This weekend’s video is a heartwarming documentary about a little girl Penny who received a heart transplant on March 31, 2010. Penelope Gorman or Penny as people call her lovingly, is a beautiful and charming little girl who developed heart complications at the age of 2. Her heart was enlarged and doctors diagnosed her with Dilated Cardiomyopathy. When all medications failed, doctors had no other options left but to attach an external device called Berlin Heart from outside which would assist her heart in pumping. She was kept on heart transplant list and then onwards the family kept waiting for the call that would tell them they got a heart available for their daughter. Watch the documentary to know more about the story.
Penny is healthy now with her new heart but then again there is always a risk of body rejecting the new heart. But the good news is that she is progressing well and we hope for the best.
It’s time for weekend videos and here I am with two very creative and interesting animated videos. The first video “Hugh” is a story based on Apache legend Hugh and has been created by four students from French school ESMA . The film starts with an old man telling story to kids about many snows ago when the sky was too low and everything was bent. One fine day children decided to raise the sky with stocks and rest is history…
The second animated film is simply beautiful. It’s a 3D animation which took 3 years for creators to make. The movie started as a Diploma project by students Heiko van der Scherm and Holger Schoenberger at the Institute of Animation (part of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg) and here is the final result- “Descendants”. You can read more about making of this animation here .
“Descendants” is a 14 minute animated short about the wish of attaining the unattainable and about the fact that something good can evolve from something evil. The two main characters are flowers (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg and Christy Scott Cashman) who grow on the edge of a clearing next to one another. One is old and jaded by a mysterious history – the other one still young, vivid and curious. Destiny has brought these two together and it seems as if they would exist without possibility for change, until one day a visitor to the clearing brings something unexpected to their lives.
With the soccer fever catching up and South Africa being in the limelight, I thought of learning more about the Rainbow Nation. I started with Wikipedia and ended up with watching movie Invictus. I know mainstream commercial movies are not always the best way of learning about a country or a person, but movies can be fairly informative if historical information is not misrepresented. The good thing about Invictus was that it represented most of the historical facts accurately, as the movie critiques pointed out (although vuvuzelas were missing in the stadium scenes).
Invictus is a story of Nelson Mandela and his efforts to unify the nation with the help of Rugby, the sport which was played majorly by the white South Africans or Afrikaaners as they were called (speaking Afrikaan langauge) .Thereby their team Springboks was hated by the black South Africans, infact during the games, they cheered for opposing teams. Also, it was clear that none of Rugby followers or players voted for Nelson Mandela in the country’s first democratic universal elections in 1994. After Nelson Mandela’s party came to power, black leaders and sports authority wanted to totally change the structure of Springboks team including the name, color and anthem, which according to them represented hatred and oppression during the apartheid era. They almost did it, but Nelson Mandela opposed their views and stepped in and stopped any changes. He saw this as an opportunity to win trust of white Afrikaners, who loved the game. He wanted to build a unified South Africa, a rainbow nation, and supporting Rugby and asking the whole nation to rally behind the team was one of his approaches of reconciliation between blacks and whites. It took effort but the nation building process was started and South Africa ended up winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995 and brought much needed reconciliation.
I am always amazed reading or watching stories about great visionaries and leaders such as Gandhi and Mandela. Their focus, determination, willpower, courage, patience and dedication for the cause mesmerizes me. These are the men of their principles who defy all adversities. While today’s leaders follow partisan and popularistic politics, these leaders were not afraid of opposing their own followers and supporters if it was against their ideals. Wish today’s leaders had even a fraction of these ideals. Gandhi and Mandela both were leaders and politicians who looked at the bigger picture rather than short term gains or benefits. Who else would have thought and worked on the idea that Rugby can unite the country torn with racial discrimination since years? Who else would have thought that fasting and adopting non-violence means could instill fears in hearts and minds of British colonial rulers. They also took criticisms well and accepted their mistakes when they were wrong and instead of pointing fingers at others they worked on to rectify it. Mandela was criticized for not handling AIDS epidemic during his tenure and since then until now he has been constantly working for the cause, probably realizing that he overlooked the problem and now rectifying it. Even at this fragile age of 92, he keeps doing his part, though he has retired from public life to spend more time with his family. He was very happy when FIFA 2010 world cup was announced to be hosted in South Africa but unfortunately he was unable to cherish the moment as his 13 year old great grand-daughter died just a day before the event started after she met a fatal accident when a drunk driver hit her. She was returning from FIFA 2010 kick-off concert. Sad turn of events for him and his family, which has been a recurrent feature in his personal life.
I learnt a few things about South Africa while watching the movie Invictus.
The country had two national Anthems from 1995-1997– Die Stem van Suid-Afrika (The call of South Africa) and Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) in order to assimilate both black and white groups . In 1997, an unified or hybrid version was adapted combining both the anthems and employing 5 major languages of South Africa in the lyrics.
Nelson Mandela is affectionately called Madiba in South Africa, which is his clan name.
In the movie, they show the cell where he spent first 18 years of his 27 years in prison (Robben Island). The cell is the exact cell where he spent those years and one of the best moments in the movie (picture of the cell shown below)It makes you wonder how a man who spent those many years of his lives in that tiny cell and did rigorous labor during the day had the strength to come back and lead the nation; what kept him going? Salute to Nelson Mandela, you inspire me and many others all over the world.
Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King were all Invictus, the unconquered ones, and they were the masters of their souls. The poem “Invictus” by William Henley probably describes very well the struggles of such souls amongst all the obstacles, still emerging victorious.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Picture Credit: Top image-Madame Tussauds Wax museum, Amsterdam by Flickr user Berto Garcia
Scientist is a very common word these days and I myself work in the field of mixed territory of science and engineering. Everyone knows the meaning of the word-from a layman to a scientist. But for the heck of it, let’s see what various dictionaries have to offer.
According to Merriam Webster:
Main Entry: sci·en·tist Pronunciation: \ˈsī-ən-tist\ Function: noun Etymology: Latin scientia Date: 1834
1: a person learned inscienceand especially naturalscience: a scientific investigator
According to Dicitionary.com:
–noun an expert in science, esp. one of the physical or natural sciences. Origin:
1825–35; < L scient ( ia) science + -ist
So, if you look into various other dictionaries inlcuding Oxford you will get similar defintion of the word, nothing that exciting about it. But what I found interesting is the year of the origin of the word. It’s very recent- sometime between 1825-1835 it was coined and started being used for defining people who worked in the field of science. Oxford dictionary mentions the year against each word which tells the year when the word was first cited or used in a print, and for the word scientist the year is mentioned as 1834. Till now I thought the word must have been used for centuries, my guess was the Renaissance period, but I was wrong, it’s just 176 years old! So now the question comes who coined the word and what was the word used before scientist came into existence.
So here is the story. The word was first coined in 1833 by Cambridge University Philosopher of science and historian William Whewell and then published for the first time in 1834 in Quarterly Review. Prior to 1834, “Natural philosophers”, “Men of Science” or ”Cultivators of science” was used to describe group of people who practiced science. He came up with this word because he thought the words like philosopher was not suffcient to generalise complete gamut of new emerging field of sciences unless used with some prefix word such as natural philosopher or experimental philosopher and so on. First few words he came up were savant, men of learning and naturforscher (German for naturalist). Then someone suggested to him or he came by himself with the analogy of the word artist. Ho toyed with this analogy for sometime, but was little apprehensive of using a word which sounded similar to economist and atheist, not very popular words those days and had negative connotations attached. But ultimately he decided that scientist should be the word to describe people who pursued science. Another interesting thing to notice here is that prior to word scientist being popular, most of the names ended with er– astronomer, philosopher, naturforscher but after word scientist became popular words like biologist, geologist, physicist became a trend.So that’s the word of the day- scientist.[ Wikipedia , NPR ]
We need very much a name to describe a cultivator of science in general. I should incline to call him a Scientist. Thus we might say, that as an Artist is a Musician, Painter, or Poet, a Scientist is a Mathematician, Physicist, or Naturalist. [Whewell, 1840 ]
As always, in my Weekend Video post I try to upload some of the most creative, innovative and beautiful videos created by independent artists or group of artists. This weekend there are three videos, all of them using stop motion technique. The first film is called “Sorry I’m Late” by Tomas Mankovsky. It’s a stop motion film shot with a stills camera in the ceiling pointing straight at the floor. It’s just amazing and I can’t imagine how much time and effort it would have taken filming this video. You can also take a look at some making of videos on his website Sorry I’m Late.
The second video is titled ” A short love story in stop motion”. Carlos Lascano created this video and tells a beautiful love story a little girl dreams of. The video description says “A couple of pencil-outlined birds escape from a little girl´s drawing, leading us through the life she dreams of.” Real objects and hand drawings were used in creation of this video to give it more organic look. You can read more about how the video was made at his webpage .
The third video titled ” The Sandpit” is a creation of Sam O’Hare. He shot 35,000 stills of New york city from rooftops and balconies of houses in course of 5 days and created a miniature version of the city. To know more about what camera and lens he used visit this page .
I have been trying my friends to contribute for my blog for a while. So here is the first contributed post from Sanketh. In this article he talks about his volunteering experience with non for profit organization Asha for Education. Asha, of which I am also a volunteer, works for raising awareness and providing education to underprivileged kids in India. Thanks Sanketh for the contribution.
“Education frees us and gives us wings to fly”– Anonymous
Almost 49 million school-age children in India do not attend school and conservative estimates are that over 11 million Indian children under 14 are engaged in child-labor. Unfortunately, 29% (over 317 million) of India’s population lives below the national poverty line and 35% (over 329 million) of the global illiterate population lives in India.
Are these just statistics? Or Must something be done?
I arrived at Gainesville, FL to pursue my graduate studies in the University of Florida in mid-December 2006. Being holiday season, one of the largest university towns of US having a population of over about 0.2 million with over 55000 students had a deserted look. Just when I was getting bored having nothing to do, with commencement of classes a good 3 weeks away, I got an e-mail on the Indian students group of the university. It said ‘Shramadaan – come and volunteer in the basketball event’ and help the underprivileged children in India. Basketball and football are huge events in the ‘Gator Nation’ (gator is the UF mascot) winning three national championships in a year. With the initial excitement to see and meet new people, I agreed to volunteer for the event. That’s when I got introduced to Asha UFlorida popularly known as ‘Gators for Asha’, the University of Florida (UF) chapter of Asha for Education.
The Gators roar
‘Asha for Education’ is an all-volunteer global non-profit organization. It was born out of the desire to bring hope to the lives of underprivileged children in India. Gators for Asha (Asha UFlorida) was started by five UF students back late in 2003 and in a span of seven years, we have grown and have supported many educational and health care projects in our country.
Why do I volunteer for Asha ?
India has the highest number of NGO’s in the world. Among the plethora of NGO’s, why did I choose Asha ?
Being a volunteer of Asha for 3 years now, having been associated with a few projects, speaking to people outside Asha about the organization, my motivation to volunteer with this organization has only grown and I am proud to be associated with a part of this group.
Asha exists for projects – The group being made up of students and professionals from different fields are sufficiently motivated to see our projects and children in our projects are doing well
Flat structure, non-hierarchical, bottom-up approach – In this age of globalization and top-down corporate structures, here we are shaking of the this trend and silently and steadily inching towards our goal. Asha will soon be entering its 20th year.
Volunteer driven – Being completely volunteer driven, every volunteer has a choice on how much time or what (s)he wants to contribute to, of course, within the frameworks of Asha
Zero-overhead policy – Asha has a zero-overhead policy so every penny of donations go directly towards projects.
These are some of the more generic reasons most volunteers will give. But what gravitated me to Asha UFlorida are some of the reasons listed below:
Asha UFlorida consciously makes an effort to support support smaller NGO’s and pilot projects
We don’t want our project partners to do the government’s job. We proactively make an effort to make sure our project partner are an extended part of the local governing bodies and supplement governments work
We understand that big is not always better, it is not always beneficial to talk about scalability and that no development is possible unless the local community wants it. One of Asha’s strengths in my opinion is that we motivate individuals and groups who want to be facilitators of such a positive change in their community.
But a question lurks in my mind, ‘Is what we are doing enough?’, then I understand a journey of thousand steps begins with the first one..this is only the beginning.
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
While wandering in the blockbuster last Saturday night and unable to find any interesting title, I went to the international section and picked up a German movie– Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (Sophie Scholl – The Final Days). I am glad I got that movie. As the title says, the movie shows last five days of Sophie Scholl before she was beheaded on Feb 22nd, 1943 on charges of high treason. Now, who is Sophie Scholl? Sohpie Scholl was a member of non-violent student resistance movement against Nazi rule in Germany. The group called itself “White Rose” which was mostly based in University of Munich campus and its main activity was printing and distributing leaflets denouncing Hitler’s rule, which was equivalent to asking for death sentence in Hitler’s regime.
White Rose consisted mostly of students, including the Scholl siblings, Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl. Sophie was younger sister of Hans Scholl; earlier Hans wanted to keep Sophie separate from the White Rose’s activities in order to protect her, but Sophie joined the movement anyhow. On Feb 18th 1943, Hans and Sophie carried suitcases full of the sixth leaflet and placed it in different locations in University of Munich, but unfortunately they were seen by one of the janitors and ultimately handed over to Gestapo for interrogation. Over the last year, the leaflets distributed by the group has caused a stir in the Nazi regime and they were looking out for the group members. Sophie bravely faced the interrogations, and the ideological discussions between her and the prosecutors/interrogators are interesting to watch in the film. She was just 22, and the whole life was ahead of her– her boyfriend, her loving family– but she heard the voice of her conscience and did what she felt was right thing to do. We live in a relatively free world, where we are free to to say or write anything we want. Anyone can write a blog expressing his/her ideas, opinions, start a petition and so on, so it might be difficult for us to understand how much courage it took to write and distribute a leaflet in Nazi regime when one knew the consequences of getting caught- a certain death. Yet Sophie and her friends did, because they believed in an idea of free Germany, free world and equal rights for all, and they took actions on what the believed in. Sophie died as a martyr at the age of 22, Salute to her and her courage to stand by her ideals!! Grab the movie, if you get a chance. Here are few of Sophie’s quotes:
“Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.”
“I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct.”
“How can we expect fate to let a righteous cause prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up undividedly to a righteous cause?”
“It was a sunny day, I was carrying a child in a white dress to be christened. The path to the church led up a steep slope, but I held the child in my arms firmly and without faltering. Then suddenly my footing gave way … I had enough time to put the child down before plunging into the abyss. The child is our idea. In spite of all obstacles it will prevail.”
Enjoy the Academy Award winning short animation film “Logorama” this weekend. The film uses more than 2500 logos and mascots to build up the whole story which includes McDonald’s clown and Michelin mascots as the main characters. Have a nice weekend!!