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Arts Culture STEM Competition Tuesday 16th April 2024 Industry Opinion Local Nations

"Gender Queer: A Memoir" Chronicles Maia Kobabe's Journey as a Nonbinary and Asexual Individual

Maia Kobabe, the author-illustrator of "Gender Queer: A Memoir," is a nonbinary and asexual person whose journey of self-discovery is chronicled in eir autobiographical graphic novel. The book, released in 2019, received critical acclaim and won several awards, becoming a valuable resource for those seeking representation and understanding of nonbinary and asexual identities. However, it also faced challenges, with conservative groups attempting to ban it, making it the most-banned book in America, according to the American Library Association.

Despite the challenges, the book's impact has been profound for many readers who finally found representation of their identities. Kobabe's memoir has inspired and comforted individuals who could relate to the struggles and triumphs depicted in the book. It has become a powerful tool for LGBTQIA+ teenagers and adults, helping them find solace and a sense of belonging.

Unfortunately, book bans and challenges have been on the rise, with conservative groups targeting LGBTQIA+ books and characters of color. The surge in anti-trans legislation in the U.S. is seen as part of a broader effort to keep the religious right voting Republican.

Despite the challenges and backlash, Kobabe remains determined to continue writing authentic and extremely queer stories. Eir next book, "Saachi's Stories," written in collaboration with nonbinary comics author-illustrator Lucky Srikumar, is a graphic novel for a younger audience and is set to be released in 2025.

Kobabe encourages other writers not to be silenced by fear of book bans and censorship. Instead, e urges them to continue telling their authentic stories and taking action against censorship efforts. The support from the Bay Area's queer-comics community and the Charles Schulz Museum has been a source of strength for Kobabe.

In the face of challenges, Kobabe finds respite and joy in hobbies like reading, and eir love for K-pop has connected em with a vibrant community. Despite the difficulties, Kobabe remains optimistic and continues to embrace eir identity and share eir truth through eir creative work.

Diablo 4: A Familiar Yet Immersive Journey Through Sanctuary

Diablo 4, the latest installment in the iconic action RPG series, offers a mix of familiarity and innovation in the gaming realm. Set against the backdrop of Fractured Peaks, players find themselves engaging with demons and navigating a story centered on Lilith, the daughter of hatred, and a cosmic conflict between heaven and hell.

The narrative, while familiar in its overarching themes of good versus evil, presents a fresh twist by gradually revealing the intricate layers of secrets surrounding Sanctuary's creators. Human struggles take center stage, exploring the consequences of choices in a world torn between faith, ideals, and the pursuit of knowledge. The tale unfolds with a touch of familiarity, reminiscent of certain thematic elements found in recent adaptations like HBO's His Dark Materials.

Despite the main narrative's occasional melodramatic moments, Diablo 4 shines in portraying the human tragedies occurring on the sidelines. The exploration of Sanctuary's broken society and political landscape adds depth to the overall story, offering a broader perspective that could have played a more significant role in the main campaign.

The protagonist's increased visibility in cutscenes, a first for the series, establishes a stronger connection with the player. However, the character remains somewhat bland, lacking a significant impact on the world or the fates of encountered characters.

Introducing a groundbreaking feature, Diablo 4 unveils its first open-world map, allowing players to explore Sanctuary's vastness. While the exploration doesn't always yield practical rewards, the attention to detail in creating a darkly beautiful world is evident. The art team's meticulous work ensures a visually captivating experience, with defiled landscapes gradually revealing flashes of natural beauty.

The addition of strongholds, complex dungeons with visual diversity and meaningful consequences, stands out as a positive change. Clearing strongholds not only yields valuable gear but also impacts the game world, providing a refreshing departure from the series' usual lack of player-induced changes.

Class balance, a concern raised during the beta, shows improvement in the final build. While some classes, like the sorcerer and necromancer, excel, others, such as the druid, still lag behind. The game's online nature encourages group play, but each class remains viable for solo experiences. Despite the familiarity of class archetypes from previous Diablo games, the effective gameplay and variety within each class contribute to an enjoyable experience.

In summary, Diablo 4 combines the familiarity of its predecessors with notable innovations. The captivating narrative, immersive world design, and improved class balance make it a worthy addition to the beloved series. While certain aspects, like the protagonist's impact on the world, could be further developed, the game successfully captures the essence of what makes Diablo an enduring and engaging franchise.


Books That Bring the City of Mumbai to Life

Author Reema Patel, known for her debut novel "Such Big Dreams," offers a selection of seven books that vividly capture the essence of Bombay, now known as Mumbai. The city, with its intricate charm and dynamic energy, has been a rich backdrop in numerous literary works, spanning fiction and non-fiction genres.

Suketu Mehta's nonfiction work, "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found," provides a whirlwind exploration of Bombay, delving into the lives of diverse inhabitants, from bar dancers to politicians. The book offers social commentary on power, pleasure, corruption, and labor, portraying Bombay as a symbol of the Indian dream for many migrants.

"Narcopolis" by Jeet Thayil takes readers on a haunting journey through Bombay's opium culture, spanning from the 1970s to the recent past. The novel, presented in vignettes, explores the lives of characters like opium addicts, a eunuch named Dimple, and a poet-slash-artist, offering a glimpse into the city's seedy underbelly.

Aravind Adiga's "Last Man in Tower" unfolds a tale of ruthless urban development in Bombay, as a developer seeks to replace an old apartment building with a luxury high-rise tower. The novel exposes the harsh reality that virtually everything in Bombay is for sale, reflecting the continuous market's diversity and the city's complexities.

Set in the 1990s, Amrita Mahale's "Milk Teeth" delves into the changing dynamics of Bombay through the lens of two childhood friends. The narrative explores nostalgia, urbanization, and the quest for freedom in a city characterized by diverse communities.

Sonia Faleiro's non-fiction work, "Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars," presents the life of Leela, an ambitious bar dancer. Faleiro navigates Leela's world, portraying the paradoxes of glamour and squalor, pleasure and pain, as she strives for a better life.

Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" offers a non-fiction account of life in Annawadi, a sprawling slum near the international airport. Boo sheds light on the challenges and complexities of poverty, avoiding romanticization or patronization.

Vikram Chandra's epic saga, "Sacred Games," unfolds the cat-and-mouse game between a police officer and a larger-than-life gangster in Bombay's gritty underworld. The novel, with its vibrant Bambaiya slang, serves as both a lesson on Indian post-colonial history and a love letter to the city.

Reema Patel, the author of "Such Big Dreams," introduces readers to a curated list of books that offer diverse perspectives on Bombay. Patel's personal connection to the city, reflected in her debut novel, adds a unique dimension to her recommendations.


Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader - An Exciting Glimpse into the Vast Universe

Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, the top-down RPG on Steam and Good Old Games set in the iconic Warhammer 40K universe, has taken players by storm with its grand scale and freedom of choice. Developed by Owlcat Games, the game offers a unique opportunity to explore a full star system and exercise free will, making it a standout title among Warhammer enthusiasts.

The game's demo, provided by Owlcat Games, kicks off with character creation, where players can immerse themselves in the vastness of choices available. From selecting augments, home world, origin story, and specialties, players can shape their character according to their preferences. Whether they wish to be a noblewoman skilled with rifles, a dangerous psyker, a veteran of the Imperium's long war, or a filthy criminal, the options are extensive. However, some players have expressed disappointment at the limited customization options in the demo, with all available portraits featuring white characters. The developers, in response, have assured players that the final version will offer much more variety in character customization, including diverse portraits.

The story of Rogue Trader proves captivating from the get-go. Rogue Traders, who have been part of Warhammer 40,000 since its inception, serve as privateers in the service of the Imperium of Man. These voidship sailors roam the galaxy, trading and exploring on a longer leash than their peers. In the demo, players find themselves in a cutthroat world of politics as they vie for the coveted title of Rogue Trader. Betrayal, cat-and-mouse campaigns, and power struggles become the norm in this dark and dangerous universe.

One of the game's strengths lies in its ability to allow players to immediately start role-playing. The in-game codex aids in understanding the 40K-specific terms without disrupting the dialogue, making it easier for players to define their characters.

Rogue Trader offers intriguing subversions of the typical RPG formula. In a grimdark future of war, the usual helpful hero behavior is seen as servile and pathetic. Players must navigate the delicate balance of keeping their dangerous allies happy while finding alternative solutions to challenges. The freedom to explore various paths and engage in branching dialogue trees makes for an immersive experience.

The game also delves into places not typically covered in the main 40K narrative, like the Drukhari city of Commorragh. This adds fresh and exciting elements to the setting, allowing players to explore dangerous and alien environments with the freedom of an RPG.

The turn-based combat on a grid, akin to games like Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Wasteland 3, complements Warhammer 40K's blood-soaked and bizarre combat traditions. With allies like nuns wielding flamer guns, ferocious Space Wolves, and the technology of the Adeptus Mechanicus, battles are both challenging and exhilarating.

While the beta version did encounter a few snags and limitations, the developers assure players that more content and campaigns will be added post-release. The potential for a truly immersive and diverse experience in the Warhammer 40,000 universe has players eagerly awaiting the final release of Rogue Trader.

Pixar's Elemental Fails to Heat Up at the Box Office

Pixar's latest film, Elemental, had high stakes riding on it, with a budget exceeding $200 million. However, if one were to judge by the TikTok consumer sentiment index, the comments section, the outcome might have seemed predictable. Negative reactions flooded the comments, expressing disappointment and low expectations for the film. Comments like "The Disney magic is fading away" and "Can't wait to not watch this" dominated the discussion. One user even humorously predicted that the movie would make a mere $20 at the box office, or perhaps $21 if they were lucky.

Considering the buzz on social media, it may come as a surprise that Elemental did manage to rake in $29.5 million during its opening weekend. While this figure fell short of analysts' modest expectations, it defied the negative sentiments expressed online. However, in comparison to recent animated films like Universal's The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Minions: The Rise of Gru, which grossed an impressive $1.33 billion and $939.6 million worldwide, respectively, Pixar's performance has been lackluster.

Elemental's opening weekend box office collection stands as Pixar's second-lowest ever, narrowly surpassing Toy Story's $29.1 million debut in 1995. When adjusted for inflation, however, Toy Story's opening would be valued at approximately $57.6 million today, a whopping 98% more than Elemental's figures.

Pixar had hoped that Elemental would mark a rebound after the box office disappointment of Lightyear and provide a momentary high note following the studio's decision to lay off 75 employees in May as part of Disney's broader cost-cutting measures.

On a positive note, the movie industry as a whole is witnessing an upward trend, with theaters experiencing better performance than the same weekend in 2019, before the pandemic struck, as reported by CNBC.

Man's Search for Meaning

Viktor E. Frankl

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1984: 75th Anniversary Paperback

George Orwell

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Sweeney Todd Revival to Embark on National Tour

The Tony-nominated revival of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's "Sweeney Todd" is set to hit the road in early spring 2025 for a national tour, marking the musical's first such tour since 2008. The current Broadway revival, directed by Thomas Kail, has garnered eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Revival of a Musical.

The revival, which opened on March 26 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, features Jonathan Tunick's original 26-piece orchestration, a notable aspect that will be retained for the upcoming tour. The musical, based on the Christopher Bond play, tells the story of the vengeful barber Sweeney Todd and his accomplice Mrs. Lovett as they turn to murder and meat pies in Victorian London.

The production's music supervisor and Tony Award winner, Alex Lacamoire, expressed excitement about taking the 26-piece orchestra on the road. Lacamoire noted that local musicians of high caliber would be sought for the tour to replicate the scale and sound experienced on Broadway. The specifics regarding casting, tour dates, and cities are expected to be announced in the coming months.

The current Broadway cast, led by Josh Groban as Sweeney Todd and Annaleigh Ashford as Mrs. Lovett, has contributed to the success of the revival, with both Groban and Ashford receiving Tony nominations for their roles.

The decision to launch a national tour aligns with the acclaim and recognition the revival has received, with the creative team, including choreographer Steven Hoggett and set designer Mimi Lien, contributing to the production's success. The revival follows the original Broadway staging of "Sweeney Todd," staying true to Sondheim's score and Tunick's orchestration.

The upcoming tour is poised to span the 2024-2025 and 2025-2026 theatrical seasons, bringing the acclaimed production to audiences across the country. The announcement has stirred anticipation among theater enthusiasts, awaiting further details about the tour, including locations and additional cast members.

"Sweeney Todd" continues to captivate audiences with its dark and compelling narrative, and the national tour provides an opportunity for theatergoers outside of Broadway to experience the musical's powerful storytelling and iconic score. As the anticipation builds, fans eagerly await the unveiling of the full details surrounding this highly anticipated tour.

Redefining Exploration: The Vast Open World of Zelda's Sequel

Nintendo has done it again with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Following the groundbreaking success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the pressure was on for Nintendo to deliver an even better sequel. And they did just that.

Tears of the Kingdom builds upon the original game's core philosophy of discovery and takes it to new heights. The world is more immersive than ever, with no shortage of surprises and challenges. Gone are the hand-holding mechanics that many gamers have come to expect. Instead, players are left to navigate a world that is unforgiving and demands their full attention.

The story picks up shortly after the events of Breath of the Wild, with Link and Zelda venturing into the depths of a dark tomb in search of answers. However, their exploration takes a turn for the worse when they awaken the reanimated Demon King Ganondorf, who wreaks havoc on the kingdom. The game sets a new tone of urgency, as players must race against time to save Zelda and restore order to the world.

One of the game's standout features is its expansive open world, which has undergone significant changes since the last installment. Towns are in ruins, and the emergence of islands in the sky has transformed the landscape. Players are now able to explore the world in three dimensions: the surface, the sky, and below ground. The map has tripled in size, offering endless opportunities for exploration.

In addition to the vast world, Tears of the Kingdom reintroduces traditional dungeons, which were absent in Breath of the Wild. These dungeons are more epic and challenging than ever before, providing players with unforgettable experiences. The game also introduces new companions for Link, who actively participate in the battles and add depth to the narrative.

Nintendo has not only expanded on the game's world and story but also enhanced its physics-based gameplay. Players are given even more tools and abilities to experiment with, allowing for creative problem-solving and endless possibilities. The game encourages players to think outside the box and rewards them for their ingenuity.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a masterpiece that exceeds expectations. It combines a captivating story, a sprawling open world, memorable characters, and innovative gameplay mechanics. Nintendo has once again set the bar high for the gaming industry.

Salvador Dalí's Illusory Legacy in the Battle Against Counterfeit Art

In the realm of art, the battle against counterfeit masterpieces rages on. Recently, a client from Alabama sought the expertise of Bernard Ewell to appraise a work purportedly by the renowned surrealist Salvador Dalí. The artwork in question, titled "Lincoln in Dalívision," featured a mosaic print of Dalí's wife, Gala, cleverly resembling the face of Abraham Lincoln when viewed from a distance. Unfortunately, Ewell revealed the bitter truth: the print was nothing but a fake, created as part of a series produced by two brothers from Alabama. Even the signature was a fabrication.

This incident is just one example of the ongoing predicament faced by collectors and appraisers alike in the world of Dalí art. Despite Dalí's passing over three decades ago, the prevalence of fake reproductions continues to plague the market. During the 1980s art investment boom, countless counterfeit Dalí artworks flooded circulation, resulting in fraudulent sales amounting to millions, if not billions, of dollars.

The consequences of this fraud were severe. Unscrupulous dealers and gallery owners faced legal repercussions, the value of authentic Dalí works plummeted, and unsuspecting art collectors discovered the worthlessness of their prized possessions.

Dalí's popularity and prolific output made him an attractive target for counterfeiters. His recognizable persona and extensive body of work, including prints, lithographs, and etchings, provided ample opportunities for the fabrication and sale of fake reproductions. Dalí's inner circle, including his wife Gala, even capitalized on the growing demand by producing prints bearing Dalí's signature.

Authenticating Dalí artworks became a daunting task due to the limited nature of prints and Dalí's inconsistent approach to signing them. The lack of expertise among sellers, coupled with the trust placed in certificates of authenticity and Dalí's signature, allowed the fraudulent sales to persist. Even reputable institutions like Christie's refrained from selling Dalí limited-edition prints due to doubts surrounding their authenticity.

However, amidst the chaos, appraiser Bernard Ewell emerged as a beacon of hope. Through meticulous study of texture, ink, and watermarks on Dalí prints, he became adept at identifying fakes. Ewell's expertise played a crucial role in the prosecution of fraudulent sellers, including the conviction of William Mett, who sold millions of dollars' worth of fake Dalí artworks.

Nevertheless, the market remains ensnared in uncertainty, with genuine Dalí prints suffering a decline in value due to the prevalence of fakes. Collectors and experts must remain vigilant in their quest for authentic works from the surrealist master.

In this ongoing battle against counterfeits, the legacy of Salvador Dalí lives on, tangled in a web of deception, as art enthusiasts navigate the treacherous terrain in pursuit of true artistic treasures.

Judy Blume's Legacy and Bridging the Gap in Adolescent Understanding

In the early 1980s, Kavita Das, the daughter of Indian immigrant doctors, found herself navigating the perplexing terrain of puberty and adolescence in Queens, New York City. Raised in a household where discussions about topics like puberty, sex, and relationships were deemed taboo, Kavita faced a lack of guidance from her strict disciplinarian parents.

Her quest for understanding led her to Judy Blume's landmark book, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." Introduced to the book by a classmate in the fifth grade, Kavita borrowed it, clandestinely reading it in her bunk bed, away from the watchful eyes of her parents. Blume's narrative, which openly addressed issues like crushes, menstruation, and the changes in girls' bodies, served as a revelation for Kavita, offering a perspective and knowledge she lacked at home.

Blume's candid exploration of puberty contrasted sharply with Kavita's own experiences in school, where a rather clinical approach to sex education left her feeling unfulfilled. "Sex class" turned out to be a sterile lesson in reproduction, devoid of the emotional depth found in Blume's work. The contrast underscored the importance of honest conversations about puberty and sex, a realization that gained clarity when Kavita moved to Westchester, New York.

In Westchester, a new chapter unfolded in Mrs. Smith's Health class. Unlike the impersonal sex education in her previous school, Mrs. Smith embraced open dialogue. Addressing the natural bodily functions, she created an environment where discussing topics like urination was normalized. Mrs. Smith's approach, reminiscent of Judy Blume's candid storytelling, became a source of comfort for Kavita, marking a shift from the reticence she experienced at home.

A subsequent move to suburban New Jersey brought new challenges for Kavita. As one of the few nonwhite students in her school, she faced the complexities of adolescence amid a predominantly white student body. Judy Blume's impact continued as Kavita grappled with issues like wearing a bra. Faced with a dilemma, she resourcefully navigated the situation, highlighting the stark contrast between Margaret's open conversations with her mother and Kavita's unspoken struggles.

Reflecting on her journey into adolescence, Kavita recognizes the pivotal role Judy Blume's book played in filling the gaps left by societal and familial reticence. Today, as a mother herself, she is determined to break the cycle, fostering open and honest conversations with her daughter. Blume's masterful storytelling, tackling taboo subjects with honesty, serves as a timeless blueprint for addressing the challenges faced by teens navigating the transition from childhood to adolescence.

As the documentary "Judy Blume Forever" and the adaptation of "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" approach release dates, there is an opportunity to celebrate Judy Blume's monumental contributions to young adult literature. In a world where young people grapple with complex issues, Blume's narratives remain a beacon of authenticity and understanding, bridging the generational gap with enduring relevance. Kavita's personal journey, intertwined with Blume's impact, underscores the lasting significance of literature in shaping the narratives of adolescence.


Final Fantasy 16: A Modernized Reinvention with Familiar Spirit

Square Enix's upcoming installment, Final Fantasy 16, aims to revolutionize the mainline Final Fantasy games with a fresh approach. Spearheaded by Naoki Yoshida, renowned for his work on revitalizing Final Fantasy 14, the goal is to expand the series' appeal by transforming it into a modern action-adventure, drawing inspiration from popular fantasy franchises like Game of Thrones and God of War.

While this new direction may concern some fans, fearing the loss of the series' identity, the essence of Final Fantasy remains intact in Final Fantasy 16. The game retains beloved elements such as summons, Chocobos, Moogles, crystals, and Aether. Moreover, it maintains the series' earnestness, grandiosity, a touch of emo flair, and a charming touch of goofiness.

Yoshida emphasizes that Final Fantasy 16 is a labor of love, driven by a desire to reignite excitement for the series. During the opening hours of the game experienced at a London press event, eyebrows were raised due to a scene that showcased characters drenched in gore and using explicit language. However, despite its edginess and departure from the traditional party-based RPG format, Final Fantasy 16 remains unmistakably Final Fantasy.

The game's early stages introduce players to an intricate military and political landscape within its fantasy world. It thrusts them into a complex narrative filled with names, locations, and concepts that may initially feel overwhelming. However, the Active Time Lore system allows players to pause the action and access helpful wikis providing explanations of the characters, locations, and concepts in the scene.

As the game progresses, it settles into a comfortable rhythm, building its characters, world, and gameplay. Players assume the role of Clive Rosfield, an embittered soldier navigating battles and royal family drama. The combat system offers a free-flowing, action-oriented experience, with boss battles being particularly engaging and strategically designed. The game's approach to accessibility and difficulty also provides customization options through "Timely" items, allowing players to tailor their experience.

Final Fantasy 16 takes players on a journey of intricate storytelling and thrilling gameplay. As the plot unfolds, it gradually opens up to offer exploration and side-quests, reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 era's action games and RPGs. The game successfully maintains the essence of Final Fantasy while incorporating elements from the past that fans hold dear.

The true test for Final Fantasy 16 will be whether it can sustain its momentum beyond the initial hours. With its release on PlayStation 5 scheduled for June 22, players eagerly anticipate embarking on a new Final Fantasy adventure that balances modernity with the franchise's enduring spirit.

Lord of the Rings Box Set

J.R.R. Tolkien

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Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

David Grann

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