Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Review : Catching Fire - Hunger Games 2

Catching Fire starts up not far from where The Hunger Games ended. Katniss is living in the Victors Village with her family. You'd think that she'd finally be able to relax and live the cushy life. Well that wouldn't make a good book. There are rumors of rebellion and since Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games in defiance they have become the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol, particularly President Snow, is not happy with them. Now Katniss has to worry about looking as in love with Peeta as possible to quiet down the rebellion, but is that what she really wants? 

It’s really hard to summarize a book when you’re afraid that everything you say will give away the twist. If you have not read the book DON’T read a whole bunch of reviews or comments! You’ll figure stuff out! Figuring out what’s going on and the twists is part of what makes this so good. You think you’ve got everything and everyone pegged only to find out that you only got half (if any) of it right.

I wasn’t sure what the second book was going to be about but now looking back I think “Of course! How else would it have worked?” The book starts off a little slow, but it’s important for what Collins is trying to set up. I love Katniss and I hate her. She frustrates me beyond belief, but you have to love her. I love how you see and know everything from Katniss's point of view. You’re just as confused and unsure as she is. It never feels like she’s not a real person. You feel just as scared for her family. You feel her confusion and doubt. You just really feel. I could probably name off a bunch of things that bothered me about the book (I think I mentioned how I HAAAATE love triangles with a burning passion) but you really care about the characters. You can't even hate Katniss's team of stylists, who are selfish Capitol dwellers. The book deals with so much more than who she’s going to end up with.

At first I really didn’t want to read it because I know how I am with these books. I get totally immersed, constantly trying to figure it all out. I can’t believe the twists in this book! The ending is just so…epic! How everything just falls into place and makes sense. You see the characters in a whole new light. And then you’re left with the whole butt-naked-spider-thread thing. I’m pretty sure it’s not good for my health, but they say the same thing about oreos and fried chicken. 

Download Link:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

7 Wonders of MELBOURNE

If I were to go on a world tour, what would have been my top seven places to visit? Surely, it would have been the Seven Wonders of the World jotted within the top seven lines of my list. Drawing from this analogy, here is my version of what are the seven wonders of the historically and artistically beautiful city we all know as MELBOURNE.


Go to the MCG stadium (Melbourne Cricket Ground) to see an AFL (”Aussie Rules”) game or an India-Australia cricket match and it'll be the most fun you've ever had on a stadium irrespective of whether you are a sport buff. There is something for everyone at the MCG. The first ground in the world to hold a Test Match, The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is an Australian sports stadium located in Yarra Park, Melbourne and is home to the Melbourne Cricket Club. In summer it is here that you’ll hear the sweet sound of leather on willow. During most of the rest of the year it is AFL that takes over. Footy fans refer to it as the ‘G, abbreviating the acronym to remove “cricket”. It is obligatory to eat a meat pie while watching the footy. Best place for some food and cricket.


In 2009, Virtual Tourist awarded Federation Square with the title of the 'World's Fifth Ugliest Building. Criticisms of it ranged from its damage to the heritage vista to its similarity to a bombed-out wartime bunker due to its "army camouflage" colors. For a while after its opening on 26 October 2002, Federation Square remained controversial among Melburnians due to its unpopular architecture, but also because of its successive cost blow outs and construction delays (as its name suggests, it was to have opened in time for the centenary of Australian Federation on 1 January 2001).
However, the negativity was short-lived, with approximately 90% of people surveyed reported liking at least some part of Federation Square. Despite fears that the plaza would remain empty because of its location on the edge of Melbourne's center, the open space has proved to be a remarkably popular place for protests, performances, cultural gatherings, celebrations and just 'hanging out'. Federation Square won five awards in 2003 at the Victorian Architecture Awards, including the Victorian Architecture Medal. The Australian Financial Review later reported that Melburnians have learned to love the building, citing the record number of people using and visiting it.  In 2005, the New York-based Project for Public Spaces named it one of "The World's Best Squares", and it was included on The Atlantic Cities' 2011 list of "10 Great Central Plazas and Squares". It is the only modern square to appear on both lists.


The Carlton Gardens is a World Heritage Site located on the northeastern edge of the Central Business District in the suburb of Carlton, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The 26 hectare (64 acre) site contains the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum and Imax Cinema, tennis courts and an award winning children's playground. The rectangular site is bound by Victoria Street, Rathdowne Street, Carlton Street, and Nicholson Street. From the Exhibition building the gardens gently slope down to the southwest and northeast. According to the World Heritage listing the Royal Exhibition Buildings and Carlton Gardens are "of historical, architectural, aesthetic, social and scientific (botanical) significance to the State of Victoria."


The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage Site-listed building in Melbourne, Australia, completed in 1880. Today, the building hosts various exhibitions and other events and is closely tied with events at the Melbourne Museum. The Royal Exhibition Building is still in use as a commercial exhibition venue, hosting many events on a regular basis such as the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.


Melbourne Museum is located in the Carlton Gardens in MelbourneAustralia, adjacent the Royal Exhibition Building.
The museum is a rich response to Melbourne’s urban condition, and provides a place for education, history, culture and society to engage with each other in a contemporary setting. It is now an important part of Melbourne’s soft infrastructure.
It is the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, and is a venue of Museum Victoria, which also operates the Immigration Museum and Scienceworks Museum.


The Shrine of Remembrance was created to meet the needs of a grieving community after the extensive loss of lives in the First World War (1914 –18). 114,000 Victorians enlisted in the First World War. Of the 89,000 of them who served abroad 19,000 were killed. They were buried in distant graves far from home at a time when most Australians did not travel abroad. The Shrine provided a place where Victorians could grieve as individuals, as families or as a community and where they could honour and preserve the memories of those they had lost. The Shrine was not only built to commemorate those who had served in the First World War. It also honoured the courage of the men, women and children who remained at home. Original designs for the Shrine of Remembrance considered the enduring human qualities of Love, Peace, Courage, Integrity, Strength, Faith, Honour and Brotherhood and the value placed on these by the community and those who had fought bravely for their country.
The Shrine of Remembrance
… would unmistakably convey to future generations the desire of the people of Victoria to commemorate the service of its soldiers in the Great War and would be sufficient to form a strong reminder of those services to a generation which will not have the practical experience of the Great War.
Letter from the Returned and Services League of Australia (Victoria Branch) to the Executive Committee for the creation of the Shrine of Remembrance, 9 August 1926
These words express the aims of the Shrine today as much as they did in 1926 and while direct experience and knowledge of the events of the First World War and subsequent conflicts fade, interest in them is growing.
In response the Shrine today places a high priority on education and the interpretation of stories of Victorians at war and in peacekeeping. Through commemoration, education, exhibitions and public programs the Shrine continues to honour Victorian service and sacrifice and to uphold and reinforce the values we associate with the original ANZACs.

St Paul's Cathedral, across the street from Federation Square, is an imposing old-style Melbourne Anglican cathedral.

Located on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Sts, St Paul's Cathedral was built on the site of Melbourne's first Christian service on the banks of the Yarra River after Melbourne was founded in 1835.

The architecture of St Paul's Cathedral is described as a revival of the style known as Gothic transitional, partly early English Gothic and partly Decorated Gothic. Its foundation stone was laid in 1880 and the cathedral was consecrated in 1891.

Evensong. Make a date with yourself and sit in the magnificence of the building. Look around and sit in silence and hear the conversations, the footsteps and your breathing. Just take time for yourself to walk around and really look at the craftsmenship. Attend a Service, especially Evensong. They have a gift shop, and a lot of history within the walls. St. Pauls is a great hug for the soul.

PS - I visited Melbourne a couple of years ago; and it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Music Review: Linkin Park - Living Things

What exactly constitutes going back to one's roots? While Linkin Park have made promises of such in the lead-up to Living Things, their fifth studio album and third with Rick Rubin in the production booth, they've also insisted that nu-metal isn't what they're getting at in the claims of retro-view. So that begs the question - if they're going back, where exactly are they going?
If the faux-revolution of A Thousand Suns can be accepted as a concept album, which is arguable,Living Things is the band's return to form, according to themselves. In actuality, it's just the next step in the evolutionary process. The tricks are familiar - the gigantic screaming choruses, the monoliths of sound and digital washes, Mike Shinoda's wack-ass rapping. Yet guitars play a far more minor role than ever before on an album that begins as a disappointing run through old formulas but in the end offers a spark of hope to the cynical.
The album opens like a promo track for the Electric Daisy Carnival, an electronic haze of anticipation for the bass drop that never arrives in "Lost in The Echo". Instead, Shinoda's Seuss-ish rhyme patterns lead the charge of a rap verse that frames the emotives of Chester Bennington's heartache chorus about broken promises and, naturally, words getting lost in the echo. We are not finding ourselves exhilarated as the same tone of a dozen Linkin Park radio hits rolls on through. You've heard this song a thousand times already, even if you haven't. 
"In My Remains" pushes the patience further still with big radio ambition that only gently tweaks the recipe. Shinoda sings the repeated line "Like an army falling one by one," a well-practiced kata of melodrama that's as predictable as it is dated. The campy electro-poppiness belies the house MC's angry flow in lead single "Burn It Down," but that's a sonic misstep among few on such a slick album. Rubin brings his Midas touch to the knobs, and the result is powerfully polished, just as he did with its predecessor. 
When the ragepimping millionaires shift gears and focus on the futility of a doomed relationship - or the inadequate manner in which the offending female bid adieu - the question arises: what is any of this really about in the universe of Linkin Park? Five albums in, is there really still no resolution to the lyrical struggles we've heard since their outset? Has there truly been no evolution of theme and struggle beyond the ebb and flow of instrumentation and production trends? 
When "Victimized" hits, the question takes on a new poignance. The band is doing themselves no favors as wildly successful industry veterans building arena anthems around endlessly repeating hooks like "Victimized! Victimized! Never again! Victimized!" There's an abundance of arena-ready choruses peppered through the album - it wouldn't be a Linkin Park album without them - but this one stands out as particularly cringeable. 
For many, it's perfectly fine that the same colors are used again and again, and even celebrated when an artist prefaces new material by saying they're going back to the old material. We all need familiarity, and find it our own ways. But for others, Linkin Park has come to represent a modern emoting effigy for the bro culture, uninspired music for children of dysfunctionality looking for a justification soundtrack or at least empathy for the pain and incessant fury of mediocre suburbia they can't seem to shake. These tens of millions of moved units aren't all owned by muted-rage Pfizer babies and the products of turbulent homes, but seriously - sixteen years down the line and we still aren't over the bitterness of love's betrayal. We still can't let the wrongdoing subside. We still need to cultivate and amplify anger for the sake of anger. 
If anything, the success of a band like Linkin Park is a testament to the discord of soul within our modern society. Women in 2012 are embracing and exploring self-betterment through an explosion of educated expression, yoga and beyond. There's an amplification of natural support for empowered, skilled and furiously passionate female artists such as Florence & The Machine and Grace Potter, while the masculinity of modern man continues to ride the troglodyte train. The rage rock movement continues to thrive, aimed at nothing but showing the world how loud it can scream "Fuck the world!" We still marginalize enlightenment and compassion, hipsterfying or hippiefying anything that shows a little heart. We've simply found a way to call someone a faggot without actually saying the word. And when Chester screams, occasionally it seems he's directly referencing this dissonance. And therein lies the hope for Linkin Park.
What begins as a bleak thematic rehash of an album begins to grow potential as an experimental mood works into the frame. The band fucks with the formula a bit on the digi-mecha grinding of "Lies Greed Misery," which owes more to M.I.A. and Santigold than daddy issues, and the Bjork-tinkling tenderness of "Roads Untraveled" deserves its due as a poetic offering of support for a "seat here alongside me". 
Even "I'll Be Gone" gives a shot at alteration, but the chorus pulls up the screamy blanket and tucks into the color-by-numbers too soon. There's a hypnotic gravity to the track that's hard to deny, however, just as the rasta blitz on "Until It Breaks" works damn well... as long as you can dismiss the lazy Bennington spot and don't hold the Coldplay Hallmark moment around two and a half minutes in against them. It's guitarist Brad Delson's step into vocal contributions, and aside from the contrast to the rest of the song it's a brief but respectable effort.
"Tinfoil" and "Powerless," meanwhile were clearly divided for the sake of the latter's radio accessibility, as it serves a fitting FM epilogue to "My December." The electro-thrust dynamics that sell so well will undoubtedly catapult this into every third song the radio spits out this Summer.
In my review of Linkin Park's last album A Thousand Suns, I called the music "anger for fashion’s sake," and "an uprising based on marketability, gluttonously self-indulgent and commercially ambitious." Through the first few songs of Living Things, it appeared as if we were doomed to the same tired and shamelessly exploitive architecture, but through the album's progression there's a teetering sense of growth. Undoubtedly, Rick Rubin is on a quest of his own, itching to recapture some of that early Beastie grit-swagger. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does, to the band's benefit. 
We're hoping not to look back on this era with the same shame we feel when reflecting on the hybridization of rap and metal in the decade past. Hopefully the balance of legitimacy brought by artists like Trent Reznor, Radiohead or even Muse and Sleigh Bells will offset the cartoonish accidental mockery of the concept by the likes of Korn and, previously, Linkin Park. But Living Things shows potential for Shinoda, Bennington and crew to move beyond the pomposity of faux revolution and relationship rage. If they can just believe it themselves, this might really go somewhere.