Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Man of Steel is NOT Superman!

It's interesting how almost all brilliant world defying and changing ideas come from high schoolers or college drop outs. We all know how Apple and the like started.  Individuals who dared to think beyond an average Joe's imagination and said, Yes, it can be done, and more importantly did it. 

One such imaginative creation was Superman. Ok, it didn't change the world we live in, it didn't introduce us to any new gadgets or time saving devices, but it did create a super hero, which would give birth to more. Superman mostly known as a popular American icon is now global. He was born in 1933 from imaginative genius of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  Did you know that they first introduced him as a bad guy?  The comic did not succeed. They then reintroduced him as a super hero and it worked. And if I am not mistaken that was the time of depression, so a super hero was exactly what America needed at the time. Some one who would set it all straight. 

Fast forward to 1978 and Hollywood brings the character alive in the first Superman Movie with Christopher Reeve as Superman, Margot Kidder as Lois Lane; superman's lady love and Gene Hackman as the evil Lex Luthor.   The movie created history and was followed by sequels.  Superman IV: Quest for Peace released in 1987 was the last one with Christopher Reeve as the lead.   

At this point, I need to ask you a question: Have you seen these four movies? Are you a Superman (the original series) fan? If you answered yes to either of the questions, continue reading. If you answered no to both, then its okay to click the little "X" on your browser and move on. 

One is either a Superman fan or not. Its hard to watch these four sequels and come out indifferent, and YES i am a die hard fan of Superman movies. I remember watching them with my brother over and over again. There is obviously a nostalgia bias but even today Superman does not bore us. We can watch it again, and both of us have been trying very hard to get our spouses equally interested in it too. They like it, but not quite as much :) 

You Decide..
Even the poster does not compare
to the originals. 
So, you can only imagine my joy when I saw the trailer of Man of Steel. 2006 was when Superman Returns came to the screens and my reaction was ... "Not bad, it was actually quite nice."  I was very excited to go and see Man of Steel, with all the technology available today, I was looking forward to an amazing 2.5 hours of  movie time. 

Notice how I said "I was.., " because that's exactly what it was. This is the first time I am reviewing a movie in such detail and I give Man of Steel a B, only because it has the legacy of Superman attached to it. 

Man of Steel like Superman starts off with a shot of planet Krypton. I don't know if the creators of the comic named it after the chemically inert gas Krypton or not, but the planet Krypton did show many similar characteristics to the gas. The planet was shown as white with crystals all around. The crystals had a green glow to them. Interestingly Krypton gas when frozen is white and in its gaseous state has green and orange hues to it. Unlike the original, the 2013 version of Krypton is a dark rugged planet with jagged mountain edges. The planet in both cases is at the brink of destruction for different reasons, in 1978, the planet exploded because it was time. I guess every celestial body has an age limit.  In 2013, the planet had used up all its resources and was self destroying. 

In both cases, Krypton's brilliant scientist Jor-El and his wife have identified Earth as the safe destination for their only son Kal-El, who they pack and ship in a capsule that finds its way to a farming family in Kansas.  Unlike the original series, where in the parents through acts of baby Kal-El identify the unusual and super powers of the child, in the new movie they are presented as flash backs of the adult Kal-El.  

If you have seen the originals, then you know the chemistry between Lois Lane, the pretty reported from Daily Planet and Superman. That was missing BIG time in Man of Steel. In fact there was no chemistry, until the end when oddly enough the chemistry kicks in the midst of a Metropolis that is completely destroyed and blackened by the extensive fights between General Zod and Superman. 

There was no Lex Luthor in Man of Steel and yet I think I saw trucks in Metropolis that had Lexcorp written on it, or did I imagine that? It doesn't matter, because there can not be a Superman movie without Lex Luthor. 

An interesting twist in Man of Steel is challenging what the word S stands for.  S in the originals stands for Superman.  A word coined by Lois Lane after her first romantic flight with Superman. In 2013, S is not "S" as we Earthlings know it, it actually is the symbol of hope on the planet Krypton. So both General Zod and Superman have it for different reasons. Little did either one know that the symbol S on Superman is the family crest for the "House of El" which Superman belongs to. Why S? Well there are different theories but it could because the last names of the writers of the series ends with S :) 

Okay, you can call be picky, but Man of Steel needs some flying lessons. Who flies with closed fists? Either have your hands tightly pulled in next to your body or have the palms straight open to create the aero dynamics needed to fly.  

To sum it up, Man of Steel may have flown on the opening weekend, but it sure won't soar beyond that. It lacks the guiltlessness and purity of  the character Superman. The simple gestures he did and  that "feel good" feeling. Unlike the real Superman whose main goal in every battle was to take the evil doers away from planet Earth so the planet and its people would not be destroyed, the Man of Steel fights right in the middle of the city leaving Metropolis looking like a mountain of bricks, bended steel and broken glass.   

The endless battle with the squid like looking droids that strew out steel tentacles, General Zod and Superman destroys Earth completely. And considering how strong General Zod is, one would think he would die in an equally cosmic way, but instead all that was needed was a twist of neck. Superman could have done that in 90 minutes, but Man of Steel took close to 150 minutes to do the same task. 

Its interesting how the 2006 movie Superman Returns which had a perfect opportunity to a sequel was completely ignored and the writers and director spared no expense and effort to recreate a legacy which was great to begin with.  

It is true the world continues to need a hero but Man of Steel is not that hero.  

Could it be that the differences in the perception and direction of the two movies is a reflection of the times and world we live in today? You decide. 

I continue to believe in Superman. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dream On!

"Your dream doesn't have an expiration date. Take a deep breath and try again." 

A quote that I read on a friends FB wall is what inspired this post. 

A simple and a powerful thought that is often forgotten. We all have dreams and yet I am to meet a person who tells me, "I am living my dream." 

What are dreams? The dictionary defines it as "A series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind during sleep." Pretty boring. We all know dreams are much more than a series of thoughts and sensations running through our mind. 

Research after research has, is and will continue to happen to unravel this mysterious world we go to in to during our sleep, that we so fondly called "dream land."   The depth and space of "Dream land" I think is beyond our imagination for we have people who dream everyday, there our those who never remember a dream and then some of us can't fall asleep and some times our dreams scare us. Dream land seems to be a very interesting place so its not a surprise that for decades maybe even centuries scientists have been trying to unravel this mystery with little success though. 

Here's a question worth thinking about, Do we wish for it first or dream about it first?

My take, we wish about it first and then through our daily life, we give that wish a name, a face, a desire, a goal and if the wish is strong enough, we dream about it. 

Make a Dream Book. 
So do dreams come from wishes, I think so. Though I can assure you a scientist will say the opposite.  Dreams to me our my wishes coming true. Has it ever happened to you, that you sleep with a thought or a desire to complete a task, solve a puzzle or maybe wished that you could meet that friend you haven't seen for a long time.  And then when you wake up,  you have this brainwave on how to either solve the challenge or approach a situation and it works. Where did this brainwave come from? It just didn't happen. Something happened while you were asleep. While the child in me who still believes in Santa Claus  wants to say that yes, it was a fairy that came, the reality is it was your mind that was working like a silent machine and solving those puzzles for you. 

If you agree that wishes transform to dreams and a continued dream can become a reality with the dedication and hard work, then you will agree that "Dreams Have No Expiration Dates."

We all have dreams that have matured in age with us. From the child hood dreams of wanting to go to the moon, to bringing the T-Rex back to life,  dreams also change with age for most of us. There are only a few handful of us who have a child hood dream that carries forward to adulthood and it is these handful that are lucky enough to "live their dreams." These few individuals are the ones who are so passionate about their dreams that they don't let go, they keep them alive. 

Most of us let go of our dreams with the excuse "life, it happens." 

So what is or was your dream? What do you want to do when you grow up? 

Open a restaurant, have a painting exhibition, see the North Pole, climb Mount Everest, become a stellar investor, or maybe quit that job and be a great parent; what ever that dream, hold on to it. Maybe life has taken over today, but that's no reason to not think about your dream. Make your dream a reality with a "Dream book." Clip pictures, write down your thoughts, ideas anything related to your dream, add it your "Dream Book" and before you know it, you'll have a plan in action to make this dream a reality. 

Different cultures say it differently, but a very popular thought in all cultures is "when we want something really bad, nature works with us to make it happen." Be it your first love or that first dream, all you have to do is prove it to nature that YES, you want it really bad and its amazing how suddenly you will be living  your dream

Dreams are very powerful, keep them positive and alive. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Father and Me.

My relationship with my dad is an interesting one. It started with a sense of wonder as to who is he? 

I was 9 months old, when he was called upon by duty (no he is not in the army or any forces,) but none the less, duty called and he had to leave for Japan to bring back to India its first oil drilling rig Sagar Samrat. He was one of the electrical engineers on board. New job, new marriage, new daughter, the thrill and the honor of being chosen as one of the few to bring Sagar Samrat home. Very exciting times  for him. I was more than a year old, when he came back, and my mom now laughingly shares stories of how amused I was when everyone told baby Shilpa, that aren't you excited, "papa is coming home tomorrow," and there I would be wondering what is Papa? 

Sagar Samrat India's first drilling rig on a Rs. 1.00 note.
To be a part of this expedition, definitely a moment of pride. 
A 41 year old Japanese Doll.
He came and I hid behind my Mom's Saree, for I had never seen him before. He brought me the prettiest Japanese doll. The doll that my mom has so preciously preserved.Today after 41 years it still continues to sit demurely in my parents living room as the gentle and proud reminder of 1973. I don't remember my reaction to the doll, but I hope I had smiled.

My dad has a very distinctive voice, one of those voices that you hear once, it's kind of hard to forget. In fact many of his long lost friends and clients may forget his name, but they don't forget the voice. As an adult today, I can appreciate the base and depth of the voice, but as a one year old, I was scared of the heavy voice.  It took a while for me to warm up to him. Life moved on, 4 years later my parents were blessed with a son and I with a brother. But my relationship with dad, a strange mix of fear, respect, admiration and love continued to be the same.  

It wasn't until 10th grade when the fear started to vanish. 10th in India is a big deal. Students go through their Board Exams, which basically decides the path for the college. A high percentage gets one into science classes and a lower translates to commerce classes. Why, I have no clue. They both are equally challenging. But anyways, he declared, that I am not allowed any external tutors, for he is going to tutor me. Imagine my plight.  I mustered up the courage to tell him, that no matter how silly my mistake, he will not get angry.  I made him promise me. Sort of like a pinkie swear my son makes me do now. He agreed. And so started phase 2 of bonding with my father. 

Life moved on, after X came XII and then college. It all went off well. I know he cried at my graduation in engineering. Then came the job part. Working for others somehow never gelled with me. I tried it back then too and did not like it.  One day seeing me watching T.V at 10.00am in the morning,   he just said "Why don't you come work for me instead of watching this silly movie." I was 21 then. And yes, in India its not a taboo to be living with your parents at that age, in fact in 1992 it was a taboo if you didn't.  

Traditionally in India daughters leave their parents home only when they get married.  

I said okay and started working for him. And this began phase 3 of my relationship with my dad. A more matured relationship. This phase taught me about the working world. It taught me about organizing, planning, taking decisions, people skills, working on a computer and most importantly it taught me how to be an adult. This phase eliminated all fear and anxiousness. What was left was only respect, admiration and love.  It was during this phase I learnt the difference between hearing and listening, it was here that he taught me the difference between looking and seeing, it was here that he taught me all that I know. 

Time doesn't stop for anyone, and thankfully so.  It did not stop for me too... I got married, moved to U.S without a tear in my eye. That was a promise I had made to myself, I will not leave my parents home with tears, but a smile. It was a year later when I went back home and in one of the lighter conversations told how surprised I was that he did not cry during the marriage. It was then that he told me that after he had dropped off the last guest at the railway station, he found a bench and cried all he wanted. That night I cried too.  

Today the relationship that started from a sense of wonderment has evolved into a fatherly friendship. The girl who was scared to talk to her dad, today can talk to him about her pregnancy stories, parenting issues, and time value of money with equal ease. She has grown up and so has he. 

Today she knows that while dads are tough and strong they are also very soft and gentle, and I think they both agree that "daughters bring out the softer side of dads." 

Happy Fathers Day Papa ! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer Vacations.

Summer vacations, the time for kids to relax, unwind and do nothing. U think so? 

Growing up in the land that has cradled many a civilizations,  schooling in India was very different. At the end of final exams, we were promoted to the next grade and spent about a month in the new grade. This is sort of the prep time, where in the teachers warm up the students for the new challenges.  The fact that the 5th grade math teacher is the same as the 6th grade math teacher also helps. Unlike US,  the teachers are subject specific. The students don't rotate with their bag and baggage, they sit in one class, and the teachers move from one room to the other. Makes sense right, instead of moving the whole school every 30-40 minutes, move a few teachers. Less chaotic and less time lost. Coming back, after the prep time, we had about 6 weeks of summer vacation and then back to work. If we were lucky we would have no work, but in most cases, there was always a project or two to keep the grey cells alive.  

We all remember the "doing almost nothing" during summer vacations. Growing up, summer break was a time when it was okay to wake up late, take late showers and eat breakfast at lunch time.  Today while parents are scrambling to find a cost effective, safe, educationally stimulating and yet fun summer camp, kids on the other hand are hoping that they won't have to go anywhere and would have the freedom to chill (that's the word in my home.) 

There is no shortage today of media information constantly reminding parents how much learning is lost during the summer months and thus the need of summer camps that harp and advertise on how important it is to keep learning and not take a break.  Is that really vacation and has it always been like that in the U.S? 

Honestly, I don't know. I did Google around, didn't find anything very convincing, though there is enough argument that it could be because in the rural areas, families needed help with farming so the long break and in the urban America, the cities were hot and humid (remember there were no air-conditioned schools then) so it was more of a public health and safety concern that prompted the long breaks. And there is enough argument out there as to what is true and what is not. Regardless of the reasoning,  the fact remains, summer vacations are just way too long in the U.S. 

Most countries don't have such long vacations.  Which is better, long summer breaks or shorter ones? Its a topic worth debating and maybe its about time that the U.S education authorities pay attention to this too.  

The U.S education system is due for a major disruption.  The disruption has started at the higher education with universities such as UDEMY bringing a paradigm shift to gaining work specific knowledge.  With all states adopting the Common Core in the 2013-2014 school year, the process of change has started. I have researched this quite a bit, read quite a few blogposts on the subject and if implemented correctly, I do think it can bring positive results.  During this research, I got the feeling it's being modeled to give the U.S students more hands on skills and work related readiness so they can compete with the global world, which at this point is synonymous with the Asian continent. This is where I differ in opinion.  It's okay to model after a successful system, but then the teachers need to have the same freedom and resources, the school system needs to be very similar and so does the duration of the school. 

The question that baffles me when schools, teachers and all realize that kids forget quite a bit during summer, then why is it so long? In the U.S teachers spend the fall session recapping concepts studied in the previous grade and come December-January, its a ramp up and boom, the school is over in June.  A typical school year is only 180 days.  So next time, some thing is not working in school, remember its less than half the year, it will be over before you know it. 

The change is not coming anytime soon, so in all honesty, I am guilty of researching quite a bit on how will I keep the kids busy during summer. I have been told very strictly by an 11 year old, that no full day camps. Managed to convince him to go for an hour for 2 weeks to learn PPT, but beyond that what do I do? 

My older one starts 6th grade in the new school year and the younger one enters the world of schools, so the goal is to let them do what they choose to.  But the compulsive planner in me did come up with some plans, just to keep my sanity alive. Here is a list of some things I have in mind. Let's see if we do any of those or just end up with the Kindle in a corner :) 

  1. Found this Babbaco Box via another blog Another Jennifer, which by the way is a great blog to follow. 
  2. If you have a dinosaur lover at home, Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley  is a great place. The campus is beautiful too. Visit the Museum, explore the campus and don't forget to visit Viks for some great Indian food. Berkeley has some great parks too.  Make a day trip out of it. 
  3. If they have to go digital, give them something that is meaningful, Common Sense Media has a list of some great apps and reviews on what is appropriate and not. 
  4. Check your local movie theatre, they usually have summer movies for a fraction of the cost. Hey, ok I agree, they are not new movies, but some of those oldies and worth a second and third look too, and if you can do it for less money, why not? :) 
  5. Parent Further, this seems like an interesting website with some good tips on how to get the learning in summer going, without making it look like learning. In all honesty, I haven't browsed much on this site, but the little that I did, it seemed promising. 
  6. Let your child go to Pinterest, with one condition, the search words are "fun summer project" and let them choose what they want to make. As long as it is within reason, if they have to buy a thing or two, let them.  The joy of creating something just for fun can be experienced in summer only. 
  7. Its a great time to teach them help around the home. Sometimes an small incentive helps too. 
  8. Explore the neighborhood. the backyard Alphabet treasure hunt is a great game for little ones as you go on walks.  
  9. If there are no parks near by, don't forget your school. Public schools are open (at least ours is) to public during summer. The kids are always playing and kicking the ball around in our school. Personally, I like it better than the park, more contained, they usually end up meeting a friend, burn their energy and time flies by fast.
  10. Bay Area kid fun is a great website. It's listing is very comprehensive to search around.
And remember its okay if your child wants to lie down on the couch hanging upside down and stare at the ceiling.  If you don't understand the joy, try doing it yourself and if you choose not to, let him/her do it. You never know a brilliant idea might sprocket from the air. 

I'll let you know in September, how much of this we actually achieved. But I do know one thing, every morning is going to be a pancake morning or a french toast morning. Every lunch will be "Uhh... can we have something else," and every nite will be "so can I sleep at 12.00 today?" 

Have fun this summer everyone.  Who knows, with all the changes coming, soon this insanely long summer vacation might be replaced by globally popular six week break and then Yes, I know we will all miss this time.  

Every summer has a story, write yours this summer.