From the Ashes a Fire Shall Be Woken

Very few movies have me on tenterhooks, tense with anticipation and excitement. This year, 2012, ushered in an early onset of nerves; for The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit. Since I have precisely 5 months to build up to the second and am still reeling from the after-effects of an early morning showing of the first, I shall deal with the first.

I must say, before I get any more into it, Christopher Nolan is genius. The man is spectacular! He sustained a comic book character, that has been on screen since the 1960’s, through three movies, three brilliant storylines that have kept everyone on their toes.

One of the main reasons I’ve fallen in love with Nolan’s trilogy, starting with the first Batman Begins, is that he made Batman more human and realistic. “He could be anyone” to quote from the film and it comes through to you while you watch it, be it in Bruce Wayne‘s dulcet billionaire playboy tones, or in the gruff vigilante’s. He made it more than just a movie – which is usually supposed to be a popcorn & drink affair. He made it so real that you feel yourself being taken in by the story, you feel the pain, the fear, the exultation, the displeasure, the pleasure, the unworthiness, the tribulations, the injustice, the compassion… the need to make things right, to fix it, to be involved in something larger than life. It makes you want to believe. That was the essence, and the magic, that Nolan wove into each of his movies and he has ended it on an absolutely fantastic note. I could not have asked for more.

I haven’t watched a lot of superhero movies because they’re literally almost the same. Iron Man was good because of the dialog, The Avengers and The Hulk too. But it’s not realistic. I mean, when compared to Nolan’s Batman. At least to me. Most superhero movies stick with the theme of – I’m good, there’s a bad guy, I’ll try to beat him, I can’t, I’ll try again, and I win. Yes, in theory Batman is the same, but while you watch the movie you begin to deal with a tumult of emotions. Watch, for instance, the last few minutes of The Dark Knight.

You understand sacrifice and are left with a need to do more. It speaks to you on a human level, one you can identify with because it’s all true. Even the evil ones – Ra’s al Ghul, The Joker, Bane – are perfect. We see and hear of atrocities happening all over the world and the bad guys in the Batman series give you that. That men can be brought down by pure evil. Harvey Dent, for example. “(The Joker) took the best of us and tore him down” as Commissioner Gordon says in the second movie. Isn’t that true in real life? Corruption and manipulation?

There’s also the human spirit that Nolan emphasizes on. That mankind is not doomed to evil, that we not always need superheroes to save us. People are enough. People that have morals. Bruce Wayne, billionaire philanthropist that he is, wants to do good for his city. That’s why he comes back and becomes the masked crusader. He believes that his city deserves more and is willing to sacrifice for it, as Batman. The innate faith in people is something that should exist and it’s beautifully brought out in all three movies.

I came out of the theater speechless. Literally. I’ve loved the movies, as I’ve stated before, and couldn’t have been more satisfied with the way it ended. It gave me all I wanted. I felt every possible humanly emotion at 6:00am in the morning and as I told a friend – I hyperventilated for approximately 160 minutes. Hans Zimmer‘s composition aided in making me feel that way because I was already in that tense, open eyed state since the soundtrack was release a few days before the movie.

This movie, along with the other two that make up the trilogy, will remain as one my all time favorites. Not just because of its darkness but because of its near accurate representation of reality. (Here’re some quotes from the trilogy, as a parting gift).

I think the following lines from J.R.R. Tolkien’s poem about Aragorn are appropriate:

“From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring”

He is a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A Dark Knight.

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Pride & Prejudice – The Play

I love my books and I like good adaptations of them as movies, plays, musicals, television series, etc. So, when my Deutschlehrerin casually told me that she was going to watch Pride & Prejudice I went, literally, berserk. How could I have not known about it?!

The Lifeline Theatre, Chicago

A little theater company called the Lifeline Theatre was putting up a two month production of Pride & Prejudice – the third in its history. Naturally, I didn’t care where it was (just a half-hour ride on the CTA Red Line, so that was good) or how much the tickets cost (a reasonably priced ticket actually), I looked for a weekend when I would be able to attend, not even bothering to consult the guests I was supposed to be hosting last evening, and got my tickets.

 I was excited, but a bit subdued. No use getting my hopes up only to be disappointed, I told myself. This is, after all, my most beloved book ever. Nothing else that I have read in the thirteen years since has compared to Miss Austen’s writing. North & South comes a close second in the genre, but over all, P & P has never been ousted from it’s position of ‘No. 1 Favorite of All Time‘. Thankfully, it wasn’t to be so.

It was a small stage, very well setup, with a cast of ten – some playing multiple roles. It begins as it should –

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

And for two and a half hours – with a break after the first act, which ends with the Bingley quitting Netherfield – one is treated to the very story that has given rise to many a fantasy, for women, to find their own Mr. Darcy. There are several scenes from the book that are cut out, and characters remain unused, but it isn’t noticeable in the flow of the adaptation. The essence of satire and drama, the very ones that Miss Austen intended bring out in her works, are retained admirably. The actors were good – each of them taking on their characters easily. You could believe that they are the ones from the book. Of course I wished it were Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, because he is my favorite Mr. Darcy, but this performance didn’t leave me wanting for more. The script stayed honest to the lines from the book – I caught myself reciting with the actors many a time – and some added jibes which had a very Austen-esque feel to it.

The Staging Area for Pride & Prejudice

An aspect that very few plays take into consideration is the audience participation – mainly because the actors shouldn’t be distracted – but this one did it well. Elizabeth Bennett speaks to the audience, not necessarily expecting a response, just as Austen speaks to the readers occasionally.

I had the added advantage of sitting in a corner of the very first row and could see every actor and every part of the stage with great clarity. It was like being a part of the whole story once more. I could imagine the grounds of Pemberley, the Netherfield ballroom and the assembly rooms at Meryton with ease, just using the characters as puppets in my imagination. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right? 😉

Fact remains that the book is always better, no argument there from any quarter, and it isn’t exactly easy to adapt anyway. At least, into a stage performance. For that the adaptor and director have my congratulations. They’ve done it justice – and it isn’t very easy to satisfy die-hard Austen fans.

A short talk with the director and a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, which was also attended by the principal cast members – Mr. Darcy, Eliza Bennett and Mr. Bingley, was a good way to end an enjoyable evening.

I have now discovered another gem within the city and I know I will return for more.

My Irish Weekend

The Irish are fascinating, aren’t they? My earliest interaction with the Irish began with leprechauns, as is with most children outside of Ireland, I think. Little old men with pots of gold… 🙂

My festivities began rather early. From the end of January, if memory serves right, when I found out (it is for this reason alone that I’m glad I have a newspaper subscription) that the Riverdance company would be performing Chicago. I’d watched Michael Flatley‘s Riverdance and Lord of the Dance shows as a child, most than a decade ago, and while I was a bit put off that it wasn’t his company, I still delighted in the prospect of watching a live performance of Irish tap dancing!

The Oriental Theater, Chicago

I fretted over the tickets for a good while before I paid up and got, what I deemed, the best seat possible. I’m pleased to report that it was all worth it. The Oriental Theater/Ford Theater itself was a bit of a surprise for me, what with all the awesome carvings all over, and a rather sophisticated and old feel to it. Anyway. One and a half hours of awe-inspiring tap dancing, in both hard and soft shoes, a fiery flamenco performance, foot tapping (get it? :P) pieces by two tappers who also gave the show a comic feel, wonderful and moving instrumental pieces (drums, violin and pipes), singers and the grand finale with the entire company joining in in song and dance. Here’s the breakdown of the two acts, scene by scene. I loved the perfection of the dance; they made it seem so simple and easy to stand on ones toes and prance about with seemingly no effort! Next step, go watch Michael Flatley! 🙂

Riverdance

Now, when I moved to Chicago two year back, I had been told of the tradition of dyeing the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day. Most (un)fortunately, St. Patrick’s Day has always fallen on a weekend of Spring break, which meant I was never in the city to witness the splendor of watching the brownish waters of the river turn neon green for a few hours. This year, I made my trip home early in the month so I was around to watch this happen!

Given the freakishly warm season and the rather unexpected early onset of Spring (Chicagoans would know exactly what I mean by this), I knew it would be crowded. But nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for the thousands of people lined up along the Riverwalk, river, and bridges. If I thought the dyeing of the river was crowded, I was in for a bit of a shock when I walked through the throng of people, all dressed in green, towards Grant Park onto Congress Parkway where the parade was underway. Thousands and thousands of people! The final count, I believe was more than 350,000! I mean, seriously!! I wonder where all these people have been in the past few months, because I’ve never ever seen so many people on the streets of the Windy City in my time here! I guess the weather brought them out 🙂 But apparently this happens every year for St. Paddy’s.

East view of the Chicago River from the river walk
Looking west
Canoes on the river!
Some thousand people at the parade

10 Reasons I Love Libraries

I have loved libraries for as long as I can remember. I have loved books even longer than that. There’s just something about the way a library is structured – architecturally and internally – that draws me to them, the sights and smell. Ah! The smell of a thousand books waiting to be read…

I’ve been to my fair share of new cities, and the first place I seek out is the local library (or, God forbid, if there isn’t one close enough, the closest bookstore). I’ve carried a library card far more often than I have an ID card!

  1. It’s FREE – You join for free and you get to take books out for free! You pay nothing – well, perhaps you do, by way of tax, but that’s different. You have access to a multitude of books and they exist solely for your pleasure! They are just sitting on shelves, waiting to be picked up!! All they want is some indulgence from you, and your time to enjoy what they have to offer 🙂
  2. The collection – Where else would you find a physical collection of the written or spoken word? Yes, of course the internet, but that’s not physical. I mean a collection of books, magazines, music and movies that you can actually touch and feel. You have literature, anthologies, biographies, newspapers, magazines, CD’s, DVD’s, from all walks of life in a variety of languages, in different colors, shapes and sizes. It’s heaven. The knowledge that awaits you is incredible and it never ceases to amaze me that all of it is so readily available for the taking. I have Milton, Chaucer, Dostoevsky at arm’s length, I may study evolution with Darwin, look into the vast unknown of space through Galileo’s eyes, indulge in 19th century feminism, read of the politics of the Romans, take over countries and establish empires, find my roots, learn history… yes, and get carried away 🙂
  3. Architecture – If you’ve noticed, most of the largest libraries are housed in grand buildings that provide an architectural landmark to the place they are situated in. Modern libraries and those that have survived time, all are proof of this notion. I have not been to many ‘modern’ libraries, I shall admit, but am convinced that they are fantastic, just because they are libraries. But the older ones, the large stone structures with the gargoyles and marble staircases, immediately put me at ease. I could just stare at the facade of a library and be content, knowing that when they were constructed it was done with religious precision. The sole purpose of having these buildings, apart from temples, was serve as a depository of knowledge that could be accessed by those who seek it. If you look closely enough, these buildings speak of that commitment.
  4. Information – I’ll admit it isn’t as easy as clicking on a link online, but it’s all there. You’ll almost never arrive at a ‘red link’ that gives you an HTTP 404 error 😉 If you don’t find it, it means you didn’t look enough. There is something quite satiating in knowing that you did all of the researching work, instead of having Google tell you which page you need to go look at first! Besides, if there’s something you can’t find, you can actually interact with librarians, who are experts at finding things. They’ll lead you in the right direction. There’s human interaction! Besides, if you think you’d rather trust a computer and or or the internet, that’s available too!
  5. It’s Quiet – When I want my peace of mind, I read. Or I walk by, or just stare at, the lake. While I prefer the comfort of my most comfy chair, I wouldn’t really mind sitting at a library surrounded by books. People respect silence here. You’d here the odd scrape of a chair or the copying machine or the scanner, muffled footsteps, some tapping of the keyboard, a soft giggle, that swish of a crispy sound when books slide against each other when being put back onto or being pulled from a shelf. You may relax. (This may not work for me because I’m fidgety and wouldn’t be able to hold my concentration that long, but a lot of people have told me it works).
  6. Social – You meet people. Most people that go to a library are readers. They appreciate stories and writing, that’s why they’re there. No book is uninteresting, except maybe the 150-page romance novels, which, in their defense, provide someone an excuse for reading, even if it does not contribute to the mind’s natural thirst for knowledge. I’d wager that at some point, each person that has been in a library, has had a conversation about books with a stranger they just met. Be it a book he’s holding that you’ve read, or vice-versa, or a book you both are reaching for. You’re socializing. It may be a moment of interaction, but it serves for conversation and provides food for thought. You make and receive recommendations. You may or may not take it seriously, but you do consider it. That’s social interaction for you, in a library. (I once had a very entertaining conversation about gardening with a lady, who had an acre large garden, while waiting in the check-out line at the library.) There are also book clubs that you can sign up for at your library!
  7. Literary events – Remember going to reading sessions and story-time at a book store when you were a kid? That’s an event. An author stopping by to talk about his or her work, literary and cultural events… libraries. I’ve met 3 authors at library events. I found out about one of these events on an elevator ride down four floors, from fiction to check-out. I’ve been to book signing events at libraries. I’ve spoken with fellows readers, and been connected to others. Then there are the several writing contests that are hosted. According to season, or some special event. I submitted a bunch as a kid, and few as an adult. Who knows, you may meet your favorite author there, or you might end up becoming one!
  8. Book sales – I love old books. They have this wonderful musty, “I’ve been read and I’m old” smell. I like new books too, the fresh crisp pages waiting to be turned. And so I love book sales! They’re definitely used books so don’t necessarily fit into my vision of filling my library with leather bound copies of my favorite writing, but they add to my collection. You’ll find games (a friend bought “It Was a Dark & Stormy Night” at one such sale at a library), magazines, books, CDs and DVDs. If you’re lucky, you’ll find that one book of a certain edition that you always wanted!
  9. e-Libraries – I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to books in that I’d rather hold a book in my hand than read it from a device. BUT that does not keep me from purchasing or downloading eBooks, or borrowing books from the library through an app (read Kindle App). I don’t really feel as much of a connection to the story if I read from a screen instead of paper, but that’s just me. I’m tech savvy, but I’ll stick with books. For those of you that would prefer an eReader, then libraries still cater to your reading needs.
  10. Free Wifi – When coffee shops and grocery stores offer customers free wi-fi, why shouldn’t a library?! Step in and you’re connected. Use it for whatever you will whenever you want.

So there you are. 10 of my reasons why libraries are some of the coolest places on Earth. I’m sure there are many others, but I love words (and consequently books) and I shall advocate libraries.

If it so interests you, check out this post of the 20 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries. Below is the library I frequent – complete with the gargoyles, dusty shelves and the wondrous smell of books waiting to be read.

Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago, IL

Musically Fit – In the Austen Way

Can you imagine a Jane Austen musical? I mean, a real Jane Austen drama as a musical? Lady Catherine singing about her pride, Darcy of his love, Marianne of her heartache, Colonel Brandon of his battles, Edmund Bertram of his family and Miss Crawford of hers, and Emma of her matchmaking, perhaps? Does it make some sense? Maybe not. But if you think about it, it’s very possible, because I just returned from a rather nice musical adaptation of my second most favorite Jane Austen novel, Persuasion. Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, and every other character, relating the story to you in song.

I saw it only because I’m subscribed to the Chicago Tribune – yes, I still have my newspaper delivered to me. I rushed to the Athenaeum Theater to buy the tickets the very next day. I was spiffed about it! I didn’t care if I had company or not, I was going to watch it. And I did. Just a few hours back. I must admit, I was very apprehensive about the whole event. I gave it a lot of thought and honestly, I was duly impressed.

It began with a half hour presentation that provided a background of the Royal Navy at the time the novel is set and then to the theater we went. The show was fun and well thought out. It seemed to mix the elements of the movie versions and the actual book quite well. It was divided into two acts, split at the point when Louisa Musgrove hurts herself at Lyme, which I thought was an interesting point to stop the first act, but was a good choice. The music was spectacular from start to finish, I appreciated the intensity and playfulness of the score from the very first note. The songs were good and came in at the right moments. The lyrics were simple, obviously, with the perfect amount of humor in them, that everyone almost joined in with some songs – like the sailor song, to which three boys even tap danced! The script was worthy of an Austen novel, though there were slight deviations in the actual words said – like the one part when Captain Wentworth almost confesses his love for Anne much earlier than Miss Austen had him do – but it settled fine with the script, so no complaints there. My only issue, I think, would have to be the acting and the accent.

Now, I realize that it is an American stage production, so naturally the actors would be American, with American accents. Perfectly fine. As actors, stage actors especially, they would naturally attempt to be as original as possible. Which almost all of them managed. All except the female lead. Anne Elliot. She just threw me off from her very first line. The actress that played Anne Elliot was the one who did the adaptation, so I guess I expected her to be perfect. Or at least near it. Her acting was good, her singing very good, but just the accent… ah… She was either trying too hard – which I think is true because ‘roar’ sounded like ‘wroawr’, and parents sounded like ‘payents’ – or I’ve been watching too much British television. Either way, that was the only disappointing aspect of the whole musical. I didn’t expect an Amanda Root or Sally Hawkins presentation, but one would expect Anne Elliot, being the protagonist, to be the one who is best fitted in the role. Captain Wentworth did a good job, he didn’t get to sing as much, but he played the part quite well. Other mentionable performances would have to be the Miss Musgroves, both of whom sang brilliantly, Sir Walter Elliot, who added a good deal of comedy into the character, Captains Harville and Benwick, Admiral Croft – the deep baritone voice was perfect – and Lady Russell. William Elliot, the scheming cousin, was good in his role, though I think the 2007 film version had the best actor for this part, but this isn’t film, and I did like his singing. The supporting cast, all the sailors and general townspeople had amazing voices too! I loved the choruses they sang together! The set design was lovely. I didn’t expect to see so much on the stage, and I think they managed it quite well.

Overall, I honestly think it was a good experience. One every Austen fan must be subjected to just to appreciate Miss Austen even more. This adaptation is told through the eyes of Jane Austen – she relates the story to her niece and nephew. I loved the fact that the essence in her characters and books gave life to a musical, something Jane Austen would’ve NOT imagined her work being made into. I might have enjoyed the acting a little bit more had I not gone in with the expectation of a Ciarán Hinds like Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones did a fantastic job with it too, and I think I like him more for obvious reasons 😉 ). There was just too much visual content already in my head where the acting was concerned, but, I still managed to enjoy myself on a Sunday evening. Loved it. Might not go again only because of the accent of the lead, but would recommend that others go watch it while diligently ignoring it.

My Week of Sabbath – and others…

A conversation a few days back with one of my buddies back home set off this whole ‘Black Sabbath‘ phase. I’ve been listening to Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, Dio, Ozzy Osbourne and Rainbow. Not entire discographies, just specific songs/albums. Here’s Heaven and Hell with a favorite of mine – Bible Black.

A live version with Egypt & Children of the Sea by Dio

And of course Paranoid by Black Sabbath

*3 posts in a matter of an hour. Goes into cardiac arrest. Shock revived. Something’s wrong with me. Maybe not. I don’t care. LOL!*

A BLUE Day It Was!!

WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS !!

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 Yes, yes, yes!! I’m truly delighted. I’m BLUE!! That’s how maddeningly happy I was, am and will be.

CHELSEA WON THE FA PREMIER LEAGUE!! And what a way to win it!! 8-0 at Stamford Bridge!! Jeez!! The last time I was this delighted was when…ahem… when they won it three years ago.

I awoke early to watch the match and what a treat it was!! Beautifully played! They just silenced any opponent!! My sister included!! Because she’s been saying, “Yeah, this time we just thought it’s better that some other team win it.” I say that’s an excuse of bad performance at vital moments. Not that ManUtd didn’t play well or anything. It’s just that we were better. And we deserved it. 86 points. 103 goals (record). 27 wins. Wins against ‘Big Four’ of the English Premier League – assuming that we’re still counting Liverpool in that, at home and away – the first for any team since the inception of the league. No one battled as much as we did. Screw the disappointments. Carlo Ancelotti took this team, in a strange disarray and rather lost, to victory in his debut season with the club! With the ghost of Jose Mourinho shadowing every win/loss.

The players were awesome, no less. But I would attribute more to Ancelotti for the sole reason that he kept his cool. He didn’t boast off. He didn’t express emotion. He didn’t overreact to anything. Wins or losses. He took them as they came. He fought back, made his team fight back and prove that we deserve to be called champions. All other teams, the great Sir Alex Ferguson included, counted their goals before they were kicked *excuse the improvisation*.  They spoke out to loud, to soon. Ancelotti waited. And he proved it. He plotted perfect domination. Given that we won by a single point. But our goal difference of (+73) speaks eons about our attacking sense. Each and every player contributed to it. Drogba with 29 goals. Lampard with 22. Malouda and Anelka with 12 and 11 each. Ashley and Joe Cole’s sudden and perfect breakouts in essential matches. Petr Cech with 17 clean sheets. We did it. Even with all the controversies personal and professional, in and out of the game. My team won!! I screamed and jumped when the final whistle was blown. It has been a marvelous season, and Chelsea played classy football. They sealed our victory in perfection. Team play. It was all us. We were never dependent on any other team’s results. Just our own. We did not wish for others to draw or lose. We just wanted to win. And we did!!

I know the following season will be tougher than this one because defending a title is definitely more difficult a job. Well, reclaiming a title is rather tough too. Ok. They’re all tough. It’s football. It can swing anyway whenever it wants!

Now I’m hoping we seal the FA Cup finals against Portsmouth next weekend and then we’d have our (club) historic double. And the it would be the World Cup for me !!!! And then the next season of course.

Thank you ‘King Carlo’ and thanks to all the other teams. It was a spectacular season 🙂

Until next time (and forever beyond) UP THE BLUES !!! *:) don’t know why the improv*

*I’m now the proud owner of a Chelsea mouse (because I needed a mouse and this is blue and has the Chelsea crest on it) and some other random fan merchandise. And NO! I didn’t buy it because they were going to win. I just bought it. No reasons.*

<Watched Iron Man 2 at 12 in night. It was good. Robert Downey Jr. is :)>

Ruska

It means autumn leaves in Finnish. The beauty of which can overcome you. It marks the end of something bright and beautiful but signifies the coming of a new season. It’s heart-wrenchingly delightful.

It’s the song. Apocalyptica’s Ruska from their eponymous album. I heard it and I cried. Simply tore my heart out with the simplicity of the notes. It needs no words. It’s calming. It’s my ‘song to the ashes’ – a phrase I shall explain in subsequent posts, if I remember :P.

The fact that someone thought to use clips from the Lord of the Rings makes it all the more better!! I’m obsessed with it. Have been playing it for over a week, each time wondering how I could’ve even forgotten about this composition because I very clearly remember tears welling up in my eyes the first time I heard it!! *I believe it’s the second song in that I’ve almost teared up to… The first being My Confession* Each time I play it now, there’s some scene/incident from my some of my writings that play out in my head – each time carrying the emotion of happiness laced with sadness, between different characters on various levels of human relationships.

Also several pictures of the universe swim through my head. Yeah, the other obsession. I’m intrigued by the galaxies once again. Particularly the ‘pillars of creation‘. And pretty much all of the other nebulae, and galaxies, and everything else. I think all of that put together with this song has just taken its toll on me!! I’m not an emotional wreckage, just emotional when I listen to the song. But I love the song so much I can’t stop listening to it. Maybe I should just listen to it till I get the tears out. You know, let go, for no reason?

“You’ll never believe…”

I’ve never been interested in politics, except to, maybe, know which party is in power, who is heading the party, the opposition, and some of the influential party members. Nothing more. National or state. It was one of those lazy afternoons when I was lounging in the living room, zapping channels while my mum complained that I was getting way too lethargic for her liking, that I found ‘The Red Carpet’ on HBO showcasing some new Kevin Costner movie. With absolutely no interest I watched the interview with Mr. Costner, whose only other movie I liked was The Bodyguard, and then a Bruce Greenwood and then on came Steven Culp !! Not many people know that I completely adore this man for the CIA agent he portrayed on JAG some years ago, and I faithfully followed his career in Desperate Housewives and The West Wing as well. So it was only for the reason that one of my favorite actors was in the movie that I rented and watched Thirteen Days. Thirteen Days
I was speechless. Confounded, even, as my interest in the only politician I’d ever liked came alive on the screen. An exaggeration? No, not for me. John F. Kennedy is the man I’m talking about. Probably the only politician I will ever like as much as I do. So much so that I read up every scrap of information I could get about him, his brother, Robert (that’s who Steven Culp plays in the movie 😉 ), and his son, John Jr.

The movie dealt with the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962, when American intelligence discovered that the Russians were constructing offensive missile sites in Cuba. Nikita Khrushchev, the then Premier of the Soviet Union, was considered, at the time, as the chief adversary of Kennedy, and this move by the Soviet to make Cuba a missile site only heightened Kennedy to show his resolve. Air and naval quarantines were ordered on all ships bound to Cuba, and ships suspected of carrying offensive weapons were to submit to an inspection by the U.S. Navy at or before the quarantine line. Just as an armed conflict seemed inevitable the Soviet’s pulled back promising not to set up missiles in Cuba and the U.S. responded by saying that it wouldn’t attack Cuba.

The movie beautifully dramatizes the entire situation. So much so that the viewer is captivated by the bureaucracy, military and politics of the time in the Kennedy administration. Notable characters, other the the President himself, his brother, the Attorney General and Kenneth O’Donnell (Kevin Costner’s character) Special Assistant to the President, would have to be the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara and the ambassador to the U.N. Adlai Stevenson. —- In truth this post wasn’t supposed to be about the movie, it’s about the President 😉 My apologies but this has become one of my all time favorite movies, having already watched the DVD more than 25 times. I never tire of it and I almost know all the dialogs by heart.

Anyway, a brief sketch about John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States of America, and the youngest, at the age of 43, to be elected into office.

Born in Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 1917, to a businessman (a multi-millionaireJohn F. Kennedy in later years), who later became an ambassador to Great Britain, John F. Kennedy was the second of nine children. He graduated from Harvard College in 1940, joined the U.S. Navy (shortly before the United States was involved in World War II). While on active duty in the Pacific in 1943, the boat he commanded was sunk by the Japanese and he performed heroically by rescuing his crew. He was discharged in 1945. In 1946, Kennedy successfully ran for a Boston based seat in the U.S. House of Representatives (he was re-elected in 1948 and 1950). As a congressman he backed social legislation that benefited his working class constituents. Although generally supporting President Harry S. Truman’s foreign policies, he criticized what he considered the administration’s weak stand against the Communist Chinese. He continued to advocate a strong, anti-Communist foreign policy throughout his career.

Kennedy challenged the incumbent Republican senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. and won in 1952. Though he was ineffectual in the senate due to serious illness with back ailments (from his years in the Navy), he worked on a Pulitzer Prize winning book (1957, for biography) of biographical studies of America’s political heroes, entitled Profiles in Courage. Like his earlier book on English foreign policy, it revealed his administration for forceful political figures. This faith in activism was to become a hallmark of his presidency.

In 1956 Kennedy bid unsuccessfully for the Democratic vice-presidential nomination, and thereafter set his sights on the presidency, especially after his re-election to the senate in 1958. He continued during these years to support a firmly anti-Communist foreign policy. A cautious liberal on domestic issues, he backed a compromise civil rights bill in 1957 and devoted special efforts to labor legislation.

By 1960, Kennedy was but one of many Democratic aspirants for the party’s presidential nomination. He put together, however, a well-financed, highly organized campaign and won on the first ballot. As a northerner and Roman Catholic, he recognized his lack of strength in the south and shrewdly chose Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas as his running mate. Kennedy performed very well in a series of unprecedented television debates with his Republican opponent, Vice-President Richard M. Nixon.

Kennedy won the presidential election by a narrow margin on popular vote, to become the youngest man to win the presidency at the age of 43. He lacked reliable majorities in Congress. Primarily for these reasons, most of his domestic policies stalled on Capitol Hill. When advocates of racial justice picked up strength in 1962-63, he moved belatedly to promote civil rights legislation. He also sought a tax cut to simulate the economy.

Kennedy’s eloquent inaugural address – in which he exhorted the nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” – sounded cold war themes. Soon thereafter, the president acted on his anti-Communism by lending American military assistance to the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961. The amphibious assault had been planned by the CIA under the Eisenhower administration. The actual invasion, however, was Kennedy’s decision and he properly took the blame for its total failure.

Next came the Cuban Missile Crisis, already outlined, where Kennedy’s stern mettle and prowess to deal with matters was brought out. As if chastened by the Missile crisis, the most frightening of the cold war, the Soviets and Americans in 1963 signed a treaty barring atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Kennedy nevertheless remained as ready as before to stop Communist advances. He continued to bolster American defenses and stepped up military aid to South Vietnam.

By this time Kennedy was thinking ahead to the presidential campaign of 1964. In order to promote harmony between the warring factions of the Democratic party in Texas, he traveled there in November 1963. While driving in a motorcade through Dallas on November 22, he was shot in the head and died within an hour. The Warren Commission set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson, to investigate the assassination, concluded that the killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, 24 years old, had acted alone. No motive was established. Speculation persisted, however, that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy.

Father and SonKennedy’s funeral was held on November 25, 1963, the birthday of his son, John. F. Kennedy Jr. The final salute the young John Jr. gave as his father’s flag-draped casket was being carried out of St. Matthew’s Cathedral became one of the most iconic images of the 60’s. His body was moved to Arlington National Cemetery in 1967. He and Howard Taft are the only two president’s to be buried at Arlington.

Kennedy left behind a legacy, despite his short term in office and the lack of any ground breaking legislations during the time. However, people (not only Americans) still vote him as one of the best President’s in American history, ranking him in the leagues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Kennedy Space Center, named after him, is the chief civilian space launch facility in the United States. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1963, and since 1964, Kennedy’s portrait ( a profile) appears on the half-dollar coin. Other than the JFK airport in New York, there are several schools, highways, and even an island and an aircraft carrier (of the U.S. Navy) named in his honor.

[His brother, who took to him and followed in his footsteps, was also, sadly, assassinated after he won four of the five presidential primaries he stood for, while bidding to be the Democratic nominee for president.]

Despite the controversies that were showered on him, even to this day, in my eyes, he remains the best politician that ever was. I end with a quote of John F. Kennedy, also the tag line of the movie Thirteen Days.

“You’ll never believe how close we came.”

Trenches – Mariana

Not that I want to digress from my routine blogging, but from this day forward I thought I would start posting articles that have caught my eye, things that I find interesting, and the likes.

I’m pretty much a water bug. I love the water even though I despise getting wet in the rain or getting into a swimming pool in normal clothing – this because I don’t like being in wet clothes – but it has done nothing to deter my affection from swimming or the water, seas and oceans included. When I was in the second grade, I read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and was for a period of time obsessed with Captain Nemo, Nautilus, and all the fathomless depths of the oceans. I remember sitting with an encyclopedia and reading all I could about water, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, and my dad, being a Geography buff decided it was time I got a bigger and more detailed atlas. Brilliant thing, those books are. Beautiful illustrations, etc. So anyway, I was with the atlas and discovered, by chance, the word ‘trench’. Overcome by curiosity, I quickly searched and read all I could about trenches. The result, my discovery of the Marianna Trench. It’s not the only thing that caught my eye at the time, but it is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever come across.

At least 22 trenches have been identified although not all are classified as major. Of this number, 18 are in the Pacific Ocean, three in the Atlantic Ocean, and one in the Indian Ocean.

The Mariana Trench is located in the Pacific Ocean, just east of the 14 Mariana Islands (11″21′ North latitude and 142″ 12′ East longitude ) near Japan. It is the deepest part of the earth’s oceans, and the deepest location of the earth itself. It was created by ocean-to-ocean subduction, a phenomena in which a plate topped by oceanic crust is subducted beneath another plate topped by oceanic crust.
The deepest point of the Mariana Trench is called The Challenger Deep , so named after the British exploration vessel HMS Challenger II and it is located 210 miles south-west of Guam. This depth was reached in 1960 by the Trieste, a manned submersible owned by the U.S. Navy.
In order to better illustrate the actual depth of the Mariana Trench, consider the following; if Mount Everest, which is the tallest point on earth at 8,850 meters (29,035 feet), were set in the Mariana Trench, there would still be 2,183 meters (7,166 feet) of water left above it.

The deepest part of the ocean is called the abyssal zone. It is host to thousands of species of invertebrates and fish including such oddities as the Angler Fish so called because it uses a bioluminescent (life light) protrusion to attract its prey. The Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is very cold, and highly pressurized; its floor features hydrothermal (hot water ) vents formed by spreading tectonic plates which release hydrogen sulfide and
other minerals which are consumed by the barophilic bacteria which are then consumed by other microorganisms, which are in turn, consumed by the fish, and so on. The temperature around the vents can reach up to 300° Celsius (572° Fahrenheit). The venting fluid is highly acidic, while the water from the deep ocean is slightly basic. Although the venting fluid is prevented from boiling due to its dissipation into the surrounding freezing water, creatures from the deep show an incredible resistance to temperature extremes by having different proteins which are adapted for life under these conditions; allowing the animals to eat, process food, and reproduce. One animal which thrives near hydrothermal vents is the Bythograea thermydron, of “Vent Crab” – their numbers are so vast that scientists are using the crab clusters to locate hydrothermal vents.
Crabs and Angler Fish are but few of the many species of the Mariana Trench. One mud sample taken from Challenger Deep by Oceanographers from the Kaiko yielded nearly over 200 different microorganisms. Although there seems to be an abundance of life at these depths, no human being could withstand the pressure extremes.Another interesting characteristic of these deep sea creatures is their longevity; many of these animals having a lifespan of over one hundred years, provided of course that they do not end up in fishing nets. Since these creatures seldom migrate and are slow to develop, there is growing concern over their endangerment.

 

The ocean floor at such depth consists of pelagic sediment, also known as biogenous “ooze”. Pelagic sediment is composed of shells, animal skeletons, decaying microorganisms and plants; it is generally yellowish and very viscous. While plants and other organisms on the planet’s surface convert water, minerals and carbon dioxide into nutrients by gathering light in their pigments through the process of photosynthesis, the plants and microorganisms of the deep use a process called chemosynthesis to convert the chemically rich discharge of hydrothermal vents into food.

Hydrothermal vents, also called “black smokers” are chimney like undersea geysers which spew out sea water which has seeped in and come in contact with the hot volcanic core. The discharge of hydrothermal vents is a black smoke which contains a variety of chemicals and dissolved metals, which are then consumed or processed by the microorganisms, animals, and plants. Vents which have been active for a long period grow to resemble chimneys; some of them reaching heights of over 15 meters (49 feet).
As before, certain deep-sea animals feature bioluminescent appendages and features which serve a wide variety of purposes, from mating to self-preservation, and even hunting, as is the case with the Angler Fish. Bioluminescence is light generated by a living organism as the result of an internal chemical reaction. The only surface animal which features this ability is the Pyractomena borealis, also known as the Firefly.

No, I did not write it on my own… If you’re interested you can visit the site where I got the information from http://www.marianatrench.com
Enjoy the exploration !!