Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winter Bucket 5.0

What to Read:

Hullo folks 
WARNING: Some reviews may contain spoilers.

Kabbalah is true, all patterns are meaningful, and the world runs on a combination of strained analogy and wordplay. Big Silicon Valley corporations copyright the Names of God and make a killing. International diplomats transform the ancient conflict between Heaven and Hell into a US-Soviet proxy war. An autistic archangel and his eight-year old apprentice laboriously debug the laws of physics. A group of billionaires hire a magical ship to go find God and tell Him what He’s doing wrong. Cells of militant Unitarians harbour dangerous placebo terrorists. And amateur kabbalist Aaron Smith-Teller, distant relative of nuclear physicist Edward Teller (“Not ushering in the apocalypse is not really a family strong point”) discovers a legendary Name of God and hatches a plan to usher in the Messianic age from his home computer, which goes exactly as well as you would expect.

To be honest, I've not finished this serial novel [I'm only up till chapter 32 so far] but in the simplest words I can put's pretty damn good. As a bonus, you don't need to splurge money in order to be able to legally obtain it.

-Abhay Vikram

What to Listen:

Brockhampton is a hip-hop group (or boyband, as they prefer to call themselves), comprising of fourteen twenty-somethings, most of whom met on a Kanye West forum. They exploded onto the rap scene in 2017, dropping three critically acclaimed albums in six months, the Saturation trilogy. Armed with an incredible work ethic, Brockhampton delivers a truly end-to-end product - the boyband includes producers, rappers/vocalists, video direction, photographers and web developers, who live together in a house in LA and make music whenever they’re not touring. They are led by the enigmatic and unapologetically gay Kevin Abstract (his line “Heath Ledger with some dreads, I just gave my ni**a head” is a crowd favourite).

In a genre which has recently been dominated by generic trap beats, Brockhampton has some of the most exciting and experimental production in hip hop, frequently switching between aggressive, energetic bangers (STAR, HEAT, GUMMY), chill and enjoyable tracks (SWEET, GOLD) and more soulful and melodic tunes (LAMB, FACE, RENTAL). The rappers talk about their individual struggles - such as Ameer’s history of drug use (JUNKY) and Dom’s depression (“last year I was suicidal, took those thoughts and tried to kill it” on BOYS) - while many songs have angsty themes such as loneliness and being an outcast (TRIP), which are shared across the three albums. Their songs are accompanied by low-budget yet creative music videos, mostly shot in their neighbourhood in South Central LA. Having dropped so much music in such a short span of time, Brockhampton is not looking to stop, having already announced their next album, ‘Team Effort’. Their fanbase is currently mostly restricted to Internet forums such as reddit and tumblr, but if they are similarly proficient in 2018, don’t be surprised if the “best boyband since One Direction” becomes a household name.

-Tejas Srinivasan

Friday, December 22, 2017

Return of the Return of the Jedi

What to Read:

The saga to End all sagas

“Ender’s Game” is a science fiction novel (1985) by Orson Scott Card. Set in Earth's near future, the novel presents mankind forced to come together after two conflicts with the "buggers", an insectoid alien species. In preparation for further interstellar war, children, including the novel's protagonist, Ender Wiggin, are trained from a very young age (6+ y/o) through increasingly difficult battle games including some in zero gravity, where Ender's tactical genius is revealed.
Surprisingly it has been on the recommended reading list for the U.S. Marine Corps since its release, since even other than the numerous examples of cutting Gordian knots, it offers lessons in training methodology, leadership, and ethics as well. However this isn’t just a book about military tactics and alien battles, it somehow manages to be deeply emotionally touching, portraying the internal conflict within this precocious child, regarding absolute violence, conforming to authority, and trying to make real human connections. The above description doesn’t come close to summarizing the different interesting themes and gripping plotlines running through the novel, so do put this at the top of your to-read list even if you’re not going to read the rest of the series.

Obligatory inspirational quote: “There's only one thing that will make them stop hating you. And that's being so good at what you do that they can't ignore you.”

Ender Saga:-
·        Main Ender series: Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. The last 3 mostly don’t concern themselves with battle, and are of a different tone from the first, increasingly philosophizing about morality and how we interact with otherness.
·        Shadow series: Ender’s Shadow (set parallel to Ender’s Game), Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant, Shadows in Flight. It details the political aftermath of Ender’s Game, and continues the story of a lot of characters left on Earth.
·        First Formic War series: Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, Earth Awakens. It gives the backstory of the first Bugger invasion and how Earth barely escaped an early defeat.
·        Many short stories, which flesh out supporting characters and the entire universe.
For reference, the main Ender series has the same word count as the last 3 HP books, so it’s not too long a read.

I’ll end with a quote from the intro to Ender’s Game, which is more generally applicable:
Fiction, because it is not about somebody who actually lived in the real world, always has the possibility of being about oneself.”

Random unrelated links: - This takes “Don’t judge a book by its cover to the next level”, where you’re randomly presented with the first page of a book, sans any other info. If you like it, you can see the title to possibly look up and continue reading it, else you can jump onto the first page of another random book. - Bored with the regular Minesweeper? You can play up to 14 different modes, with the option of the usual 3 sizes, and a 4th, Insanity (60x40).

- Anuj Shetty

What to Watch:

Hullo folks
Long time, no see.

WARNING: Some reviews may contain spoilers.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I'm not going to say ANYTHING on this film for fear of being murdered in my sleep by spoiler hating fans. VIIIth chapter in the saga. If you've been following the series, might as well give Disney your money [all hail our corporate overlords]. If you haven't seen previous Star Wars films, it makes zero sense to watch this [you won't understand half the film] in which case...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Once in a blue moon Adam Sandler likes to remind the audience that he can be a really good actor if he chooses to. An absolutely brilliantly written, cast and acted film. There's just something special about a movie that mirrors reality, in that it takes itself very seriously, while still giving many laughs to its audience in order to provide levity. This is a tale about a group of dysfunctional adult siblings trying to live in the shadow of their dysfunctional father. I found myself entranced throughout this entire film, feeling as though I was watching someone provide insight into real events. I love Aaron Sorkin's screenwriting and I really don't think the two should ideally be compared, but Noah Baumbach definitely gives him a run for his money in this film. Never once did I find myself bored, and when a movie is just a series of sequences with people talking, that can be hard to keep audiences engaged, but I feel this movie accomplishes that nearly impossible feat. This movie is on Netflix for the world to see and I can't recommend it enough.

- Abhay Vikram

What to Listen:

Hey Everyone,
I’ll begin with a confession of sorts, I’m really not the biggest Radiohead fan there is. They’re good for sure, but on a personal level their music has always been a little inaccessible. If anyone would want me to tender a personal apology for saying so, click here.

That being said, about a week ago while listening to a few Lianne La Havas performances (do take a listen if you can) I stumbled on her cover of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi - a song from Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ - and two hours later I found something that caused me to listen to more Radiohead in a day than I have in all the days leading up to said day. Fridgebuzz is a one-off concert entirely made up of brilliantly arranged Radiohead covers, with some really good musicians involved. The playlist is linked below -

Personal favourites from the show include - Weird Fishes, and the solo performances of Fake Plastic Trees (Dave Havea) and No Surprises (Anita Lester).

The pianist, Josh Cohen, has a bunch of solo covers of Radiohead on a more popular channel, which you could check out too.

I’ll keep the rest of this short. Further recommended listening for the week, all linked below -





Live performance pick of the week -

That’s all for now,

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A mid-December night's bucket

What to read


Alex Prevost – kidnapped, savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a wooden cage – is running out of time. Her abductor appears to want only to watch her die. Apart from a shaky eyewitness report, Police Commandant Camille Verhœven has nothing to go on: no suspects, no leads.
To find the young woman, the detective - a man with a tragic past and extraordinary abilities as an investigator - must first understand more about her.

Alex, a French crime novel by Pierre Lemaitre, is the second in his Verhœven series. The book follows a police inspector who has returned to his job following tough circumstances in his personal life and, contrary to his wishes, has been assigned a case of kidnapping.

The backcover summary was intriguing enough for me to pick it up at the previous semester’s Books By Weight, although I was surprised that it had escaped unnoticed till then. With victims falling around the protagonist like ninepins, the author ensures that the pace of the story does not slacken anywhere. Replete with twists and twisted characters until the very end, this book is a must read for anyone who enjoys crime thrillers.


What to watch

Get Out

The runaway hit of the year; this is a must-see film. First time director Jordan Peele has created a wonderful genre film in which everything feels fresh. It might sound familiar (white girl brings black boyfriend home to meet her parents) but it plays out in such a way that this psychological thriller with horror trim will have you perched on the edge of your seat from go to whoa. It's the scariest film I've seen in a while - mostly because it creeps into your head and won't let go.

By the time the words 'Get Out' are uttered, we have already been seduced - and spooked - by mind games, strange happenings and a reality in which black and white is more than a monochrome description. 'The pendulum has swung back; black is in fashion,' is a line to remember. Racial satire is key to the action and Peele (known for his comedy sketch performances) has a great feel for the integration of comedy into the dramatic tension; knowing how far he can go with his audience and makeing them enjoy the ride.

After a chilling opening sequence in a leafy neighbourhood at night complete with pizzicato strings and strange musical harmonies, we meet Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an up and coming photographer and his pretty girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) in their city love-nest, preparing for a weekend in the country. 'Do they know I'm black?' Chris asks with the kind of anxiousness reserved for someone who wants to make a good impression. From the outset Peele builds tension using genre conventions for punctuation: sudden noises, music cues, dark shadows.

On arrival, Rose's parents Dean and Missy (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) quickly point out the remoteness of their location offers 'total privacy'. There is something unusual about the zombie-like black hired help (Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel) and Rose's brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) is very strange indeed.

All the members of the cast are excellent and British actor Kaluuya (from Sicario) is perfect as the protagonist; it is through his eyes that the action plays out. Comedian Lil Rel Howery is fun as Chris' friend Rod, the security agent who is suspicious of everything.

Watch out for the scene in which Missy hypnotizes Chris in the dead of night, sending him to 'a sunken place'. It is terrifying. Add the group of well-dressed guests (including a blind art dealer) whose behavior is outright peculiar and the scene is a set for a nightmare weekend. Then Peele slams his foot on the pedal and ...

For maximum impact and enjoyment, it is best not to know too much; just let the characters, situations and unthinkable happenings seep into your consciousness.

It's a ripper. Don't see it alone!

What to listen

Alexi Murdoch

A British artist with a work ethic of a lazy IITian and yet one of the most soothing deep voices I've ever heard. He sings in a way that makes you stare at the stars with nothing but his voice by your side. Personal favourite songs - Through the dark and Towards the sun

-- Nirbhay