Sunday, December 29, 2013

Echoes from The Sound of Music

There’s been a bit of an uproar lately with country/pop/American Idol star Carrie Underwood tackling the role of Maria in a televised stage version of “Sound of Music” This has generated such a dialogue among fans, and unfortunately hate tweets for Carrie.

“The Sound of Music” is such a culturally iconic movie and it has a sense of sacredness about it. It’s not just in the US, but globally.

  • If at any time someone needs to depict the most uplifting and positive portrayal of Hollywood, flash to Maria spinning her skirts to the “Hills are Alive” with that amazing pan of the open space.  
  • In Arundhati Roy’s “God of Small Things,” the main characters are at a viewing of the movie when a critical event occurs. I always remember how Maria and the children were described having “peppermint voices” in contrast to the harsh realities for the characters in the book.
  • We sang the songs in school, learned about Rogers & Hammerstein in music classes. Now that I’m thinking about it, I had done a report in elementary school on Rogers & Hammerstein and sketched the scenes from the movie.  My father had the double record album and there were movie stills and as a child, I gazed at this forever wondering about the Von Trapp children. I wonder how many future puppeteers were inspired by this movie.

We visited Austria years ago by car from Germany. We drove through beautiful landscapes and we gasped at the breathtaking mountains. I kept gushing “Wow, I feel like I’m in the Sound of Music.” When we arrived in Salzburg, Austria, we hit the Sound of Music mecca. I had forgotten that Salzburg is where the story took place and the movie captured all of the local elements. There was church, the gardens, the mountains.. and Salzburg knows this. They offer full and half day tours to see all the sites where the movie was filmed. 

While walking around the town, I came across small beautiful flowers along a hedge. I realized they were Edelweiss, clean and white. I took few steps further and entered the garden of the Dwarves. I started telling my husband, “This is it! this is it! This is where the kids marched and stepped to the top of the staircase!” It was like I had been there in a previous life.

When my daughter was 3 years old, I thought it’d be fun to play this movie for her alongside the TeleTubbies and Disney movies. She loved it so much that she wanted to watch it every day for 3 weeks. Every. Day. For three weeks. Let that sink in.

The first few times, we would sit  to watch, and friends would walk in and sit down too. When we got tired, she threw tantrums. She wanted specific scenes.  She kept crying “when he has a haircut!” and I replied no one gets haircuts.  We realized that when Maria first enters the house to meet the children, my daughter thought it was the father (with a haircut) who opened the door, not realizing it was the butler. Once we drove by an old cathedral in NY and she asked if Maria was there. When she was about 6 or so, we went to see a local stage production. During the show, when Maria and Captain came back from their honeymoon, she asked if Maria had “a baby in her tummy now.” Yes, SOM raises other family issues we never thought about.

One thing I noticed during our 3 week SOM marathon, the children in the movie acted extremely well. They were crisp in their delivery, and even when there was no dialogue, their expressions were on target. The story is very tight, and the music is absolutely creative, which make this film so durable.

Question on the Plot

I do have one qualm with the overall storyline. The youngest child is 5 years old, which means the mother had died at the most 5 years prior. We understand the father has issues resolving his grief and opted for repression and denial as coping mechanism. Other than the 2 younger children (aged 5 and 7), everyone should have reasonable memories of mother and the happier times when the house was full of music. It seems they all just erased the mother. Of course it's cleaner to remove the references to mother, and let Maria step forward without handling baggage of the previous relationship. Otherwise, this turns into an issue of “Nannies Gone Wild.”


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Adventures in Roller Blading and Parenting

She got a pair for Christmas and after few exchanges for sizes and styles, we were all set. We strapped on all the protective gear to knees, elbows and wrists. We figured out how to adjust the skates. We're ready to roll!

At first, she didn't know what to do and asked me to walk in front and be pulled along.

I said, "No way. Move your feet. Push off and glide." Why would we get blades -- so I can pull her along? She hobbled with one foot in front of the other out of the garage and onto the driveway.

My heart stopped whenever she faltered. I warned her of rocks and imperfections in the asphalt. She would laugh, but teetered backwards with squeals. However, my arm was always there to catch her around the waist or the shoulder until she gains her balance.

She did her stumbled up a little slope on the driveway. When she went on the decline, she picked up speed. She had good momentum going and was excited. She didn't need help. Her head was up and arms in a ready stance and she was moving quicker than I was.

That's when I said, "No you're not controlling it. You're just going with momentum."

I pulled her back and forced her to slow down and move her feet. I reminded her she didn't know how to stop so it wasn't good to keep going until she crashed into car or the house.

While teaching a 12-year-old to roller blade, I felt like every metaphor and aphorism about motherhood was coming alive at that moment.

1. Parents are there to catch you. She can move confidently knowing I'm right there when she wobbles backwards.

2. Parents are not there to pull you along. You've got to push off on your own and move your own feet.

3. Parents are going to pull you back when you're just going downhill, riding on pure momentum and speed, and not your own volition or skill. It's exciting for just a few moments, but you'll crash into something.

4. Parents will get beat up. My right foot was run over by the blades, I was kicked in the right shin and my arms were scratched from holding her up by all those velcro pads. But like everything else, you keep on doing what your doing to get kid moving.

We just had one session in the driveway and I'm confident she'll do well in no time.

Next challenge -- pull out my roller blades from the basement where they were buried 12 years ago!

Monday, May 27, 2013

"The Great Gatsby" Review

As a fan of Baz Lurhmann's "Moulin Rouge," "Romeo + Juliet" and "Strictly Ballroom," I was excited to see this movie. As someone who's been obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories and the  20's and 30's for the past year (reading Anais Nin & Henry Miller right now), I was thrilled to step into this era and writing.

I have to make the disclaimer that I haven't read "The Great Gatsby" since Mr. Boyd's 10th grade English class. And, frankly, I didn't like it back then. Daisy Buchanan seemed like one of the worst heroines in literature - fluffy, flighty and shallow. Jay Gatsby seemed too stuffy and repressed to be "great."  I was confused by the end scene with the cars and hit and run. I think we might have watched the Robert Redford version in school, and I don't think that helped.

With that said, I enjoyed the movie. I adore Carey Mulligan from "An Education," and she helped Daisy become a multi-layered and complex character. We could understand her struggle with conforming to demands of society and accepting her own emotions. Leonardo was intense and vulnerable as Gatsby, which made him more than the aloof shadow lurking in the windows. And, Tobey Maguire. Please. He's perfect. Though the unshaven writer at the typewriter harkened images Ewan MacGregor in "Moulin Rouge," but that's the director's actions.

Baz Lurhmann definitely made this movie grand and visually enticing. By the way, I'm grateful there was a non-3D version of the film. I'm sick of 3D movies and frustrated with "Life of Pi" for being 3D. Yes, it's wonderful creative challenge for all, but it's a major headache and I feel distanced from the screen. The movie wasn't as crazy as "Moulin Rouge," but still captivating. I did like the soundtrack and especially the Jay-Z added a pulse to certain scenes.

The parties were definitely lavish, but perhaps Lurhmann should've consulted Real Housewife Adrienne Maloof for outrageous party ideas.

By the way, the Daisy Buchanan fashion collection is amazing. Of course, I learn now it's all Prada. I wanted to reach through the screen and grab her jewelry and dresses! The one with the white crystals she wore to the party was genius and sublime. And, the overall theme of this movie is extramarital connections.

For Bollywood fans, Amitabh's appearance is quite short. So, don't go expecting a lot of screentime. But, as always, he delivers.

Returning to F. Scott Fitzgerald, I'm even more in awe of him. A story that is almost 100 years old is still luring and charming audiences. The story is the backbone of this movie, while everything else is its interpretation by the actors and the directors. 

Parental Comments
So, now that my daughter is 12 and this movie is rated PG-13, she's informed me that her friends have seen the movie and are reading the book. Well, bravo to the friends reading the book in 6th grade. I would have recommended they start with another Scott Fitzgerald story like "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" or something with less complex characters.

As for the movie, there are party scenes that are not appropriate for the tweens. I don't know if they would fully grasp the inference of "humping noises" in another room, but the overindulgence of alcohol, drugs and promiscuity is obvious in those party scenes.

Personally, I don't see the value of this movie being seen by a younger audience. My message to my daughter is that movies and books will always be there. They're not going away, and when you get older you'll get more out of them. There are books I read in my early 20's that are more meaningful now in my 40's.

It's hard when you're young to be patient and wait for the future. It's hard to know your friends have seen a movie that you can't see. However, as  parent, I don't want to be pushed by Hollywood, media or other parents who do not have the same beliefs I do. I know my parents would not have allowed us to watch this when I was in 6th grade; we were told to leave the room during "Three's Company." We'll just put this movie on hold for another few years and watch it after she reads "Gatsby" in school.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

The F Word - Feminism

This week we watched the documentary on PBS "Makers: Women Who Make America" and the videos can be found online. It's about 3 hours and I think I only caught part of it, so I'm excited the rest are online. My daughter did not watch it with me, but I'll have her watch this.

For me, I had a feminist awakening in college with my women's studies classes, which clearly defined situations. While watching this documentary, I remembered all these women from history, as well as the history we lived. I loved seeing Pat Schroeder's biography and miss her voice from the political arena today. It was inspiring to see this video because it reminds us of how recent the women's movement is in historical terms and the advancements that happened quickly. Once one  door was opened, others could follow through swiftly.

I'm proud to be a feminist and it comes down to a single idea: Feminism is giving women the choice to do what they want with their lives and not as it is decreed for them by society. If they'd like to be full time homemaker/stay at home mother, go for it. If they want to run a company or start their own business, they can. If they'd like to join the military and fly fighter jets, they should. It's their choice of how they want to live their life. That's it.

I'm dismayed by the next generation of young women who say "I'm not a feminism, but.." and they live their life enjoying the benefits of feminist movement. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, says she's not a feminist. It's ironic when she's the female engineer and corporate executive. The early feminist movement fought hard for women to be accepted into science programs (there were limited quotas for women's admission). Plus, it was a challenge to be acknowledged seriously in the workplace. I don't know where she comes up with the "militant" feminists and "chip on shoulder" statement. Seriously, I'm not sure where she's seeing that - maybe there was an overly aggressive Women's Studies student in her dorm? I think we were all overly enthusiastic when we finally understood. By making this kind of statement, she's playing into the stereotype that feminists are militant and she's distancing herself from "those type of women". This is a crucial move on her part because it's doesn't threaten men. Maybe it's her own survival technique.

Frankly, "well behaved women seldom made history." Women had to be stronger and louder to be heard. Of course that made them "militant" and "lesbians" and "sluts" and any other name men could use to denegrate women to their "role."

When the next generation of women say they don't believe in feminism or think the world is just for all, they need to pick themselves up and walk over to another part of the world. Wait a second. Actually, sexism is still alive and well in the US. We saw that on the night of the Oscars with Seth MacFarlane's jokes about women's bodies and sexuality; there are a ton of articles out there but here is link to one that talks about "sexism fatigue"and how we don't even notice it. It was unacceptable and offensive, especially for a show. Unfortunately people thought he was funny because he had that charming smile on his face. (We were extremely offended by the 'boob song' when we have a 12 year old daughter watching the show. I thought Oscars were supposed to be family friendly?)

One of the sites/organizations that I follow regularly is Miss Representation. The film itself is astounding and enlightening (I saw this on OWN, but it's a must-see for all, men and women). I saw  films in college about portrayal of women's bodies in the media, and I believe I did a paper or two about this topic. However, this film made me realize that it hasn't changed much in 20 years and has potentially gotten worse. Now, as a parent, it's more alarming to see the sexism and "sexuality for sale" in the media.

Even though we're progressing socially, professionally, and academically, there are still reminders around us that we're still being considered "the other" and not part of the whole.

In one breath we can say we've come a long way, but the struggle is not over. Women are still held hostage by religion, by economic conditions and by political strife in different parts of the world. Like Hillary Clinton said, "women's rights are human rights" and should be treated as such.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Name It

With Quvenzhane Wallis coming into the spotlight, she brought her complex name into the media spotlight. There's been some discussions about media dubbing her "Little Q" to her directly. This shouldn't be a big thing when Jennifer Lawrence is now J Law, and you have Brangelina. On the other hand, here's one article about the importance of your name and owning it.The author brings forth this quote:

“Give your daughters difficult names,” Warsan Shire wrote. “Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right … Give your children difficult names, so the world may learn how to unfurl its tongue in the direction of our stolen languages.”

Well, I'm one daughter who received a difficult name. Growing up in the US, when the substitute or new teacher paused while reading the attendance, I knew it was my name. It's fairly easy once you've understood how it's pronounced. Ye, I've heard all sorts of variations - Ashoni, Ashina, Ashanti, Sheena. When people asked if I had a nickname, I always said no. "Ash" reminded me of a plate of dirty cigarette ashes. In the digital age, I've accepted the nickname Ash or Ashi since it's easier to type.

Indians tend to call me Ashwini, since Ashini is so unique. So, my first comment is "no W". It's a fine name, but just not mine. So, they're just as confused with my name and usually call me Ashwini anyway.

Professionally, I haven't had any noticeable issues with my name. When I introduce myself on calls, I usually say "I'm Ashini, etc." I've learned to take a pause because some people thought it was Mashini. Recently I acknowledged a client who said my name perfectly out of the gate. He joked that he noticed one of the other team members calling me all sorts of variations on my name. When that happens, I take it as a flaw on the person's side - not mine. I have no problems saying my name.

With that said, I've had fake names in my back pocket if I don't feel like spelling or explaining my name to the hostess at the restaurant who just needs to put my name down or the barrista who has to write on a cup. I used to use "Ashley" or "Jeeni" (off my maiden name Jani). When I got married, I hijacked my husband's nickname of "Sandy" since I know I've started acknowledging that one when the hostess calls us.

Last week, I noticed something unusual for me. I was travelling for work and was asked by the Starbucks barrista holding a cup and marker, "Can I have your name?" I responded "AJ" and that worked. I loved it! I don't know where it came from. Those are my initials for about 3/4 my life, so it makes sense. However, it was buried and just came out when I was away from home and alone.

So, thanks for allowing me to indulge in my own name for a bit. But I think that's my response to 'give your daughter's difficult names". You may give her the name, but how she chooses to wear it will be up to her.

On that note, I love that Annika has been specific about the pronounciation of her name since she was little. She's Annika - rhymes with Monica and Hannukah. She's been called Ann-ika or A-nika, which are common pronounciations. Then, she surprised us by using "Nikki" as a avatar names.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lyrics Gone Wild

I started blogging when my daughter was 4 and I captured all those delightful moments of being 5 and a princess. Now, she's on the brink of 12. We're entering a new phase of everything!

She's into the boy band One Direction. I don't mind them - cute British boys with fun haircuts and their lyrics are inspiring for young girls.

One Direction: "What Makes You Beautiful":
You're insecure,
Don't know what for,
You're turning heads when you walk through the door,
Don't need make-up,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough..

In a time when there's a need for perfection and eating disorder, it's important to have a cute guy say that directly to you.

On the other hand, I'm greatly disturbed by the songs out there and the lyrics. I've told her for years that it's important to follow songs that have good lyrics. I point out unnecessary words that are repeated just for the sake of filling a song. Now, songs lyrics are just sexually edgy for no reason. I know we have the parental warnings on the rap and hard rock songs. Kids would have to find a way to obtain those to begin with. I'm focusing on songs that are played on Top 40 pop stations.

People say 'Don't let your kids listen to it" if you don't like it. Of course I can change the station in the car. But, I have no control over what the bus driver plays (usually just pop station) or what kids have on their iPods at lunch time. Or, the ice skating rink plays pop radio or a store at the mall. So, I was suprised early (3rd or 4th grade) by her knowledge of pop songs. And, now in 6th grade, I'm desperately trying to catch up and understand what's hip.

I know we had Madonna in my generation - the fuss over "Papa Don't Preach." But I think you could fairly focus on Madonna and George Michael for the hypersexual lyrics.

Here they come. Seemingly innocent pop stars. Songs that have a catchy rhythm, "good beat you can dance to," and it's on commerical radio and TV. The songs below are ubiquitous.

Marroon 5 and Christina Aguilera "Moves Like Jagger"
Take me by the tongue
And I'll know you
Kiss til you're drunk
And I'll show you
I've got the moves like Jagger.

Rihanna "S and M"
‘Cause I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But chains and whips excite me.

Bruno Mars "Paradise"
Never had much faith in love or miracles
Never wanna put my heart on deny
But swimming in your world is something spiritual
I'm gonna get every time you spank the night

Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah your sex takes me to paradise
And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah
Cause you make feel like, I've been locked out of heaven

The Bruno Mars song disappointed me because I really like this song and Annika and I sang it together in the car. It has a old school Police feel to it, but really heart felt. I had a problem with the word "paradise" because it's 3 syllables and it should be 2 like "heaven," and we talked about it. And, I'm a dork who thought he was saying "your scent takes me to paradise", until I looked this up.

I would find some Nikki Minaj lyrics, but I really don't have time. She's just bawdy and rude, yet dresses like a cupcake which attracts young girls. I understand the artist's right to self expression, but when you've crossed over into the mainstream, pay attention. She's well aware toddlers are singing "Super Bass."

There's a small light in the tunnel of madness. We love Kidz Bop. We just downloaded the latest Kidz Bop and guess who's on there - Bruno Mars! So in "Paradise", they replace the words with G-rated lyrics like "your love takes me to paradise." Seriously, why couldn't they have done that in the first place? Bruno, you know it's going to be on the radio and your grandma and everyone is going to hear it.


Dignity Lost - Addendum

I forgot to add to my other post. There's a great quote by Gold Meir that's been coming to mind a lot recently.

“Once in cabinet we had to deal with the fact that there had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One minister …suggested a curfew; women should stay home after dark. I said, “But it’s the men who are attacking the women. If there’s to be a curfew, let the men stay at home, not the women…”
- Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir

This says it all. Why are all women being punished due to the actions of a few men?

It's like the attitude that is rising now after - Don't tell women how not to get raped. Tell men not to rape. Understand where the root cause is and work on that. All we're doing is a putting a band aids on the wounds, but we need to take away the knives that are hurting.

I also was disturbed this week by an article written by a father of young girls. He's brought more issues to light and more fears, acknowledging the culture has changed for this generation. Technology has made it too easy and anonymous. The pop culture now has more open sexuality and graphic lyrics. (New post coming!)

However, reading this, my thoughts are "Where are the boys' parents in this?" Why are their alarms of conscience not ringing that this isn't right and girls should not be treated this way?  You can work on preventive measures for the girls, but you also need to take preventive measures by working with the boys from the time they're young. They're succumbing to peer pressures and losing their own moral compass.

One of the key judges of a character is what someone does when they think no one is watching. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do it. If you know you're better than that, you should act like it.

By the way, there's a brilliant video floating around from Modern Primate blog that is honest and real talk about the rape culture and young men. (Start at 2:00 to get to his real argument). I found it refreshing to hear a man just speak plainly about this.


Saturday, February 02, 2013

Dignity Lost

There have been so many different news stories and issues that I wanted to address, I've been keeping drafts of blogs until I had time to write. This one seems "old" to me already, though it's less than 2 weeks old.

It's been heartbreaking to read the traumatic story of young woman in Delhi who was brutally assaulted and died from her injuries. This experience is what we don't wish on another human being. I'm so proud of Indian men and women who are speaking against violence against women and the misogynistic attitudes that reign in the streets. It's not going to change over night and will take some time. However,acknowledgment of the issue is the first step.

I was listening to human rights activist talking about violence against women in all parts of the world. A caller pointed out how Indian society added to the humiliation of the crime. The couple that was thrown off the bus was naked on the street and overlooked by passerbys. They were gawked by police and didn't receive medical attention until family stepped in. What kind of people do that?

The activist agreed this was shameful, but she said in her mind, this was the same type of humiliation that the young student in Steubenville, OH felt. There are videotapes and photographs of her rape and the rapists who participated. These photos were downloaded and viewed online by many people. Isn't that public humiliation? Where is the semblance of humanity in that action? What kind of people do that?

Here's another article that draws this parallel.

It's 2013 and as much progress we think we're making, we're not. To know that one person is still suffering misogynistic actions, we should all be ashamed for the lack of progress in the world. I read Hillary Clinton's farewell speech yesterday and gender equality was not forgotten:

And that is the final lever that I want to highlight briefly. Because the jury is in, the evidence is absolutely indisputable: If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunity, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue, which, of course, it is. It is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century. It therefore must be central to U.S. foreign policy.
I hope that John Kerry will not lose the momentum and focus the State Department has gained under Clinton's leadership. It is In the US, the "War on Women" was alive and well with 2012 political games. The Republican party has totally lost their footing on being rational. For example,  birth control became a questionable need for insurance coverage. I'm sure no one questioned the need for Viagara. Women's health is considered an afterthought and health clinics are used as political chess pieces, as I mentioned elsewhere. They shut women down to make 'problems' go away.

There is a great organization, The Girl Effect, that promoted this video. I think this says so much. If we want to progress as a global society, we start by helping the smallest members.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Keep it Real, Gun Owners

Recently, NRA and media have started talking about this incident that occurred in Georgia. A woman was at home with her children when an intruder with a crowbar came into their home. She locked the children and called her husband. He talked her through using the handgun to shoot the intruder, just as she had been trained. She shot the man until he was down and escaped the house with her children.

I'm happy this situation turned out well for her. She had her wits about her, she had been trained and she had a handgun.

That's where I think the national conversation goes astray. The discussion at hand is not confiscation of guns, but of regulation. No one is repealing the 2nd Amendment or diminishing the right to bear arms.

I have been reading articles on both sides of the debate, and I have yet to see someone eloquently explain why a civilian should own a military weapons.

The 2nd Amendment says I'm allowed to have whatever I want.

The first Amendment protects the right to free speech. But, Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes said: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic."  The 2nd Amendment doesn't allow you to bring a machine gun into a theatre. As a society there has be some mutual acknowledgment of boundaries.

I need to protect myself against tyrannical government

If we had a dictatorship in this country and the government was plowing down buildings, as they are in Syria, there'd be a justification for it. If we had government controlled media and access to basic resources that lead to crimes against humanity, as is the case in North Korea, I'd understand.

It's a shame that there are Americans who feel so stifled by the government and any laws. I do agree against overbearing government laws. I don't want the government to define whether adults can get married or not. I don't want the government to dictate medical procedures and constraints around decisions that should be between the individual and the physician. I'm extremely horrified that some states require doctors to perform ultrasounds to women who will be terminating pregnancies. And, I'm extremely saddened that women's healthcare centers are considered political chess pieces.

King George III is gone. In today's society, the best way to combat tryannical government is through education and cohesive action at the community level - not with guns.

Good gun owners don't kill. It's the mentally ill and illegally obtained weapons.

That's brilliant of Republicans to come up with this argument. Who is paying for the psychiatric healthcare required? What about the expensive drugs required for treatment? What's the role of pharmaceuticals in this debate? If they want to go down this path, they better be ready to support everything with it.

Give teachers guns, get rid of the 'gun free zones'.

The argument is to put up a sign on your house "gun free zone". Would you do that? It's like welcoming someone to come get you.

However, I heard an interesting argument yesterday by Michael Moore. If you have someone who is deranged and ready for a mass shooting spree, if you tell them there is an armed guard there, they would love it. This is a challenge for them. So, it's not necessarily protection, but an invitation.

Also, teachers don't need to handle guns. God knows their jobs are difficult, they're underpaid and underappreciated. Hire an armed guard. Sure, cities like Detroit and Philadelphia are shutting schools down due to lack of funding. They don't have money for books, which is a school's primary function. Who is paying for guards? Teachers do not need guns. End of discussion.

By the way, President Reagan was surrounded by high security guards, yet he was still attacked by a gunman in 1981.

The Open Dialogue

The gun control dialogue has surged. I'm excited that people are talking about this, and extremely happy that Obama Administration has taken command of this and set regulations in place. (See the slideshow)

By the way, for those who feel Obama overreaching liberties (bordering on tyranny) to pass these laws, remember that President Bush had slipped into the Patriot Act the right to wiretap into suspected terrorists. This seems right agains the 4th Amendment which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicialy sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

 "One failed attempt at a shoe bomb, and we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty One school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns" - John Oliver.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love" Review

We're big Woody Allen fans - I love "Sleeper" and "Annie Hall", as my top favorites. Though "Midnight in Paris" is absolute perfection. There's not one flaw in it from cinematography, acting, storyline and concept.

So, we were eager  to see how "To Rome with Love" played out. The visuals of Rome are stunning. The monuments, ruins, the architecture are displayed in sharp colors. It actually looks a lot cleaner and less crowded than we remember it. However, cinema tends to do that. Bollywood movies take place in Mumbai, and when you go to Nariman Point, you're overwhelmed by the crowds. I can't take a picture of the scene, let alone film a song there without fifty people in it.

As for "To Rome", there were few main storylines that split out but don't connect. Maybe I should do a Visio flowchart on this?

- Hayley and Roman (2)
        - Hayley's parents come (Woody Allen and ..woot..woot.. Judy Davis)
               - Hayley's parents meet Roman's family (+2)    

- The Italian newlyweds who go in different directions
        - Bride's adventures (+few)
        - Groom's adventures (+ Penelope Cruz)

- Average Italian family man entanglement with fame

- Two young Americans in Rome
         - Friend and Alec Baldwin come visit (+2)

- Throw in some misplace Romans as muses

So there - I've laid out the stories and they don't intertwine or anything. We tried to figure out any kind of theme underneath it -- You think you desire something, but when you get it you don't want it? You're happy with status quo? There's no place like home, Toto?

There's also Woody Allen's babbling neurotic dialogue. Every very movie has "the Woody Allen" character and Jesse Eisenberg got awarded that, complete with the hunched shoulders while walking.
If you like the usual white Windsor font on black background, amusing music and delightful scenes of Rome and delicious Roman people, it's enjoyable. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Run With It (Addendum)

After I wrote that last post on Sunday, I went to my first cardio kickboxing class at the gym. The last time I took kickboxing was about 1999, when the craze started at gyms. I was overwhelmed and pretty much wrote it off. I took lots of other classes, but stayed away from kickboxing.
Now, I can't be as picky and need to look for classes that fit my schedule. This one did. The teacher was great and was aware of the newbies like myself in the class. She was looking at me when she told the class it was ok if anyone felt the need to stop if they felt like throwing up or something.

Anyway, since I had just writtent he post about not giving up, I stayed on track with the workout. My challenge with the workout is the sequence of moves and remembering right jab, left hook, touch the floor, kick it left, roundhouse right, and do it again double time. I felt like I need some memory exercises as well!

So, I kept in mind my favorite line from "The Odd Life of Timothy Green." In the movie, the boy performed extremely badly at soccer and his coach reamed him for it. He smiled and said, "I can only get better."

As I did my kicks, feeling as if my leg was going to snap from the hip like Barbie's, I kept thinking "I can only get better" and smiled. Just a bit of positive thoughts really helped. There were 100 negative thoughts I could've entertained myself with (e.g., the instructor probably had 1% body fat in her muscular self while I have.. cough.. more than that.. even the Asian grandma next to me is getting into the groove better than me.

So, I walked out of their remindimg myself I have "opportunities for improvement." Looking forward to next Sunday!

By the way, it took me 3 days to recover from the class and be able to move without pain. It was just in time for my zumba class tonight. My instructor had no bones in her body; she moved like she was made of springs.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Run with It!

Disclaimer: South African Oscar Pistorius is not a marathon runner. However, he's the most inspiring image for this post. 

 We've all heard the phrase - Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Marathon means running and endurance. Our life is not to just subsist and exist every day, but to get stronger and make progress. The sprinter needs to get to their short term goal quickly. Marathoners can take their time. And, they don't always make it or they may get broken along the way, physically or spiritually. The ones who break through the end have that look of incredulous pride as they're running with that ribbon stuck on their chest.

Everyone's running a marathon. I'm not referring to a physical running marathon a la "Chariots of Fire." We've got our own variations of marathons. We all have our paths in life. We have personal goals whether it's to lose 20 pounds or come up with the next Facebook concept or have a cupcake shop or just get into the corner office. Everyone's fired up this part of early January. Making changes in diet, exercise, careers to name a few. I do have a friend who is keeping his goals achievable by claiming his resolution is to try and drink scotch. 

1. First Step: I always joke that the hardest part about working out is tying sneakers. Really, once you get the shoes on, you can move forward with your intentions. When you've identified what your first step needs to be, it's bloody hard to do it. Sometimes it catches you off guard that you're being pushed into your first step. All you can do is take a deep breath and keep moving.

2. Stumbles: It's frustrating when you do feel like you're losing steam and not even sure why you're doing this. Somehow there's always something positive - perhaps very small - that happens that encourages you to stay on your path. These are the cups of cool water that are passed to marathoners. Runners drink or pour the water on their heads and keep going. Those are the little positive perks that remind you that you're not in it alone.

3. Are We There Yet?:  I'm in the middle of my own marathon right now - trying to keep my eye on the goal. It's frustrating because changes are not happening as quickly as I want. However, I've been encouraged recently that seeds I planted earlier are blossoming now. We have to go through this leg to learn patience and endurance.

4. Take a Look Back: Sometimes you don't know how far you've come, until you look behind you to see where you started. There needs to be an introspection and a time to congratulate and acknowledge your progress. You could be upset you've only lost 1lb after a week of hard work and have more to go. However, that 1 lb is 4 sticks of butter. That's amazing!

5: Finish Line: I'm not sure if there is a finish line. We are always realigning ourselves to new goals and achievements. If we don't, then there's no point in living.

I've seen many people who have lost that fire for their personal marathons. Their dullness and negativity is overwhelming. They just exist. It's awful because life is a gift that we've been given. We wake up every morning. There are many people did not do that today. You don't just take it for granted and live day to day in sameness, letting apathy rule.

This post is to encourage those who are setting personal goals and working towards them. Last phrase that I love: Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Keep your chin up and not down. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

As The World Ends.. (Again and Again)

 To go long with the failed Doomsday prophecies blog post, here's a graphic a reader sent me.
Seems that historically there have always been folks worried about the end of the world. It's as if you could enjoy life, but you still must live in fear of it suddenly being snatched from you. And, once that fear overcomes you, that's become a new goal. So, it's a bizarre cycle - the need to have a goal which happens to be the end. The best part of these naysayers is that the morning after the failed prophecy, they just dust off and realign their deadline to a new schedule. I wonder if anyone ever used MS Project for this?

Source: Badgets in Bed Infographic

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Fear and Consumption

The news has been saturated with violence, like bacteria that starts from within and turns into a plague. I feel like I've just been crying watching the news from the shootings of innocents in the US to mourning the little sister who was brutally raped and murdered in Delhi. I could dive into discussions on both topics, but I'll steer straight onto the situation in the US with violence.

They've been broadcasting "Bowling for Columbine" on TV since the Newtown, CT school shooting. It's amazing that this documentary was done in 2002 and all the observations are relevant, only the statistics would have changed. I saw this film years ago and ironically, since the gun control debates have kicked up, I was actually seeking BFC information. What exactly was the reason for increased gun violence in US, while Canada touts more hunters and they watch the same TV shows and video games?

In my mind, the answer comes from an unlikely source, Marilyn Manson. Here is the quote:

"... I think that's really ironic, that nobody said 'well maybe the President had an influence on this violent behavior' Because that's not the way the media wants to take it and spin it, and turn it into fear, because then you're watching television, you're watching the news, you're being pumped full of fear, there's floods, there's AIDS, there's murder, cut to commercial, buy the Acura, buy the Colgate, if you have bad breath they're not going to talk to you, if you have pimples, the girl's not going to fuck you, and it's just this campaign of fear, and consumption, and that's what I think it's all based on, the whole idea of 'keep everyone afraid, and they'll consume."

We've spent the 2012 being afraid. If Obama wins, the world will end as we know it and all of our freedoms and liberties will be plucked from us. If we hit December 21st, there will be an apocalyptic end to the world. And, oh good Lord, let's not forget the Fiscal Cliff we'll go over at midnight.
There's such a fear permeated through the media.

Marilyn is right about the commercials. They start off asking "are you victim of .." - being fat, having ear wax and using q-tips, having to chop vegetables by hand, etc. It starts at this level and then it goes to the news broadcasts. "Do you know what germs are lurking in your food?"

The common response by gun owners is that they have a gun to protect themselves. Why do they need the guns? They've been fed a steady diet of fear. This is the part I do not understand. If the US were under siege by its own government, as is the case in Syria, one should definitely have a gun. The rebels are defending their homes and families any way they can. In Yemen and other middle eastern countries, there's urgent situations and every day violence. I'm not seeing how or why middle-America with a Subway and Dunkin Donuts needs to have guns to protect themselves.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the
right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As for the 2nd amendment, I've been doing some more reading into the history of the right to bear arms. Historically, people needed to protect themselves against the tyrannical rulers of the day. There would be a citizen's army versus the royal army. Also, the colonialists had British soldiers raiding their homes and again, it was a need of protection. The country was full of rebels breaking from the current regime.

In the gun debate with the 2nd amendment umbrella, it's important to note that in 18th century, they were using muskets. A skilled musketeer could possibly reload twice in a minute. We're not talking about the 21st century military weapons that make it possible to kill so many people so quickly.

Yes there are wackos and could come after innocent people with knives and axes. However, the difference is the survival rates are higher for a weapon, other than a gun. A gun's intention is to kill.

I don't believe stringent gun laws will be the immediate remedy. Right now, it's critical to get the guns off the streets. I hear reports regularly on the radio about inner city Philadelphia crimes - drive by shootings where bystanders are shot in their homes. We could talk about preventive measures, but the disease has already been spread and needs to be cured.

Circling back to my primary argument about the Fear and Consumption mentality of this country, it does make sense. Jon Stewart has made a career out of dissecting Fox News propaganda of fear. He did a whole show about the War against Christmas. Shouldn't there be an actual news story on the news? If they don't find a fear propagating story, they may lose their raison d'etre.