Author Archives: iluvryuzaki

Why Harry Potter has an edge over A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones)

 

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I loved the Harry Potter (HP) books and movies. I have just started reading the books in ‘A song of Ice and Fire’ (ASOIAF) series but I have watched every episode of the TV show Game of Thrones and am very familiar with the world created by George RR Martin – in short I am entitled to an opinion. True that the worlds are so different that’s its quite unfair to do so. But such comparisons have crept up. In some ways they were unavoidable because of the cultural phenomenonHarry-Potter-Logo-Wallpaper-HD-3 both have become in the last 15 years. My comparisons are more of a response to people who proclaim ASOIAF is better with funny arguments and I will try and debunk each of them.

1. ASOIAF is a complex world, HP is not.
2. HP Characters are black and white, while ASOIAF are gray.
3. HP is too comfy and feel good…and never gets gory like ASOIAF.
4. HP is predictive. But with ASOIAF You don’t know what to expect next.
5. The HP books are just a great escape. That’s why everyone likes them.

1. ASOIAF is a complex world, HP is not.

The first is true but HP world is fantastically complex. Where else before did we see so much magic in a world. Where newspapers spring to life; where a sorting hat decides where students go; where wizards have their own sport! Hogwarts was the creation of a genius. There is magic…so much magic. The story has so many arcs to it: friendship, coming of age, struggle, fighting against the dark forces, mysteries, riddles, ghosts…there really is SO MUCH and yet nothing feels out of place. There are stories like ASOIAF and the Stormlight Archive that seem because of the narration as more complex than HP – perhaps they are – but I attribute that to the number of elements involved. HP is not just complex, it’s bloody complex.

2. HP Characters are black and white, while ASOIAF are gray.

One common complaint is that the characters are not very gray. ASOIAF has made characters gray. HP starts when eleven year old Harry and his friends enter Hogwarts. Just how gray do you expect eleven year olds to be? They ended up breaking half the rules themselves (in spite of Hermione) and they each have conflicted emotions as the series progresses. Ex : Hermione stuns somebody so Ron could enter the Quidditch team. There is friction between their friendships at times. Everything is not hunky-dory.
What did you want them to do – go cut somebody with a knife over dinner in the great hall? Would that make it realistic? I don’t think so.
While we are still talking about the kids, Draco Malfoy is the classic gray character among the school mates. He is always bad-ass and yet when those moments came when he could have made himself a monster (before Dumbledore’s death for example), he quivered. He had some sanity deep down.
What about Snape?  And Dumbledore himself turned out to be a quirky character no?
It’s a classic good versus bad tale. That’s just the way it is. That doesn’t make the characters black and white. There is a difference. All characters have their own degrees of flaws. Just don’t assume that the definition of gray means to slit somebody’s throat every now and then.

3. HP is too soft and never gets gory like ASOIAF.

Yes it is feel good but don’t you want to feel good ? The feel good is very genuine and not forced by people trying to look cute. You like them because of the friendships, the adventures , magic, puzzles and Hogwarts! HP is primarily targeted toward a younger audience (observe here that it was equally well received by parents and grand parents alike). That is the genre it is in. ASOIAF sticks to what it is and never tries to mellow things down which is good for the spirit of the series and perhaps you like this feature. It is a good basis for liking one series but not for belittling the other. It is like going to a vegetarian restaurant and expecting a good chicken meal!

4. HP is predictive. But in ASOIAF you don’t know what to expect next.

Yep we don’t know when the next book in the ASOIAF is coming out do we 😉 On a serious note, what rubbish. It had become an obsession to predict how HP would end in the final book. Hundreds of critics gave their opinions and predictions using hints and their own intuition. But how many could predict Snape’s true story ? Or Dumbledore’s past ?
Or frankly who even expected Dumbledore to die in book 6? Or Sirius in book 5 ? Or that Ron’s rat was actually wormtail ? Or Crouch’s secret ? To call it predictable is insulting how intelligent the books actually are.

5. The HP books are just a great escape, that’s why everyone likes them.

Firstly I dislike the word escape for any fantasy, ASOIAF or HP. Both are fantasy works. They are meant to take you to different worlds. But why are there no other better escapes in other works? If the story was shallow, a smart reader would not feel they were escapes…he would feel foolish. If it is a great escape, it is a bloody good one.

So what does work for the HP series? Here is what I think:

1. JK is a better storyteller than Martin.

There is consistency in the HP series. Last I heard A Dance with the Dragons was heavily criticized for not moving the plot too forward. Martin’s style is to be descriptive but sometimes he tends to be over romantic about either the sex or the killing at the cost of the story.
There was no such catastrophic mistakes in HP books…ever. Even if it got a bit slow (book 6) there was still so much happening and so many loose ends being tied and it was more racy than ASOIAF. Seriously so much build about Winter and it hasn’t even come.

Update: It seems winter has finally come 🙂

2. Harry Potter blew everyone’s mind.

The world was something new, something fresh and so exciting and magical (agreed that while the concept of dark lords and wizards itself was not, the creation of an entire parallel universe and the incorporation of all these  concepts definitely was). One which you could touch and feel and almost live in.

3. It is feel good.

I remember being in a poor state of mind when I read Order of the Phoenix and it was so comforting and a great relief not because there is cute happiness all around but because the story was always moving forward, puzzles were exciting, the interaction between the characters was fun – these kept me gripped. I am not sure ASOIAF would have the same effect with its dragging and often morbid theme.

4. Harry Potter brought the magic back to books.

It quite simply changed the entire book world on it’s head. Hundreds of Thousands of copies booked even before the release date (mine included ). People from other languages learning English just to be able to read those books. It was not just a great book series that was widely acclaimed , it was an unprecedented phenomenon. It was not a small series, mind. It was not just a couple of books that did well. Each one of them did. Even after the hype.

5. Book for all Ages.

It is sad to classify it as a children’s book and that is what I feel when see Eragon, HP in the bookshelves of children. Fantasy is a better word. It appealed more in fact to the people in 20s and 30s not to mention the 40s and 50s…and yeah basically everyone! This is rare for any series. Any world with magic etc. can be shunned by a more adult audience but HP was loved. It was endearing but it was also very intriguing, adventurous and exciting!

6. Characters are Personal and their relationships are dynamic.

Any good story is about characters. I think every one of them, the students, the professors, the death eaters was so developed and all their lives well knitted together.

7. HP has so much of everything.

There is adventure, there is thrill, there is elements of intrigue expected of a fantasy, there is love, there is poetry, there is comedy and it also has it’s share of whodunnits. And each of these is spectacularly implemented.

Ending note

I hope my tone in this article is not mistaken. HP is not flawless and I really like ASOIAF. It is another step in being a more rounded reader. The world is pretty original and killing was actually quite common in the worlds similar to the ones in which it is set in (medieval times for example).
What I don’t like is the perversion that come with these books. Gore and deaths are one thing. They add a necessary dimension which makes them believable but the perversion in the books at times makes me want to quit them. If Tyrion dies, I pull the plug on this series.

 

A Wave of Life

We have come across this unique entity in some form or another, sometimes on a daily basis. It is the enigmatic ‘sine wave’. I call it enigmatic because I think it encompasses in it a lot of secrets and has well…philosophical implications:

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Does the above ring a bell? Remember the heart beat or pulse monitoring machine? This is the kind of thing they display (roughly speaking).

Some background info (skip if you have a decent understanding of waves):

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(Background)

A wave is an entity that carries information or a signal. Sound waves are one such example. So are light or radio waves.
The essence of a sine wave is this: It has crests and troughs or you could call them simply as ups and downs; or to and fro motion about an axis. Mathematically ANY Wave function can be represented as a sum of some sine waves.

Let us see how we arrive at the ups and downs. Take the heart for instance. For simplicity let us think of the heart as being a sphere with a certain radius. It pumps blood so it is constantly expanding as well as compressing itself…there are cycles. There is a normal state of the heart (in which it is just its proper size, neither expanding nor contracting) around which the cycles happen. Let us say I am able to catch the heart (not literally) at its normal state, just before it is about to expand. I call this as my start time or time t=0. I will now measure the radius of the heart at this instant. I will also measure the radius of the heart an instant later (making a note of the instance) and as expected the radius will be larger (since the heart is expanding). An instant later the heart will be bigger and hence my radius will be too…and this goes on until the heart reaches the peak of the wave (or up). Next it begins to compress so the radius falls until its normal position after which it continues to fall because the heart is now shrinking even more than its normal until it reaches a minimum where the heart and the radius are at the smallest and this marks the lowest peak (or down). After this point the heart begins to grow again and so on. If you were to plot a graph with the radius of the heart on one axis v/s time on the other axis you would get a sine wave!

Note: This is not to say that this is what hospital machines display. No one is interested in the radius. It displays the electrical activity but the concept is similar. I have taken a few liberties like assuming the heart is a sphere but yeah I am just trying to get the concept across.

(End of background)

Back to the topic now:

Ups and downs, downs and ups. Cycles. Hmm. If in a similar way I were to plot the intensity of light at different points of the day. Then I would get say sometime where the sun’s light is the brightest (i.e., the up…mostly some time during mid day) and sometime at night when the light is absent or it is the darkest (i.e., the down…around midnight) and the other values would be in between. So if I plot this data I might roughly arrive at…the sine wave!
It is all around us really. The day and night cycle. The breath. The heartbeat. The pulse. The tides of the sea. The light waves. The sound waves. The cyclical nature of things is universal!

They are all the variation of some sort of sine wave or simply a wave.
And perhaps this phenomenon is internalized within us in multitude ways. Perhaps this logic could be extrapolated to ourselves? Our states of mind perhaps? The highs and lows. Happiness perhaps? Highs and lows. So luckily it means that if we are down for a while it wont be long before a up wave hits us and life becomes good! So keep going! (of course we should be vary of the other way around…and not be carried away completely when we have our highs!) . In another sense it is a law of averages. Everything evens out. As an optimist I would hope for highs everyday but the fact also is – it has not happened (yet). But of course I will keep trying!

I am likely going overboard with this. But while we are at it let me make a daring speculation: do we experience the highs simply because we had the lows before and we will have the high after? And are we experiencing a low simply because what follows will be a high…and for it to be a high this has to be a low?

I know…taking too many liberties but something to think about. If everyday was the same would there be highs and lows?

Which reminds me of what Ted said to Barney in How I Met Your Mother, “If every day is legendary, no day is legendary!”

Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of Apes

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You would think that watching apes fight humans would be an out of sync, outdated plot which is sure to be…umm uninteresting. But you would be wrong. This movie is a great watch for anyone who likes a good story with depth in its plot and characters. The scenario is intriguing enough. Post a mass virus pandemic attack the human communities have become largely isolated, dystopic and resources deprived. This story is different in the sense that it involves a clash of two different species.

It was a refreshing watch and it gives you a unique perspective (at least to me) on life, family and how war actually begins. Our time on earth is limited and in the end we are just another species which is looking to survive and it would be interesting if you were to put yourself in the shoes of the humans in the movie. The movie touches on several topics. Is war due to need justified? This is an age of ‘grey’ characters (they have become quite a fashion). I liked the fact that neither the humans nor the apes were portrayed as villains. Each species’ actions were justifiable (mostly). I liked that this movie did not go the *Humans are evil…apes are innocent victims… so humans deserve to die* way. I was actually proud when a human offered beer to an ape. Both worlds are so similar yet both worlds seemed to be acting only to their elementary needs of survival and self-defense.

This one lacked a James Franco, but I think Jason Clarke did a commendable job as a human who is as terrified as the rest of them but has a heart. I enjoyed this one more. The apes are so fantastically done (CGI etc.) with a personal touch and you seem to feel each ape having it’s own personality. The facial expressions, the body language are so real …at times you think you know each ape. Ceaser’s character continues to develop in different ways but is yet as endearing. The execution and animations and ape world just had to be so perfect to make sense and they did.

Apes ain’t bad. Humans ain’t bad. But there are bad apes and there are bad humans. Unfortunately they are sometimes all it takes to screw the world.

Rating: 4.5/5

Movie Review: Transformers 4 Age of Extinction…Ready to trip?

 

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The future is back. The Tranformers’ franchise returns with possibly their last movie but of course we can never be sure of such things. This one was bound to be different with Mark Wahlberg replacing Shia as the protagonist which was not to my liking. Fortunately though he is playing a different character (There is no Sam in this one) which makes it slightly better because Shia was amazing and because Mark is any day a poor replacement for any body; especially for Shia since they are poles apart.

I did myself a favor. I did not watch the trailers – which are nowadays more spoilers than trailers (3 min long, all great scenes shown). Anywho the movie starts well. The cast is pretty amazing. Inspite of my bias against Mark (Cade Yeager) he is really good in this one and suits his part. I loved Nicola Peltz (his daughter) and I think she carried out the role of a smart 17 year old who looks after her dad, all while looking hot perfectly. Stanley Tucci’s character was fun as well.

I liked the first one and half hour or so. Decent (relatively) storyline, good characters and lots of action. Heck if they had clubbed this with the last 15 min and tied up the story I would have actually being completely satisfied. But then they had to do it over the top (Michael Bay). After the first hour and half, the next one hour was well…I don’t know what it was because I was tripping. I got zero space to breathe. Poles are falling, roads are getting shattered, buildings are falling, robots are falling, everything seems to be falling. Ear shattering ultrasound mixes with high frequency sound mixes with robots fighting each other mixes with conversation of characters mixes with… mixes with …everything is a mix! There is simply TOO much happening. You think one action scene has ended only to find that another has begun which is bigger and louder. I think people were relieved when the movie ended and their heads and body were still in one piece (perhaps that was the idea: extinction of us viewers).

I found myself covering my ears in that period (and it is not like I am new to intense action movies). A dizzy headache and a needless hour later I was out of the theater. But I had survived. Chances are you will watch Tansformers anyway (and I shall reiterate that the first hour and half and last fifteen min are great). However I suggest you carry noise-cancelling headphones along.

Overall Rating: 3/5

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Kane and Abel

 

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I was surprised to find that I had not read a single Jeffrey Archer. Since I no longer save the best for the last I decided to dive into his most well-known supposedly earth-shattering novel : Kane and Abel. Archer’s story telling has a very classic characteristic to it; simple and yet gripping.

As he volleys between Kane and Abel (the two protagonists) my  bias towards either kept swinging. Both are very likable characters even if they could not have been from more different worlds. Kane comes from a world where he is born with the proverbial golden spoon while Abel is from a poverty stricken family. Yet they have a lot in common: Both have a drive to be outstanding, their own battles to fight and both always take them head on. Abel’s early life is marred by a lot of suffering, a lot more than Kane. But I found myself rooting for Kane (if I had to pick one). Perhaps the name change from Wladek to Abel was off putting too. What I liked is that we are told of their stories from their birth all the way till the end and it was interesting to see their dreams evolve and how they try to achieve them, never ceasing in effort. Neither of them rarely do anything repulsive yet they both commit mistakes, some peccadillos, others worse. Both of them could have ruined their life with what they were given – Kane with his richness and Abel with his suffering and yet they don’t. Neither has an easy life. I had to feel for Kane, nothing he does ever seems enough. Things are always expected of him and to his credit he does achieve them. For me he becomes a better man than his perhaps cold father. I loved the parallel between the two and I was waiting for their worlds to clash. Things really heat up in the second half.

Now to the writing itself. The narration in ‘Kane and Abel’ is strong and the plot is always ticking. What I found is that Archer blatantly violates the golden ‘rule’ of writing i.e, ‘Show, don’t tell’. The novel is basically a telling, a narration, but it is a good telling. On the downside I expected there to be more face-offs between the two given the title but there weren’t. I expected the book to be better than what it was.  When you hear so much about a book and read the book’s description that says it sold millions of copies etc. etc. you really go in with great expectations. If I had just picked ‘Kane and Abel’ without knowing anything about its history it would without doubt have been a memorable novel and it still is but I don’t see what the fuss is about. However I am extremely glad I read it.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

Schrodinger’s Cat

               Meow. This cat has been haunting a lot of people for a long time. Let’s let the cat out of the bag…um box. This is a classic conundrum which has been around since way back in 1935 and there is still no unanimous agreed upon answer. There is a lot of confusion to what this thought experiment is, leave alone the answer to it.

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               How did it arise? There exists a subject in physics called quantum mechanics (fascinating but bewildering area). One of the interpretations of quantum mechanics is the Copenhagen Interpretation which states that microscopic particles like electrons  exist as a ‘superposition of states’ which means we can only know the probabilities of the state in which they exist. The act of measurement or observation causes the wave function to collapse and the electron then takes one of these states. In simpler terms say we are considering the position of an electron (we could also consider momentum etc) . The electron initially exists in a superposition of states which means we don’t know where it actually is. The very act of measurement causes the electron to ‘collapse’ randomly into one of the positions which means observation or measurement affects outcome. Schrodinger who was one of the founding fathers of Quantum Mechanics argued this principle in a letter to Einstein through a thought experiment which came to be called Schrodinger’s cat.

 Conceptually the idea of this experiment is this:

‘A cat exists in a closed box which contains a radioactive substance. The substance has a 50% chance of decaying. If it does the cat dies, if it does not the cat lives.‘

              We don’t know if the cat is dead or alive until we open the box. Now according to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum theory, until the box is opened and a result confirmed, the cat lies in a superposition of states which means it is ‘both dead and alive’.

              Schrodinger did not suggest that the cat was both dead and alive, he did this experiment to illustrate the absurdity of quantum theory since a cat cannot really be both dead and alive at the same time (like yeah, what does that even mean! Way to go Schrodinger!)

             Still trying to digest this but a curious thought hit me when I was doing a popular yoga practice called observation of breath. So in this practice one needs to simply focus on his breath. When I try doing this I actually feel my breathing change…become faster or slower (not saying this is a rule…but what generally happens). The act of observation affects outcome! Now we could say that this is really a part of my body and by me observing I am somehow changing a part of my body. But in a way we are all a part of a single entity…the universe. So  observation by us (a part of the universe) of a part of the universe affects the outcome (breath). We could extrapolate this to us observing the cat and thereby affecting the outcome! Hmm.

            Love to hear your thoughts.