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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Star Talk Live!

So ComiCon hits the east coast every October. The coming month will not be different. The convention provides fan boys the chance to get their fill of the latest happenings in their favorite fandom. I was there few years ago. Last year was a bit different. Due to reasons (the usual life thing work, family etc.) I was unable to attend.

I know it sounds lame when compared to the lengths die hard fans go to for attending the con. But before you revoke my geek card I assure you I have made a geek related pilgrimage. But for 2014 the folks at ComiCon have upped the ante. They are not content with merely packing a convention center, they want to pack the city! That is the concept behind NY Super Week.

They have set up shows that cater to the geek chic crowd. Among them is Star Talk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The director of the Hayden Planetarium and TV personality also has his own podcast. I love the format of the show (get the podcast feed at the bottom of the page). A mix of science and fun makes it easy to digest otherwise "complex" topics.

Comedian, Wyat Cenac of the daily show fame, was on hand to up the fun factor. Interjecting with hilarious comments and at times insightful analysis made the evening that more delightful. It was an interesting pairing with expert sociologist who shed light on various social issues. Did you know its universally accepted that raised eyebrows are a sign of a heightened state of emotion; Or the reason for unrest in the middle east can be simulated by a game of risk? They opened the floor up to the audience. That's when things got interesting. Not one but two Muslim brothers took the mic to speak their minds. The first brother of Eastern European decent spoke of dealing with initial shock as people learned of his religion. The panel acknowledged that the media has conditioned us to view "Moslems" in a certain way.

The second brother stated his profession as a translator for the US Military. Hailing from Baghdad he gave an impassioned speech about the plight of his people. The war has devasted an already beleagured people. Desperate to survive they have forgotten their heritage. He feels, as do others the key for the region to rise out of the ashes of poverty and despair, a pre-req for stability in the middle east, is to in fact reclaim their legacy. Baghdad was the seat of learning for the middle ages. Tyson acknowlged work done by Muslims in field of astronomy something that is rare as its often denied. I want the brother to know there is work being done to reclaim our accomplishments. There are many people and organizations working hard to perserve this noble tradition of learning. One such effort is 1001 Inventions, a journey into the golden age of Muslim civilization.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Majestic Dubai

I know You haven't heard from me for awhile but its with good reason. Take a gander:
I think I see Tom Cruise base jumping
This place gives "swiming with the fishes" a whole new meaning
I swear the helipad looks like the Enterprise
Talk about "shop till you drop" Dubai malls often feature Mosques for patrons

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Behold! The Delta Flyer...

As I had mentioned in a previous post I got me some wheels. Old wheels mind you but wheels none the less. Friends always complimented on how nimble the ride was. I guess the sports edition is worth something. But alas I had to part ways with the mobil mobile, it was taking too many latinum bars to keep moving. 

So to remedy that, I had gotten an upgrade. A Honda Civic no less. This make of car has been used by the Sadiq clan for some time. I decided to continue with tradition and uphold the family name. It turns out that was a good choice. Motor heads will tell you that this car is highly customizable. There is a whole community dedicated to all things Civic. Their reach, is global.

I frequent their sites for nifty graphics for my I-Mid. Its no accident that this car company has a die hard following. How cool is it to express your personality to your passengers? I was stoked to find Star Trek graphics and had to put them up. I wanted to go with a realistic look. What normally shows up on the screens of starfleet vessels? Normally instrument panels (I have a killer spectral analysis jpg). Or communiques. Currently I am sticking with the communique. I can load up to three wallpapers and switch between them at will. But only when the car comes to a complete stop. Otherwise it won't let you!

You'll be crowned superfan if you can find the doomed V323
Pretty nifty, eh? The overall effect is pretty inspiring. With my handy dandy Google navigator app I really do have a navigation computer at my disposal. Is this another case of science catching up with fiction? I sure hope so. But my imagination just doesn't stop there. I often tell MW that my car is my space ship. Of course actual space ships are the length of football fields. So more realistically its a shuttle craft. Now if it is a shuttle craft what kind is it? Well the one I find most inspiring (aside from my own creation) is the Delta Craft from ST:Voyager. Take a gander...

Delta Flyer Interior

The interiors look similar, yes? No wonder its not a huge leap of the imagination to envision your car cabin as a cockpit of an interstellar cruiser.
I made it myself. Wonder if ILM has openings?
I lovingly recall the episode of Voyager where the Delta Craft is used in a race. Tom Paris had joysticks put in for tactile feel. Like airplanes of yore. Lucky for me my steering wheel cover gives a similar effect. I had to go through a lot of covers before I found the right one. Some were too big and floppy. Others were smelly and stunk up the car and my hands! But the one I have now is easy on the hands and gives me that grip that is oh so desired. It all comes into play when you race down the highway banking turns and flying high. To add to the realism I got me ST Academy license plate frames. This let's people behind me know that a STA Alumni is at the helm. So you need not worry.

Not my real numbers, silly. Points if you figure out where they're from
But my spacey obsessions don't stop at my car. In my day to day doings I want to be reminded of the amazing. They act as talismans whisking me away to my happy place (believe me we need more of this in the workplace, I am talking to you hothead). You met my SG1 pin here. Now meet my Enterprise key chain. Noticed the missing nacele? That's what happens when you drop the mini star ship on hard asphalt, buyer be ware. Of course if that doesn't deter you, pick this item up and other themed merchandising off of the Star Trek online store. Its worth the expenditure if you want others to know you are a loud and proud geek. And if you are really into geeky goodness check out ThinkGeek. Of course if you really want to prove your geek cred. You can head out to a con, meet up with exhibitors. Tons of merch to be had.

I am looking for more ways to get inspired. I've studied interior shots of fictional/not so fictional space craft to get a feel for more mods. I also look to fellow geeks to see what they do. Decals are huge but I haven't found one that does it for me. I am open to suggestions. What do you want to see? Comment. Share.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Star Trek Comic Reread

If you've been lurking around my blog long enough you know that I am a Sci Fi geek. Like all geeks the worlds and stories crafted by maestro Gene Rondenberry hold my attention, especially Star Trek. Over the years I have made financial contributions to this franchise in exchange for entertainment, escape, inspiration and above all hope.

One of these exchanges had been mentioned, in one of my world famous DTRT posts. In it I inform the reader that I had procured a CD full of star trek comics. Spanning from the early 80s to only a few years ago. It only cost me 20 bucks to start a digital library of beloved comics. I can dive in and transport myself at will or when MW let's me.

All these comics are unread by me. A treasure trove of scifi goodness awaits. I tell you there's nothing like buying behind the curve you get to save money as the offerings are no longer high demand items. Plus you get to binge on your favorites. You might not be able to keep up with the latest offerings but you don't pay that no mind when you are a fan boy. Your sole purpose is to inhale as much content as you possibly can. I guess that's why all these media streaming services have been taking off.

With great pleasure, I've been reading through them ever since. I must admit I don't do this religiously, I switch over to other sources of content like my Youtube subscriptions (Geek and Sundry is required viewing!) or my Amazon Instant video watchlist (I am so passed network programming), all to fein boredom and renew my enthusiasm.

By and by I have covered a substantial amount and here is what I have found.

The comics are subdivided by major pruveyors. DC, Marvel, Malibu, Wildstorm and Golden Key. Each has published a substantial amount of Star Trek comics. They are prominetly featured on this CD. I first dived into Wildstorm I had to see if they included the tie in comic to STVOY Elite Force. This was a first person shooter which placed you on Voyager's Elite Force, a security detail tasked with keeping the starship and crew safe in the desolate delta quadrant. I was so happy to see that they had digitized the in game comic. I was eager to see what else they had to offer.

And offer up they did. Wildstorm pulled out the stops with their Gorn graphic novel. A quick glance at the cover page let's you know the quality of the artwork and writing. At the helm is none other than Kevin J. Anderson. No stranger to the comic book world he's the genius behind "The Last Days of Krypton" a story that takes a detailed look at Superman's origins. Not to mention his collaboration on the Dune novels.

Its no wonder he was able to take another's work and improve upon it. He took an otherwise superficial and archetypical lizard man/monster and was able to envision them in a wider context. As part of a highly organized and sophisticated society. With its own hierarchy and code of conduct. The rich artwork only adds to the story. A truly fantastic piece.

Who new the lone Gorn, Kirk took on was just the tip of the iceberg?

I then turned my attention to DC and Marvel. These juggernaughts (pun intended) have been working with the franchise for the longest. Their early works can be thought of as "classics". These pieces are a bit tough to digest. Partly due to the art and then partly due to the dialogue. The graphics lack detail and definition when compared, to modern works. Take uhura for example. I am sorry to say the earlier production doesn't do the ebony beauty justice.
In Ye' Olden days the pencilers/inkers did not flatter their subjects

In more recent times they have done a better job
Story wise early Marvel were lame as compared to early DC which were entertaining. For instance Marvel was doing werewolves on the Enterprise, I mean come on? Really? DC took on more interesting topics, By delving into some serious character history. You'll get an all new perspective into your favorite crewmen. There was even a movie tie in with the third ST movie "The Search for Spock" and they had a mirror universe feature. Story elements like these beat werewolves hands down.

That is not to say Marvel didn't up its game in later years. I really liked Star Fleet Academy. It gives an inside look into how great luminaries like Picard and Kirk got their start. They all had to go through the rigors of training as mere cadets. Mr. Boothby seems immortal as he's always on hand to provide sage advise to the bright eyed rookies. Plus the political intrigue and nuances add to the excitement.

From this world Marvel launched the Telepath Wars. Which spanned all other circulating story lines. So they had all these publications going DSN, TNG, VOY and each one of their story arcs crossed with the war. But Marvel bungled the Telepath miniseries.

It was hard to follow even when I had all the comics. Imagine when serialized? There was even letters to the editor about this. They were big enough to publish them and acknowledged they made a mistake. Apparently readers found out the ending while still in the middle of the story. I guess they can address these now adays with online comics.

Oh by the way if you are interested in comics in general. Be sure to follow Saladin Ahmed on twitter. He's done a fantastic job of documenting pre-code comics. Plus if you are a fine consuer of comics you may be interested in picking up a copy of Understanding Comics. I am sure there is something there that you will like. And if you want an enhanced comic experience be sure to checkout Marvel's AR app, it will literaly make your comics come to life. (Yes I lean towards Marvel, no the Disney takeover didn't turn me off, they still give you X-Men and Kamala Khan Plus Stan Lee is fan friendly and comes out with better flicks. Excelsior!)

When it comes to recent offerings IDW has done a great job. They have taken up the mantle and are offering choice content. Their claim to fame is running comics that lead up to feature length presentations, such as Nemesis or the ST reboot. Plus innovative titles, such as bringing all the doctors from Star Trek into one story. No small feat as some of them are separated by 200 hundred years!

On another note I have gotten serious about my writing and pursuing it in a professional manner. I find that when I cut down my TV time I have more time for reading. A rule of thumb for good writing is to be a good reader. A friend of mine once told me that what you do at night right before you sleep effects your brain as it continues working on it and learning. So why wouldn't I focus my mental prowess on great literature. How else to produce something of similar quality. At any rate I will keep you posted as I read my way through Star Trek history. Bye bye for now, see you soon.

DISCLAIMER: All images are property of CBS Studios. No copyright infringement was intended.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Failing Well

Dear reader, I hope the world has treated you kindly, most often it does not. A careless mistake here a blind eye there could cost you. Eternal vigil seems to be the only recourse. But are mere mortals capable of such a feet? I think not. Is it fair to place all of the worlds burden, squarely on one set of shoulders? Atlas we are not.

At times you may feel overwhelmed. Your responsibilities far exceeding your capabilities. Crushing you under their weight. Desperations takes hold and you panic. Where do you turn for solace the bottle? Lighter? Sex or faith? The answer really doesn't matter. As long as you release. Reset and begin a new. Only this time fail hard.

Think of failing hard as the act of failing forward. It is to move from one failure to the next. However the twist is that you move from one point to the other with the same enthusiasm. The idea is to learn from each mistake and fail better next time. That is you figure out what doesn't work and eliminate those unproductive tasks.

For example when you were learning to ride a bike. How many times did you fall? Maybe too many times and you decided to add training wheels. Once your leg muscles got a hang of it you could pedal and remain balanced without any thought.

Same holds true for just about anything else. Nothing comes without practice. Including writing. It takes hard work and dedication. I have learned from those that have gone before me. And I can only teach you what I have done. And I have pieced together 42,000 words into a coherent story. Not remarkable in the scheme of things. But it is a start.

I now challenge myself to do better than the 42K mark. Not just quantity wise, but quality wise as well. I am constantly trying to improve my writing technique. To do that I apply success principles, that have stood the test of time.

I picked up these principles during my stint as a distributor. If I were to distill the wisdom found during that time I would say the key is to compete with yourself. No need to worry about what others are doing. Focus on you. Only you can be you there is no other. In a sense there is no competition in being you. That's something you own. No one can take that from you.

This also confirms the Islamic tradition of risc. Loosely translated risc can be thought of as sustenance or wealth. Your sustenance has been foretold it has been written. Its just a matter of receiving it. No power on earth can keep it from you. This is a comforting notion. You are now free to focus only on you. You don't have to worry about the other guy who is competing with you. Just focus on your performance. If you feel intimidated that you lack "experience". Just realize that experienced people have the ability to last longer and when the time comes, they know how to fail well.

Think of some people who have accomplished mega goals. They reached celebrity status for the goals they achieved. Barak Obama winning the presidential race. Michael Phelps winning gold at the olympics. All of these are substantial accomplishments. But do you think they happened overnight?

I doubt anyone could hold their own if you throw them into a presidential debate. Not unless you give them a chance to digest the nuances of oral debate. This can only be accomplished bit by bit. They would need to start off on a smaller stage, in a secure setting. Perhaps at a school. Where they could be coached. They could even decide if they enjoy going through the rigor of improving on past performance. If they do than they are worthy of the task at hand.

Once they know they have what it takes, they must remain focused. Shooting off your mouth lamenting to all how one day you will be king does not help. Engaging yourself this way attracts criticism. You do not have the time to bother with critics. Focus on your regiment, study your craft, counsel with mentors, be immersed in your art. You are bound to beat your benchmark.

As you take action, you will make mistakes. Do not be discouraged. Transmute those "mistakes" into lessons learned. Think of it as play, this is how children learn about the world they live in, something adults have forgotten. The only way we learn about our craft is if we allow ourselves to play. Don't worry about style, again don't compare yourself to masters of the field. It isn't fair to your success. Explore with no prior notions. Discover how things work on your own. This will serve to cement the concepts in your mind like no other way.

So how does a writer get better? Where do people holding down day jobs go for mentorship? Well one way is through social media. I explain how this can work, in a previous article. Basically if you follow writers on twitter, they promote their next event and will let you know.

But these events can get expensive and the authors have lives of their own and may not always be available. One way I found to solve this problem was video tutorials. Authors, who are willing to share their technique via video, provide a much needed service. Among these is Stephen J Cannell. The creative mind behind such hit TV series as A-Team and Renegade. In one of his videos he mentions how he writes everyday, for hours on end. He doesn't need to write anymore he already made a nice sum doing it. But he wants to keep his edge.

So what does that tell us? We must also do the same to sharpen our skills. This was reiterated in a web series conducted by a Florida State University professor. Watching the web series is very informative. It was great getting into the mind of an accomplished author as he made his way through a short story. The tips and techniques I picked up from their helped me with my current short story. Also be sure to check out Brandon Sanderson's write about dragons. He also follows a similar format and should prove useful as well.

I must admit is not easy taking their advice. Its hard enough to find time during your day for basic needs like eating and sleeping. Now they want us to write every day. The thing you have to ask yourself is, how badly do you want it? Are you committed enough to your dreams to do what needs to be done? If the answer is yes you will most assuredly find a way. In talking to fellow writers I found that they write during their commutes, during lunch breaks or early in the morning. The point is you will need to figure out what works for you.

I was fortunate enough to meet with G. Willow Wilson,  in the aforementioned seminar. She introduced us to the hero's journey, during our time together. Me and some other students asked her where we could learn more. She referred us to Campbel. Which was an absolute godsend. Researching and applying the heros journey to my main character, raza has solved a lot of problems. But I must admit some parts are still fuzzy. That's why I am glad to have learned about Star Wars The Legacy vid. It takes a look at the hero's journey from the perspective of Star Wars. Screening the documentary helped me too answer some questions I had on this topic.

I find it fitting that you can learn to write stories by reading stories. Just by going through your favorite author's books you will undoubtedly pick up on their style, how they structure their scenes, their use of dialogue, plot twists. Now imagine doing the same with a world renowned author leading the way. That is the premise behind Robert K. Silverberg's book, Science Fiction: 101: Exploring the Craft of Science Fiction. I immediately picked up this book, for me it was right on the money. The lessons taught here will surely serve as a handy how to guide of do's and don'ts when it comes to writing speculative fiction. And the chance to read some classic SF is its own treat!

Another idea I have for providing a better reading experience, is beta readers. I want to know what works and what doesn't. I've put up a request here (see row 9) in case anyone is interested. I feel seeking this feedback will help with my next work. The aim is always to get better.

Hope these success principles help you reach your goals! Good luck with any writing projects you may be taking on. Remember to focus on the present, as the frightening future flinches first. And above all else, fail well dear well.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Olive Tree

The olive tree is considered a blessed tree by all three Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Adherents of these religions have traditionally used its wood to make prayer beads, and there are numerous references to the olive in their sacred texts. In the Torah, in the book of Deuteronomy, the Prophet Moses e describes Palestine as a “good land, a land of olives.” The Book of Genesis says that, after the Flood, a dove brought an olive branch to the Prophet Noah e as a sign that land was near. According to the Psalms, a man’s children are like “the slips of olive trees.” The Prophet Jesus e also made references to the olive tree. The Qur’an says:

God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The likeness of divine light is as of a niche with a lamp inside; the lamp is in a glass; the glass is as if a shining star, lit from a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West, its oil nearly luminous even without fire touching it. Light upon light: God guides whomever God will to divine light; and God gives people examples. And God is 
cognizant of everything. (24:35)
God swears an oath by the olive, saying, “By the fig and the olive, and Mount Sinai, and this secure city, We have made man in the finest order” (Qur’an 95:1-4). The Prophet Muhammad s said, “Anoint yourselves with olive oil because it comes from a blessed tree.” In his book on the qualities of the Prophet s , Imam al-TirmidhÄ« mentions that it was reported that the Prophet s used so much olive oil that his shawl was often saturated with it.
read full text here

It's with great pleasure that I announce the commencement ceremony for the first ever Islamically oriented liberal arts college in the US. Zaytuna college has been making strides in producing independent Islamic thinkers. This is a momentous occasion for the American Muslim Community and the greater muslim community, aka the Ummah. We are maturing as a people, producing proteges that can represent our thoughts in different arenas. An invaluable service to a populous gripped in turmoil. But don't take my word for it, hear from the students themselves...


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Icna-Mas Convention

So I hope you enjoyed your memorial day weekend. It's always nice to have time to relax and enjoy the company of your loved ones, any excuse will do! A lot of people head out to enjoy the weather. MW and I did the same. But not to the usual summertime haunts...

Every year around this time ICNA and MAS team up to bring the American Muslim community an annual convention. Its a chance for an otherwise isolated community to come together in a true spirit of unity. Of course that is too easy to say. The reality is that there is substantial discord between the various tribes of Islam. These differences usually center around xenophobia, nationalism and greed. But this is a forum where rubber meets the road. ICNA is a predominantly South asian organization, that is the members and executive committee tend to hail from that region. While MAS is predominantly middle eastern. It goes without saying that these two groups are culturally different. However if we can get along in this microcosm perhaps there is hope in larger arenas.

But enough of the deep stuff. It's also an excuse to have some fun. I took some pics as proof of my attendance. Enjoy!

The Bazar is in full swing!
The kiddie area is hopping!
Scholars are at hand to enlighten the masses
Get you chuska on!
The main session floor where we ended the con with an entertainment session

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Audio Adventures

So if you read last month's post. You would have read about my recap of Comicon 2013. And how I stumbled across Graphic Audio and their fantastic graphic audio books. If you read my smashword interview you will also come to know that this was not my first foray into the world of audio books. Through a nifty voice feature of my Nook's EZ PDF reader I was able to get through my store of pdfs in half the time.

I came to appreciate the rich images that were being painted In my mind when the author's words were spoken. I found this most helpful during my commute. A normal slog through traffic became a fantastical escape into another world. I found myself much more positive minded when I got into work (which can only help your performance). At any rate it beat listening to the radio with its mindless music and biased news commentary.

One drawback however was that I soon grew weary of the flat computer voice, that was being produced by the app. It served its purpose well enough but due to an emotionless delivery I found myself tuning out. Key parts of the story were lost to me, which hampered the experience. I knew I could get better results if only I got audiobooks read by a professional narrator. But with the average cost of about $20 I had to think twice. 

Then came along Graphic Audio (I sing their virtues in the previous post). They were doing a special at the convention and I was able to snag two download codes at a special rate. That got me thinking as to how I could beat the cost curve. How could I get my audio books yet not break the bank? Lucky for me my neighborhood sports a great public library. By virtue of being a resident I was eligible for a library card. I am tempted to make cliche statements about a getting a passport to the world of books, but we'll leave that to Levar Burton. I soon began borrowing CDs and virtually through their online collection. All in all I went through quite a few. So much so I wanted to share my adventure with you fair reader. Here's a rundown...

I have made podcasts part of my audio library. I enjoy hearing from prominent writers, it gives me a chance to learn from them and emulate their techniques. And if the writer happens to write sci-fi, military sci-fi to be precise, all the better. I can get my podcast fix from SF Signal. I raided their website and downloaded as many relevant audio files as possible. I always read to relate. I want something that matches with what I am going through. It gives me solace. The recommendations given in these podcasts must match this formula. For me and as for many others, heading out each day to earn a living is a struggle. My religion goes as far as calling it a holy struggle. Military sci-fi are stories that blatantly portray struggle. It requires fortitude and discipline on part of the protagonist to make it through.

I Give it 4 SadiStars
I was delighted to hear one of the authors recommending John Steakley's Armor. The description he gave suited my literary palette just fine. Plus with a gift card from barnes and noble in hand I took the plunge. I am glad I did. The story of Phelix really struck me. Akin to Starship Troopers he too is dropped into a hot zone full of bugs. In this case its only his schizophrenia that keeps him alive. "Erupt damn you!" And the engine takes over. That cold calculating part of him that kills with abject efficiency. Hordes of monster ants wipes out his entire team. But he, the lone survivor fights on. He beats the odds as he is repeatedly dropped and lives. Even hardened criminals are reduced to whimpering children when they experience his exploits. A lot of times at my job I feel overwhelmed. My inner child beckons me to make it stop. But I know I must soldier on. One task after another. You could be completely drained but the job is not done What do you do then? Like Phelix you get in the zone and give them hell! I highly recommend this if you are looking for a good read (listen?). Oh, and the plot twist at the end is worth the wait.

Dave...Dave...You get 4 Sadi Stars
I was able to get my hands on the acclaimed 2001: A space odyssey, by none other than Arthur C. Clarke. My first taste of his writing came from an anthology of his short stories. I really liked his writing style, he always seemed to have a dramatic plot twist in the last few lines of his short stories. So I was eager to see how he fared in a full length feature. I am glad to say that I was delighted. Right from the start the story grips you. The setting is pre-historic times and the focus is on a primitive tribe of man apes. Barely surviving in their caves they have meager defenses against ruthless predators. It isn't until the unlikely arrival of a black monolith that the tide turns. Their minds scanned and enhanced, they soon devise crude weapons to defend themselves. Human nature soon takes root and they begin to assert their authority on a rival tribe. With a severed cougar head, mounted on a spike. Most of the opposing foe correctly deduced that man apes now had superior arms, by which to attack.

The story jumps to the future, where humans are now exploring space. With a well established presence on the moon, they soon discover another monolith. What will these unearthly object teach humanity now? Notice how I make scarce reference to the widely publicized Hal 9000. For me 2001 wasn't just about a ship's AI going haywire. It was more about the spirit of discovery and reaching man's potential.

Egads man just 2 for you!
I am a fan of Dan Brown, especially of his Robert Langdon books. The Davinci Code, Angels and demons, The Lost Symbol, they're all good. I like how Professor Langdon must save the day by solving one cryptic puzzle after another. He must rely on his knowledge of antiquity to do so. Along the way the reader is enriched with new found wisdom. But without a doubt you read to be entertained, which these books always deliver, why else would they be turned into major hollywood productions? That's why I snapped up Inferno. I was delighted to meet the professor once more. His omnipresent tweed jacket and New England sensibilities on full display. He was already entrapped in another international power struggle, with a beautiful female ally at his side. The reader was taken from one exotic location to the next, classic Dan Brown. I was having a grand old time. When something peculiar began cropping up.

The references being made to various artwork were becoming more and more detailed. I mean it was fascinating for sure but was getting in the way of the story. It began to read like a well researched dissertation. One footnote after another. In previous stories this was done subtly. With just the right amount of action and scholarly prowess. A formula that worked well. But sadly it wasn't the case in this scenario. I had to bail at the 2/3rd mark. I honestly stopped caring about the characters and their struggle. And abandoned the story completely.

Three All Stars 3 Sadi Stars!
Lucky for me my next selection wasn't a total dud. I always enjoyed classic SF. Jules Vernes and H.G. Wells are prominent artist from this genre. It's fascinating to see how authors from centuries ago wrote about fictional contraptions that we possess today yet take for granted. Mr. Wells has had success with a previous audio rendition of his story War of the Worlds. We are all familiar with how listeners were duped into believing that an actual alien invasion had occurred when WOW was first broadcasted via radio. In that same tradition this adaptation of the classic tale takes on a news commentary format. With an all star cast of Star Trek fame this sound bite is an easy sell.

However if you are keeping track of the sadi star ratings you'll note a medium grade 3. I would have loved to given it a higher rating but I was put off by its goofiness. When the pods had landed and began attacking this was a deciding moment. Earth had finally realized that it had been invaded by a hostile force. I hate to admit it but the Tom Cruise movie adaptation did a better job of imparting the gravity of the situation. The redeeming moment of the audio play was Nimoy's stoic performance. He plays a professor whose life has been devastated everything he holds dear is gone. Now living a nomadic life on the fringes of devastated towns and cities he painfully recalls a past life that seems to be only a hallucination. With giving away too much it all ends well. You will just have to give it a listen to find out how.

I didn't get this one that's all I have to say about this one. If you did please beg to differ in the comments. 
What? **

Obi God! *****
John Jackson Miller Has been making waves with his Star Wars books. I first found about his work through his lost tribe stories. I was able to get each part of this story for free (doesn't look like they still do this). I recanted the tale to friends, who loved hearing about the exploits of a lone jedi knight on a planet full of sith! That's why I was eagerly awaiting his next book, aptly named, Kenobi. The publisher even had a booth setup at the aforementioned Comicon, furthering the anticipation. Not quick to fall for marketing ploys I decided to download a free sample, something I always do when considering purchasing a book. In my opinion this is just another advantage of ebooks. Retailers usually have these available for their ereaders, especially amazon and b&n. So with sample in hand I read the first few chapters of Kenobi. Amazingly it just didn't jive with me. I guess I was expecting something spectacular like lost tribe. Don't get me wrong the premise is fairly fascinating. The story focuses on the 20 year gap between episodes III and IV and how Obi Wan stood guard over the young Luke Skywalker. Its a must read for fans of the sage character, a chance to meld with his inner workings. That's why I was willing to give it a go once more when I noticed the audio book version at the library.

I must say this production will give Graphic Audio a run for its money. They too added sound effects to enhance the narration. Maybe not as bold as GA but enjoyable none the less. I liked how they introduced radio chatter when the manuscript called for communication via com link. Oh and the Obi's light saber sounds fantastic. Come for the bells and whistle but stay for the story, that's what I say. Miller delivers a compelling story, with well thought out characters. He takes a closer look at the Tuscan Raiders. They are not one dimensional and mindless as we think. We are shown how Tuscan society operates, where honor and courage are valued. They even have their own belief system which has served them for generations. Yet the author doesn't get too heavy and let's you have fun and have a swashbuckling adventure, all the things we have come to love from the Star Wars franchise.

State of Despair **
So my next selection draws parallel with the previous. Here to a reading sample from well loved author drew dismal results. I am talking about Michael Crichton's State of fear. I actually tried this out a long time ago. But didn't like it. He didn't stick to his usual formula of white knuckle suspense mixed with cutting edge sci fi (ala Prey). But again I was willing to give it a go when it became available on my library's virtual bookshelf. This time the audio version was equally disappointing. Again I didn't care for the characters. The story was slow and lethargic and wasn't spectacular in its scope (like in Congo or Jurassic Park). I believe this being written late in his career had something to do with it. But again this is Crichton's work and you may beg to differ.

Now hear this...3 Sadi Stars
Another author whose name carries weight is Philip K. Dick. He's known for such marvels as Total Recall and Through a Scanner Darkly. I picked up another one of his titles, The Penultimate Truth. Its a fairly intriguing story with interesting characters the villain is really despicable you'll love to hate him. But slow at times. Its about a future earth where nuclear annihilation has driven the world's population underground. To escape radiation. However a few brave souls venture to the surface only to discover a startling secret.

This next title is from Graphic Audio, as of yet I haven't downloaded a full title even though I have vouchers with download codes on standby. I guess I haven't found the right serie to invest in. Although Kevin J Anderson's (yes of Dune fame) Enemies & Allies is looking real good. Based on their free samples I am leaning towards the Nuclear Bombshell series. The dialogue isn't as graphic or vulgar as some of their other titles. And the storyline is crisp and fast paced. I like how they combined the sensibilities of a classic spy story with the punch of a sci fi thriller. Yet they keep things light and humorous, an eclectic mix.

It be da' bomb ****

So what do you think dear reader? Do you agree with my ratings? Are you dazzled by my insightful analyst or dumbfounded by my willful ignorance? Let me know in the comments! DISCLAIMER: All copyrighted material are property of their respective owners.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

RECAP: NYC Comicon 2013

So I know this is a bit late (that's okay, its my blog and I can do whatever the hell I want) but I attended last year's comicon. It was at the Javitz center in NYC. It being my first comic convention I wasn't too sure what to expect. I had heard a lot about it and always wanted to check it out, even despite cooky tales of cosplayers freaking people out.

So I finally worked up the courage to take the plunge. Once decided the first step was to exchange monetary funds for written permission to enter premises. I chose to conduct this exchange electronically, the preferred medium of 21st century citizenry. True to their word, my pass arrived in the mail weeks in advance which really got me excited. There wasn't one for MW, the con was too freaky for her taste. But I had her blessings which counts a lot when you are a desi geek raising a family, while holding down a job where you are suppose to come off as a responsible adult (what's that? No, I don't have issues).

As usual I took the train into Manhattan as soon as I got off, I was swarmed by cosplayers. I found myself ogling some pretty racy costumes, hawkgirl in particular. I had to battle my nafs and focus my eyeballs on something else, spiderman didn't help. But at least I didn't have to whip out my GPS, I just followed the freaks.

At the convention gate they had a checkpoint. You had to get your weapons marked as genuine fakes otherwise they wouldn't let them in. I had dressed up as myself and didn't have any knives, swords, battle axes to speak of, so I was ushered in with no worries. I flowed into the convention center as part of an eager crowd. Entering the main show floor was pretty wild. My senses were instantly assaulted with a dazzling display. The Javitz is a functional yet spectacular structure, my gaze couldn't help going up to the glass ceiling.

I took this pic myself. It came out pretty good, using only my Sony. It looks really good I keep it as a wallpaper on my personal laptop. Serves as a memento of a fun filled day. Cuz what was housed in that glass ceiling was Equally amazing

Bad Robot, the logo for JJ Abrams' Studio
Bumblebee, with anonymous Asian kid
Venom with purple haired girl
I was ecstatic to see that a fellow brother was on the docket. I am speaking of none other than Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad, another shining sadi star. But unfortunately he wasn't there on the day I attended. At any rate it was great to see one of us at such a prestigious event. Shining light on an important topic such as diversity in geekdom.

The organizers had done a bang up job of getting convention goers in front of attractions they were interested in seeing. Of particular note was their app. Although I had trouble with it on my HTC with an ancient version of the droid OS, the matter was magically resolved once I submitted a bug report to the developers. After that I was able to access the app's cool features. The most useful being the show floor. Weeks before the convention I was pouring over the layout figuring which booths and stalls I had to see. The best part was that you could plan out your day. The convention events and panels are divided by interest. I ate up as many writing and publishing events as I could. I still have the app installed and mess around with it every now and then. Which is a good idea as they let you know when the next one is!

One survival tip that I will give you fair reader is to get to your event ahead of time. Don't underestimate the sheer number of geeks you will encounter. The rooms fill up pretty quickly and as seating is first come first serve basis, they will reluctantly close the door on you. I missed out on a few panels due to this. Lucky for me I wised up and was able to catch a few choice ones.

A panel discussing the upcoming Star Wars movies

So when not attending panels I was busy checking out the show floor. After all where else are you going to find celebrities like these:

New and Old Ghostbusters!

But I only got a glance, I had a shopping list to get through. Seeing that the show floor was divided into aisles. I decided in order to get to each stall I will snake my way through each aisle. I started off on the far end and wound my way over. I must admit I wasn't too interested in the comics. I still haven't gotten through all my Star Trek Comics. I blurred past those stalls. I was more interested in immersing myself in fandom. I wanted to be reminded of fantastical worlds as I went about my business. One way to do that was to get another geeky decal for my car. I already have a Starfleet academy license frame and was hankering for more. Something for the back window would be nice. My mind's eye saw the autobot logo or Starfleet insignia or even a storm trooper emblazoned decal. I set about my quest, browsing through catalogue after catalogue but alas I couldn't find something suitable for the family car. I finally settled for a SG1 lapel pin (MW doesn't let me wear it when I am with her, so I pinned it to my gear bag).

Get your SG1 Lapel and you too can join the SGC!

With that taken care of I went looking for a tee shirt. I was looking for something I could wear when I realized I could score some points if I got one for MW (guys it works!). I got her a cute tee with the words "I heart my geek", fitting don't you think? Next up was a DVD after flipping through numerous titles some too hard core for family use, I finally settled on Planet Hulk. This movie really resonated with me. I liked how the hulk was put in an environment where his angst became a virtue. I draw parallels with jobs I have held down in the past my default behavior can either be an asset or liability in a given environment. The lesson I took from this film was to seek out environments that are compatible with your personality, hiring manager will be doing the same. In the end you and all whom you come in contact with will be happier. And if you think that is too difficult don't, the universe has a tendency to group like minded people together.

Before leaving I had to check out an interesting company featured on the app. It turns out that a company by the name of Graphic Audio has taken the concept of audio books and turned it on its head. Imagine how enhanced text looks and feel in a comic so do the sound clips provided by this company. Conventional audio books has one performer reading the text. Sure they make an effort to add inflection to their tone, however it can get dull if the story is not so good. Now think of a radio play with ensemble cast and glorious sound effects. That's what GA brings to the table. If you check out their website you will see that they have many popular titles. The only drawback is the high production cost which is recovered from the listener. Plus a lot of new releases don't show up on their list. You have to rely on conventional mainstays like audibles for those. But do check them out. You can start with some free samples to wet your appetite. Also look for a review on some of their titles on an upcoming post!.

NYC after a long day comiconing,
is that spidey swinging from the empire state?
All in all it was a great day but now it was time to get back to MWand the serenity of domestic life. Don't worry as long as you have a bag of swag its all good.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Muslim Protaginist

I am a firm believer of speaking your goals into existence. Earlier I had spoken about Sadi Stars. People who are promoting a positive image of Islam through their creative endeavors. These endeavors could be artistic works, stories, films and any other creative expression.

I don't claim to know how these things work but I have found that the more you think and speak about your goals, the more you seem to gravitate towards them. For example I got onto twitter thanks to the advice of Mark Coker and his marketing guide. He said to subscribe to twitter feeds of writers you like. This way you have a link with them. They typically tweet about their projects, current events and everyday things they may be dealing with.

I was fortunate enough to get onto Saladin Ahmed's feed. and I was paying attention when he mentioned he'd be in NYC for a writer's symposium, along with other Sadi Stars like G. Willow Wilson, the creative genius behind Ms. Marvel.

With MW's blessings I headed out early Sunday morning. I took the train into Manhattan, I had Googled the best route, but due to construction I had to get off and take an alternative route. It has been said that with each adversity there is an equal or greater opportunity. So to in my situation. although the train dropped me off at a far off location. The hike over to the campus was rewarding. I got on my phone and punched up Google maps. With GPS enabled it instantly threw up a little blue dot, which represented my current location. With that it was an easy guesstimate of where I had to be.

Lucky for me my path cut through Morning Side Park. As I made my approach I soon realized that I would need to climb up a massive hill. I must admit the task seemed a bit daunting. I even thought about turning back. But then I asked myself how important are my dreams to me? After all I went all this way to learn how to be a better writer. Was a little hill going to stop me? I really got into the symbology of the moment. Perhaps if I could cross this divide I would have proven my resolve. Proven my commitment to perfecting my craft. Proven that I have what it takes, that I could look myself in the mirror and be proud of the man I saw. Plus there was a staircase and the view was spectacular:

So over and on wards for me. I had reached the campus which was spread out over several city blocks. The MSA had a done a good job updating the website so I knew when and where I had to be. With the help of friendly staff and students I found my way to the designated classroom. Upon entering I grabbed a seat and prepared to be educated. 

At the podium was 
Michael Muhammad Knight, he had taken a question from a recent revert. She was writing her memoirs, as she wanted to share her journey to Islam with others. She struggled with particularly emotional events in her life. She wanted to know how to craft those scenes. Not only did the author offer some helpful insights, I was also happy to see all engaged in lively conversation. I am sure with all the synergy we produced something wonderful is bound to happen. I offered some advice as well about entering your dream space and not averting your eyes. That you have to enter your dreamspace on faith and reach your white hot center and then equally important return from there. Something I learned from Robert Owen Butler and his writing workshop.

The next session was conducted by maestro Saladin. He looked just like his twitter pics would suggest. The attendees were also equally amazing. Every one had a real interest in sci-fi and fantasy. They could hold their own when it came to the Dune prequels versus the Dune sequels. I found them to be thoroughly engaged and thoughtful people. It was a nice change of pace a real joy to be around with. They all had insightful questions for Mr. Ahmad. Some related to his work, The Throne of the Crescent Moon, others related to the writing process in general. For my question I had to tap my center. I talked about my current project how I would be examining the Aryan. The black covering that encompasses an evil doers heart. What atrocities is man capable in this state? Thanks to my training I safely exited my dream space and continued on with the session at the conclusion of which people got their copies of the crescent moon autographed and I got a snazzy pic with Dr. Adoulla himself!

I have always been passionate about stories for us by us. Just flipping through your TV channels on any given night you are bound to come across an angry Arab threatening someones life. That someone is more often than not an American. Thus instilling a paranoid fear of Arabs and by association Muslims. That's why this symposium really resonated with me. The idea is to have more leading roles for characters who happen to follow the religion of Islam. Something that is sorely needed in a society that is shaped heavily by its media.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

You gotta play this game!!!

So our area got hit by another snow storm. The roads were horrible and I was in no mood to venture out. Stuck indoors, what's an enterprising guy to do? Well I have been listening to Kiyosoki audio books. He's the guy behind the rich dad books. He often mentioned his cashflow games as a way to increase your financial vocabulary and hence your financial IQ. I have been meaning to play and the cold weather was just the right excuse. I fired up my browser logged in and started playing. The objective of the game is to exit the rat race and pursue your dreams. To see how I did check out these screen grabs:

Kiyosaki really hit home with his teachings. Too often we blame others the government, our employer, society, family etc. For our troubles. We don't take ownership of our lives. To take ownership is to be 100% responsible for your actions and the actions of others when they effect you. Instead of getting mad, and thinking "that's not fair", get smarter. See how you can circumvent your obstacles and reach your goals.
In Kiyosaki's opinion one of the best ways to do this is to gain your financial freedom. This can be done via an Multi Level Marketing (MLM) business. Being a computer science major I appreciate the mathematics behind how a growing network starts paying you back. You are able to harness what is known as Metcalfe's law. Which is a very simple concept.

When you are on your own, it's just you. One squared is still one. For every ounce of energy you put in the return is one ounce of energy. However suppose you add someone to your network, an industrious business partner. Now its two squared. For your one ounce your getting four ounces of energy. Can you see how this can skyrocket?

I can hear you, your thinking so what? I trust my instincts, listen to my heart, I have faith in God and move with his will. Good. So do I. Anything conceived by the mind of man, must come from a template. Often times that template is provided by nature. It is God's creations that inspire us to imagine to create to invent. Yes even mathematical principles have their grounding in the natural world. The template of exponential growth can be found when we examine the germination of a bamboo shoot. For years it will remain dormant under ground. Showing no signs of activity. But the farmer faithfully weeds, waters and fertilizes the encasing soil. Day after day year after year, after which there is a sudden growth spurt in a matter of months the bamboo seedling shoots up several feet and becomes a leafy tree. Kum faya kum!

Can you be that farmer? For me personally I had reached a glass ceiling my salary had plateaued, but my ambitions had not. I was open to the idea of trying out this type of business. The low start up cost, low overhead and low risk appealed to me. The training and education provided helped me to be more assertive and self confident. Which benefitted me in other areas of my life. Especially work, a direct result of which was a promotion and better pay. What's more you have a profound sense of hope, the excitement of pursuing my dreams, dreams that I had painfully written off, that exhilaration is hard to describe. You have to experience it.

I urge you to be mentored in this manner, experience it for yourself. If you have been reading my blog you know I am a genuine person. Not some anonymous blog bot spewing out words. Trust is hard won and If I haven't' earned yours I respect that. But I dare you to ask yourself what if? What if, I could buy that home I always wanted? What if I could stay home with my wife and kids? What if my dreams came true? Can you imagine how different your life could be?

Isn't that worth fighting for? Me and my team are willing to fight alongside you. Come and join us!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Book Covers!

I am so stoked by my new book covers! They came out better than expected. Funny thing is that they would never have been if I hadn't gone through cokers marketing guide. Here they emphasize the need for professionally done covers. The idea stuck in my mind as I knew I could improve on them. But it wasn't until I stayed up all night watching starship troopers that a new concept for the covers came to frution.

Originally I had concieved of a zombie miner in a space suite holding up the gemcore flag. My drawing skills are moderate at best so I turned to google, image searches of zombie space miner or space marine soon turned up copyrighted images.

So I headed over to wikimedia for some royalty free images. Searches for space in art turned up some spectacular imagery. The producers of which were happy to share with all. So smashed them up in my handy dandy macromedia mx. Choose a color scheme added some titles got mw approval and viola:

Cool nah? I am so fired up, to be doing what I love. To have the courage to go after my dreams. Makes me come alive! What fires you up?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sadi Stars

In keeping with my new found ideals, that is being inclusive and brave enough to share my dreams with others. I came up with the idea of a brand new blog post. The idea was to highlight those artists that embody the founding principles of Sadisoft.

To reiterate, we at Sadisoft are striving to achieve the means by which Muslims can project a better image of themselves. For the most part this projection or voice is through some form of storytelling. Whether its through the various sci-fi stories, written with a prominent Muslim character. Or video games and multimedia that brings that story world to life. The aim is to produce products that fit this ideal.

It pleases my heart to see others who have also embraced this ideal. So many fellow Muslim artists have done so much in this field. They are the true torch bearers and an inspiration as they lead the way. In the past I have highlighted these fine people on this very blog. Names such as Yusuf Islam, Dr Naif Al-Mutawa, Ahmed A. Khan, The Ebady brothers, Mustafa Davis, Guide US TV and others have been featured here.

But in the months since so many more notable contenders have taken stage. Seeing the dizzying array of stories out there I set out to chronicle them in an article I'd like to call Sadi Stars. A Sadi Star is an artist who has produced work that embodies the spirit of sadisoft. That is an artist who has shown their light on the religion of Islam and on the religion's followers in a positive manner. This is such a huge contribution to the ummah, which is constantly being attacked by mainstream media. In that context it becomes ever important for others to see our voice, our side of the story, our take on current events. If only to paint a more balanced picture.

So without further ado let's bring up the Sadi Stars!!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I love being an IBO

Remember how mikey from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would holler "I love being a turtle!" after doing battle with the evil shredder and his foot soldiers? Well I get the same rush when shopping at mega retailers. But not for the reasons you may be thinking. Sure I have their charge card, coupons, plus I buy from the clearance rack, while half the store is on sale. I save a lot and get something I needed. But there seems to be something missing. There is a feeling in the back of my mind. I have just committed myself to paying back the retailer in two months time. Failing which I will be penalized with a hefty interest payment. So who really won?

Often times you have seen me blog about my business. I am constantly praising it for the hope it has given me and MW. The peace of mind it gives us to know we are in control of our future. The future we inhabit can be lovingly crafted by our hands. After all we have to live it, no else will. So why not build a comfortable and fulfilling future?

That's why I buy from myself. I get the same brands that are available at the retailers. With the same deep discounts, but I still get more, like a check at the end of the month. I literally get paid to shop! Who doesn't want that? I can't imagine why people don't get in. Especially since its a low risk business with a 90 day money back gaurantee. Plus a crew of team members willing to serve you and show you the way. How credible and cool is that?

Still not convinced? Well check out these logos which you are paying full price for. Enjoy!

Season greetings to all my readers. I hoped you enjoyed your time with your loved ones. I wish to give you the gift of Financial Freedom. Drop a line in the comment thread and let's connect!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Smash Words Delivers!

I hope you have caught the writing bug as I have. Its wonderful to be able to express yourself in the written word. What's even better is to share that expression with others. Before signing up with Smashwords, I was promoting my work using my own steam. Your own steam takes you only so far. It isn't until you can duplicate your efforts and work with a team that you create real momentum.

Mark Coker the founder of the revolutionary e-publishing website, SmashWords did just that. He had the novel idea of bypassing the gatekeepers and allowing readers and writers to mingle unhinged. I owe a lot to SW for what they have done for my work. I get a kick anytime someone downloads my stories. Its another mind touched by my words. That's a wonderful feeling to have.

To build on that success Mark has served the Indie writers once again, with two free publications. One is a guide on succesfully publishing your books in the electronic form. The other focuses on how to market them once out in the ether. Get them from the author's SW profile from these links:

Marketing Guide

EBook Publishing Success

It's worth the read, these are the latest incarnations of his popular guides. They are packed with all new information, check 'em out. Happy writing!