What makes a Sophisticated Pakistani?

Pakistanis are an unusual bunch. We indulge ourselves in endless shopping for exorbitant amounts, and yet we argue over the measly parking ticket outside the same mall. We haggle to no end even with the “Fixed Price” sign on the counter. We’re least bothered to fix small leaks on a pipe, its only when it bursts that it becomes a pain. And let’s not forget the jugaars (i.e. quick fixes).

But we’re an eclectic bunch, we are indeed. We have aspiring sportsmen, electrifying entertainers, magical musicians, and as I’ve recently found out, incredible chefs. Yes, no two Pakistanis are the same, and you could fit a character driven movie cast in a minivan, but the one that I know & love the most is the Sophisticated Pakistani. The one that isn’t necessarily wealthy but they know it and despite that, they will make an effort with incredible panache. Their wealthy counterparts are at a disadvantage simply because they are just too drenched in money that they spend on stuff that they don’t need and stuff that by all rights should not exist (seriously, who thought Vibrams were a good idea?”)

So let’s take a moment to examine this rare breed of self-made nobility, by understanding the things that make the Sophisticated Pakistani what he or she is…

Some Key Facts to remember about the Sophisticated Pakistani, is that they are at any given time:

  • Reasonably loaded.
  • Aware of when to spend and when not to.
  • Ready to indulge every once in a while.
  • Rarely at a loss for words.
  • Brand conscious.
  • Do not haggle.
  • Prefer Quality over Quantity

Honda over Toyota

People may migrate from a Toyota to a Honda, but very rarely do you hear of a Honda guy jumping to Toyota. Of course people in Pakistan are an exception to the rule, but that’s because they got for a Toyota blindfolded. Still, Honda beats Toyota on several fronts. Honda boasts sophistication in design which leaves the ga-ga drooling Toyota (ahem) enthusiast in the lurch. Technology, ride comfort, and a near-soundless drive even in the lower budget range City (of course a snob wouldn’t be caught owning one). Either that or Toyota’s are exceptionally noisy since they’re the more gruntier type of car.

Coke over Pepsi

To any Pakistani, Pepsi is probably the lifeblood that every catering event must run on on. Of course, everywhere else is a bizarro-world to them as Coke is the Number 1 Recognized Brand worldwide. The dim-witted Little Nicky’s amazing transformation of a Coke to a Pepsi is widely regarded as an insult and the most ridiculous WTF moments in Hollywood history. But besides the point, Coke has a more stingier taste and people that do drink it regularly will find that comparatively Pepsi is sweeter which makes it unappealing. And the local advertising puts Coke a notch ahead. Whereas Pepsi relies too much on their official cricket team or pop group sponsorship, Coke makes more wholesome ads which kinda leave people pausing to reflect.

DC Comics over Marvel

While Marvel continues to rule the roost as far as big-budget movies are concerned, and may have a wider reader outreach as far as down-to-earth and near-to-normal stories are concerned, the sophisticated do  not care! DC has culture & class that fits their choices perfectly. And the argument that DC Comics are “kiddie comics for grownups” is not an issue because the sophisticated Pakistani is essentially a child at heart. In a world where they’ve got to have a more mature outlook over everything else, they recognize their inner child and indulge it as much as possible, which DC Comics never fails at. Two of its major properties are celebrating their 75th birthdays (i.e. Superman & Batman) and both are the most easily recognizable superheroes on planet earth. Not to mention that they’ve had far more success in TV with their animated series and direct-to-DVD movies, and that’s about to be further enhanced with their latest forays into live-action television; no doubt making them the leader in Comics TV entertainment.

Microsoft over Everything Else

Apple, you say? BAH! The Sophisticated Pakistani spent most of their teenage and adult lives mastering Microsoft because A) with Microsoft you’ve got a disciplined and more corporate-savvy architecture and B) PCs were and are a lot more affordable. Microsoft is the industry leader, it is in pretty much every computer around the world and sold with every new desktop, laptop or netbook. It is the market leader in nearly all office software programs, and thus being the software solution provider of choice to the corporate wage-earning sophisticated Pakistani. Who’s gonna shell out four times the money for an iMac? Owning an Apple computer is sheer gluttony and the Sophisticated do not glutton (is that a verb?) Sure they were disappointed when Microsoft fell behind in the race for smartphone supremacy, they are highly optimistic with the new Windows 8 and will treat the Lumia phones as the second coming of arguably the most dominant computing brand in history.

Star Trek over Star Wars

I’ve never seen Star Wars. Lets get that out of the way. Also, Star Wars is no doubt an epic sci-fi franchise. Now with both those undeniable facts out of the way, it has to be said that Star Trek if far more entertaining. For one thing, it follows into something that is lost to this world: exploration. Searching the farthest reaches of space “for new life and new civilizations” makes every episode something to look forward to. And there are a LOT of episodes. In 40 years, Star Trek has delivered six television series containing over 700 episodes set in different generations of Starfleet, not to mention the movies and comic franchises. Most of all, Star Trek has had the daunting task of focusing on several socio-political causes in the most innovative ways while maintaining an amazingly neutral stance. The Original Series in 1966 boasted the world’s first and most prominent multi-racial ensembles, and continues to do so to this day in the rebooted moview franchise. It has created its own fictional alien language ‘Klingon’ which is spoken among the several die-hard fans of Star Trek, commonly referred to as Trekkies. And if that isn’t something to be proud of, Star Trek is by and large cited for several of the breakthrough technological innovations since its inception. Whereas a working lightsaber is still just a concept.

You tell ’em, Picard!

 

Art over Crass

Sophisticated Pakistanis enjoy the explosive-filled summer blockbuster as much as the next person, but what they really want is intellectual engagement. They want to be challenged, to have a movie or TV show tease their mind with intelligent, clever dialogue and smart character building, along with a bit of personal narrative. Add wittiness, charm, innovation and just the right kind of humor; and the sophisticated Pakistani will eat it up. With all the new premium cable networks, a lot of thought and quality goes into productions such as Penny Dreadful, Da Vinci’s Demons, or even network TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Sherlock, Doctor Who, The Musketeers etc. What they could really do without is crass-ness. Sure given times there might be the need to view more common fare, but its never really a first preference.

 

And that’s it for now. There are no doubt several other quirks that set the Sophisticated Pakistani apart from the rest of the pack, and would need pages upon pages to get to most of them. But much like the rest, they evolve into different creatures with each passing decade, adding new levels of sophistication to their already distinct panache.

Suffice it to say, they are in a league of their own.

Top Hypocritical Cliches We’re All Guilty Of

P.S. The following is a rant. It’s not meant to offend anyone in anyway, but it may come off as offensive to some people. In that case, while I have no intentions of hurting anyone, do ponder over the points for a moment. If it still appears offensive, then you have my sincerest apologies.

1. “I don’t have too much time to waste on stuff like this”

This is normally uttered when someone creates a huge hue & cry over something mostly trivial, and yet will not see to pursue it for a reasonable and logical conclusion. For example, say you buy a designer outfit and find out that the color runs out. You go to the outlet and start screaming at the top of your lungs about how you were robbed and how this designer sucks & everything [naturally doing so while there are other customers present]. And when the person there asks you to simply provide them the dress to see what could have gone wrong… bingo! [P.S. True Story]

2. I could get this same thing half price at [random area]”

You know what the shopkeepers should say to this? Simple: “Then why don’t you buy it from there, why come here?” Seriously, what do people want to prove when they say it? Do shopowners have a price match system like those in the U.S.? Not likely, and they’re not going to slash it half price for your convenience. And I love it when people try to bargain at places where there’s a “Fixed Price” board at the cash register 😛 The shopkeeper is NOT going to give you the product for the exact price you want, period.

3.“Why should I pay parking charges? I’ve only been here 5 minutes.”

Unless you’re related to Vin Diesel or Jason Statham, you are NOT getting away from a parking ticket! Not in Karachi’s traffic, where there’s a car left & right waiting for you to get out and park in the vacant slot. Pay the 20 bucks which you would for some smokes or chaliaan, and get it over with. And STOP with the 5 minutes crap. You know you’ve been here for longer. Be thankful your car is still there.

4. I’ve been waiting in my car here for half an hour, everyone’s coming right at me, when am I going to pass?”

Did you bother to see if there’s a sign that says “No Entry” or “Wrong Way”? Oh, can’t read? Then there’s a sign with an arrow that’s been crossed out with red, but you’d understand it if you ever had a look at the handbook they give you when you apply for your driver’s license, so that you can pass your test. You do have a driver’s license, right?

5. “Who can be bothered?”

Imagine someone throws a wrapper on the street. You politely ask him to hold on to the wrapper till he finds a suitable waste bin to dispose of it. Or try convincing someone to use solar panels if he’s so fed up with electricity shortages. He responds “Who can be bothered?” YOU! If YOU don’t do it, no one else will! I hate this one the most, because it just becomes easy to use it and absolve oneself of any responsibility. No one here ever thinks about going the extra mile, unless of course it’s profitable to them in some way.

6. “There’s so much corruption in this country…”

Sure there is, but ever wonder why? Because we do not hesitate to throw due process out the window and take the easy way out. When was the last time you tried to get out of a traffic challan? Wait, wrong question. It should be: When was the last time you were enthusiastic about getting a challan? Try this the next time you get held up by a traffic cop: Admit you were wrong and take the challan, period. The look on the guy’s face will be priceless. And you’ll have stopped one little incident of corruption from happening.

7. Work up a quick-fix, please…”

Why, why, WHY?! Why do we need quick-fixes for everything? Whether it’s a leaky faucet, getting a quick fix for that faulty car part that’s bothering you, you just want to have a short cut for something that, if done with patience and care, will be a permanent solution that will last longer and be more efficient.

8. “I’ll be right back in 5 minutes…”

For some reason, that’s an excuse to double or triple park. And the worst part is that it’s not going to take the guy 5 minutes. Why you ask? Just a hunch, but if there’s still a car properly parked first, chances are that guy isn’t done yet and therefore, it will take time. Then the first guy is going to suffer till the idiot who double parked gets his car out of the way. And let’s not get to the rest of the traffic that gets clogged because they have to move on one lane.

9. “You do not know how to talk to ladies (with respect)”

She hit my car! The gender of the driver does not matter, she (with or without intent, but mostly due to recklessness) hit my car! And just who the heck are you?! Why do you feel compelled to stop over, gather a crowd and defend the lady like she can’t defend herself at all? Wouldn’t it be swell if she would just ask them to buzz off and let the aggrieved parties handle it themselves. All it takes is to exchange contact information, or contact the insurance companies. NO HELP REQUIRED! And of course, why can’t you just drive away from an accident. No, it’s always “hey look, a car collision” slow down and watch what’s happening and block the rest of the traffic, compelling everyone else behind you to do the same. Worst case scenario would be when someone watching like a mindless drone also ends up rear-ending another car… you really don’t want to go there.

10. “He’s a [armed forces/good college/big company/foreign qualified] guy, his class is altogether different.”

I’ll believe that the next time I see one of them acting with civic sense. Has anyone ever wondered why expats obey the law in a foreign country, but violate every single law the minute they exit the airport? Is it ethical to not litter abroad and start dropping trash at the Karachi airport? The laws are there for a reason but sadly we look for excuses and cite everyone else that violates them.

Which brings me to the bonus cliche…

BONUS CLICHE: “If he can get away with it, so can I…”

But why? What rush do you get when you break the law? Why not follow someone for a good cause? Why can’t you be someone who does well and others will follow?

 

A Human Thing To Do

Note: The events of this blog took place in mid-late 2011. It was published elsewhere and here now for posterity’s sake.

First things first, I’m not a pets person. I’ve never had pets in the house ever since my brother got scared by a neighbor’s dog. And I live in a flat, so having pets was out of the question. There was a funny and frightening incident with my sister, a kitten, and my dad,l but that’s a story for another time. However, when you’re married to someone who’s taken care of pets ever since she was a kid, well it’s a pretty precarious situation.

Not the actual article, but adorable nonetheless.

Now where do I begin? Maybe it started last week during the rains, when, while trying to get some sleep, my wife and I heard some dog howling, and later the faint & distinct sound of infant puppies. The Mrs. concluded that a stray dog had given birth on that rainy night. Anyways, on Friday, we discovered that there were 6 puppies on a dirty unclean parking area in front of the next building. My wife would watch over them and at times even pet one. Yesterday though, she was heartbroken when she found out that two of the puppies had been run over by a car.

So while the building’s watchman got rid of the two dead bodies, the remaining four were still sitting there, all alone and in the open with mommy gone off. While my wife and I watched over the balcony, it just occurred to me that surely there was something I could do. So, I headed to the store, found a couple of boxes I could use and decided to make a small make-shift safe zone for them. One was a shoe box and the other was a packing box for a CNG kit. I emptied them and cut off one end on each and joined them together with duct tape (oh mighty duct tape), making sure the thing would not get apart. This made for a pretty large area inside for a makeshift shelter. I even used a screwdriver to punch a few holes for adequate light and air, even though the top lid would remain open, but you never know.

Next, I headed down and brought my car up at a little bit of an incline to make sure I had enough room under there. This is more like a second car which I don’t use that often, so I found a glove I had a while back and picked up the dogs and put them in my boxes. Now I know there are mixed feelings about if I’m being weird by wearing a glove, but heck I’ve just never done something like this before. By the time I had all four in the box, my wife brought some milk in a bowl. The little pups were happily drinking and looked like the happiest little things you’ve ever seen.

Once I made sure that everything was fine, I picked up the box and placed it right under my car, taking care that the lids were open. My wife asked if the mom would find them, since they’d been moved about 3 car spaces. I was hopeful that she’d find them eventually. I checked out at night and lo & behold, the mom was there happily feeding them. This morning, while I was getting in my other car, I peeked at my makeshift arrangement, and was happy to see that the pups were sleeping back in the box.

So why am I sharing this story? Well, mostly because this was so many experiences in one. It was the first time I picked up a bunch of puppies, even if I was wearing a glove. I could feel them, their little muscles twitching in fright over what was happening. I could see them up close, breathing and looking around. It was the first time I actually got so riled up about doing something like this that I went through all that trouble to make the boxes and help four stray puppies that no one would have probably cared for. Already I was getting pretty weird looks from people around me while I was doing this and for the life of me, I really did not give a fudge what anyone thought!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that for the first time in a long time, I’ve actually felt good about doing something. In this day & age when we hardly concern ourselves with actual living human beings, it’ll be a far cry when people start helping animals, and stray ones at that. It may not have mattered to most, but it mattered to me that those poor little pups were exposed and under threat.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive. Maybe I’m concerned just because I’m about to become a dad soon. But it felt like the most human thing I’ve probably ever done with my life.

And you know what? It felt great! 🙂

Quake – Homage to a First Person Shooter

Never has a ‘Q’ looked this bad-ass!

Like most things of my life that I fondly remember, it was in the ‘90s that a real good friend of mine introduced me to the world of PC Gaming. He was a gaming freak and had always mocked me over my outdated… scratch that, ANCIENT Nintendo Console. Finally though, when I did get my first PC with Windows 95, he made it his mission to get me some of his favorites. There was the infamous Sky Target from Sega that found its way to the PC, there was a pretty snazzy fighter called Cyber Gladiators which had pretty neat 3D rendering. There were a couple more whose names escape me, largely because they all paled to the one, the only… QUAKE.

Proudly to be remembered as “that other First Person Shooter” from id Software, Quake took off from where its predecessor Doom left off. One of the first games with full real-time 3D rendering, Quake took full advantage of my little 333 Mhz CPU to showcase its incredible layouts and arenas. From futuristic military bases to other-worldly medieval & gothic cathedrals, to even the pits of the underworld itself, Quake redefined just what video gaming was all about. The beauty of it all was that even with Windows on kaput (and since this was Windows 95, let’s say every other week), Quake could be run on basic MS DOS and still kick all sorts of rear-end.

The Quake Start Screen. No turning back now!

Much like Doom, Quake follows the lone protagonist who’s given the mission to defeat a rogue element single-handed that’ve been using teleporter technology to get into Earth. The game takes the protagonist all the way from known Earth to other dimensions full of nasty monsters, deadly traps, complex puzzles while also providing access to top-of-the-line weapons, from shotguns to rocket launchers. Not to mention the pretty gold & silver keys and a few runes.

Did I mention that the rogue element employs all sorts of deadly monsters to do its bidding?

The Quake Rogues Gallery. All together now: CHEESE!

But enough about the game itself. This is about a 13 year old boy who was forever hooked onto the masterpiece that is QUAKE. This is about what this single game has been a major influence to the imagination already fueled by DC Comics and the Star Trek franchise, as well as popular ‘80s TV shows such as Knight Rider & Airwolf. In fact, Quake managed to do what none of the above could do; make me ignore all of them for a good 3-4 years. Unlike most gamers, I took my time, starting from the bottom with the easy mode, then the normal, then the hard, and finally that secret corridor that led to the Nightmare mode. Four Difficulty Levels, four different episodes of six levels each, followed by the grand finale. That’s about a 100 levels of pure adrenaline, beautifully crafted gothic scenery, and a whole lot of blood & gore of the pixelated variety. Seriously, the detail was incredible.

Purely by chance, another of my endeavors into PC gaming was an obscure racing title called Motorhead. For some reason, my PC never was able to play it, but on the plus side the double layered CD boasted the incredible soundtrack by Olof Gustafsson which Quake automatically played during game-play  Needless to say, the futuristic trance music made the gaming experience far more superior and I think the Motorhead CD was worth the money. Well I say that because I pretty much played a lot of other video games whilst listening to that soundtrack, but Olof Gustafsson will have to wait.

Quake haunted my every waking moment, and then some. I now roamed the school building in a haze and not surprisingly, a life & ammo meter beneath my field of vision. I couldn’t turn a corner without reacting to Grunt or an Ogre or a Shambler. Which technically would & should be any 14-year old boy’s reaction to a group of girls approaching him around the bend when they look at him and think all guys MUST be this dorky, if not having cooties anyway. And if being awake wasn’t addictive enough, I found a better part of a year formulating strategies (as if there was such a thing in Quake) in my dreams. I’d be haunted by all the monsters and yet be as casual in shooting a rocket at them as if I were in god mode.

Could anything top off my experience? Sure, the nifty expansion pack called the Quake: X-Men Apocalypse. An entirely new game with new rules, but the basic one was to my liking: kill all X-Men! Well not the real X-Men, more like clones of the X-Men which were kidnapped by Apocalypse to be his mutant clone army or something; I forget. Still, clones they were, and unlike the dark & gritty medieval atmosphere in Quake, this was a brighter tech-savvy environment. All the baddies and monsters from Quake were now replaced by X-Men clones with pretty much the same attacks. You could easily tell that Wolverine was a Fiend in disguise, though sadly the growling didn’t sound like ‘bub’ at all.

Wait, is Gambit flexing?
Wait, is Gambit flexing?

Quake was the love of my life. So much so that I never moved on to the sequels. Quake II was immediately put back on the shelf upon discovering it had nothing to do with the original story line wise. Quake III Arena won me over because of the graphics only, and Quake IV? Was there a Quake IV?

Some years ago, I came across an updated build of the original Quake game, with new levels “Scourge of Armagon” and “Dissolution of Eternity.” I fell in love again, and how could I not? It had a dragon! A… DRAGON!!! I think I drooled the entire time I managed to get it up and running on my PC. Sadly, the Motorhead CD was long gone, scratched to the very last silver filament.

No matter how far technology has progressed with all the ridiculous levels of game-play enhancements in all the consoles or new-age PCs, nothing can beat the original masterpiece that changed the way FPS and, dare I say it, all video games were made. It had the environment, the atmosphere, the dark, gritty architecture, the scariest of monsters, the cleanest game-play  and the most fun! Its universal acclaim can be attested to the fact that it is the first thing you see when you Google the word ‘quake’. And it has been the driving force of a young boy’s life right into adulthood at the turn of a millennium.

Nop, Not Kidding.
Nope, Not Kidding.

It truly was ahead of its time. And it truly does stand the test of time among the all-time classics.

The Road to Transition

We used to have a next door neighbor once, a rather old man that we had known for over a decade. ‘Kaka’ we used to call him. As is apparently the norm in their families, Kaka lived alone after all of his children had been married off, and any visits from them or their children would last as much as 15 minutes. This was the way he liked it, apparently. He only had two known associations with the rest of the world: either his gathering of old peers at the neighborhood market, or us, his next door neighbors. If there was ever a wedding in the building, or a social gathering involving people in our flats, he would prefer it if he could come along with us. I distinctly remember the last time I spoke with him in 2003, when I arrived home late one evening from an APTECH class. As I pulled up the driveway, he was waiting downstairs, frailer than usual, along with one of his relatives as they were hoping to get a rickshaw to get to the doctor’s clinic. I volunteered to drop him off and asked him in the car of how he was feeling. He told me he wasn’t feeling too good and as I dropped him off, he told me to take care of myself.

The next Sunday, I woke up in the afternoon to find out that Kaka had passed away in the morning. Up till that point, death was a concept I used to consider something that happened to distant relatives, or people I didn’t know, or fiction. This one was one that really did strike that concept from my mind. It was closer to home both literally & figuratively and was in a way a sign. To quote Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are a-Changin’”

A few months later, no sooner that I had applied for my National Identity Card after turning 18, my father had his first heart attack. I was with him when we went to the doctor and he told him to get to the cardio hospital asap. I don’t know why, but dad wouldn’t let me drive; either because I was still too young to drive all the way on a main thoroughfare, or maybe he thought I would panic and speed off like a raving lunatic. Just like him to consider all possibilities. He fought off traffic for 40 minutes till we arrived at the emergency room of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, right before another emergency case was brought on a stretcher. Half an hour later, while they were taking my dad to the general ward, the other patient fell into cardiac arrest and died in front of us.

As someone who had only seen people die in movies or TV, this was too much to process. I will never forget that night, running around half a block to get that vital injection of Clexane just because the hospital chemist didn’t stock it, running five floors up the general ward just because elevators shut down after 11 PM, and running off again for the new meds the doctor just wrote down. It was then that I realized two things: one that for the life of me, I’ve never run this much for anything and two… *sigh* that times have indeed changed. No longer could I be that carefree idiot that never looked beyond, never planned ahead, and never imagined the worst case scenario. Before that, the only possible worst case scenario, to me, was that “dad would kill me if I screwed up again.” But right there, right then, I was THIS close to losing that mercy.

A year after his angioplasty, which we were assured would last for another 10 to 15 years, my father breathed his at the ICU in Liaquat National Hospital after fighting for 2 weeks. Describing the circumstances which led to this would be fruitless when looking at the resulting devastation at the end. How does one describe their world shattering to a million pieces? How does one relate the last time he heard his father was when he was walking out the door and telling you that he’d be back home soon? Even tip-toe-ing around the memories of these 15 days can only result in tears.

Grim as it all was, what followed must have been the universe trying to hammer in an already bludgeoned nail. A cousin died when he had just turned 16, another lady in the building breathed her last a few weeks after, and tragedy striking a distant relative in a road accident. I could only watch as devastation hit those closer to their loved ones, could understand full well what they were experiencing. But while Death had made its point, it was Life that had made me realize its true value. Life is, well, short and precious. And wonderful, and glorious, and painful. It just is. The thing about life is that it goes on, and has to go on no matter what. The loss of a loved one can only inspire you to follow their example, to continue onward and to not disappoint them. That is what they would want of you, that is what they would expect of you.

“The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Everything has its time. And everything ends.”

And everything begins…

 

The Death Of Superman – Comic Book Review

I love comic books. Particularly DC Comics! I’ve been
reading them ever since school and have been addicted. Despite having a very
short collection, naturally depending on what the bookstores would carry, I
would make it a point to get my hands on every major DC comic books out there.

Now with the internet and the power of torrents, I’ve
managed to get a plethora of comics dating back the ‘80s to date. I’ve read all
through Batman’s entire history and am currently amassing all of Superman’s
stories. I’m gonna use my new found love for yelling review some of the more memorable
storylines that changed the scope of comic books.  Wonder if there’s anyone else here that loves
comic books as much as I do.

THE
DEATH OF SUPERMAN (1992)


Now a lot of you are wondering? Death of Superman? How?! The guy could bend steel and no bullet could get through his steel-like
body. Heart attack maybe? Not likely, but lets review this story first.

As we all may know by now, Superman is the last of his species from the planet Krypton, when he was sent to Earth by his parents who

perished along with Krypton as the planet exploded. Fueled by the Earth’s yellow sun, and the lower gravitational pull, Superman develops extraordinary powers that allow him to be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a speeding locomotive and of course able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Raised by the simple Kent family and ingrained with human ethics and values, Superman decides to use his powers to help all mankind by stopping disasters and fighting villains out to hurt the citizenry. His alter ego Clark Kent worked at the Daily Planet newspaper and lived in Metropolis.

However, one fine day, a monstrous creature broke free from underground. Covered in a protective layer of rock and bone, this
creature, dubbed ‘Doomsday’, started destroying and killing everything in its path till it reached Metropolis. This guy just had a deathwish for everyone around him as he destroyed any and everything in his path, even little birds chirping would get crushed. Its like he had no soul at all. I mean, just look at this guy:


It was seemingly unstoppable and incredibly powerful as it had already fatally injured a lot of other superheroes before finally meeting Superman at Metropolis. From there, the two fought in a titanic fist fight where both were at odds in strength. Superman would have given up, but only his concern for the well-being of his fellow man mattered as he fought Doomsday to his last breath. In the end however, both the Man of Steel and Doomsday were left lying in debris of broken buildings in the aftermath. Doctors tried to revive him but in vain. The Man of Steel was indeed dead.

AS the whole world mourned his death, including other super heroes and particularly Lois Lane, his co-worker and fiancé of Clark Kent, problems started arising. In the absence of the city’s watchful protector, crime started surging as petty crooks, gangs and the mafia started
getting more confident. Without Superman, the city of Metropolis was ripe for the picking.

In the days that followed, surprising new developments took place as four different Supermen came to Metropolis, all claiming to be
the actual Superman.


The first one is The Metropolis Kid: an adolescent clone of Superman that was developed by a clandestine Government agency. He was
only a teenager and sure enough, acted like one. Cocky, arrogant and reckless, he was still very powerful as he had Superman’s abilities as well as tactile telekinesis, which allowed him to move solid objects with his mind. He later on was known as Superboy.

The second one is The Man of Tomorrow: a cross between Superman and a Terminator exo-skeleton. Part man, part machine, this version
was scientifically proven to be Superman after a DNA test of his living tissue. He also had sophisticated Krypton technology that allowed him to create any mechanical or electronic device in his hands. He is widely known as the Cyborg Superman.

The third was The Man of Steel, who wears a suit of armor and used a badass hammer. He didn’t claim to be actually Superman, but
rather represented the spirit of Superman and continue his legacy. This version is more widely known as Steel (if anyone’s seen that Shaq movie, you’ll know)

The last was referred to as The Last Son of Krypton, who shared the similar physical appearance and powers of the actual Superman,
save for a visor over his eyes, a new “energy-beam” based power, and  a much more violent mindset towards criminals, as he looks to exact lethal punishment.

All four ‘Supermen’ resumed the duties of Metropolis’ protectors, each laying claim as to which one is the true Superman. Citizens
formed cult groups, fan clubs etc all following either one of them as the true Superman. In reality however, the Last Son of Krypton was an energy-based life form from Krypton called the Eradicator that had stolen the actual Superman’s body and put it in a regeneration chamber of Kryptonian origin to power himself. Also, the Man of Tomorrow is a dead astronaut that used Superman’s DNA sample to create himself a duplicate body he could use. His consciousness was embedded in a machine by which he could create any form.

The story climaxed to the Cyborg Superman revealing his true colors as he destroyed Coast City and killed all the people in it with the
aid of an alien warlord Mongul. With thousands of precision timed bombs, they leveled the city to waste and killed the near 7 million populace. They then created “Engine City” on top of the debris and devised an evil plan to do the same to every other city around the world. It’s at this point where the actual Superman returns, his body regenerated but still very weak. With the help of the Eradicator, Superboy, Steel, Supergirl and the Green Lantern, Superman (wearing a solar power siphoning suit) challenged the Cyborg Superman. In the course of battle,  Superman’s powers returned to full and he defeated the Cyborg, destroying his cybernetic body.


After this victory, Superman returned to Metropolis as the genuine article, whereas Superboy, Steel and the Eradicator were now his
allies supporting him in future stories. Superman/Clark Kent’s fiancé Lois Lane was skeptical about this version being the real one, but was convinced soon enough. Apparently Superman didn’t die as his body stored a massive amount of solar energy, which helped him to go into a hibernation state instead of dying after his battle with Doomsday.

“The Death of Superman” was a huge commercial success as comic book fans that had never read Superman before thronged to pick
up a copy. The story brought in millions of readers not just to Superman titles but also to all other DC Comics titles as well. Most recently, it was adapted in the animated movie “Superman: Doomsday”.

The story left a large impression in the minds of readers back then. As I read it again recently, it left an impression in my
mind too. The fact that the greatest fictional hero of all times, sacrificed himself to destroy an alarming threat just to save the rest of the world was quite a feat. Add to the fact that Superman wasn’t even human, and yet was selfless enough to use his power for the ultimate challenge. Makes you wonder how many of us would step up to realistic challenges in front of us, making a change for ourselves and not waiting for a savior.

That’s it for this review. Hope there are any comic book fans out there that like this. Your feedback would be really appreciated.

Till Later.

The following is rated ‘PG’

Remember how when we were kids and sometime we would utter words which would prompt our mothers to exclaim “Watch your mouth or I’ll wash it out with soap!” That was pretty funny and I’ve always wondered how it would work: dragging a kid to the bathroom, lathering up his mouth with soap would scare kids to make sure they wouldn’t speak such ‘filth’ anymore. Since I’m the master of bizarre logic, I’ll go on a limb here and claim soap’s now being used for washing the extensive wardrobe women have now. What other possible reason could we have for kids that now freely exhibit Class-A abusive language.

Here’s an instance. Right across my apartment building is the area’s family park. Families, particularly women and children, gather there every evenings, nights and weekends to get away from home, get some activity for the kids, fresh air, etc. standing only my balcony gives me a whole panoramic view of the park to take in all the sights and sounds. The sights are mostly fine; it’s the sounds that worry me. It’s become quite common for me to see kids in groups without parental supervision engaging in abusive verbal sparring that would make George Carlin proud. Boys no older than 10 years of age experience no problem in constantly berating each other with harsh, foul and filthy language that is uncalled for, unethical, and above all, way out of their scope of understanding.

Saying, or yelling for that matter, all this abuse may sound ‘cool’ to these kids, but unfortunately its leading to a downward spiral of ethics. Sure when we got into our teens we would engage in such abusive language, but some of us would know the boundaries of ethics. Some of us would know when a genuine instance would be there to actually use the “F-Word”. These days however, it looks like the age limit and usage limit has decreased to accommodate more swear-words in a majority of the children.

What could possibly be the cause? Yes, I know I mentioned the whole lack of soap thing above, but that just can’t be it. What else? Hmmm… how about:

1 – Bad Company?

2 – TV shows?

3 – Movies?

4 – Video Games?

Oooooooooooooohhhhh, I know: “Lack of Parental Supervision

Sure those 4 reasons above are just as responsible, but think about it. Isnt it obvious that all the other 4 happen due to lack of parental supervision? Parents, especially both that are working, tend to pay much less attention to their children after they come home from school. Kids can then watch whatever they want on TV, play whatever new violent edition of GTA that’s out, hang out with all their friends that may or may not be a bad influence, and then later in the evenings spend time with their parents to do homework. For all the parents know, their kids are little angels that could do no wrong.

Well sorry to burst the fictional halo over their heads, but parenting shouldn’t just be limited to homework. When I was a kid, my dad would keep an eye on the kind of cartoons I would watch, the kind of movies I’d rent out, or books that I would read. As long as every entertainment I had was age appropriate, everything was fine. I was probably the only kid that would rent movies making sure of their MPAA rating first. PG till I was 12, PG-13 after that, followed by 16, 18 etc, etc.

Looking at children nowadays and the way they act, is just the beginning. Growing up in such a scenario leads to exceedingly violent behavior at a lower age. It’s like Doogie Howser, only instead of a doctor, he could be turning the opposite. More violent, unethical, and God forbid, criminal.

Fact: instances of violent acts that lead to assault, attempted murder, and even murder have been reported where the perpetrator has indicated being inspired by the latest criminally intended movie or video games. Titles such as the ever popular GTA franchise have been rated over 18+ for violence, strong language, etc. Ratings are given to titles for a reason and where there is proper enforcement for such ratings leads to a more controlled environment. Unfortunately, a lot of regions do not follow or are not aware of these ratings.

Eventually it’s the parent’s responsibility to monitor and oversee what their kids are doing in their spare time. Instead of buying them DVD players, laptops, game consoles etc just so they can stay occupied, parents need to take an active part in their kids’ activities. This doesn’t mean that parents should completely impose themselves on their kids. Let them explore new things in life, so long as they’re treading the path they should for their age. Encourage outdoor activities such as cycling, cricket, etc so that kids can have freedom from their daily indoor routines.

So long as parents keep an eye on their kids and their activities, they should remain content that their children will be a positive contribution to society at large. Values are important for kids at an early age since that’s when their minds are most fragile and take more input, therefore its important that they get the right set of values. Ultimately, it’ll be the parents, teachers, older siblings, relatives or responsible adults that will have the largest amount of influence to a child’s life. Every life is precious; and a child is like a flower that needs the proper care to blossom.

Till Later…

Household Warfare

Ah the 90s. The decade I most fondly remember like it was only yesterday (or decade before yester-decade?) Some of the more important technological revolutions that today would look like a footnote happened back in the 90s. Back then, TiVo, Blu-Ray, social networking, twitting, free online downloads and gazillions of bytes worth of space online seemed like something that was nearly next to impossible. Back then a laptop the size of a current netbook would cost twice as much as today’s high-end laptops with probably a fraction of the performance specs. The Pentium II processor was marketed to look like if it was the second coming of Christ, any kid in school would be cool if he could keep clicking a 1.44 MB floppy diskette’s snap, mIRC was social networking PERIOD, Sonic and Doom were the pinnacle of video gaming, and VCDs were treasured and protected so much to not let a scratch on them!

And lets not forget the most significant one, that of Dish Antennas and Satellite Receivers.

It was a breakthrough in more ways than one. Gone were the days when PTV and NTM would be the mainstays of any television set. With Dish Antennas and Satellite Receivers, viewers would have a near unlimited choice of accessing channels across the world. It was only a matter of positioning the dish and configuring LNBs to the right wavelength to get the signal. Brands like Winersat, Pacific, etc would become the most popular devices in the market, and naturally the most re-sell-able as is a requirement of Pakistani standards. The status quo was easily measured if a person had a fiber dish or a netted dish, and then you had the ones with the electronic motor and those who could afford decoders for the paid channels.

Of course the average person wouldn’t delve into the technicalities a whole lot. That spot is for one member in the family: the nerd obviously 😛 The rest of the family had dishes for one reason only: Entertainment. And boy were they entertained! Ranging from Indian movie trailers, songs, movies, game shows, music countdowns, drama series, cartoons etc., the whole family would be thoroughly entertained. While dishes are a rarity these days in the age of cable and TiVo, it did leave behind 1 very significant legacy that will forever change the viewer preference on TV.

A “must watch show” for any dish owner was the famous comedy series “Tu Tu Main Main”. Airing initially on Zee TV and later Star Plus, the show revolved around a domestic Indian urban family, particularly the mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law and their daily squabbles, fights, feuds, arguments… you name it. The two couldn’t stand each other and were stuck together with their husbands who, try as they might to cool things down, ended up getting abuse from the combined duo who forget their bitter rivalry and join forces to take on every challenge in front of them. Truly an oddball and odd-couple premise, which managed to run for an entire decade’s worth of episodes (either new ones or reruns).

However, the show would leave a larger impression in the minds of people watching, especially here in Pakistan. Every day that the two fought over petty arguments, every family that I knew would start talking about it and try to analyze what would have happened if it was them in their place, or if similar situations would happen here. The Mother/Daughter-In-Law feuds started circulating a lot more than commonly heard of, with news going around of fights happening between them, which eventually and unfortunately led to more grisly conclusions. The society at large would be embedded with a general idea that come hell or high water, the Mother-In-Law and Daughter-in-Law cannot, cannot, CANNOT Co-Exist!

Enter the 2000s and we had the fallout from TTMM’s legacy : Indian Soap Operas.

Made on exorbitant budgets and featuring all the glitz & glamour worth craving, these soaps featured rich society families with bank balances no less than 100 Crores. Attired all in designer jewelry and saris (wonder who would keep track of all that gold), the stories would revolve around the rich & influential mother-in-law always scheming to get rid of her doting daughter-in-law who she has always hated. Reasons include: not her choice for her son, her son fell into love, the girl trapped her “bouncing bundle of joy” etc. Every episode would feature 1 hour of a day; and I mean that literally: 1 WHOLE HOUR of a particular day crammed into 30 minutes. In each episode, the calendar is limited to the hours of the day while covering the scheming Mommy-in-Law and the poor girl-in-law trying to stand up to the man (wo-man?)

While over-bloated production standards of these shows is a different argument altogether, the psychological impact on the viewers has been deeply scarring. Conventional mothers now are of the firm belief that it’s their duty/responsibility, nay GOD GIVEN RIGHT, to intervene and scheme against their prospective daughter-in-laws and make sure that their son’s hate them too. The End Result: society at large today is born & brought up embedded with a general idea that come hell or high water, the Mother-In-Law and Daughter-in-Law cannot, cannot, CANNOT Co-Exist!

Perhaps it’s a rite of passage that all daughters need to go through the abuse to become more evil when they turn into MILs, but the question is… do they really have to? Seriously thinking, does no one in their right mind want a home full of harmony and peace? Why is it that homes have to become the battleground for petty arguments like not adding salt to the food or taking too much time clearing out the dishes, not taking part in the overall household activities etc. It creates a lot of unnecessary tension and ridiculously high blood pressure levels for family members, who instead of spending all day scheming and fighting, could find peaceful and harmonious activities to do. Or just mind their own business, how bout that?

So, to all the soon to be mothers in laws or married women etc; to quote the great Tom Jones:

“WAR

What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing!”
Right on!

Earth Hour = You Hour

The 4th Annual Earth Hour took place on Saturday March 27th 2010, with 4000 Cities around the world participating. World-famous landmarks including the Pyramids, Big Ben, the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower and Beijing’s Forbidden City etc went dark Saturday as millions turned out the lights.

What started in 2007 by the WWF and Sydney residents, Earth Hour has now become a global event and is held on the last Saturday of March annually, asking households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights and other electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Newspapers and internet were filled with pictures showing such landmarks as the Big Ben in London, both Burj Al-Arab and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Malaysia’s famous Twin Towers; even the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles & the Google Homepage all turning their lights off for the obligatory 60 minutes. Probably the only time the entire world could be unified for anything, however, that isn’t the topic of discussion today.

My interest in the event was quite keen and I did happen to check out the Wikipedia article for the event. For those curious, be sure to visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Hour for information and pictures of the event. Naturally, being a Karachiite, my interest lead me to press CTRL+F on my browser and see if Karachi was participating. It was listed in the “Supporting Cities” category, while our national capital Islamabad was mentioned in the “Notable Supporting Cities”. The trifecta of Karachi, Lahore & Islamabad was a grand supporter indeed.

In fact, I’ll take this a step further and state that instead of the obligatory 60 minutes, I’m willing to stake my fortune of Batman comics to bet that Karachi (or Pakistan, for that matter) supported the event with more than just 60 minutes. In fact, if reports are right, Karachi contributed over 12 hours of blackouts to Earth Hour that day! Take that, oh ominous Hollywood sign 😛

Hold that thought, that’s not entirely true. Hell no, in fact, Earth Hour(s) in Karachi were not just a commemorative event for the 27th. Of course not, we’re not the greatest city ever for nothing! While all the rest of those 3999 cities could do it for just 1 hour in 1 day, Karachi does it every single of the 365 calendar days of the year! Sure we do it under the guise of something called “load-shedding”, but that’s merely a cover-up for the valuable contribution Karachi (or Pakistan entirely) gives to saving the environment.

That’s right, we’ll help protect the environment at all costs, even if it is pitch black, hot as a microwave (bad example) or if it means that we wont be able to study for that all important exam tomorrow or not finish that accounts report because of no electricity.

It is true that our lives of excess are the root cause of what plagues the environment today. The Earth Hour, the Cope-never-hagen summit, Al Gore’s Futurama appearances, the mass protests and initiatives for protecting the environment today kinda like a repentance scheme we human beings adopt to, well… uh… repent? After all our excess carbon emissions from gas-hungry automobiles and generators, CO2 Emissions for Air-conditioners etc are harming the environment every day, but at least Karachi can repent its sins everyday with the obligatory load shedding.

In fact, that is one of the things that I see are the bright side (dark?) of load shed—sorry, Earth Hours. You get to spend a lot more time with your family instead of being stuck to the tube like flies or do God / cache /FBI knows what on the internet. It’s a time when people get together, have a chat (a real one and not on the phone or SMSs). I guess the more of these blackouts we have had over the past decade or so, the more I’ve started to appreciate them for giving our lives a break every now and then. We’ve all been engrossed in careers, studies, work, etc that we never really do take a break, now do we? No, we floor the gas down to the extreme and just keep moving farther and farther away, leading us to eventually alienate ourselves from the ones we love and care about, & vice versa.

How is all that true? Ask yourself: when was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with your mom? Or when was the last time you took your family out to a day at the beach? Sure, you may hang out with friend every now and then, but what about your families, your loved ones, your comfort zones if you will.

Obviously this Earth Hour event brought so many people closer to each other. I mean, all the time that the lights were off, people had to do SOMETHING with their time, didn’t they? So why cant this happen every now and then? We don’t need Earth Hours more than we need a You Hour. Its an hour that you use to reach out the anyone you want. Reach out to people that could certainly use your attention. Or something. Yeah that’s right, finish that book you’ve been trying to for the last 6 weeks. Do something ordinary every now and then… like wash your own dishes, boil your own water tank supply, take out the trash, buy the house groceries without even asking, water a plant (or plant one) etc.

And do it all with the AC off.