect of The Matrix.  Name the manga series.

2. Which graphic novel is the only comic book ever to win the Hugo Award for Science Fiction?

3. Sherlock Holmes lives in 221B Baker Street, in the English translation, where does Tintin live before he moves to Marlinspike Hall?

4. In 1989, the creator of Lucky Luke, Morris, won an award from the World Health Organization.  Why?

5. William Moulton Marston, famous as the creator of Wonder Woman, is also famous for inventing a well known instrument which was used to question Nazi POWs in WW2.  What was this device?

6. Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, The Daily Planet, and Kryptonite all appeared in a particular format before they became regulars in the Superman comic books.  What format are we talking about?

7. In the 1940s on the Superman radio show, a journalist called Stetson Kennedy helped Superman use "Truth, Justice and the American Way" to fight a real world menace in the US.  The Radio show put the bad guys on the same moral plane as Lex Luthor and the Nazis.  Who did Superman fight?

8. In 1983, Judge Jack Love of New Mexico was inspired by a 70s Spider-Man comic strip where Kingpin was tracking Spidey's movements via an electronic bracelet.  What gadget did this inspiration lead to?

9. Masashi Kishimoto, an award winning manga-ka became the 9th highest taxed individual in Japan back in 2006.  Name his most famous creation.

10. In 1981, DC and Marvel together trademarked a much used phrase in the world of comic books.  What phrase is this?

11. In 1994, in X-Men Unlimited #4, which former member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants was revealed to be Nightcrawler's mother?

12. In 1979, Vince McMohan and Marvel comics struck a sort of a deal linking two of their respective superstars.  What kind of a deal was this?

13. Kevin Smith in his acclaimed run on the Daredevil title killed off a major Spiderman villain without notifying the Spiderman editors who were using the same villain in their next Spiderman title.  Who was this villain?

14. In the 1978 cartoon adaptation of The Fantastic Four, the character of The Human Torch was mysteriously replaced by a robot.  What was the robot's name?  Bonus point for the full name.  More points if you can tell me why the Human Torch did not feature in the TV show.

15. Joe Carter created the Marvel character The Human Torch, but is much more famous for creating another character for DC, under a different name.  What character and what name?

16. Along with Jack Kirby, and Carl Barks, who was the third inaugural inductee of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame?

17. The Joker made his first appearance in Batman#1 in 1940; which is the first issue of Batman in which the Joker dies?

18. The Hulk's alter-ego's name started as Bruce Banner, but mysteriously changed to Bob Banner a few months later due to Stan Lee's forgetfulness.  How did Stan Lee bridge this discrepancy?

19. In Amazing Spider-man #573, writer Mark Waid and artist Patrick Olliffe re-created the iconic Amazing Fantasy#15 cover (where Spiderman makes his first cover appearance); with a television funny man rescuing Spider-man.  Who is this famous television funny man?

20. Name the five male Green Lanterns in order of appearance.

21. What is the real name of Lee Falk's quintessential purple clad hero - the 21st Phantom?

22. What is the name of the Archie gang's hometown?

23. In the standard cannon name the three people who have donned the Robin cape.

24. Name the seven original members of the Justice League of America.

25. In Pran's Chacha Chowdhury comics, when Sabu gets angry, what natural phenomenon occurs somewhere?

26. Which Raj Comics character was taught martial arts by Haldi Khan, boxing by Dhania Khan, and marksmanship by Kalimirchi Khan?

27. Which superhero has an Egyptian snake called Saudangi living inside his body?

28. I am the son of trapeze artists Shyam and Radha.  I was raised under the tutelage of the different artists of Jupiter Circus.  I have the ability to speak to animals and sea creatures.  Who am I?

29. Connect the following: the movie The Matrix, Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, the newspaper comic strip Little Nemo, and the video game Resident Evil: Dead Aim

30. I was born in 1957 to an Irish Catholic family in Maryland.  My formative years in Hell's Kitchen, New York, influenced my 80s work on Daredevil.  My lesser known works include Ronin and Holy Terror.  I have won six Eisner Awards, four Kirbys, and three Harveys.  I have also made cameo appearances in Robocop, The Spirit, and Daredevil.  Who am I?

31. Todd McFarlane wrote and drew Spiderman#1 in 1990 which went on to become one of the largest selling comic books of all-time.  After a tiff with Marvel, he started his own publishing company and introduced a new character.  The debut comic sold over 1.7 million issues and spawned a feature film and an HBO TV series.  Name the character.

32. His first drawing was published in Ripley's Believe it or Not in 1947.  His first strip was called "Li'l Kids".  His primary character was based on himself, but he borrowed the name from a friend.  Another one of his main characters is the mascot of a major insurance firm.  Who and which comic strip?

33. The 2005 Keanu Reeves movie "Constantine" is based on which Brian Azzarello Vertigo Comics series?

34. In which Eisner and Harvey award winning comic book would you find The Dog, The Bastard, The Wolf, The Point Man, The Rain, The Monster, and The Saint?

35. Which Nordic Marvel character first made his appearance in Journey into Mystery#83 as disabled medical student Donald Blake?

36. What distinction does the comic strip character "The Yellow Kid" created by Richard Outcault hold in the history of comic books?

37. Which comic strip holds the Guinness Book of World Record for being the world's most syndicated comic strip?

38. This series of comics was created by Anant Pai and published by India Book House.  In 2007, the imprint and all its titles were acquired by ACK Media which is digitizing the entire collection.  Which well known imprint are we talking about?

39. The last unfinished story had a plot involving the world of modern art, and the story ends as the main protagonist is about to be killed, encased in Perspex, and about to be presented as a work of art.  Unfortunately, the creator died on the 3rd of March 1983, leaving the comic unfinished and the protagonist's fate unknown.  Name the character and the comic.

40. In Marvel's Uncanny X-Men #390 who dies of the Legacy virus?

41. What is J'onn J'ozz, the Martian Manhunter's one weakness?

42. Name the 7 original members of the West Coast Avengers.

43. In the Spider-Girl comics, why did Spiderman give up being Spiderman?

44. Matt Fraction, the Eisner award winning writer of The Immortal Iron Fist and Uncanny X-Men, once took out a restraining order on fellow Eisner award winning writer Ed Brubaker.  Can you tell me why?

45. In DC Comics, Clark Kent has had 3 loves in his life.  Name them.  Hint: they all start with the letter "L".

46. In DC Comics World's Finest #258 what is the Kryptonian Curse and what does it do?

47. In 1991, Jim Lee and Chris Claremont released a spin-off series starting with X-Men#1 which holds the Guinness Book of World Record for what particular distinction?

48. In 1992, Jim Lee drew and co-wrote a new series for Image Comics called WildC.A.T.s.  What does the acronym C.A.T stand for?

49.  In DC's Adventure Comics "Dial 'H' for Hero", what was unique about the Heroes Chris and Vicki turned into?

50. Jamie Hewlett created the cyberpunk comic book called "Tank Girl" in the 1980s, but he is more famous for another cartoon creation that he came up with Blur front man Damon Albarn - a creation that would take the music world by storm.  What was this creation?

51. In the Calvin and Hobbes comics, what space faring persona does Calvin take on when he is day dreaming?  Extra point if you can also tell me what the name of the alien species he is usually fighting in these dreams.

52. Name the comic book that features a 3-eyed cat, cancer-free cigarettes, and a character who likes to say "I don't give two tugs of a dead dog's dick".

53. Name the fishmonger, blacksmith, and bard of Asterix's sleepy little village.

54. Which famous Defender of the Earth's arch nemesis was Ming the Merciless?

55. This famous Padma Vibhushan winning cartoonist's work adorn the walls of Cafe Mondegar in Colaba.  The creator of characters like Miss Nimbupani and Miss Fonesca, he had a long and illustrious career with R.K. Laxman and The Times of India.  He passed away on the 11th of December 2011 in his house in Mumbai.  Name him.

56. Name the single panel newspaper cartoon strip that made R.K. Laxman a household name in India.

57. Which famous webcomic, created by Randall Munroe has the tagline "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language"?

58. This video gaming driven webcomic, first launched in 1998, features John "Gabe" Gabriel and Tycho Brahe as the alter egos of the creators.  Name the webcomic.

59. In the DC and Marvel worlds, what is the one universal law that separates the "good guys" from the "bad guys"?

60. Which comic book publication contains characters such as Kalia the Crow, Shikari Shambhu, and Suppandi?

61. In the newspaper comic strip "Hagar the Horrible", what is the name of Hagar and Helga's son?  The names of everyone in Hagar's family start with an H.

62. Which superhero was born with the "Curse of Kordax"?  Bonus point if you can tell me what physical feature of the character denotes the curse.

63. What super villain was created when Emil Blonsky, a spy assigned to steal the research of Dr. Bruce Banner, accidentally exposed himself to a concentrated burst of gamma rays?

64. What Chester Gould character made his first appearance in the Detroit Free Press on October 4, 1931?

65. Which super-hero grew up on the planet Tamaran?

66. Edwin Jarvis serves as a butler to which super hero team?

67. Which super-heroine was inhabited by the soul of an ancient Egyptian princess after attempting suicide?

68. Who is the Scarlet Witch's twin brother?

69. Which super-hero gained his powers after being exposed to the Orb of Ra?

70. T'Challa, the king of Wakanda, is also known as what superhero?

71. When Bucky was wounded in combat, who became Captain America's new sidekick?

72. Which writer/director of Buffy, and Firefly, also wrote Astonishing X-Men?

73. Which comic book character is named after a physiological test devised by a Swiss psychologist in the 1960s?

74. In which Marvel franchise does Wolverine make his first ever appearance?

75. Which famous comic book author, whose many graphic novels have been made into movies, requests that his name be removed from the credits of movies based on his work?

76. Which X-Men character is Remy LeBeau better known as?

77. Dark Claw is an Amalgam Comics superhero. He is a combination of a Marvel Comics' and a DC Comics' comics character.  He exists only in the temporary Amalgam Universe created when the DC and Marvel Universes combine.  Name the individual characters.

78. In which fictitious city do the events of Frank Miller's Sin City take place?

79. Which countries are these two X-Men characters from: Wolverine, Nightcrawler.  I want both countries.

80. In the events of Batman: Knightfall, after Bane breaks Bruce Wayne's back, who takes on the role of Batman?

81. In the Wildstorm universe, Jenny Sparks aka The Spirit of the 20th Century forms which super team with Swift and Jack Hawksmoor after the end of Stormwatch Black?

82. Which famous 1996 DC comic book by Mark Waid starts with the prelude of The Joker massacring the staff of The Daily Planet including Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and Lois Lane?  Hint: The Joker is then killed by a new super hero named Magog.

83. This inter-company crossover DC comic series by Brad Meltzer (with Rags Morales and Michel Bair), starts with the murder of Sue Dibny, the wife of super-hero Elongated Man and the JLA investigating to find the killer.

84. Which Vertigo comic book written by Garth Ennis tells the story of Jesse Custer in the small Texas town of Annville?

85. Which Vertigo title deals with various characters from fairy tales and folklores that are forced out of their homelands by "The Adversary"?

86. Which manga and anime characters signature finishing move is the "kame-hame-ha"?

87. In the extended Star Wars universe of the Legacy series, which decendant of Luke Skywalker is the main protagonist?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In The Company of Heroes

I have a Kindle now and I love it.  Best investment I've made since buying gold early last year.  I've already read several books and thanks to the Kindle Owner's Lending Library and Amazon's Daily Deals, I've discovered some great stuff, and also quite a few disappointments.

The Settlers of Catan - seriously, it's a book now!  Rebecca Gable, a German historical writer took the classic board game elements and set it up as the Nordic settlement in Iceland in the 10th century.  As literature it wasn't that great, but I was curious to see how the elements of the game will be woven into the book.  To be honest, it was fairly disappointing.  Not recommended.

Earth Strike: Star Carrier: Book 1 - Famed military sci-fi and space opera writer returns to what made him famous - humans on the brink of obliteration from an all-powerful galactic empire.  This is no Battlestar Gallactica - this is unadulterated space battles with singularity drives and "kinetic-kill" nuclear tipped Krait missle stuff.  Pretty fun stuff, but again, not recommended.

Call for the Dead - John Le Carre - Where it all began, with the introduction of George Smiley - the slovenly looking unassuming spy, whose ex-wife lovingly called him toad becaue he looked like one.  The precursor to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  This is where is starts.  Seems ancient by modern spy standards (What, no GPS tracking devices? It's 1966!)  Brings me back to the classic noir writings of Mickey Spillane and co.  Great stuff if you're interested in clandestine genre.

Finally, In the Company of Heroes - Mike Durant.  Black Hawk Down is one of my favorite war movies of all time.  Nothing else comes close to bringing the science, chaos and horror of modern warfare to cinema and Mike Durant brings alive his tale of being a Somali POW in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993 with amazing candor.  Rivetting read.  I think I'm going to pick up Bowden's Black Hawk Down after I finish this.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dry Land and Other Stories

The work week was hard, so of course, distractions were necessary.  Here's what's distracting me now.

King Henry is back at The Emirates.  Unfortunately, Sir Robert will not be joining him - but he might come to India!  Whoa.  Move over India vs. Bayern Munich and testimonial matches.  What a great night though at the JN Stadium.  Poor Baichung, not the best farewell match to have.  Final score 4-0...

Granted Bjork has done some decent music, but most of the time I can't tell the difference between Bjork, Yoko Ono, and a seal whose flipper has been smashed into a car door.  Still, even without Bjork and the economic crisis music from Iceland survives.  They gave us Sigur Ros - check out their fantastic documentary "Heima" - here's a taste of their music.  There was also Ryoksopp in between.  Then they gave us Bloodgroup.  Their first album "Sticky Situation" was tonally harsher with a lot of heavy synth sounds (well they are an electro pop group so I should have expected that), but their second album "Dry Land" is a bloody revelation.  Beautifully arranged with lounging Enyaesque vocals.  Great stuff, definitely warrants a listen.  Here's a couple of my picks from the album:
"This Heart" and "Wars"... don't want to give the rest away.  And if you think these guys hide behind distortion have a listen to this version of "This Heart" at the GogoYoko Studio.

Shravan introduced me to the wonderfully quirky and funny world of David Sedaris - a comic writer - yet insight-fully cynical and sarcastic.  Presently reading "Me Talk Pretty One Day".

Maggie brought Neon's "Skydiver" as my staple office work listen.  You won't be able to get your hands on this easily since Neon only released this as a 12" LP vinyl single.  Trippy seven minutes.  Reminds me of Japanese DJ Quadra's "Get it by Your Hands".

Of course, what's been making the rounds even faster than "Kolaveri Di" is Walk of the Earth's cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" - over 11 million views in a week!  What a fantastic video - do have a listen.

Ok, everyone says this is one of the most overplayed songs of 2011, but I only discovered it recently.  Yes, it is Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks".  While the original might be over-played, I discovered two amazing covers.  The first a bluesy take by internet sensation Karmin, and the second by a one-man-band internet sensation Basement Alchemy.  Have a listen!

That's all folks!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

What Am I Tripping On Now?

Ok, ever since CJ introduced me to Project Free TV, I've been tripping on NCIS - yes, the TV show.  I was curious.  Why is a crime procedural drama, the most popular prime time TV show in the US.  We have shows that deal with the military (JAG, Combat Hospital), we have shows that deal with forensics (CSI and it's million avatars), we have quirky crime solving team shows (The Mentalist, Castle, Bones), so why is NCIS drawing the crowds?  I've watched six and a half seasons now, and I still can't answer that question.  I just keep watching, though I'm not sure why.  Sure, the plots are relatively mysterious, the forensics are quite hocus-pocus, the characters are endearing and well drawn out, but it's no The Wire, or Battlestar Gallactica, nor is it M*A*S*H.  Yet, I keep watching.  A mystery...

I have, however, discovered an Israeli hip-hop, funk band through NCIS called Hadag Nahash (roughly translates to either The Fish Snake, or A New Direction).  They've been accused of left-leaning politics in their songs (which is true), but they shit out some catchy stuff - much like our "Kolaveri Di" craze.

Check out some of their stuff:
"Shirat Hastikar (The Sticker Song)" - This was written by famed Israeli novelist David Grossman.
"Bella Bellissima" - based on a true story.
And, of course, "Kolaveri Di" - which drove a nation crazy for one fall and produced a dozen offsprings.

I've also been tripping on the writings of A.J. Jacobs - the editor-at-large for Esquire magazine.  I first heard about this fellow when I caught him on a TED talk about the year he spent following every tenant in the Bible.  Since then I've read most of his stuff.  I really identify with his childlike experimental mentality and sense of adventure in writing.  The tendency we have of doing things so that we can write/tell other people about it.  Check out some of his "stunt journalism".

New trip: An article by mathematician and teacher Paul Lockhart - "A Mathematician's Lament".  A cry of despair about the way mathematics is taught, and has been taught for the better part of the century - curbing creative instincts and replacing them with rigorous techniques or procedures.  He claims math should be taught as an art, not as a tool for engineers.  While I don't agree with everything he says, I do feel that school curriculum ignores "historical context" and appreciation of mathematics, something, both I, and the author feel very passionate about.  It's a great read:

"You Make A Move Where Your Opponent Will Be, Not Where He Is..."

Bobby Fischer: The Knight Who Killed The Kings.  A free web comic about the life and games of one of the greatest chess maestros.  This isn't a glowing epithet about how brilliant Bobby Fischer was, nor is it nitpicking his flaws, neurosis, and paranoia.  It's a good comic, telling a good story with very French New Fave art work and a human Boris Spassky.  As of right now, only three chapters are up, but they are worth the time.