After the end of the world

Posted in books, movies, sci-fi, sci-fi by jrahman on August 31, 2020

It’s exactly six months this weekend that the pandemic first hit me personally.  I was about to travel overseas for work.  I dropped the kid to a play date.  She called to say bye while I was at the pharmacy to buy malaria tablets, mosquito repellent, and hand sanitisers — standard fare for a visit to the tropics — when I received the text asking me to get in touch with my team leader immediately.  Before I could get to it, the team leader called — mission aborted, they are pulling everyone out from field, stay tuned for next steps.

Like most white collar workers in the western world, I have been working from home for the last six months.  My little town hasn’t had that bad an outbreak.  Schools opened back in July, and local Desi communities have already restarted dawats.  But the malls are still hauntingly empty even on Friday evenings, and people are still nervous.  No one expects anything remotely like normal anytime soon.

Still, the end of the world it quite ain’t here.  But there are evenings when it’s hard to ignore the fact that the world is not what it was.  And what better way to survive those evenings than to immerse yourself into a book or a movie about life after the end of the world?


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The grand ending

Posted in action, books, movies, sci-fi, sci-fi, TV by jrahman on January 8, 2020

Oh that ending was epic, right?

The nine-year-old exclaimed as we came out of the theatre one Saturday afternoon last antipodean autumn.  We had just finished watching what would eventually become the highest grossing film in history.

Couple of weeks ago, after watching the ending of another multi-movie (and in this case, multi-generational) saga, I asked him — Was that ending epic?

Yeah, I guess so.

The less than emphatic affirmation made me think — what makes an epic’s ending, well, epic?  Of course, I couldn’t but help throw in the biggest television series in history into the mix.

The Avengers, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones — three epics of our times — ended (well sort of, fine prints, see towards the end of the post) in 2019.  How do I judge these endings?  And here, let me stress that  I am particularly interested in the way the story ends, not necessarily on how the story is told (or shown).  That is, I am not going to get into arguments such as whether the Star Wars prequels were worse than the sequels (I change my mind on this all the time) or whether the last season was Game of Thrones poorer than the rest (yes, absolutely).

Now, we need some benchmark to judge these epics against, and what is better than the grandest epic of them all?


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Bond and the baddies

Posted in action, books, Drama, movies, sci-fi, sci-fi, thriller, thriller, TV by jrahman on November 17, 2015

Bond movies, even the forgettable ones starring Pierce Brosnan, are to be watched as soon as possible, with a group of friends, to be followed by an adda where you can dissect the said movie every which way.  The new movie opened here couple of weeks after the worldwide premiere, and it’s hard to avoid the chatter in our hyper-connected world.  So I was very keen to watch it during the weekend.  Needless to say, the Black Friday in Paris cast a shadow.  But to let that tragedy stop us from discussing movies and books would be a betrayal of the joie de vivre and La Résistance that we associate Paris with. 

Hence this post, which is not really a movie review.  I liked Spectre about as much as Skyfall — not good as Casino Royale, but much better than Quantum of Solace.  

Is this movie too sentimental or emotional?  Does Bond fall in love too easily?  Is he not ruthless enough?  Well, this is what you get from Batmanisation — you can’t give the guy a backstory with emotions without turning him, well, emotional.  But it’s also Sherlockisation — am I coining a term here?  Let me elaborate.  In one of the very first scenes of the BBC show, an eccentric chemist deduces that his potential flatmate, a complete stranger, is an Afghanistan vet — a scene straight out of the pages of the first Holmes novel.  While not a strict adaptation of anything specific of Doyle, every other scene in Sherlock harks back to the cannon.  So it is in Spectre, which continues Bond’s evolution from a thug-with-a-government-paper to mister-suave, paralleling the evolution from the earlier, younger, rough-edged Connery to the later, older, smoother Moore.  If anything, the forthcoming fifth Craig-starter (don’t believe the hysterics about him not doing another) is set up pretty well for a…. okay, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Let me pause here and turn to one aspect of the Bond lore  — the antagonists, the villains, the baddies. 

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Some time ago, there was a facebook meme about 10 books:

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the great works of literature, just the ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends and me so I can see your list.

Over the fold, for archival purposes, are two lists — one general, the other economics related.


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Alternate history

Posted in books, fantasy, sci-fi, what ifs by jrahman on January 13, 2013

Apropos nothing, let me talk about alternate history — you know, those fantastic tales where this or that even had or had not happened, leading to a very, or not so very, different history.

As the regular readers would know, there are at least two such series, perhaps three, running in this blog where Bengal, or India, had never been partitioned, or where partition had meant a different kind of Pakistan.  There was even a post about had there been a battle in Plassey.  But when it comes to the subcontinent, the big alternative history subject is about Mughal Empire continuing on beyond the 17th century.  Since the Empire exhausted itself during Aurangzeb’s reign, perhaps had his brother Dara Shikoh had been the emperor, things might have been different?


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On the Neanderthals

Posted in books, sci-fi, science, science by jrahman on June 18, 2012

The Ekushey Book Fair, 1988.  I was in Class 8.  What I really wanted was a 4-volume set of old Masud Rana novels.  Of course I didn’t have the courage to ask my mother, who bought a book on paleoanthropology — I think it was Amal Dasgupta’s Manusher Thikana, but a quarter century later, I can’t really be sure.

I was disappointed at first, but it didn’t take long to get enthused about the story of human evolution.  I finished that book in days.  I wanted to get English books on the subject from the British Council library.  This took a few weeks because the campus got violent around 21 February.

And then, as is usually the case with these things, my interest waned.


Childhood’s end

Posted in action, books, desi fiction, movies, sci-fi, sci-fi, TV by jrahman on May 1, 2012

I have very fond memories of reading the Misir Ali novel Devi as a junior high student in the late 1980s.  Well, I should say I had.  I remember being, let’s say unsettled, reading it then.  I re-read it recently, and found it to be totally dull.

Now, it’s completely unfathomable to me why some things — Sheikh Mujib’s role in history, or Argentina vs Brazil in football — generate such strong reactions among Bangladeshis.  Humayun Ahmed falls in that category.  And I have no opinion on him.  But I was disappointed by Devi recently, which on re-reading turns out be rather boring, with Misir Ali not being a particularly memorable character.


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