Saturday, January 30, 2010

Avatar - Really?

After 4 weeks of trying to get tickets and babysitting logistics straightened, we finally made it to see "Avatar" in 3D IMAX. I liked the IMAX screen, but the 3D experience was personally rough. The flimsy plastic in the glasses were not straight and distorted images, giving me a headache. Periodically, I had to take off the glasses to relax my eyes.

Is it worth seeing? Yes. Is it worth the hype? Not really.

The utopian planet that's been recreated is just luscious and gorgeous. During this time, I actually thanked the filmmakers for creating such a beautiful and creative landscape. I loved the stones that were naturally carved into perfect arches, the "hallelujah mountains." For the "humanoids", the design of having a tail that was like a "universal plug" into the earth was a cool concept. The connection of living beings to the spiritual world and the planet is beautiful. The experience of flying at high speeds is exhilarating.

Spoilers Alert!!

Can we make the characters not be such caricatures? The military colonel was pumped up with testerstone and conglomeration of every cliche of power hungry bully. It was interesting that they didn't depict a specific country leading the take over, but a corporation. We don't know exactly what was the benefit of the stone. It would've been more justifiable to say that stone would help repopulate earth or something like that. But, they left it at shareholder greed.

The indigo indigenous people were a mix of all the tribals known to general audiences - African and Native American. The filmmakers really stayed with the stories and practices of Native Americans. Maybe it's a purposeful action so the audiences can connect. But, you have tribals in all parts of the world that have nature based practices. I don't know why Na'vi had to hunt in the first place - they have a plentiful resources.

The action scene at the end reminded me of the battle scene from "Chronicles of Narnia." We already know about the "Dances with Wolves", "Pocahontas" and 'The Last Samurai" connections. There's also a nod to the "Transformers."

Also, we were flipping through the new "Planet of the Apes" on TV the other night. There's a part where Mark Wahlberg tries to inspire the human prisoners to revolt. He says human history is full of humans fighting back and succeeding. It would've been nice if the people from Avatar had tapped into human history and seen what happens when the land and its people are sacrificed.

When the Home Tree is destroyed, it conjured the Twin Towers falling. My friends pointed out it reminded them of Sadaam Hussain's statue being torn down. In case you missed those "subtle" references, the Colonel has to say they have to take "pre-emptive action" and "fight terror with terror". I loved how "Shock and Awe" is still going to be a phrase used century from now. So, if they did not want to identify a country as leading the effort, they just slapped a label on it.

But overall, this is a movie about race and white men taking over. Note - Sigourney Weaver is a white woman who wanted to pursue scientific and diplomatic options. Here's an interesting POV on the issue of "white guilt movies."

By the way, Mr. Cameron, in the future will there be a computer space station with no Asian techies on board? Are they still going to call India for tech support from Pandora? Talk about your fantasies!

I'm stealing this quote from an online forum:
Man, was it amazingly beautiful, but it's gotta be the first one-dimensional 3D movie I've ever seen.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
- Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute.
Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Reflections Upon Return

I've been home in the US for a two weeks now, and still trying to hold onto the magic and peace I found in India. For me, it was a wonderful vacation because I was away from my daily grind. My life is generally so hectic as with a demanding job where multitasking is an expectation, as well as the obvious juggling of home and family. There, I spent a lot of time with our family and our focus was on how to optimize our time together. There were maids and nannies tending to all the tasks that usually overrun our lives here. So, even when I offered to help, I was told not to worry.

Normally, I'm constantly checking my work email on my phone. In this case, there wasn't much I could do due to the time difference. My colleagues were forced to adapt to the situations and come up with answers on their own. Before I left for India, there was a lot of anxiety around me leaving for 3 weeks out of the country. People were shocked when I said 3 weeks. People are out for 2 days and there's chaos. I tried to remind them I would return and the whole corporation won't collapse because I'm on vacation. I identified 6 people to cover various projects and tasks, so the burden wouldn't be on one person. Before we left, I was trying tie loose ends at work and prepare for the trip.

They say that on one's deathbed no one ever says "I wish I had spent more time at the office." I felt it more so with this trip.

I'm much happier that my daughter spent a few lovely weeks with her cousins and grandparents in India. She got a better taste of India as a country and the lifestyles that exist. We all had a good time bonding with our family and securing those relationships. When I grew up, we weren't able to go to India frequently, so we only have a handful of memories with my cousins and grandparents. However, the connection is still there with my cousins.

Even in India, I felt so clear headed. My life wasn't cluttered with promises to fulfill and negative energy. Part of my stress is the need for perfection in everything, which could make a simple task as writing an email into a stressful time consuming task. There wasn't the need to come up with solutions and answers all the time.

While in India, I also recognized some physical health benefits. I didn't need to have so much caffeine to get me through my day/evening. We had balanced meals, though we're not used to widespread. I've noticed that when I'm typing emails back to work, I tend to snap more at others around me. We had happier moments when I wasn't checking my phone. The one downside I felt was that I didn't get enough exercise as I needed.

After seeing how simply people live in India, I do want to make changes in my life. There isn't a lot of space for things, so you keep what you need at hand.They buy fresh vegetables everyday. We have such a "just in case" mentality where we buy everything. Maybe it's our environment. It's 20-30 degrees outside right now. I'd rather go into my pantry and dig out soups rather than go to the market for fresh veggies to make my own soup.
I'm looking to make changes in simplifying our schedules. Kumon is out. My family is much happier that we're not fighting over Kumon. We regain almost an hour in the evenings, which my daughter can spend more time practicing her violin and finishing up school projects. She's agreed to work on other math workbooks to keep up her skills sharp.

Delegating is an art that I need to master. My problem is that I enjoy doing certain tasks and will take them on just for that sake. But, I need to devote my energies on primary tasks that cannot be done by others. I see this being critical for an activity coming up in April, for which I'll be co-directing a children's program.

I've definitely returned with my head on straight. I can say my head was 100% turned the other way before I left. I don't want to be "Grumpy Mommy" anymore. Someone suggested to me that I meditate to find the peace I'm seeking. I thought about it and I realized I'm not seeking peace. I've found it.
It's as if I'm holding a cup of a precious liquid. My challenge is to go through my life without spilling it or having someone taint it! I think my key will be to conjure the feelings that I had in India.