How to destroy your cinematic universe

The concept of a shared cinematic universe where a series of movies would be connected with each other with its own individual plot and an overall arching story that would lead to big pay off in another movie down the line was created by Marvel Studios with the after credits of 2008’s Iron Man.

This paid dividends for the then fledgling and now the juggernaut in the Cinematic World.

With success comes a host of competitors that will try to give a shot at the successful idea.

However other than Marvel and in a much smaller capacity The Conjuring movie series, no one has been able to crack the code for a successful cinematic universe.

Whether due to sheer incompetence, greed, not understanding the strength and weakness of the properties and just not having a plan, there are a number of factors studios can cause for a studio’s cinematic universe to crash and burn even before it lifts off the ground.

Overestimating your strengths

Destroying your cinematic universe-HiFi Public

One of the fundamental reasons why a cinematic universe blows up is because most studios do not evaluate whether or not their properties, for example, can be adapted into a cinematic universe format.

The properties must have enough depth and characters that could be organically be stretched out into multiple movies without feeling forced. Marvel, DC and even Star Wars can pull this off because there are numerous stories written about those characters from many different writers in many formats, that the studios can simply pick and choose which one to go for.

For most studios they don’t have that luxury and instead of creating a traditional good first movie and then follow up with great sequels, they announce a cinematic universe with whatever IPs they have. The biggest example being the Universal Monster Dark Universe Cinematic Universe that was poorly thought out and it crashed and burn with only one movie in its slate. The 2017 reboot of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise.

Time will tell whether the planned WB Godzilla Kaiju Universe, Hasbro Transformers and their other toy line up universe will meet the same fate.

Not having a plan or direction

Destroying your cinematic universe-HiFi Public
Credit: SyFY Wire

One of the most baffling events that came out of the entertainment world is the DCEU or as it is now known Worlds of DC in general.

From hiring directors and them leaving midway through production, from Zack Snyder’s total control of it and then the Execs of WB taking control from him, from various movies being announced that no one asked for and then getting cancelled these developments clearly shows that WB never had a solid game plan for their cinematic universe and that indecision clearly shows in their movies as well.

With the exception of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam, all the Worlds of DC branded movies either underperformed in terms of critically and commercially or both and generally they are seen as inferior to the MCU.

Read more: Shazam is the new magic word for DCEU!

The planning and the logistic behind the MCU is something that most studios don’t take any heed to it. That is one of the core reason why cinematic universes crash and burn even without getting a chance to fully form because the studios expect to land on the moon first before properly figuring it out how to get out of earth’s orbit in the first place.

Pacing and patience

Destroying your cinematic universe-HiFi Public
Credit: USA Today

For the all the talk about the MCU success most fail to see the one crucial step they took that no one up to now did. They never announced from the get-go that the First Iron Man movie was gonna be the start of their cinematic universe. They focused on making a great movie that can stand on its own first and then gave the small teaser of their plans in the end credit scene.

Read more: A love letter to MCU from a fan with no ticket

This was done so that they can create goodwill at first with the general audience and then in the subsequent movies slowly start to reveal their master plan cumulating in the First Avengers Movie and now their phase four.

Compare this with DCEU BVS which was tasked the monumental task of Introducing Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and the entire Justice League in one sitting and also other numerous Easter eggs that were supposed to lead into other movies.

Sadly what resulted is a bloated mess of a movie that didn’t have any direction and character motivations and some scenes were done purely to tease the other future movies which created a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie that lacks focus.

Not exploring alternate options

Destroying your cinematic universe-HiFi Public

This article already talked a great length about the MCU when it comes to cinematic universes, however, there is another name that can be added to that list, The Conjuring Universe.

Rather than making the mistakes above they simply went on a different direction than all of the rest of the Marvel Imitators. They simply made one good movie and then created a sequel and based on the audience reaction on the sequels secondary villains or tertiary characters they made spinoffs about it and slowly in a matter of years created a cinematic universe of their own.

While the Conjuring Universe cannot be compared to Marvel in terms of financial and critical and cultural significance, at least that cinematic universe is done right.

The Lesson that can be taken from the conjuring universe is that other than the previous lessons above is sometimes a cinematic universe from the onset is not a must. You can simply create a good movie, have goodwill and slowly from there through sequels or spin-offs or prequels organically have a cinematic universe.

Not every series of movies need to have all the characters team up, in the end, to fight a big bad in the ultimate team-up movie.

Finding feminism in the pages of literature

For as long as I can remember, I have been an intense reader. Throughout middle school and high school, my best friend and I bonded over “book-hunting” in the school library, and over the years we fought minotaurs with Percy Jackson, went on undercover spy missions at Cherub, fawned over Artemis Fowl’s criminal mastermind, hated Katniss Everdeen with a passion, and, of course, devoured page after page of Bella’s description of Edward Cullen’s perfect 45 degree angled nose (don’t pretend you didn’t have a Twilight phase).

In early 2017, I was reading a particularly popular novel by a particularly popular (male) author and I was reading through a paragraph (which was completely irrelevant to the rest of the plot of the book) in which the male protagonist lustfully described the only female character in the book, who just happened to be incredibly sexually appealing in all her intelligence and physique (but very careful as to not be too intelligent or too attractive so as to threaten our protagonist, of course).

As I suffered through the unnecessary account of how well she pulled off a white tank top and jean shorts, it dawned upon me that in my almost 20 years of life, I had not read nearly enough novels by female authors. It was at this point that I, utterly disgusted by the one-dimensionality of every female character I could recall in almost every novel I had read (however much I loved them), decided that 2017 would be the year that I would consciously choose to read more books by women.

Now before you go on calling me a feminazi and whatnot, I am not claiming that every book ever written by a man is inherently sexist or that men, by some default, cannot create complex female characters. I am only saying that there is an entire realm of emotions and experiences about being a woman that male writers have never experienced and therefore their writing does not reflect it.

Consciously reading books by female authors exposed me to a whole new representation of my identity as a woman. There are tiny bits and pieces of the life that only women know sprinkled into the details of each story that I had never before found in literature.

It was in Esther’s frustration with everyone around her waiting for her to turn her mind around about not wanting marriage and kids, in Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’. It was in Scout from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’s constant battle with her neighbours’ expectations of her to wear more dresses and stay in more as she grew older. It was in Francie’s observation of how women around her shamed other women for their sexuality in ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ – the cold hard reality of how women themselves pose obstacles to other women in a patriarchal society. In Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’, it was the simple remark on how a lot of men talk to women – ‘mansplaining’ – which is sadly still relevant to a lot of our experiences today – “…they listen just long enough to issue instructions. They don’t even look at women when women are speaking.”

The unceasing struggle that I as a woman face against the patriarchal and conventional roles set for me has been experienced not only by women that I personally know but also by women before me – in 1930s Brooklyn, in 1800s England, in pre-Civil War Georgia – this discovery was both painful and wonderful to experience. As if the tiny secrets of survival that I have had to bear my entire life, that I never thought had space in literature, were being spilled out to women from all over the world and all timelines – getting together in solidarity and whispering, confessing, consoling, ‘Me too’. Yes – remember that hashtag? You’ll find traces of it in Austen and Bronte and Woolf and Eliot – forget not that some of these authors had to adopt male pseudonyms to have their work taken seriously, and some, such as George Eliot, are still known by their male pseudonym.

Long before they had the right to vote, these female characters defied sexist social standards in every way, most of all by thinking for themselves and being complex, intelligent, independent characters. In a world where women are still struggling to be heard and validated as full persons – through #metoo and #talkaboutit – I think that being a complex and independent person is the epitome of empowerment, and it is incredibly inspiring to see such empowered women splattered across the world throughout history, as if in some undisclosed unanimity.

If you are female, reading more books by women will connect you to the unmentioned little struggles of women who lived lives so vastly different from you. If you are not female, reading them (which I hope you do with the utmost respect to their experiences as women) will give you some very interesting and crucial understanding of the lives of all the women around you. For the #metoo era, to gain a full understanding and therefore validation of women’s experiences, the effort to consciously read more books by women is one that will move us forward. We must trace back to how the same patriarchal system has been poisoning our lives to as long as women have broken silence through the defiant act of writing.

Things to do instead of feeding your Facebook addiction

Let’s face it, most of us have a very real phone addiction problem these days. More specifically, we are addicted to Facebook. You start reading a new book, or you’re in the middle (middle!) of a riveting chapter, but you find yourself glancing over to read notifications. As that familiar sense of boredom (is that even the word for it?) settles in, so does the next  60ish minutes of endless scrolling. A ‘harmless’ distraction that turns into watching a hedgehog sneeze. 100 memes later.

Scroll, scroll, scroll…the first step is acceptance. We might have a problem, and now we need to take back control of our lives. It’s not that social media is inherently evil—it’s how we choose to indulge in it and what we choose to expose ourselves to.

When and why do we need to curb our addictions?

The first real sign is its effect on your behavior— do you use your phone as a crutch for antisocial tendencies and to mask your anxiety? Sure it’s an easy way out. But imagine if you took a drug that did the same as the smartphone does—makes you stare at your hand for hours and obstructs real human interaction—wouldn’t you avoid it? Higher rates of suicidal tendencies, depression, and anxiety have been linked to constant exposure to the highlights of other people’s lives via social media by many studies. Know your own symptoms. Recognize that you feel worse after seeing facades of Instagram perfect lives.

How can it be healthy to watch video after video of happy people, girls setting unreal standards on how to look so pretty in makeup tutorials, boys getting gains fast and debonair clothing. The promise sold to us is, when you do your makeup and muscles like them, you will feel happier. This is how you unconsciously fall into the trap of fixating on “what you don’t have”. The solution to happiness is a click away. A link away from being beautiful. Or to shop. Or to constantly travel in dream destinations looking picture-perfect.

The Likes and Followers Trap

Facebook exposed photos

Have you ever posted a picture of Instagram, and refreshed the page every couple of minutes to see if it’s got more likes? If so, you are not alone. The day-to-day obsessions and concern around the ‘success’ of each of our social media statuses have become the norm. The photos we post are only the ones we think are best, that too according to social media’s standards. We project the ones where we look the fairest, the thinnest, our thighs are apart, our muscles look the most pronounced and we look the most popular.

We feel like we need to prove our lives to other people and that’s how we can validate ourselves. When you base your self-worth on the number of likes and followers, you are trapped in a vicious cycle? The actual pursuit of happiness is replaced by this sort of endless and addictive rut of low self-esteem and disarray.

What are ‘influencers’ influencing?

These emotions are compounded by the constant exposure to celebrity lives. If we follow the beautiful, designer clothing-clad, edited photos and videos of celebrities’ insta-handles we start feeling like they’re fabulous and successful because of their high materialism in their life. In comparison (and oh you will compare!)  our own little lives feel mundane. The habit of “I’m lacking” accentuates.

Think about it, why do they need so much designer clothes and edited pictures if they are as happy as they seem? Is the reason for fitness and a healthy lifestyle for butt-cheek exposed photo streams, or are they meant to be their own rewards—to be healthy and to feel good from better fitness? Is it about attaining a certain physique?  At the end of the day you do not get to feel lasting happiness.

You are probably already in a healthy place and didn’t need to try that grapefruit juice diet. And if are not, then there’s always that endless supply of memes that can drown your inner emptiness (yikes). Something to think about.

Its time to wean out of these habits.

How do we break the habit?

By getting help! No, I don’t mean going to a therapist, but making the small but significant changes each day that cuts a normalized obsessive habit. You can utilize free and paid resources in app stores that help you to build your will-power work. You can try:

  • Time your own indulgences: Use free apps like In Moment, Freedom and App Detox to track how much you spend time on your phone. This awareness and hard facts can spur you into reducing screen time. Some apps reduce access to productivity-killing apps for when you lack will-power. Try them.
  • Switch to productive alternatives: You need to make marginal adjustments to your daily routines. Instead of just quitting social media and then relapsing into the habit after a while, try a new activity. Say, you download Duo Lingo, a great user-friendly app to help learn a new language. Use the 15 minutes during your lunch break to learn a few skills instead of scrolling. In a couple of months, you can build a whole set of vocabulary with just 15 minutes a day! Or start a free course on Udemy on Coursera. Low on computer skills? Check out Code Academy for fun, there are some really easy free courses for non-techies. The key is to slowly but surely change habits.
  • Here’s a crazy idea, do nothing? Just pause and watch the world go by. Let the moment sink into your being. Notice that your breathing. Reflect. Notice your surroundings. Or if that initially scares you, go for a walk.

ShopHobe – a new approach to local e-commerce

A team of developers tap away at their workstations. Seated in a brightly colored but cluttered room are a group of entrepreneurs. Creatives who are trying to put their mark on Bangladesh’s e-commerce industry. The clutter in the room mirrors the challenges facing the sector. The local e-commerce industry started booming a proper ecosystem around 2012. However, more than a decade later, the industry faces foreign competition, difficulties with logistics and generally on a rocky road to innovation. The name on the bright yellow wall behind the developers—ShopHobe.

Office aesthetics aside, ShopHobe promises a clutter-free online shopping experience. The current online experience is filled with insufferable ads. Social media algorithms track that one time you searched for “beard oil” and will bombard you with posts featuring fuzzy hipsters for all eternity—till you give in and buy the damn thing. The lack of clutter a big deal.  Other e-commerce sites like Bikroy.com tend to give in to the temptation of ad money.  Filling up search results with sponsored ads. The degrees of intrusiveness depends on how much the sponsors paid. For lack of a better revenue model. ShopHobe tries to do things a little differently.

The idea

“The idea formulated from a rooftop hangout session between friends. One friend, Shafayet, pointed out the huge number of ‘Facebook entrepreneurs’—people selling all kinds of things through social media—and how they don’t have a concrete platform to operate out of. None of us liked the experience of shopping on social media either, and we thought we could make things better for both the buyer and the seller,” says Naseef Fatemi, founder, and CEO of ShopHobe.

Lanky, long-haired and easy-going, Naseef’s persona and appearance easily fit the stereotype of an engineer trying to field a viable tech startup from a corner of Banani. E-commerce is risky territory—Naseef and his band of developers and marketers know that. However, having faith in an idea can make all the difference in the success of a business; faith is something they have quite a lot of at ShopHobe.

How it works

On a surface level, the model seems fairly simple. However, if you go deeper, you start to see the organizational balance that makes the model work. ShopHobe first pitches to prospective sellers—giving them an overview of the front-end layout, the back-end stock management system, the delivery services and the weekly payment system to the sellers. ShopHobe then builds and customizes the online shop for the vendor, which is handed over to the seller upon completion. There are two pricing plans (for now)—base and promotion. The base plan sets the price for ShopHobe’s services according to the weight of each product sold through the “shop”, while promotion adds a commission on each product. Sellers who opt for the promotion plan get their products featured on the landing page of the site and app.  The sellers also great social media visibility for the shop and its products.

Customer-centric decisions

“We have made it a point to understand what the sellers and the customers want from an e-commerce platform and worked towards building a product that reflects that. Our operations started in November 2017, and since then we’ve spent a significant portion of our efforts on R&D. We’re not a traditional e-commerce site and we don’t want to be—our aim was always to be a WordPress equivalent of the e-commerce industry and help entrepreneurs build their brand and their website. As a result, our branding presence on our clients’ websites are low—we don’t want to take anything away from the brands that we’re working with,” continues Naseef.

ShopHobe currently hosts over 250 retailers on the platform, with more coming on board. True to the tagline “E-commerce Made Easy”, ShopHobe is actively focusing on streamlining their shopping, delivery and payment services, often in unison with their partnered businesses and start-ups.

While the Bangladeshi e-commerce industry has been set back by a lack of innovative ideas, newer outfits like ShopHobe and Shopify are trying to make it work by targeting more intricate revenue models. Whether it works or not is still up for debate.

Huawei: Enemy of the US?

Huawei has had a hell of a year. From toppling the smartphone giants Apple’s iPhone in terms of sales to the several US government-related controversies, it’s certainly not been a dull period for the Chinese tech giants. It should come as no surprise that much of Huawei’s history is marred in many such controversies. However, you may be surprised how many of the controversies throughout the years remained unchanged. Here, we look at a few controversies the company has gone through in just this calendar year. The list will be listing these controversies from the oldest of the year to the newest. In fact, the last entry on this post only happened yesterday!

January – Defending US Government Communications Act

A French newspaper linked Huawei to the hack of the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia. The Chinese government, of course, denied the acquisitions. Right after this, the US government would propose the Defending US Government Communications Act, call for FCC to investigate the company, and even got AT&T to pull out of an agreement with Huawei. Verizon, on the other hand, would stop carrying Huawei products in the future. This was only the start, and Huawei would have a rough year ahead of them.

February – Intelligence heads think Huawei is spyware

Huawei: Enemy of the US?

On February 14, 2018, heads of six U.S. intelligence agencies testified to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence against the use of Chinese telecom products by U.S. citizens. Like those of Huawei and ZTE. Christopher A. Wray, director of the FBI, stated that they were “deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks”. Huawei responded to the allegations, arguing that its products “[pose] no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities,” and that it was “aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei’s business in the U.S. market”

March – Best Buy stops selling Huawei

Best buy, one of the largest retailers of consumer technology in the US, stops selling Huawei products. Huawei takes another hit to their bottom line, and the pseudo war against the Americans start taking its toll.

April – US Government forbids self from using Huawei tech

On April 17, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a preliminary, 5-0 vote. It was on rules forbidding the use of government subsidies to purchase telecom equipment from companies deemed to be a risk to national security. A draft of the policy specifically even named Huawei and ZTE as examples. This would further restrict Huawei, as anyone who wants to work intimately with a massive employer like the US would have to make certain to not have Huawei phones.

May – The Pentagon bans Huawei phones from retail stores on military bases

In an unsurprising move, the Pentagon went ahead and banned Huawei from all military base retail shops. Huawei in a statement basically didn’t even address it. Instead, they said, “We remain committed to openness and transparency in everything we do and want to be clear that no government has ever asked us to compromise the security or integrity of any of our networks or devices.”

June – Revelations of Facebook and Huawei’s secret data-sharing pact

This was during that time of the year when everyone on Facebook started to get worried about how Zuckerberg may be misappropriating our data. Naturally, if it’s controversial, Huawei would have to be mentioned somewhere. This was simply one such case. A series of reports this week revealed that, for the past 10 years, Facebook’s broad sharing of data extended not only to app developers but to phone companies as well. Of course, one of the phone makers on top of that list would be Huawei.

July – Huawei overtakes Apple

In possibly the only positive news for Huawei during the whole year, they managed to outsell iPhones for the second quarter of this year. Huawei shipped over 54 million handsets in the second quarter compared to the 41.3 million iPhones that Apple sold. This would make them the second biggest phone sellers of the globe.

August – Huawei caught faking camera shots in ads

The shot in question

And we’re back to Huawei being completely morally bankrupt. To play the devils advocate, they never explicitly stated that it wasn’t a DSLR shot. They just heavily implied it with the wrist position.

Taking of the shot

September – Huawei caught cheating benchmark test for P20

Huawei gets caught with their pants down, as the list gets sillier. Again. Shocking. Literally just weeks removed from the last fiasco, in September, AnandTech discovered that Huawei’s P20 had been programmed to maximize performance specifically when running 3DMark, a popular benchmarking app. Huawei admitted to this in a statement to Android Authority.

October – The only non-controversial month

Huawei announced a few new phones like the 5G foldable they are working on. They announced the new Mate 20. They asked Trump to change his device to Huawei as reports of iPhone tapping became known. All in all, a real month of R&R for the execs of Huawei.

November – Americans discourage allies from using Huawei devices:

R&R would end soon, however. In November, the US would ask many of it’s allies to stop using the tech giants products. Allegedly. Sources claim that US government officials have met with counterparts in Germany, Japan, and Italy, and are reportedly considering offering financial incentives to countries who opt not to use equipment from the Chinese manufacturer.

December – Canadian authorities arrest The CFO:

Huwaei: Enemy of the US?
Huwaei’s global CFO Wanzhou Meng

However, the latest chapter of the story was told only yesterday. Huawei Vice-chairperson and CFO Meng Wanzhou, daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities. She faces extradition to the United States on charges of violating sanctions against Iran. 

As anyone can see, at this point the company has become an absolute magnet for controversy. They’ve clashed so hard with the US government this year you might mistake them to be Iran or something. Huawei is backing off of US markets. Barring random marketing campaigns they do to generate buzz, the company’s future there seems uncertain. Yet, with a dominating share in Chinese markets, they remain safe globally.

Check out our first impression on the Huawei Nova 3i here.

Avengers: Endgame trailer breakdown

Marvelites are having a pretty great week. A great Captain Marvel trailer dropped on Monday. Let me tell you, she looked mighty fine. Nintendo announced the return of the long-dormant Ultimate Alliance game franchise at The Game Awards on Thursday. A new Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer is supposed to arrive very soon. And as if to slap a whole cake on top of a cherry, the Russo brothers practically shadow dropped the new Avengers: Endgame trailer on Friday. The trailer reveals very little. But when has that stopped us from going through these a dozen times and look for clues? Let’s jump in.

Here’s the trailer, just in case you do indeed live under a rock.

Tony Stark is stranded in space

Marvel MVP Tony Stark isn’t off to a good start here. He is marooned aboard the Benatar, the Guardians ship. With food and Oxygen rapidly running out, earth’s greatest defender is desolate and helpless. We see him turning his helmet on to record a farewell message to Pepper Potts. The lighting is somber because who can bid a sad goodbye in harsh fluorescence? Him mentioning the end being part of the journey is sure to tug some heartstrings. He is also wearing a similar shirt from the first Iron Man when he was imprisoned by the Ten Rings. A great visual callback to his initial plight in a no-win scenario.

Avengers: Endgame trailer breakdown

Tony’s rescue is a hotly contested topic. We can only but speculate. Does Pepper Potts don the Rescue armor from the comics herself and go after her man? Will Captain Marvel pick him up during her return journey to earth following Fury’s SOS? Does Thor open a Bifrost with his Stormbreaker weapon and save him? Alas, we might have to wait till April for the answer. Or at least until the next trailer.

But what is Nebula’s story?

We also see Nebula hanging about the ship reminiscing and being all sad. There’s another very curious frame in the trailer where she gently caresses someone’s shoulder sitting in the ship. That is very out of character for her. Is she saying goodbye to Tony before leaving the Benatar? Or that is a completely different character at another point in the movie? Marvel has been really deceptive about these in the past. So rule nothing out.

Point Break is pissed

Thor Odinson proved last April that he is the mightiest of the Avengers. Maybe that is why it pains him the most that he could not stop the Decimation. Yes, that is what the head honchos at MCU decided to call the Thanos Snap. This revelation arrives thanks to Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War: The Cosmic Quest Volume Two: Aftermath by Brandon T. Snider. Man, the name of this book needed a Snap as well to cut it down to half.

Anyways, back to Thor. Just look at him. This man right here is ready to get out on that stage and shred Thanos in a rap battle.

The Thanos-crow

The only character who is happily content in the trailer is Thanos. And why wouldn’t he be? He brought balance to the universe, in his own twisted way. Moreiver, as a great comic throwback, we see his armor strung like a scarecrow. He doesn’t need that anymore, because his job is done. In the comics though, Thanos is retreating in disgrace more than gloating over a hard-won victory. But a nice touch nonetheless.

Is Shuri alive?

This is a very important question. The fate of another character hangs in the balance because of her. Last time we saw Shuri, she managed to salvage most of Vision’s data before getting knocked unconscious. If she survived the Decimation, she could be paramount to bring at least one of the Avengers back. Interestingly though, the trailer reveals a scene where she is put under the “missing” tag along with some of the dusted heroes.

That could mean she was slain along with her brother. Or she might be alive but not working with the remaining Avengers yet. I mean, it was them who brought war and death to her home. Does she have her own agenda now? Time will tell.

Hawkeye…or Ronin?

We finally get a glimpse of Clint Barton after his absence in Infinity War in this trailer. Only…he isn’t Hawkeye anymore. He is in the shoes of another comic book character called Ronin. There are some other characters like Echo who operated under this cover identity. But Clint’s stint was more prominent in the comics.

The reason he wasn’t active during Infinity War because of his plea deal with the government. He had a family to protect and care for. Something tells me in his thousand yards long stare here that they might not have survived. Hence, his blatant disregard to government contract.

For reference, here’s the comic book version of Ronin.

Ant-Man is out of the Quantum Realm

This might be the biggest revelation of the trailer. Last time we saw Scott Lang, he was journeying into the Quantum Realm with the help of the Pym family. In a tragic sequence of events, Scott got stuck there after the Pym collective turned to ash. How he got out may end up being the single saving grace for the Avengers family, and the world.

Now Scott was using his trusted friend Luis’ van for the Quantum Realm incident. It might be possible that Luis survived the Snap and came back to rescue Scott through the radio. Or Scott could have gained powers due to excess exposure to the Quantum Realm ala Janet Van Dyne. But that’s unlikely because it didn’t help Janet herself.

Time travel is a safe money bet. Right as he’s venturing into the Quantum Realm, Scott is told by Janet van Dyne: “Don’t get sucked into a time vortex.” That seems to be a pretty on-the-nose warning but also one clear enough for a dope like Scott to eventually realize might be the key to him escaping his predicament. We’ll see.

Speaking of time travel

As the leaked set photos suggested earlier, time travel is definitely playing a big role in Avengers: Endgame. We see a hint of that in the trailer as well when we see Captain America in his winter soldier suit.

Avengers endgame trailer breakdown

We don’t know what’s cooking, but Cap certainly isn’t donning this particular old suit for no reason.

So, that’s it, folks. There is a long five-month wait before we close out on the first decade of MCU. It’s actually a good thing the trailer left out crucial plot points. This lets us converse and speculate about our heroes’ struggle to save a universe torn apart. After all, as the name reveal tells us, it’s about undoing the tragedy that has left them…disassembled.

Why you need to participate in business competitions

If you are a university student, you are familiar with the influx of business competition photos on your homepage every winter. Sometimes they make you feel severely unaccomplished, other times they simply annoy you with the showcase of corporate grandeur- but they are unavoidable. They are even more inescapable if you are friends with business school students. But no matter how you much you dislike those photos, admit that they do make you curious. Why do all these people keep participating in these competitions? They are stressful, and not everyone go home with the prize money- why do they still do it?

Well, here’s why they do it, and why you should too- despite your academic background.

  1. Learning to apply your skills to solve actual problems

As students, we learn a lot of theoretical tools to solve real life problems. Unfortunately, for most us that is the extent of our skills. Attending these competitions helps you realize where you can apply your textbook knowledge, why they are important, and what you should focus on in your work life. This is something you cannot learn in a classroom, and business competitions often provide you with the proper learning environment.

  1. Hands on Experience

While solving these business cases, you need to come up with real, sustainable business solutions to everyday problems. You need to make budgets, talk to professionals, and come up with compelling pitches for potential investors. All these tasks help you prepare for your actual job life.

  1. Networking

While having powerful uncles might not help get you a job at the reputed MNCs, having a wide network definitely can. Business competitions help you get this network. While meeting students from other universities is important, it’s more important to meet with potential employers and map what they want in graduates. Attending these competitions will provide you with opportunities to do just that.

  1. For better communication skills

Having “introvert pride” is a beautiful thing. But it doesn’t help you get far in your life. As unfortunate it is, this world is designed for extroverts, and you have to play by their rules. But the good news is, you can learn the art of speaking to anyone, anywhere with sufficient practice, and business competitions provide you with the perfect platform.

  1. Teamwork!

Working in teams can be very excruciating. But it is a skill that will be indispensable in your professional life. Companies always look for people who can function in a team, and participating in these competitions will give you valuable insights about how to lead a team that is about to fall apart under pressure.

  1. Meeting employers

Potential employers roam the business competitions, looking for smart, talented people that can add value to their company. So if you can set yourself apart in these competitions, there is a possibility that you will graduate with job offers. Isn’t that a decent incentive?

  1. Getting familiar with design trends

The business sector is going under immense renovations. Traditional marketing tactics do not work with people anymore. So you need to know how to grab your customers’ attention, and to do that you need to know how the sector is evolving. Getting involved in the business competitions give you the opportunity to get familiar with the latest design trends, and you can gain a competitive edge over your peers!

  1. Acquiring technical skills that actually matter

Just knowing how to browse the internet does not cut it anymore. To be a valuable employee, you need to have complete knowledge of software like Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher and Word. Knowing software like R and Stata would be a bonus, but having complete control over MS Office is a must. If you start competing, you will be forced to learn these basics- which will definitely add value to your professional life.

  1. Wins matter!

Business competitions are not a piece of cake. They are not very easy to win. But what if you do end up winning a few, after all? Of course, you get a decent amount of money as a prize. But the importance of these wins goes beyond the monetary value. They add a lot of value to your job application. And you need to set yourself apart from the crowd. So while you have clear incentives for participation, the incentives for winning are even more important.

  1. Most importantly, they are fun!

Admit it- University is stressful. To survive, you need to find solace in something. Not to mention, the sense of accomplishment after a successful competition is indescribable. So why not have fun while actually learning?

So these were our top reasons why you should participate in business competitions. Did we convince you? Don’t forget to let us know!

Cheers!

New to the job search? How to ace interviews

Adulting is hard. You have to look after yourself, pay your own bills, and do all the things that your parents have been unconditionally providing you with over the years. To do all that, you need money. And to get the money you need a job. To get a job, you need to be good at doing an interview.

We all know that getting a well-paying, decent job is getting tougher by the day. You don’t know what the employers look for. So every time you get a call for an interview, you start sweating like a pig. Also, you get tiny anxiety attacks and you mess it up. This is standard procedure for a regular, fresh graduate. But luckily, there are a few tips that might save you. And here they are.

1. Be ready for the basic questions.

In every interview that I faced, they always asked me a fundamental question- “Tell us about yourself.” If you think about it, it is a really hard question to answer, and it is enough to throw you off balance. So be ready for it. Before your interview, take a few days to come up with a humble, yet flattering answer. Remember, the first impression is the best impression. So ask around seniors who have faced a ton of interviews, and make a list of questions that you know you will be asked. The rest is simple- come up with witty, smart answers for those.

2. Be aware of your surroundings.

Every office has its own vibe. GP’s corporate headquarter and Go Zayaan’s corporate headquarter will not have the same feel. So keep your eyes and ears open. Try to understand that the people you are surrounded with. Are they all very formal? Or are they laughing and having fun while they work? Try to assess the mood and mirror that. It shows your adaptability, and it is a crucial skill that every employer looks for.

3. Be careful with the dress code.

Speaking of first impressions, you have 7 seconds to make them decide if they actually want to consider you for the job. So dress accordingly. Make sure that your dress is clean and pressed properly. Pay attention to your shoes. If you are a girl, tone down on the makeup. Make sure that the employers know how serious you are about this interview.

4. Be confident.

Your posture says a lot about you. So straighten your back, and maintain eye contact with your interviewer. If you’re too nervous, focus on the gap of their eyebrows. They won’t be able to tell the difference. Square your shoulders, smile, have a strong handshake. Just show them that you are up for a challenge.

5. Turn your weakness into strengths.

The man might be a supervillain, but he’s also a canny businessman

Interviewers will often ask you about your strengths and weaknesses. Be very careful about how you phrase the answer. While answering the weakness part, say “I am cautious” instead of “I have trust issues.” Say “I am too determined to see the end of something” instead of “I am stubborn”. Moot point, place yourself in the best light possible and make sure to phrase it positively. You are a smart person, my friend. You get the idea. Now implement it.

6. Do not talk about money.

In interviews, it is common practice to ask salary expectations. Never utter a number when it comes to that part. We all know that you are not fooling anyone, but your attitude should be of someone who is willing to work for free if it means that they can learn something. Industry and willingness to learn while disregarding the monetary return is a rare combination. Be that rare gem, and success will follow.

7. ALWAYS have a question.

At the end of each interview, your interviewer will ask you “Do you have a question for us?” Have a question ready for that part. The question should be regarding the company. It shows that you really are interested in working for that particular place, and you have done your research. It also shows that you keep tabs on what is going on with that particular company. So you never know, this one segment could be the “make it or break it” part of your interview.

I am not giving you the guarantee that you will get the job if you follow these tips. But you will definitely stand out from the crowd, and sometimes that is all that matters. So go get it, champ! I hope you nail it!

Cheers.

Narcos: Mexico – There’s a beginning, there’s no end

We lingered on one particular scene of Narcos after the brutal finale of Narcos season 3. That scene foreshadowed the next installment to Colombia’s bigger cousin, Mexico. That is where Narcos: Mexico begins the next chapter in the drug war.

An origin story

This Netflix spin-off/prequel is essentially a full-fledged origins story. The premise is the beginnings of the Mexican war on drugs. Of course, the agency that rose up to combat narcotics; Drug Enforcement Administration (or DEA), features heavily.  Two primary characters are at the center of this story. One is Félix Gallardo, a small-town cop with ambitions to reach to the top of the drug empire. Kiki Camarena is the other  DEA agent, transferred from Fresno, California to Guadalajara.

Both officials go up against the corruption embedded in their daily work.  They take strikingly different approaches to the drug war. One official takes advantage of his position, while the other fights against the grain with aspirations towards justice.

Narcos: Mexico has the violence that we have come to expect from the original series but in much more measured quantities.  Also, similar to the predecessor, the show explores the dualities and contradictions of human nature.

The Mexican brandishing to textbook Narcos

The returning cast of the original Narcos makes appearances, adding consistency to the overall premise and Columbian plotline.

Mexico is slow at first, but it speeds up around the halfway point. Expectedly, Narcos: Mexico is a show with high stakes with rivalries between newly formed cartels and of course, substantial family drama.  I enjoyed the high-quality production value, the spectacular cinematography, good musical queues, and pacing. It was a delight to watch A-list actors, especially Michael Peña as Kik, delivering immaculate performances.

That being said, Narcos: Mexico left something to be desired, especially in comparison to the awesome original series. It does, however, manage to forge its own identity while establishing continuity to the Narcos plot thread. I will be watching future episodes for that, and the grim cliffhanger ending that alludes to much more Narcos style drama to come.

Red Dead Redemption 2 review: Rage, rage against the dying of the West

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an unabashedly stubborn masterpiece.

I was strolling through the quiet road at the base of Mount Shan on my trusty steed, Epona. Suddenly I came across a rugged-looking man intently crouching over something and talking to himself. It wasn’t long before I listened in and came to know that he was a hunter tracking his prey. We shared a hearty greeting thanks to the contextual button on my PS4 controller. But then he went back to his hunter business. Curious, I followed him from afar just to see the climax of this random event. I wasn’t ready for what happened a couple of seconds later.

Without warning, a huge bear suddenly came out of the woods and rushed straight towards him. The hunter got in a few shots from his rifle but not before the bear jumped squarely on him and viciously clawed his face off. I ran towards the spot but found both of them laying lifeless and still. I couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt about my failure in saving him. Maybe if I drew faster, he’d still be alive and we could have shared a chuckle after his successful hunt. Worn with woe, I accepted his fate and rode back into the world.

This is just one of the many, many random encounters in Rockstar’s astonishingly detailed and exhaustingly beautiful open-world western opus, Red Dead Redemption 2. A world unnervingly polished to a marvelous sheen, the sequel’s responsive open-world design ensures it’s a treat to just exist there. It tells a heart-wrenching and worthy story that weaves many character-driven narrative threads into a glorious tapestry. It starts at a deliberately measured pace but soon reaches full steam and gradually culminates in a thunderous crescendo. When the sun has set on the somber tale of not heroes but flawed men and women with dark pasts and desperate futures, you can’t help but marvel at your own journey.

The premise

Red dead redemption 2, Arthur Morgan
Our man Arthur lookin’ real nice

As Arthur Morgan, you have plenty of opportunities to do right by the Van der Lindes.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a follow-up to Red Dead Redemption. And while new and improved in terms of design and execution, Red Dead Redemption 2 is narratively a prequel. The year is 1899, a decade before the events of the first game. The story follows the adventures of Arthur Morgan, right-hand man to charismatic gang leader Dutch van der Linde. Players of the original Red Dead will recall that this gang is the one previous protagonist John Marston originated from. At this stage of history, Arthur, Dutch, and crew are on the run following a failed job in the town of Blackwater.

Throughout the story, the gang exists in a transient state. Moving from state to state, the crew finds itself mixed up in a wide variety of misadventures as they try to regather themselves and pull together the funds they need to finally disappear. As Arthur, you are essentially the gang’s fixer. In addition to participating in the various robberies and related crimes that take place throughout the game, you’ll also find yourself in charge of the gang’s camp. Its is a bustling communal space where you collect quests, manage resources, and just exist alongside the various personalities that encapsulate the gang. But your true calling comes from the wild.

Wild wild West-world

horse
More horses than you could ever want. Question is: why’d you want so many horses?

One of RDR2’s greatest strengths is the lengths it goes to in order to make its world feel like it is breathing on its own. Other Rockstar open world games have largely focused on centering the player in every way. Everything is typically built like a playground, chock full of activities that exist at the forefront, while the various NPCs just sort of mill around. Here, the various cities, camps, and wild areas all feel like they are moving along at a life-like pace. When you’re in your gang camp, you’ll see people doing chores, reading, playing games, and engaging in conversations that have nothing, in particular, to do with whatever quest you’re about to embark upon. These personalities, these people, are the core of what makes Red Dead Redemption 2 go. There is a humanity to these characters that Rockstar games don’t typically seem all that invested in portraying.

When you head into towns, Rockstar’s meticulous craftsmanship gets even more impressive. Each of the many towns and cities has its own character and personality, with the bustling New Orleans facsimile Saint Denis being the crown jewel. The cities are packed with things to do, from taking in a vaudeville show and getting your photo taken to meeting a memorable cast of strangers and perusing the intricately detailed shops. You can dive into a catalog at gun shops and general stores, or walk right up to the shelves and grab what you need.

Ultra-realism

“… And that’s why I’ll need your horse, pardner”

All the exteriors and interiors in the game look authentic to the time period and make you feel like you are visiting a place lost in time. Even the civilian population is remarkable – you can interact with each person you come across. I rarely heard a repeated line of dialogue outside of some random encounters outside the city. New strangers continually pop up offering interesting side missions as well. This is world both alive and lived in. And Rockstar never misconstrues this basic foundation.

But the strongest case for this amazing open-world is its nothingness. Galloping through the path less-trodden, enjoying the simplicity and the Zen-like peace of the western frontier is such a delight. The stretch of calm is at complete odds with the gun-slinging robust action but just as vital to the game’s experience. Light bursting through a tree canopy, rain clouds forming and clearing, evening mists rolling into an eerie swamp- the gorgeous visuals of the game punctuates throughout these spectacular moments.

It’s an outlaw’s life for me

Because ladies LOVE to be wooed by a mysterious guy in a mask with a bloody knife in his hand

As Arthur Morgan, you have plenty of opportunities to do right by the Van der Lindes. You’ll find a settlement for your gang first, of course. Then you quickly learn how imperative it is to keep everyone alive by supplying them with food, medical supplies, and ammunition. You’ll have to rob trains, steal stagecoaches, hold up shopkeepers and civilians on the road, as well as complete missions, hunt animals, or complete bounty missions to earn your keep. On top of this, there’re plenty of other ways to earn money, such as games of Blackjack or Poker, and selling your wares to those that are interested.

Your camp has a group fund to which you can donate your money, as well as a ledger where you can spend that hard-earned cash to improve the camp by upgrading it. Living quarters, building better supply stores, and opening up the option to fast travel across the vast plains- all can be achieved through these upgrades.

Survive

Sounds simple. Ain’t.

Out in the wild, or engulfed in a mission, the three cores of your character need to be kept replenished if you want to survive. Health, Stamina, and Dead Eye all need to remain high or you’ll start to show signs of fatigue. It isn’t just Arthur that has these cores. Your horse is an extension of you, and looking after it is essential. It’s important to bond with your horse because you’ll have access to better abilities. For example, if you’re bonded with your horse it’ll come to you from a farther distance once you whistle it to return. Your horse also acts as your inventory whilst exploring, storing the extra guns and equipment for you to equip while in the wild.

Hunting is a huge part of Red Dead Redemption 2, as is fishing, and both can be done whenever you like. Planning every hunt is just as important as robbing a train. Learning which options are at your disposal can take time. But planning that next big kill proves incredibly satisfying when done correctly. Unlike so many modern open-world games, Red Dead Redemption 2 does not want you to achieve dominance over it. It wants you to simply be in its world, and to feel like a part of it. It’s a crucial distinction and a big part of what makes it all so immersive and engrossing.

The wild bunch

Ain’t no party like a cowboy party

Arthur may be the story’s protagonist, but Red Dead Redemption 2 is an ensemble drama. The Van der Linde gang is more than just another clutch of scoundrels on horseback. It’s a community, a mobile encampment consisting of about 20 men, women, and children, each with their own story, desires, and role. There are villains and psychopaths, drunks and miscreants, and also dreamers, runaways, and lost souls just looking to survive. Each character has their own chances to shine, particularly for players who take the time to get to know them all. From the cook to the layabout to the loan shark, each has become real to me in a way fictional characters rarely do.

The game’s primary tale of Arthur’s journey through the gang’s final days is an extremely compelling one. The performance of Rob Clark as Arthur is a big part of that. Also at the head of the table sits Dutch van der Linde, as complex and fascinating a villain as I’ve met in a video game. Benjamin Byron Davis plays the boss man perfectly, imagining Dutch as a constantly concerned, watery-eyed killer. Time and again I was also struck by how seriously this game’s writers took these characters, themes, and subject matter. Glances of Rockstar’s satiric commentary famous from the Grand Theft Auto franchise can be seen here. But in its heart, the narrative remains about an invading modern world and a grim destruction of the old guard. And it is absolutely riveting in its execution.

See you, cowboy

See you, not-space cowboy

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an incredible achievement in open world gaming. It is an intricate machine that disguises its machinery better than just about anything else that’s come before. It toys with our suspension of disbelief about all those ones and zeroes beneath. Ultimately, it is gaming’s Pinocchio moment- blurring the puppet strings beyond belief. In addition to its lengthy and engrossing campaign, it delivers moments of emergent storytelling more compelling than anything I can ever remember playing. Graphically and aurally, it is top-to-bottom stunning. Rockstar has single-handedly thrust open-world game design to the next generation. And I refuse to ever go back.