A long time ago.

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Light sabers

In a galaxy far, far away.

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DO or DO NOT. There is no TRY.

Darth Vader

No, I'm your father.


You don't know the power of the dark side.

The Force Awakens


X-Wing Fighter

Long live the Rebel Alliance.

December 26, 2015

'High' in the sky

As I sit down to write this blog, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has already grossed 1 billion dollars worldwide. It's one of those things a fan-boy always feels proud of. It's like a victory for the home-team. The movie's going to smash plenty of records. I can bet my life on it.

Star Wars is a phenomenon. Quote. Unquote. On a galactic scale. No one in his right mind can deny this. One movie, 38 years ago, redefined movie-watching experience for generations to come. Together with its sequels and prequels, it set the platinum standard for what an addictive loyalty to a cinematic franchise looks like. It generated awe-inspiring, fan-frenzied ripples through popular consciousness on a mind-boggling scale. We still haven't got over the high. It spawned a generation of Star Wars junkies like me. Star Wars video games, novels, comics, animated series and a smorgasbord of movie memorabilia shove and jostle for space on the neural shelves of our attention-banks.

Ten years have passed since Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and we are still in need of the occasional fix like recovering drug-addicts. We don't mind more of those needles up our veins.

Speaking of fixes and needles, allow me to give you a few faint clues of how far the Star Wars culture has gone up my nose. I have a R2-D2 pen-stand sitting on my computer table right now. When I was in school and college, I collected all the Star Wars posters I could lay my hands on. There are two strung up on my bedroom even as I speak. Three or four Darth Vader and Storm Trooper masks are shoved away at the back of my cupboard. And you just have to step by my place to have a peek-a-boo at my light saber collection. I have fourteen of them. Yes. You read correct. Fourteen. Yes, yes, I know the judging looks on those faces of yours right now. Big-time nerd. Bigger-time fan. Guilty as charged.

If my mom hadn't convinced me to give away a sizable chunk of my Star Wars toys and action-figures, I would have needed every millimeter of our store-room to stash them. Moms can get pretty convincing. Especially when the subject of kicking me out of my house in order to make room for my stuff comes up. It essentially strips down to bare-bones existence. An existential crisis. It's either them or me. And I get to live through the horror of choosing which childhood treasures to keep and which to throw away. Jeez. Gives me the heebie jeebies even to think about it.

And then there was the day my first girlfriend asked me if Chewbacca was some special-flavored chewing gum. The world looked bleak. This relationship was going to be a bumpy ride.
Kisne kaha mohabbat asaan hota hai,haan?
Mohabbat vi Star Wars ki tarah hota hai.
Har mor asaan nahin hota, har mor pe khushiyaan nahin hoti.
Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and its usage terms can be found here.

Once in school, I participated in a fest where I was supposed to pen a movie-review. I poured my love out for the original Star Wars trilogy in a starstruck drool-fest overflowing with sentiment and emotion. It was a day unlike any other. I had entered an altered state. The word-limit was 500. I think I went well over 2000. My pen was scribbling so fast I wonder how it didn't burn smoking holes into the paper. It was like writing a darned love-letter. An honest confession of the purest emotions clogging my soul and choking my heart with unstoppable rapture. When I was finished, I revised the stuff, giving myself a moment to marvel at the glory of my creation. I didn't win any prize. The flair of my pen went unsung and unrewarded, but that's okay. Were it up to me, I'd have stopped at nothing short of awarding myself a Nobel for that review. It was pure poetry.

I had written it all!

A hero's journey from being a bored farm-boy to being the 'chosen one'. The David Vs Goliath struggle of Luke Skywalker pitted against the Empire. The dash of danger and romance which the wild pair of Hans Solo and Leia brought into the mix. The comic relief and 'Aww!So cute!' camaraderie of R2-D2 and C-3PO. The shocking father-son reveal at the end of Episode V. Darth Vader's story- falling to darkness and then redemption in his dying moments. Heroes snatching victory from the jaws of defeat by standing on the shoulders of great sacrifices. The sheer enormity and the magnificence of the universe which the movies spanned. All the super-cool props- the guns, the space-ships, the light sabers (the last item never fails to make my drool-meter hit the sky)! The majesty of space which provided the backdrop to this epic drama. It was like the finest creative minds had come together to cherry-pick the best bits of the greatest stories and then combine them into a grand, jaw-dropping space-fantasy. And last, but not the least, Yoda.
Last, but not the least, be mentioned, I shall.
Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and usage terms can be found here.

When I was a kid, I wanted to go dressed to all fancy-dress competitions as Yoda. I had the light saber. I had the robes. But the tricky part was always the mask itself. My mom had tried (and failed on a galactic scale) on multiple occasions to make a Yoda mask for me with the pointy ears and stuff. But I always managed to end up looking like a dork with a bright green cauliflower on his head. The Force failed her each time. Mom often asked me why I didn't want to go as Obi-Wan in stead. No need for a crazy mask whose elaborate manufacturing would drive her to tears. A mere beard would suffice.

But where was the fun in that? By the second go, I had a pretty good idea that mom was going to make a mess of the mask every time, with perfect consistency. Which basically meant that I could guilt-trip her into giving me other goodies later on. The eight second long diabolical laugh track of Emperor Palpatine goes here. I make the bad guys of Star Wars lore feel proud. Smirk.

Speaking of goodies, when I came across the Indiblogger HP Star Wars topic, the fan-boy in me just couldn't resist. I have gone through the unboxing videos of HP Star Wars Special Edition Notebook. And I was like...well...

Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and its usage terms can be found here.

It starts right from the packaging. Two boxes, one inside the other, both with magnetic clasps. The smaller one even has a "You don't know the power of the dark side" message inscribed within. The foam inserts protecting the notebook are shaped like Imperial Star-fighters! Sweet! The Force is strong with this one! The touch-pad has got the X-wing targeting system of Luke's Death Star trench run etched on it. To top it all, there are those Aurebesh font glyphs on the notebook hinge and beside the track-pad.

Aurebesh font was something which sprung out of the Star Wars movies but which later took on a life of its own. Techies have actually come up with real, authentic computer True Type fonts based on Aurebesh. This particular special edition laptop has an Aurebesh system font installed too.

Honestly speaking, HP and Disney's painstaking attention to detail felt like an elixir of sorts to an ardent devotee's soul. I'm sold on the distressed texture on the lid, the touted 'battle-worn' look of the X-Wing Star Fighter Guidance system. And there is that eerie red keyboard back-lighting. The whole package is smart and aesthetic. And sinister.

I know I sound like a fawning dork. But my geek-bone can't help getting tickled. There is this steady stream of cute little innovation-candies which this laptop keeps dropping on my senses. When the laptop boots up, you'll see that they even made the Recycle Bin look like the Death Star. When you empty it, the icon shifts to a half-finished Death Star 2. Neat. Not to forget, you can replace all the system sounds with Star Wars sounds- the zing of a light saber, the binary music of R2-D2's voice, Darth Vader's labored breathing and a plethora of other tunes and tones.

Don't leave your seats just yet. It's Christmas and Santa has more goodies in store! This Windows 10, 6th Gen Core i5 beauty packs a ton of Star Wars screen-savers, wallpapers and concept art. Then there is the first Marvel Star Wars comic book - a neighbors' envy, collector's pride kind of thing. Belonged to the 70's. And to provide the icing on the cake, there are behind-the-scene photos, storyboards and book excerpts. The whole constellation of digital memorabilia which this 15.6 inch screen laptop packs is enough to give me a nerd boner. Nirvana for Star Wars junkies.

Plus, most importantly, this laptop is a gaming rig. It comes packed with a decent amount of RAM and a NVIDIA GeForce 940M GPU. It's going to be a blast playing Star Wars Battlefront, Just Cause and Call of Duty: Black Ops.

I'm sounding as if a Scooby snack has just been offered to Scooby-doo, ain't I? When I set my eyes on that beauty of a lappie for the first time, the Scooby-Doo in me had his eyebrows hitting the roof and eyes dancing with anticipation! Add to that his pink tongue, moving up down in see-saw fashion and spreading raindrops of drool all around, and voila!
Geek-gasm achieved.

There are a couple strands more of sentiment tethering me to this Star Wars laptop. I have a nice and comfortable history with HP. The laptop on which I'm blogging right now belongs to HP. My first netbook was from the HP stables too. Good times and fond memories, both of them. I had purchased HP stereo headsets to go with the laptop. Music, movies, chatting: the headset-lappie combo kept me company through both fun times and lonely hours.

Thinking of fun times, I have a dream, you know. To have a Star Wars themed bedroom. The wall behind my bed would be completely covered with a Star Wars wallpaper. Just on the opposite wall, there would be three light sabers hanging, of different colors. I might start with red, blue and green. I will change the color combination every month. Underneath them would be my study-table. I would be going for one with a futuristic look. There would be a life-size Darth Vader model in one corner of the room and a Storm Trooper model in the opposite corner. The pillow cases would have Star Wars quotes on them. The bed sheets would be space-blue colored. And a X-Wing Star Fighter model hanging over the bed. Nerd heaven accomplished. To quote Howard from The Big Bang Theory, I'll have achieved 'Nerdvana'. A big part of my childhood, with me, in my room, in exactly the way I want it. But it looks like a distant dream sitting here in India. Star Wars stuff are not that easily available down here.

Maybe, one day. Sigh. A man can only dream.

As of now, all I can do to give myself a fix is book a couple of tickets for The Force Awakens. So, hasta la vista, friends and bloggers. Do leave a comment if you need a review delivered to your inbox. And in keeping with the theme of the contest, I gave my blog a Star Wars twist. I had been wanting to redesign my blog since ages, but the Force wasn't with me. To put it simply, I was feeling too lazy. I am very thankful to HP and Indiblogger. They gave a lazy-bone like me something priceless. Motivation. It took me around two days of continuous tinkering with HTML, CSS, Javascript and jQuery to bring the blog to its present shape. Do tell me what you think about it, okay? Do check out the Star Wars Social Icons cluster. And do definitely check out the Recent Posts section. There is some animation stuff out there which you might find interesting! Good day to you! Peace out!
                      May the force be with you.

Image is under Creative Commons license. Original pic and usage terms can be found here.

January 31, 2015

From a pimple, with love

This letter was written from the trenches of a war which was fought between some brave pimples and a highly efficient, highly effective skin-care product. The pimples lost the war and its last days, as witnessed by a corporal in the pimple army, are captured in this letter,addressed to the corporal's fiancee.

Dear Zita,
I miss you. I don't even know if I'll ever get to see you again. It's been five days since I last caught a glimpse of your lovely redness. You were looking stunning as always. Resplendent, glistening, perched on our host's forehead like a bindi. The way your curves mesmerized me and every hot-blooded, sebum-charged male acne  around me...ah, te amo, I can struggle and struggle endlessly, but I'll never come close to describing it.

But now I'm worried sick because I cannot see you anymore. Earlier, you and I ruled our host's face like royalty. I occupied my throne atop her nose-tip.  And princess, you used to look down from your seat on her forehead, gazing at me, none other than me, coyly, affection bursting at your seams. You and your smile showered radiance upon me like a million falling stars.

Now things have changed. They changed the moment our host (I think her name is Sanjana) decided to wage war upon us. She unleashed hell upon us, Zita. Garnier Pure Active Neem Face Wash. Every word in that long name makes me toss and turn in my sleep. I have seen horrible things in the last couple of days, my love. All my brothers dying on me one by one. Just a few moments before, my best friend breathed his last in my arms. It was mind-numbing, Zita. All the dead cells and bacteria wrenched out from his once proud and healthy body, he was a pale shadow of his former, youthful self as he sputtered his final goodbye. His last few hours were a testimony of pain. His body had become nothing but a cage, with every cell screaming in agony, waiting, craving for release. I don't think I can ever blot out that vision of horror from my brain.

Something tells me I'm going to meet a similar fate. Soon. As I see my last days approaching, my mind keeps going back to the happy ones which are behind us now. I think about how our pimple community spent their days on Sanjana's face amidst peace and prosperity. I think about our glorious days when we played havoc with her sense of self-worth. The crippling blows which we dealt to her confidence, the way we shook up her courage to face the world-those were our days in the sun! Remember the parties we had to celebrate whenever she cringed on seeing her acne-dotted face in the mirror? I remember all too well how your sparkled and glistened whenever she sweated profusely last summer. All the frustration you caused, the way you lowered her morale, the inspirational style in which you made her feel "less"-all your inimitable qualities just made me love you more and more. Remember the poem I made to tell you I love you? I still have it with me. I read it often these days. It's comforting, especially because I've lost sight of you now.

You, beloved, make my heart leap and boast,
Because of the way you unnerve our host.
'Coz of you, she can't look people in the eye,
'Coz of you, her confidence has bid her a good-bye.
She tried to hide us with hair and make-up,
Yet, she and her bf went through a break-up.
You made her the target of her friends' taunt,
'Coz of you, her beauty she couldn't flaunt.
You made her shy-you made her avoid school,
Oh my princess, oh my queen, you rock, you rule!
She dreams of becoming a model, you're ruining it,
Thanks to you, her soul is being sucked out, bit by bit.
You, my love, I will forever and ever cherish,
My devotion to you can never perish.

Sigh! Te amo, even your memories make me high!

You know, before this war began, I often used to leaf through the pages of our history books detailing the achievements of our forefathers. I always used to feel humbled by what they had accomplished.  Some of our forefathers had managed to ruin interviews and job applications because of the blow they had dealt to their host's self-image. Some had managed to instill a deep sense of social phobia in teenagers. The pesky teens had become more withdrawn and secluded because of us. Zita, as much as I felt proud of these achievements of our ancestors, I couldn't help feeling a little unworthy. After all, what had I achieved? What had I done to 'make it large'? I have always been a modest-sized pimple. True, I enjoyed a strategic position. The nose-tip. Sure, I was a freaking embarrassment to her. But that's all I had to boast about! Then one day I chanced upon a couple of lines from a book Sanjana was reading. And they changed my life. I committed the lines to memory.

I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough..

Such profound lines! Described my situation so perfectly. The book was 'The Notebook' by Nicholas Sparks. Loving you has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, te amo. I watched a lot of my near and dear ones die in the last few days. The space around me, once teeming with vitality and zest of a million bacteria, has become nothing more than a barren wasteland of normal and healthy skin cells. All the horrors I witnessed because of Garnier Neem Face Wash have filled my mind with nothing but unceasing visions of intolerable sorrow and crippling anxiety. In these dark moments, it is only your love which keeps the flame of courage alive in me.

As our numbers dwindle, I cannot help but marvel at our foe's ingenious war strategy. How systematically it has wiped us all out! It's not even a war anymore, Zita! It's genocide! We have nothing to fight back with. All our defenses have been neutralized, all our survival techniques invalidated. Our intelligence team had gathered a lot of info about our enemy, hoping that we would be able to figure a way out of this carnage. But even our best brains put together couldn't really do much, except watch helplessly as more and more of our numbers got slaughtered. All the same, I am sending whatever we know to you. I have not seen you for some time and my I clutch my heart fearing if the foe has got to you too. But I'll hold onto my hope and assume that you're still alive and well. You're just hiding till the storm blows over. I am sending you all the intel I have. Maybe, just maybe, you and your colony will succeed where we have failed and have a chance at making it out of this alive.
Our enemy in its decorated battle uniform

Below is the full inventory of the enemy arsenal:
Water, coco-betaine, PEG-8, sodium laureth sulphate, PEG-120 methyl glucose dioleate, sodium chloride, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, tea tree leaf oil, zinc gluconate, sodium glycolate, melia azadirachta leaf extract, tetrasodium EDTA, menthol, sodium benzoate, salicylic acid, CI 19140, CI 42090, linalool, benzyl salicylate, fragrance

Do you remember the war Sanjana waged on us last summer with another face wash, Zita? That time, we had sent the enemy fleeing with their tails between their legs. We could do this because we had turned their weapons right back on them! The previous face wash contained skin pore-clogging ingredients. Humans have a term for these substances. They call them 'comedogenic'. As a matter of fact, several face-washes meant for acne-prone skin have the same drawback. Thanks to the comedogenic ingredients, the skin-pores closed, our numbers multiplied and we grew from strength to strength. That was one of the brightest victories of our times, princess! That stupid girl used a face-wash which aggravated her pimple problems in stead of reducing them. I fondly remember the ball dance we had to celebrate that sweet victory. You, precious, were looking ravishing.

Now when Sanjana started using Garnier Neem Face Wash, our intel showed that Garnier Neem Face Wash had a comedogenic ingredient too-sodium laureth sulphate. Our hopes soared. Another easy victory in our grasp! 

How mistaken we were! Sodium laureth sulphate is only mildly comedogenic. Our numbers wouldn't be receiving any boost because of it.

Tea tree leaf oil
Watch out for their heavy artillery, love. The enemy decimated us with tea tree leaf oil. Tea tree leaf oil is the stuff our nightmares are made of. In 5% concentration, this is fatal to our kind. When I was in the crib, my mom used to scare me to sleep with threats of throwing me into a pool of 5% tea tree leaf oil. Shudders!

The enemy then bombarded us with Salicylic Acid! Salicylic Acid, for heaven's sake! It's plague, pestilence, famine and war combined, Zita! Untold numbers of our kind have succumbed to its wrath ever since the blasted humans discovered that this is our Kryptonite. Blackheads, whiteheads-all perished. The blasted thing didn't even allow those poor souls to leave any of their traces behind. It faded all their dark marks, the last remains of their legacy.
Neem leaf extract (also called melia azadirachta leaf extract)  then eat up our food and ration, Zita! All the bacteria, all the germs, the Stapphylococci family- the neem extract wipes them all out. They rob us of our means of sustenance. How long can we wage a war on empty stomachs?

After mercilessly mowing our battalions down, the enemy sends in the cleanup crew- Zinc Glycolate and Sodium Gluconate. The former makes the environment inhospitable for us by balancing the oil and clearing our host's skin. The latter fades the remnant dark pimple marks by peeling the skin cells.

How can an enemy so clinically wipe us all out?!?!! My interest piqued, I was forced to conduct further research into the company in which our enemy was born. Garnier is a part of a super-large company of the humans called L'Oreal. The first Garnier product, a hair tonic, was made by Alfred Garnier in human year 1904. Garnier is committed to making products with natural ingredients. The L'Oreal Group took over Garnier in human year 1965.

When people still used soap on their hair, Garnier came out with its 1904 hair-tonic. When humans didn't have any inkling of sun-care items, Garnier was one of its earliest producers in the 1930s. Garnier was also the first to come up with a permanent home hair color in 1960. Today Garnier is the No.1 brand in Europe using natural ingredients.

Now you see what we are up against, Zita? We are up against a company with this kind of illustrious history and rich background. Garnier is fully into research. Research for its products goes through four stages at one of L'Oreal's research centers. Garnier conducts clinical studies and consumer studies before releasing the product, as well as surveys afterward.

 Zita, this is probably my last letter to you. Heaven knows how much I love you. My dying wish is just that this letter finds you safe and sound. And if, god forbid, you have already been snatched away from this world, I pray that we meet again in our next life. I finish this letter with tears and blood that drips from my heart. I know there will be a tomorrow as long as I have your love with me today.

                                                                                                                                          Yours love pie,

P.S. This post is written as part of an  Indiblogger contest. Please do visit the following links: