IT has been a while since I turned the pages of a newspaper apart from reading the local news. The internet gave me the power to wrap my tentacles around the largest news sources around the world. But there was one thing that I always looked up first when I did read the local paper, and that was to turn the pages to wherever the comics were to get my morning dose of chuckle.
Even if it wasn't the local news, many of the two/three panel comic strips published worldwide are more than mere comic strips, but rather works of art. I find myself re-reading Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts now and it blows my mind how relevant they still are today, and how more thought provoking I find them today than I did in yesteryears.
As my news consumption has changed, so has how I consume my little pleasures in life. I therefore introduce you to a (obviously biased) short list of my favourite webcomics. Rule of the thumb is that you should go back to the first issue and start reading from there, and if you like it, you can subscribe to them via RSS.
xkcd and Abstruse Goose are for those who keep in touch with internet memes , nerd culture jokes, and did not forget their O level maths. xkcd, with it's passion to bridge love for technology with love for someone, has gone to become one of the most successful comic strips in recent times (some even compare it with Calvin and Hobbes, but I have my reservations) while The Goose, new to the game, takes a leaf from xkcd and is quickly gaining popularity. (xkcd.com, abstrusegoose.com)
Am I scaring you with all the science-y comics? Well fear not! Cyanide and Happiness is one of those comics that make you laugh by bordering on the side of insanity. I like to compare it to the Simpsons really, as it starts of going in one direction and ending it another. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is yet another fun web comic that does not foray into any particular theme but rather points out; sometimes quiet painfully, the absurdities of real life. (explosm.net, smbc-comics.com)
Back to our themed webcomics, I give you Ctrl+Alt+Del, a comic venturing in the realm of video games. Of course, how can I put comics and video games in one sentence and not mention Penny Arcade? Really, if you are into games, try them out. DO NOT ARGUE! You will love me forever more for pointing you to their direction. (cad-comic.com, penny-arcade.com)
But the popular ones aren't the only ones. And if you are like me, you won't restrict yourself just with the popular ones. There are thousands of comics scattered all over the interwebs. And you can get access to the funniest ones of the day by typing isitfunnytoday.com in your browser, where they are rated in typical internet fashion on their funniness. It is a great place to find the jems like Garfield minus Garfield, Sinfest or Amazing Super Powers.
I can go on and on, but I fear I'll take up all your day. If you have never read any web comics, or think they are a waste of time, try them out just once. You can thank me later.
By Hussain M Elius
Zaatar Days, Henna Nights
WHEN life in Dhaka grinds you down, do you ever feel like leaving it all behind to embark on a crazy adventure? How hard can a travel bug bite?
Real hard, apparently, if Maliha Masood is to be believed.
In the months preceding 9/11, Pakistani-born Masood, a burnt out dot-commer leaves her cushy job in Seattle to satisfy some strange craving through travel. Playing tourist in Europe doesn't satisfy her restlessness, and her need to understand her identity as a Muslim, so on a spur-of-the-moment decision, she packs her bag and heads off to Cairo. Living in a foreign city, where the people are at once familiar because of the shared faith and rituals, and alien because of the different language and customs, the author realises she is on to something, and decides to continue backpacking through the Middle East in search of this wordless connection. Her wanderlust takes her on a year-long, overland journey, through the streets and alleys of Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Istanbul, and countless detours in between. On many of these adventures, she teams up with her beautiful Australian friend Bea; for others, she wings it on her own.
Peppered with some bizarre adventures, such as sleeping out in the desert, dancing with a Syrian cross-dressing couple, almost getting kidnapped and added to a harem, narrowly escaping an unwanted bikini wax at a Turkish hammam, the book is part travelogue, part social commentary.
Aside from painting a fascinating picture of places and faces not commonly featured in popular literature, the book shatters the stereotype of the antagonistic Arab, and serves as an important voice against the post 9/11 tendency towards fear and suspicion.
That being said, one cannot honestly call Masood the best writer when it comes to language and style. While her narrative is insightful, a sense of humour she does not possess. It is the exotic appeal of the subject matter itself that acts as a driving force for the read. All in all, she merits a rating of 3/5. If you can ignore the bland writing and focus on the facts, you'll finish a few facts wiser.
By Sabrina F Ahmad
A Baby Is...
See, I'm a Know-It-All After All
I know how you're always there for me when I'm down.
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