Category Archives: films

superwoman was already here!

This is a very nice video on the Montessori method by one Daniel C. Petter-Lipstein. May he ‘do’ more such moving images… (link via Christopher Shea)

Enjoy and reflect upon this nice presentation please!

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the joy of music and dance

Some of us oldies would recollect that a few years back, there was this concept of ‘Flash Mobs’ all over the world, inspired by the ideas of of Howard Rheingold (if my memory proves correct) – these are groups formed adhoc in a given location, to do some adhoc things and then disperse. Apparently these kinds of things still go on – and some of them with a very good preparation and prior planning (no adhocism here at all!).

Here is an improvised sequence ‘Do Re Mi’ – from that film The Sound of Music (1965) – performed by a Flash Mob. (I never did like the melodramatic film, but the songs definitely are lilting – especially this joyous rendition…)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7EYAUazLI9k&feature=player_detailpage

“More than 200 dancers were performing their version of “Do Re Mi”, in the Central Station of Antwerp. with just 2 rehearsals they created this amazing stunt! Those 4 fantastic minutes started the 23 of march 2009, 08:00 AM. It is a promotion stunt for a Belgian television program, where they are looking for someone to play the leading role, in the musical of “The Sound of Music”

There is this medley of melodies/songs – supposedly an ad for ‘T Mobile’ (a mobile service provider under the banner of Deutche Telecom) – spontaneous and lovely.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ3d3KigPQM&feature=related

Please take some 10 minutes off from your schedule and enjoy these short films!

rainwater saving – an erdkinder occupation

During the course of the current adolescent programme (erdkinder) – we have had a few ‘2 month stretches’ of real life professions & occupations. One of them happened to be on rainwater saving – and as part of this, the children completed the setting up of a rainwater collection and saving structure (for one of the school buildings) apart from understanding the necessary theories and concepts behind the idea.

We were helped in this occupation by Karan Singh and Avinash Krishnamoorthy of Biome Environmental Solutions Pvt Ltd. These two young men have been part of a small team, evangelizing ‘Rainwater Saving’ and are implementing solutions all over India, having been ably guided by Vishwanath – the ZenRainman.

Here is a link to a detailed blog post of Karan (about the nammashaale programme): http://biometrust.blogspot.com/2010/10/teaching-rwh-at-nammashale.html

Avinash’s video of a school session: www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9WFBX9p0MY

The URLs of the entities in which the two young men are involved: www.rainwaterclub.org,
www.biome-solutions.com

Thanks Avinash and Karan – you did a great job. ūüôā

debra granik: winter’s bone (2010)

Once in a while a genuine, technically perfect and haunting film appears from USA and floors the (film)seekers.

And, mostly it is not made by the behemoth studios / corps that create the mediocre films (tagged Hollywood) – it is actually made by independent and otherwise nondescript production companies and by brilliant directors who do not believe in insulting the intelligence of the audience.

These real films do not have maudlin melodramatic content or tomato-sauce strewn action sequences or stereotypes or cliches or black/white schisms (lately the computer graphics oriented nonsense that is¬†de riguer in many of these flicks has also added to my list of woes!)… What these independent films offer are very good and plausible storylines, excellent acting, locale specific accents, taut scripts, brilliant cinematography, unobtrusive and gelled background scores, authentic locations and skilled editing – and they demolish all myths about USA and the stereotypes that we (the non Americans) have in our heads about America and Americans – all with effortless ease and very naturally.

They do not condescend to tell you the story giving all the details all the time Рthus leaving nothing to our imagination, extrapolation and pondering. They do not see life in black and white. They are nuanced. They do not pretend to preach.

“The mediocre movie explains everything twice and always means exactly what it says. It waves its sincerity aloft like a truce flag. It leaves no questions unanswered. It tells you exactly where you should stand in relation to its characters and its subject matter. It is frequently soothing because it tells you that you are right. Then, too, it can be like an unrelenting host who holds you captive until you finish every last morsel on the plate. But it tends not to stick in the memory because there’s nothing there to wonder about.”
— Vincent Canby

And so, I saw this flick – winter’s bone – and was completely floored by the simple story of a quest of an young girl to live with her self-esteem and her family intact. ¬†That the story happens in a crime ridden and meth-filled atmosphere in the Ozarks is a mere detail. But, the fact that this film authentically represents parts of the real USA – its demographic elements that are not generally dealt with or given due respect by the media – is more important.

Hope Debra continues to create great films.

I think “winter’s bone” will be in my personal list of 100 decent films (from all over the world) for a while.

Strongly recommended.

the faking of news

One of the nice things that we get to enjoy in our boondocksy life is that, there is no constant invasion of our minds by TV channels and their screaming anchors & other such asinine louse souls, no offence meant at my dear donkeys, of course.

However, one does get to ‘see’ some bits of TV here and there, especially when visiting other folks’ homes¬† – and sometimes I do get to occasionally discuss some excesses of the TV reportage with our impressionable adolescents at the school – now,¬† hold your breadth, we discussed the voyeuristic coverage (and self-righteous condemnations) of the invasions into the privacy of ¬†‘alleged’ young Nithyananda (who was perhaps merely affected by hormones, like it happens to the rest of us) and it was interesting to listen to the views of the adolescents. Many of them had either seen (!) the footages or had heard (!!) the details of the frames from others – and, more importantly, had their individual opinions

And NO, sirs and madams, we did not talk about the angle ¬†of the¬† ‘consenting adults’ who have every right to do whatever they feel is right, as long as what they do, does not impinge on the rights and freedoms of the other individuals. Nor did we discuss the bottomless abyss of a schism that exists between the so called talking and their actual walking. So, please heave sighs of relief.

Our idea was mainly to discuss to media misrepresentations of happenings and deliberately skewed reportage. We may eventually incorporate some of Noam Chomsky’s ideas too in our future discussions, in spite of the empty rhetoric in most of his ideas and his grandiose theories with veritable holes (example: ‘the theory of universal grammar’), and the deep schism that exists between what he preaches and what he actually practices. But Chomsky is a reasonable starting point. However, the sooner one gets to go beyond Chomsky, the better it is! ¬†(more on these and other stuff, later)

Now, here’s a very humorous ‘in your face’ kind of swipe against the news peddlers ¬†by Charlie Brooker. Please ignore the expletives in his sarcastic takes, if you must.

The world’s most generic news report – Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe (this has embedded subtitles, just in case you needed it)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpVTUdfcEMg&feature=fvw

There are more such parodies off the same Brooker, in the same youtube page. All good quality stuff, strongly recommended.

I also recall that, in that nicely crafted film – A Wednesday – the film director Neeraj Pandey takes a delicious swipe at how the news ‘making’ happens.

Enjoy – more importantly, reflect!

arvind gupta: learners’ library on dvd

Of course, Arvind Gupta needs no introduction. However, if you must have one, then here is one version: Toying with science РRasika Dhavse profiles Arvind Gupta, winner of the National Award for Science Popularisation.

Single handedly, he has done a million things for the propagation of science and quest for knowledge (in India) than many other erudite people, entire organizations and well funded random NGOs.

He has been compiling fantastic articles, films & books on very interesting ideas around history, science, teaching (and learning – is there any difference between these two at all?) etc etc and has delightfully put them together, giving the whole world on a platter dvd to the whole world – for a pittance (Rs. 100/- only).

Please buy the DVD.  I have read / studied / viewed most of the content via http over the past few years. The content is lovely. He must have spent months if not years on the compilation! What a religious scientific fervour! Well done, Arvind!

Many of the items are in ‘public domain’ – but, for some of the rest, they fall in the delectable gray area – Copyright? Copyleft?? All rights reserved? All rights wronged? All lefts righted? Or all rites actually reversed?? Sirs and madams, what else – I think the idea of Arvind is noble, all said and done!

Here’s a verbatim cut and paste of the promotional email from Nyla Coelho of TaleemNet (via Ramgopal Koneripalli) that I got: (and further down, details for payment)

“Dear all,

Arvind Gupta, as most know, has over the years single handedly and single mindedly put together resource and reference material for making learning fun and stress free. Most individuals with some concern or interest in education, atleast in India, have visited his website http://www.arvindguptatoys.com.

Here is a treat for all from him packed into a single DVD titled Learning Library on DVD.

Written on it are:

1000 e-books on education, peace, environment, science, math and books for children

145 short films on toys from trash

Photo Plaza- 5500 photographs of 500 science models

Love of Live (Passions of a Japanese Teacher) a NHK Award Film

Do Flowers Fly (film based on Danger School)

Story of Stuff (9-million viewers)

Story of Bottled Water

A Few deeply inspiring TED talks on Education

Can anyone ask for more?

Modestly priced at Rs. 100/- including postage, it‚Äôs a treasure for free. [It is actually 100 + ¬†25 for postage — ramjee]

Send your order along with postal address and payment to Arvind Gupta at IUCAA, Pune University, Ganeshkhind, Pune 411 007 Maharashtra.

Email: arvindguptatoys@gmail.com Phone: 020-25604602

(P.S.: kindly include bank collection charges if paying vide cheque)

Spread the news widely.

Nyla Coelho”

Details of payment mode below (pasted from Arvind’s mail):

“Yes, it would be much easier to transfer money through electornic Bank transfer.Rs 125/- per DVD (including 25/- for Speed Post)

Name of Account Holder: Vimala Pandhe
Name of Bank: Bank of Baroda
Branch: Senapati Bapat Road, Pune
Account No. 98060100000372
IFS Code: BARB0EXTPOO
(NOTE: THE FIFTH ENTRY IS ZERO)
Nature of account: Savings Bank

Or else people can send me a cheque (at par) or D/D) payable to Arvind Gupta at Pune Address

Arvind Gupta
IUCAA
Pune University, Ganeshkhind, Pune 411007
email: arvindtoys@gmail.com
website: http://arvindguptatoys.com”

Please encourage Arvind – buy the DVD. I am absolutely sure the cost of your acquisition (at Rs 100/- per disk image + Rs 25/- for postage) won’t ¬†begin to compensate even a zillionth of the effort put in by Arvind. ¬†Still, a token is well, a token. And, token gestures are important too.

Thanks in advance!

the school of ‘helicopter parenting’

How to begin to educate a child? First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning.

— D. H. Lawrence (in Times Educational Supplement, circa 1918 in an essay titled ‘Education of the People’)

I used to think that the hovering, overbearing parents that are the bane (to put it mildly, I would actually say pests) of¬† only some children and that this kind of degenerate concept is perhaps only applicable to the Occident and not to us in India. How na√Įve¬†I was! Just because my parents weren’t helicopters, how dare can I think that all other children are / were blessed the same way!

So, it was quite a shock when I realized that there are these kinds of parents who constantly breath down their children’s neck, also amidst us in India ¬†– and ohmygod, among my relatives, acquaintances et al too, but I still thought they were only in a minority. And for a while, when I was busy in my ‘professional work,’ I did not bother about these modes of amusements, as there were many more.

But these days, delightfully for me (and rather sadly for the involved hapless children), I bump into such parents who subscribe to this ‘helicopter parenting’ school of thought in Bangalore, with alarming regularity and frequency. But, I tell myself that these are the¬† days of glorified & unbridled globalization after all, and so naturally, the illustrious city of Bangalore is a representative microcosm of the rest of the world…

These whirlybird yuppie parents religiously follow their children, endlessly tutor them, ‘show’ them around the world including the antarctic & the amazon, pattaaya to patagonia, protect them from all kinds of imagined evils and influences from the rest of the world, lay a red carpet for them in whatever direction the children condescend to move, sweep the floor in which the children would regally walk on, ferry them from one coaching / training class to the other, ¬†embarrassingly coddle them,¬† blame the other children for the perceived poor performance of their children – getting their children whatever gadget the parents think they will need, giving them whatever exposure that the parents think their children need, ¬†the works! (and of course, all through this frenzy of asphyxiation, the children are almost never asked for their preferences – and, the children eventually clam up; so expect to see more serial killers in future!)

When I was in the thick of my earlier avatars, I have had these kinds of sad parents visiting me — for some last minute, desperate ‘science fair’ project ideas for their children, driving down 20 odd kilometers one way, just for some some random (and amused) suggestions from me! However, the child will usually not condescend to go with his/her parents on these sojourns or may be the parents wanted to spring a ‘pleasant’ surprise on their lazy children –¬† ” Close your eyes and hold out your hands, Pinky dear! We have brought your science fair project! We are sure your project will be the best exhibit in your school and you will win a trip to NASA yadda yadda…”

It would of course be out of place to mention here that, at least one of such children from the illustrious helicopter parentage has made it to the famous IITs, in spite of my best efforts! (this brings me back to my bête noire Рthe IIT system!)

I have always asked myself as to what are the motivating factors for such pathetic parents.¬† I would think they bend over backwards to please their children, make them do all kinds of things that these parents feel that they should have done in their childhood – perhaps with a view to reaping the benefits later – may be some parents consider this hovering as an insurance premium. ¬†May be they feel that they want to give ‘their best’ ¬†(hic) to their children. May be they merely feel that their children are some cute products that need to be developed. May be the parents feel that they have to invest in their children so that later their brats will fetch a good price in the dowry market. Whatever.

Image captured from: CBC doc "Hyper Parents, Coddled Kids"

hover crafters

One can see these ‘attaboy’ shouting parent types near any cricket / chess / tennis / keyboard / bharatanatyam / ballet / theatre / kathakali training centers. If the child commits a mistake, they tear him to pieces. If he does anything even slightly better, then he is showered with all kinds of affections and affectations! There is NO moderation at all! So, the child which is produced (and developed) by these helicopter parents, always does any given thing with a view to merely pleasing the others, or worse still – expects to get standing ovations (and instant recognition) just because he does something significant in his opinion. It could be even his mere graceful presence or the fact that he regularly warms his seat! O tempora! O mores!!

The result is this arrogant sense of entitlement that is present in these children, to anything & everything, without contributing even an iota to anything!

Image captured from: CBC doc "Hyper Parents, Coddled Kids"

cleaning the sidewalk for their sonnyboy!

I squirm when parents refer to their child as a ‘prince’ or a ‘princess’ – the child that is thoroughly¬† spoilt this way is NEVER going to learn the important concepts of self-reliance, or perseverance or for that matter — the dignity of labour, the sine qua non for a good performance in any realm. All that this spoilt child would have later in life is, this arrogant sense of entitlement!

'top down' exam / test guidance

IB? IGCSE? ICSE? CBSE?? Or only the state board?? The parents want the children to take the best examination / certification (in their generally warped opinion), and the more ‘international’ and ‘farther away from the homeland’ the board is, the better it is for them (not for the children) – they constantly supervise & monitor the activities of their children so that the latter do really well in academics… These parents are more interested in making acadummies out of their otherwise normal children! Are they interested only in creating ‘miniature themselves’ out of their children? Or in creating ‘miniature non-themselves’ out of them?? It is really hard to fathom, but either way, it is really sad.

I have personally seen the wrecks that many of these young men and women eventually turn in to. They are either supercilious & arrogant or meek & opinionless! In either case, I would like to compost them, if they are easily compostable, that is!

Many of these parents do a very thorough job of creating splendidly colourless personalities out of their own children, who could have otherwise exercised¬† rational choices out of limitless possibilities and endless potential at their disposal…

You would think that the parents would stop their asinine behaviour once their wards finish with their bachelor’s or a master’s degree.

No sir. Bad habits die hard. Sometimes, these ‘helicopter’ parents even ¬†visit and plead with the recruiters, on behalf of their sonnyboys – post the acadummic qualifications of their wards!

In fact, a decade back or so when I was actively recruiting (for companies that I worked for), some parents have indeed pleaded with me with glassy eyes, folded hands and quivering voices, beseeching me to ‘give my son, a chance!’ &^%$#@

'Now that you have that degree, you should apply to this MNC..'

I would request all these helicopter parents to give their children a fighting chance of leading a normal life. It is not too late. Your children are just in their elementary stage. Let them relax and learn at their own pace. Let them be. They would do well. They are smart, considerate and fine individuals in spite of you hovering parents’ best efforts. They will not disappoint their parents the ¬†way you disappointed your parents. Relax.

In short: Helicopter parents! Go get a life.

I strongly recommend the cheeky, thought provoking documentary on the subject РHyper Parents & Coddled Kids Рof  CBC/ Canada; a commendable film by the duo РSharon Bartlett and Maria LeRose.

— END —

What? Are you asking me why I stopped adding discontent to this post with only some 1400 words in it? ¬†Don’t you realize that my co-pilot has given me a last boarding call for our helicopter?? We have got to go hover over the head of our daughter, as we think she needs our constant presence, advice and support – after all she is working on her secret science project on her own… After she is done with that we will have to take our princess to Freakin’ Robbers iScream parlour to celebrate it. I am in a hovering hurry, sorry.

our daily bread (2005) – some reflections

We (at the ErdKinder environment, I mean) get (also) to ‘see’ a lot of¬†¬†films and¬†this ‘Our Daily Bread’¬†happened to be one of those. And, ¬†we had some discussions centred around the film – and, had a written ‘test’ to boot, to collect the thoughts and¬†reflections of our children. More on this, and the content of the ‘question paper’ further down this post…

For anyone who is even remotely concerned with the  food (and by extension, our dear life)  related issues that our world is facing and especially the mass production and consumption angles Рthis film is a heart wrenching reminder of the grim situation. The film has little commentary, anyway the moving images speak volumes and volumes Рtechnically also, it is one of the most canonically produced pieces of cinema verite.

dvd cover / wrapper image

Now, the text of the questions that were given to our ErdKinder is given below; of course, I must also add that the children did a fabulous job of sharing their reflections, I have just finished reading them Рand this good stuff can only be blamed on a good montessori environment at the school and of course the parentage of these children.  May the blames continue!

BEGIN=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=–=

Our Daily Bread РUnser täglich Brot (2005)
Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter
Questions for reflection

Hope you have thought about the film, its content, and its context. You may recollect the discussions we have had, after viewing the film. May be you even discussed with some other adults about the film; in which case, it would be even easier to collect your thoughts.

Now, read the whole set of questions below, think and write your views / answers clearly and legibly. Please note that there are NO correct, black & white answers ‚Äď save a few ‚Äėfactual‚Äô questions.

You can take up to 2 hours. Blank answers will invite my wrath ‚Äď you know how it is, yeah? Answers ‚Äėfor the sake of answers‚Äô will result in a ban for three subsequent films that have been planned.

Think and then, write!
—————————————————————————-

1. Name and explain the two phrases that we used in the post-film discussion ‚Äď one to describe our attitudes about non-human things and the other about this type of documentary. ( 2 sentences)
2. What is the name of the India’s biggest abattoir and where is it located? (2 sentences)
3. Would you consider the following quote from Wendell Berry (from the book ‚ÄėWhat Are People For?‚Äô) ‚Äď a part summary of the film? Why? Why not?¬† “I dislike the thought that some animal has been made miserable to feed me. If I am going to eat meat, I want it to be from an animal that has lived a pleasant, uncrowded life outdoors, on bountiful pasture, with good water nearby and trees for shade.” (5 sentences)
4. In what ways a factory production mechanism makes it easy for consumers to consume food ‚Äď examples of food: veggies, fruits, meat etc. (10 sentences)
5. What do you understand by the term ‚ÄėEconomies of scale?‚Äô (5 sentences)
6. You have seen quite a few documentaries. This documentary had no voice-over. Why? If some commentary were there, would it have improved our understanding? What is the point? (5 sentences)
7. How many different types of harvesters did we see in the movie? Name the contexts. Why can’t we have only one kind of harvester to do all kinds of harvesting? (5 sentences)
8. In many of the harvesting farms, we saw various kinds of labourers. What was the single most striking feature of them? Why? (4 sentences)
9. There were a few specific camera angles that were repeatedly used in the film for effect. What are those effects? Could you name any of the shoot sequences?
10. Why were there some long shots of workers eating and having their lunches ‚Äď with uncomfortable close-ups? (5 sentences)
11. You may recollect the hormones that were injected in animals to make them fatter / heavier. What are the physiological & psychological repercussions for us, if we consume them. (5 sentences)
12. Why do you think the pesticide sprayers had masks on, whereas the fruit pickers had only hand gloves at best? (3 sentences)
13. Obviously a whole of lot of cleaning is being done at frequent intervals in all these farms / factories. What happens to the things that are removed thus? (5 sentences)
14. Some of us were laughing and joking about some of the scenes. What were those scenes? What do you think are the reasons for this behaviour? (10 sentences)
15. The title is taken from the Bible ‚Äď ‚ÄėGive us our Daily Bread‚Äô ‚Äď now, what is the connection? (5 sentences)
16. What do you think is the main aim of the film? Do you think it comes thru’ clearly? In what ways the film can be improved, given what you think is the aim? Do you think some scenes were not required? Were some shots overdone? If you were to convey the same message, would you do it differently? Explain with details. (50 sentences)

Happy healthy food eating, and oh well, presenting your views too!

END=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=–=

As I said earlier, the children did very well. Now that gives me hope!

Here is the IMDB link for the film. The webpages of the film are also  very nicely done.