Sunday, April 27, 2008

John Adams Series

We've been actively engaged in the HBO series, "John Adams." If you haven't seen this, catch it On-Demand or the DVD whenever it's out. It's filmed so vividly and realistically. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney are sublime as John and Abigail Adams. They are true actors as they became these two real people - gave them a breath, a body and flaws. I'm not a history buff and I had to dig into my memory from freshman year in college in US history to remember who was who and how the Revolutionary War took place. My only complaint about the series is that a lot of events were crammed into the 7 part series. So, episodes leaped over years of events and it was hard to keep track.

I was struck by some essential themes of this series:
1. The marriage of John and Abigail was so strong. She voiced her opinions, and he listened to what she had to offer. There was a strong vein of mutual respect, yet the ability to criticize the other. When Abigail was on her deathbed, I felt John's pain. What would he do without her? How could he even survive since he leaned on her for everything? They were married over 50 years and at that point, every thought and movement is entwined with another person. To me, he seemed weaker without the strength of his wife. The common thought is a woman is weaker without her husband. Yet, I see otherwise.

2. I'm delighted this series has been shown in 2008. Of course, it would've been nicer if this was out in 2001. This country needs to be inspired by the fire and drive these "Founding Fathers" had. We can see the thought process, the debates and arguments for different points for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as their intentions for the role of the Executive Office. Early Americans suffered so much and aspired so deeply towards a country of liberties that the world could not even conjure in its imaginations. They knew they had to break away from imperialism. And, they were able to do it! It's infuriating that in 2008, the US government is promoting one rule for themselves, and different rules for the rest of the world.

The John Adams series is definitely worthwhile and inspiring on many levels. Liberties and declarations aside, one becomes extremely grateful for modern day dental hygeniene and anesthesia!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Clinton Rally

I heard someone on the radio say that if you're in Pennsylvania and you haven't seen a presidential candidate yet, you haven't been trying.

I learned late Thursday night that Bill Clinton was coming to the local high school. If it was Hillary, then I wanted my daughter to be there since she's a huge Hillary fan. She believes we need a "girl president, not the boy."

I'm extremely excited that PA is such a critical state in this election. I was a bit disgruntled in February when everyone was jumping up and down about Super Tuesday primaries. I figured PA primaries would just be a formality. Here we are -- at the most critical junction! So, it shows you that you don't have to be "first" to make a difference.

By the way, I haven't been to a political rally since Mike Dukakis came to campus back in 1988. (Robert Redford was with him and my roommate and I gushed all over RR, and posted pics of his younger days in our dorm)

My friends and I arrived fairly early, but some how got herded behind the press riser. It was annoying because we couldn't see and had to wait until a photographer moved a bit so we could peek through their legs or chair. Clinton came more than an hour late - we figured he stopped at Wawa for coffee. Their campaigners kept the energy up by giving cheers and keeping the crowd busy with the Wave. We were behind the risers and bit annoyed by the Rachel Ray-esque show.

Finally Bill came and spoke for an hour. It was such a great and honest speech. He talked about where the country was when he left office, where it is now and what Hillary is going to do. He was witty and sharp! I was really impressed with the proposals and plans that Hillary has in place for Education, Healthcare and international issues. He talked about the environment, renewable energy resources, such as the windmills (Go Gamesa!) as he drove through PA. He mentioned an electric car that gets 100 miles per gallon. He joked that he knows the younger people are fine, but older people question the validity of that statement. A senior man next to me chuckled. He pointed out that when he and Hillary were young and Kennedy talked about landing on the moon, they felt the same way. You have to aim as high as you can. As someone working in technology, I know that this country is not short on innovation or creativity. There are other barriers to making things happen.

Political pundits are saying Americans like to vote for people who live like they do (thus, we got Bush because they'd invite him to their barbecue). If that's the case, Hillary's the first candidate I truly identify with as working mother. She had to balance ballet lessons with her law practice and support her husband's gubernatorial career. Part of me feels "she's a mom" and she knows how to get to the source of problems, resolve them swiftly and multitask. Also, I work for an organization that has strong women in visible and key positions. Women of her generation are seriously tougher and don't shirk in confrontation.

We came back to our car to find Obama flyers under the windshield. Hmph. I'm not an Obama supporter, though I like him as a person.

Whether it is Hillary or Obama in the White House, it'll be like a breath of fresh air over the country and the world. The economy has brought people down, the price of gas is inching towards $4, and Americans and Iraqis are dying every day. We do need a good leader, someone with a vision and ability to motivate people. Under a good leader are good managers, so you need a secure team.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Assumptions of Frida

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a great exhibit of Frida Kahlo until May. I wrote about Ms. Kahlo last September and it was extremely exciting to see her paintings in person. I had to refrain myself from caressing the canvas. Seeing her name, written sharply in the lower right corners just drew me in as much as the paintings themselves.

One interesting aspect I never knew about her work was the significance of painting the frames. She felt the subject of the painting was so powerful it could not be contained by a frame. For example, the frame for “A Few Small Nips” was stabbed with red paint and the clouds escaped from "Suicide of Dorothy Hale" onto the frame. The museum had displayed traditional Mexican spiritual and folk art, which were the inspiration for many of Kahlo’s works. She even adopted the Mexican tradition of oil on metal for many of her pieces.

I didn't know that she painted still life paintings (fruit, flower) in order to make money after her divorce. Obviously, her more painful and brutal paintings did not sell. This reminded me of the artists in Mumbai in front of Jehangir Art Gallery. They have bold, abstract and extraordinary pieces, which are their passion. However, they do Ganesha paintings because they know they can be sold.

As we walked out, my friend commented that it seemed like her life was so sad. Frida had painful recovery from an accident, miscarriages, a tumultuous marriage, and even isolation as she visited the US. I pointed out this is an assumption we make based on her paintings and other information. This was not Frida the person. After her husband had an affair with her sister, she did not paint for more than a year. When she did finally paint, of course it was going to be powerful exhibit of the jagged pills she swallowed.

When a life is rolled up into a 1-hour audio tour and gallery exhibit of photographs and paintings, one is intimate with just a part of the person. Kahlo paints self-portraits with her face unsmiling, doused with gravity. However, there were black and white photographs of Kahlo drinking from a bottle on a boat or simply seductive poses from experimental modeling. Her style of wearing traditional Mexican folk dresses and jewelry was more than a fashion statement, but a political one. It is hard to remember there was a lively, charming woman behind the flat paintings.

We all have assumptions in our own lives. When I was in college, I kept a journal. I didn’t have a lot of time to write, so usually wrote when I was emotionally charged (read: sad). After a few months, I browsed through old entries, reading them back to back. It was shocking! One would’ve thought I was depressed all the time! However, there were weeks and even months between entries. Obviously, those were happy moments, which didn’t call for me to write out my emotions.

This comes into play even when we communicate with people about our lives. We always hear stories from one side, not from the other people involved in an incident. We have to make assumptions to fill in the blanks.

Artists are fortunate of the lot. They leave their creative expressions behind, leaving bits of themselves immortal. Our lives are like pencil sketches, leaving others to fill in the colors for us and then view us the way they choose to see us.