London Film and Comic Con 2014

My sister and I were able to visit the London Film and Comic Con this weekend, over Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we just went to the Saturday event, though), which was a really fun experience, especially as this is the second comic-con showe we’ve been to after the MCM London Comic Con last year. The event was held at Earl’s Court and showcased a number of things – I love that Comic Con has now become much more than just comic books and superheroes. This one covered film and TV series, comic books, computer games and also fiction books. There were a number of TV and film celebrities available for photos and signings, and also comic book artists and book authors who were in attendance, ready to sign their work.

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My sister had the foresight to buy ‘Earlybird tickets’ – which still meant queuing up but it meant that buy paying a little extra, we could get into the venue at 9.00am, which we managed to do. While queuing we saw a huge variety of costumes, merchandise and cute little children dressed up as Supergirl/Superman/Spiderman/that little girl from Dispicable Me which were a fun prelude (and a sign of who the real fanboys were).
When we finally got inside, the place was already busy and there was lots of things to see and visit. The venue was divided into different ‘zones’ for varying interests as well: the Book Zone, the Comic Zone, the Anime Zone, the Video Game zone, the Cosplay zone and Artists Alley, alongside the talks, celebrity photoshoots and signings which were going on, not to mention various raffles, stalls and competitions.

As always, this year’s Film and Comic Con was full of costumes which had been really well thought out, I loved some of the originality of costumes, not to mention the attention to details which made some of these look really good (a lot of them stayed in character too, Chewbacca spent the whole time growling and making squealing noises everytime we went past him).

The celebrities were a big appeal for us. We managed to see most of them with the exception of Carrie Fischer (Princess Leia in Star Wars) who we missed, and comic book legend Stan Lee, who was in a separate area and which we would have had to buy extra tickets for (which were expensive but still very popular!) Below are just some of the celebrities we saw, there were a lot more which I haven’t included! We recognised pretty much most of them, partly because I watch too much TV and also because some of these people were pretty cool. The celebrities all seemed really nice and down-to-earth, which was great to see.

There were also a lot of talks going on during the day with various actors and writers, my sister and I are big Sherlock fans (the British version) and there was meant to be a talk called ‘Sherlocked’ with the writers and producers of the show, which we wanted to attend. However after we took one look at the huge queue and the fact that it would be at least an hour and half wait, we decided not to go (and just stream the talk online at home!) – it was just too hot and would have made the long day longer, if we hadn’t been fasting it would have been worth the wait.

I loved the fact that there was a separate section for YALC – Young Adult Literature Con, which was apparently the first one in the UK. I’m a big book-reader and aspiring author, and it’s always great to see support out there for people who want to write. There were also a lot of names I recognised, many from books I read as a teenager whom I was a big fan of like Malorie Blackman, Darren Shan and Patrick Ness, who are pretty well-known.

And of course there were hundreds of stalls, booths and tables to buy all sorts of things, comic books, costumes, gadgets, computer games, toys and souveniers. We kept an eye out for anything we wanted to buy, but some of the things were a little pricey (I wanted a comic-book print dress but wasn’t really prepared to spend £65 on it), but it was still good to see the buzz of people selling all sorts of things.

My sister and I spent a lot of time looking at various comics, gadgets and quriky stuff, and we ended up at the table of an emerging artist, Hameed Catel, creator of kirucomics which we had a good discussion with as he told us the premise of his two comic book series (and also sold us one, which he also signed!) I really like the idea of both of his comic series, one about a young thief who is suddenly given powers, and who doesn’t behave as heroic as he should, which sounded pretty funny – the Champion of Dema graphic novel is the one we bought. He also told us about his other comic series which was waiting to be published, about a detective called Hani. We both really liked the idea of this one because it seemed more Middle-Eastern based, and also very Muslim-friendly, goodness knows there aren’t enough Muslim superheroes out there, although it’s a growing niche! The series is still waiting to be published very soon, I’ll post about it as soon as I hear more!

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We also stopped to play a few vintage arcade games, as well as look at the latest games being released (I beat my sister at Pacman, naturally). It was good to see people of all ages at this place, there were an area of old-style arcade games grouped together which gave an arcade-feel, as well as lots of computer and television monitors around with the more modern games.

 

Throughout the venue were plenty of displays, from books, TV series and films, and all pretty spectacular. I love the Sherlock set (I have no idea if its the original one, but I wouldn’t be surprised), and the Batmobile (something my nephews would love).

Because we were fasting, we didn’t want to spend all day at the Comic Con and left in the afternoon after we had spent time looking at everything and stopping again to peeki again at several celebrities. It was also a really warm day, and as we walked out of the building back to the Underground Tube station, we could see the queues of people waiting to come in were still getting longer and going down past the roads – it really was astounding how popular this London Film and Comic Con is, and how far people travelled to come.

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All in all we had a good day, and it was interesting to meet various fans who interpreted film, TV and comics in their own way. I don’t think I’m as big a fan as some of the people who attended, but it was fun, and who knows, maybe next time I’ll go in costume!

Growing up in the ’90s: A British-Pakistani looks back

Signs that you grew up in the 90s to Asian/Desi parents, or, 12 cheap ways to save your household costs

I am often reminded of the various facets of myself which has roots in various places; I am a British-Pakistani Muslim woman, waist-deep in Western culture and society, the other half of me in Middle Eastern and Pakistani idioms. Like many of my peers. I have followed various influences through high school colleges and university, and found myself in the nine-to-five workplace. I’ve watched the popular American television series, the dry-wit British stand-up shows, the silly YouTube videos gone viral and the thought-provoking Islamic lectures and Ted Talks. Not to mention all the Lollywood and Bollywood films you can think of, which certainly added a spice to my cultural awareness.
I’ve spoken about my family briefly before, and certainly think that growing up in the 90s had its own charm, and also was its own nightmare. One of the reasons we can relate so much to the classic 90s tv series awesomeness that was Goodness Gracious Me was that they were able to capture so well everything that makes us British-Asians – being cheesy, sarcastic, admiring our roots while recognising how embarrassing we (and our parents!) are. This post was long overdue in the list of things which I’m sure many of you will recognise in your own family’s upbringing (although please note I’m not trying to write anything offensive, and if anything I should be the most offended that most of these things happened to me in my poor, defenceless childhood)

Not us, but there’s parts I can relate to.

1. Cover everything with plastic – the carpet, the sofa, the remote control, half of the furniture in the house (it took us a couple of years to convince my parents to take the sheeting off our new dining table set) and even our mobile phone screens – remember that? We were one of millions of forward-thinking families to ‘protect’ and cover the hallways with plastic runners (all of which are pretty much identical in every house). Years later, when we finally convinced our parents to remove the plastic, the carpet underneath looked as brand new as the day we bought it, and the ones that were exposed looked like something had died and decayed on it. But the thing is, it was a normal thing to do in the nineties, because every other house down the road did exactly the same thing. Another thing our mums did? Cover the cooker over top with foil so that any food that spilled would get caught in the foil, which you could just pick up and throw away. My mum stopped doing that about 10 years ago when she got fed up of the foil getting caught on fire, and also because  I think she didn’t see the point in covering (wasting!) in foil when you’d still have to clean the cooker because some piece of food wriggled underneath. Something my mum still does is line all of the cupboards and drawers with old wallpaper or sheets, but that’s probably good practise (and not so funny either,  I suppose). My mum even used to lovely sew pretty sofa covers (which we could have tried to pass off as boho and eclectic throws, but it blatantly wasn’t), with frills and all, to cover the sofas. I’m not sure what we were trying to do, whether we wanted to preserve the sofas and carpets for the next ten years, especially as we don’t have any of the same furniture of carpet now. The first thing we did when we bought a new television a couple of years back was, yep, rip off the plastic before my mum even opened her mouth to stop us.

Remember those beautiful studs? Mmmm smell that plasticky freshness

2. Buying new things was a big event in our house, and even bigger was  then showing them to family and friends so that they would go out and buy the same thing if they liked it. I remember my aunt coming to our house and seeing our red and cream patterned sofas, then buying the same ones for her own house (which were there for years). It is with great relief that I can say none of the original furniture from my childhood remains in the house (except possibly my parent’s my dad’s old bookshelf which has gotten away with being in the hallway, and which no one moves because it’s a good place to surreptitiously put unwanted plastic bags and extra creams that mysteriously appear). Similarly, we’d all be involved in a trip to go buy something like a vacuum for the house, my dad would expertly examine it for flaws (and then never be the one to use it), while we all sat bored and begging to go to the toys aisle.
We weren’t a well-off family and didn’t often have new things – one thing we all remember is hand-me-downs from older siblings (I didn’t have it as bad because I was the youngest, but one of my sisters remembers having hand-me-downs from my brother which was less pretty!) My parents were very thrifty and careful with what they had, and it’s a trait we’ve all manage to inherit – it also meant having an array of junk in our house because things were on sale/free/being given away. These days internet shopping is a great revelation in my house (and not just because I buy a lot of junk, my dad is the worst) – it’s a big jumble sale out there and it’s easy to go crazy. Except for my mum, who still buys everything in cash and almost always finds a bargain in any store.

3. Who says you can’t fit eight people in a five-person car? You’re just not squeezing people inside hard enough. Coming from a family where I was the youngest of five, I spent most of my childhood squashed/half-couched in the feet area of the back seats (back then I was the skinniest and the smallest, which meant I got the least space). Oddly enough, although we should have spent half our journeys terrified of the police stopping us over for overcrowding a vehicle, we never worried about it, and it never happened to us. Booster seats for toddlers and seat-belts? Pah. Our car wasn’t that glamorous either, we had an ugly white Nissan when I was a child , which then got upgraded to an ugly red Nissan a few years later – although both of which still weren’t as embarrassing as the yellow three-wheeler down the road.

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4. Reading books are full of nonsense and put silly ideas in your head. My sisters and I are all avid readers, and have been since we learned our alphabet as little toddlers. I remember holding my sister’s (sometimes my Dad’s) hand and being led to the local library which was minutes up the road as a child, and being in awe at the sheer number of books lining the shelves, getting greedy over how many we could take home. My parents, on the other hand, hated it. They hated the fact that we’d go glazed-eyed and deaf once we got stuck in a book (they had to shout at us up the stairs a good few times to get our attention), the fact that we wouldn’t stop reading for hours, or the fact that our books took up piles of space next to our beds. I remember being engrossed in books which I refused to put down even when eating, ignoring the television to put a book next to my play and accidentally drip a bit of food into the pages, which would drive my parents nuts. Even now our rooms (in all of our respective houses!) still fill up with books and crowd the bookshelves (which our parents keep threatening to dump in a landfill every so often, but we know they’re just empty threats).

I’m pretty sure Roald Dahl must have based Matilda on a Pakistani family. Minus the witchcraft and car-swindling parents.

5. PG films didn’t apply to us. As long as there wasn’t any inappropriate scenes about K-I-S-S-I-N-G, we became pretty desensitized to violent films, because our parents didn’t see them as unsuitable. Mind you, the kissing thing became pretty old, we could be watching a scene from an innocent, joyful Christmas family movie, and as soon as any kissy scenes came on, the channel got changed, and we’d lose control over the remote.* Gory killing scenes in Predator were okay though, cos that was just men running around with knives. There’s been many a film that we didn’t see the ending of because of this problem.

Predator – just a film about getting exercise and fresh air in the jungle. With guns.

6. Yes, our parents were those ones who said if you didn’t get A grades, you might as well not have bothered. Admittedly, we were lucky enough to be that family which were high achievers at school and who made our cousins’ lives (unintentionally) miserable because their parents were always smacking them on the head asking them why they couldn’t get our grades. Also funnily enough, when I got my GCSE grade, the majority of which were A grades, my dad pointed out that I only got a B in Maths, which was a bit of a let-down – yet a day later a few of my uncles congratulated me saying my dad had praised my grades. My dad wanted one of us to be a mathematician (because it was his favourite subject) and my mum would have preferred it if one of us did something respectable like become a doctor or lawyer. Seeing as no one in the family has yet to reach these lofty statuses yet, I’m still waiting for them to transfer their attentions on the grandkids.

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7. Clothes and fashion in the 90s wasn’t as glamorous as they are for us today, and we didn’t have it all thought out. My sister and I are 18 months apart, which meant that as kids, we got dressed exactly the same. We looked nothing the same as kids (and even less so as adults), but this didn’t stop my mum from dressing us up exactly the same, and for relatives to ask if we were twins. Another cost-saving fashion method we had was to buy a roll of fabric and for all the girls in the family to have the same outfit stitches (which we’d have to wear at the same time) – hence our aversion as adults to wear anything pink, frilly, netted or similar to anything any other sister is wearing. And my brother wasn’t spared either, we have many photographs of him growing up displaying his stylish shell-suits with his curtain hair styles.

Can you see that look of scepticism in my face? My sisters (behind) had the same frilly dresses as me in yellow, which were our mum put on us for special occasions.
Can you see that look of scepticism in my face? My sisters (behind) had the same frilly dresses as me in yellow, which were our mum put on us for special occasions.

8. Bollywood films were a staple when we were going up, as much as Power Rangers, Blue Peter and the Indiana Jones films were. Every week, my mum would send one of us to the corner video shop to pick up the latest pirated Bollywood video tape and watch huddled together in the living room (they were a lot more family friendly than they are now, no kissing scenes here). My dad hated us watching Bollywood films, so we would watch it whenever he went out with (blatant, over-acted) ‘stealth’, – whenever we’d hear the sound of his key in the door and him stepping into the house, we would be scrambling around to switch the VCR off and pretend to be staring at the news/carpet/empty bowl when he came in.

Die Hard had nuthin’ on this guy.

9. Weddings in the 90s were a world away from the grand affair they are now. Weddings in the 90s were purely about eating food, wearing puffy dresses and tinsel, and lots of cramped seating. And don’t get me started on the cringe-worthy wedding videos and their ‘special’ effects (one of my uncle’s wedding videos features the cameraman’s hand holding up a piece of glass to make a kaleidoscopic effect in the lens. It worked, too). Compared to the bridezillas of today who take a microscopic look at wedding dresses, cakes, flowers, seating arrangements and a hundred other things, wedding back in the day involved booking a hall and food, turning up, watching at least one fight and leaving as soon as you ate. The poor bride was usually miserable and spent the whole time with her head down, and the groom was usually an obscure figure on the stage. The best thing I remember about those days was running around with the other kids and picking up loose change on the floor (and feeling really rich!)

10. Family portraits were another disaster in our household, and not just because of the fashion faux pas – I don’t think we have a single family picture which has everyone with a straight face (one of us were usually sniggering or hiding behind someone else). My sisters remember my mum telling them not to smile too much (and keep their teeth inside their mouths) because it didn’t look respectable in pictures – which is a far cry from the fake smiles and poses we all have today (I’m pretty sure we could submit a lot of ours to this website). A lot of our pictures from an early age look quite serious and sombre, usually because we were sitting on sofas in the front room which we weren’t usually meant to go in, which is ironic because I don’t think any of us were particularly miserable children. These days we’re all about arty-farty pictures and looking our best in pictures (okay that’s probably just me, but still), and the grandkids in my family have grown up with camera phones in front of their faces.

Me and my sister’s hijabi selfie

11. Food in our house was another affair which hasn’t changed. I watched Russell Peters at one of his stand-up shows once, and he correctly talked about how our mums only ever cooked whatever our dads wanted, no matter whether we wanted it or not. This was the same in our house – I can remember countless number of times that my mum made my dad’s favourite food (usually lentils) while we all moaned about wanting chicken and chips. We also didn’t eat out or have much junk food as kids (which is probably a good thing in hindsight) – I think I was about 13 when I had my first McDonald fish burger. Whenever we wanted junk food, my mum would make us home-made fish and chips (peeled and chopped potatoes, of course!) on Sundays, or otherwise make us home-made kebabs to put in burger buns. Over time we discovered halal chicken burger shops, and I remember making weekly trips with one of my sisters after saving up all of our 5ps and 10ps to buy burgers from the local shops (with all of our change in our hands, who needs purses?)

12. Storing and hoarding is a trait that probably all Asian (and other ethnicities) family have – we can’t bear to throw anything away. We have a cellar full of junk from our childhood which we are constantly trying to clear and then end up filling up again. Granted, we’re a lot more neater at storing our junk than those weird shows you see on tv (and we uses to think that the number of books we had were bad, until we drove past a house once which had newspapers and books lining the hallway in stacks until it reached the front door). Part of the problem is we hate to chuck something that we’d paid for, especially because we think we’ll need it again (we won’t). My dad even built a shed (which we’ve named the cow-shed) to ‘store’ our extra tools and things, and which is our latest dumping ground (plus it’s a haven for spiders so everyone’s too scared to go in there).

Another habit we all have is storing and stockpiling enough food and toilet paper to fuel a small country, even though my mother goes shopping every week to buy more of these. We always say that if there’s ever a siege, at least we won’t starve or need toilet paper.

All in all, there were plenty of embarassing moments (this is just the tip of the ice-berg, really!) but there were also lots of perks. Things were simpler then, video games were easier to play (have you tried to play one now? jeez.), cartoon shows were better, we weren’t obssessed with mobiles and the internet, and being an Asian nerd wasn’t always a bad thing if it meant you got A grades at school instead of beats (I rememeber a boy in my class on results day who didn’t go home for two days because he was too scared to tell his parents his grade, when he finally came home they told him they’d been waiting for him to come and show his results).

I’m sure there’s a part two of this coming soon, but in the mean-time, I’m off to browse 90s films to make fun out of (starting with this one, one of the funniest re-caps I’ve read!)

*Ownership of the remote control is a serious thing in our house (I have no idea if this is a thing in other people’s house, although I suspect it is) ‘Having’ the remote is taken pretty seriously, and whoever has it is a lucky devil because they can hold on it and control what everyone else watches. The only exception to this is my dad who has the power to take the remote and change it to Geo channel or BBC news at any and all times, no matter how much we might complain.

The 8-Bit Movie Gifs by Dusan Cezak

I love seeing 8-bit interpretations of stuff (like this), so I really like these 8-bit gif by Slovakian animator Dusan Cezek, who took his love of movies and re-drew them as a gifs series called ‘Pixelwood‘. I adore all of these (although my favourite is quite possibly The Avengers one) – the movies are instantly recognisable, despite how concise and simple the gifs are. I really like seeing art like this – it’s cute, clever and shows a mix of two of my favourite things, art and film.

You can see more of Dusan Cezak’s 8-bit comic-themed gifs here and the rest of his work here.

The Big Lebowski8f21e8f4980827a3572f76a9932af3b5

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissouc01963390b3a97ce9a640fd80355ca46

Nacho Libre5748f5e7cfeb0747586e2a5249e38723

Clerksee8d012f63216a7585c307800b313baa

District 988e03b3c7dfddd3ab9085cbf13692919

Shaun of the Dead628a788fff49f7432351a561d9c529b1

Pulp Fiction777fb9a87154b06c4433515ee841d61a

Evil Deadedbea56254d9f3708b7cb8c2552eb82d

The Avengers8ea467520bbec472737b6aed05912d3e

The Fifth Elementce8476a5750ace5d19811c836fc45a9b

Fight Club293154e83ae32b10b478e85a679839ce

Image Source

MCM London Comic Con 2013

I mentioned before that I visited the MCM London Comic Con, which is a big comic convention that takes place in London twice a year. While it’s not as huge as the San Diego Comic Con, it’s still pretty popular, and draws a huge crowd with interests in drawing, comics, gaming and various films.

We spent the day looking at comics and merchandise for sale, meeting comic book artists and seeing hundreds of fans in costume (known as ‘cosplay’), and generally had an interesting day. I’ve always wanted to go to a Comic Con but have never had the chance, so it was a different experience for me to see various different groups of people get together and have fun.

Here’s a few pictures of the hundreds I took, some of the costumes we saw were just mind-blowing, with some really great detail. I don’t have a single favourite costume because there were far too many, but among my top favourites would be a girl dressed up as Cersei Lannister from the tv series Game of Throne (and looked spot on!), and a girl dressed as Storm from the X-Men, white contacts and all!

Where We Live Now

Okay yes, I made a play on that film, (although I’m still undecided about whether I want to watch it), although my point is really, this is what I see when I look outside the window of my bedroom.

It’s crowded, busy, dark and most often cloudy (and can you see the beginnings of the Christmas lights, which are already being put up?), but we still love glorious old London – and it looks best, in my opinion, when there is a colourful rainbow sky to illuminate the town.

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Part of the Weekly Photo Challenge for this week

May the Fourth be with you!

The internetz strikes back! Another reason why May is my favourite month of the year, it’s a good day for internet geeks (including myself) to taking advantage of the Star Wars pun.

I’ve always seen Star War fans show their love (and Force) in the memes and images on the Fourth in the last couple of years and it’s always made me laugh, so here’s a chance for me to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon and post one that I put together myself 🙂

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