Thursday, January 15, 2009

DIY Army Tank

Life is beautiful is one of my favorite movies. I like it more than Schindler's list in the genre of holocaust movies. While every other holocaust movie is about the tragedies of concentration camps, this movie is completely different. It is about a father(Guido) making a lot of sacrifice to protect his five year old son(Joshua) from even the thoughts of war and its horrors in concentration camps. He pretends to his son that everything is a game and whoever scores 1000 points wins the game and gets a real Army tank. Guido instills a lot of hope and cheerfulness to his son.

The final scene is one of the most touching moments in cinematic history. Guido tells his son Joshua to hide and not come out until everybody is gone, and also tells him thats the final test before he wins the Tank. But Guido is finally caught and shot by a Nazi soldier. He makes sure that his son doesn't know about it. Joshua comes out of his hiding place in the morning unaware of his father's death. And out of nowhere a US Army tank arrives in front of Joshua. Joshua thinks he has finally won the prize and is ultimately joyous.

Watch the final scene on youtube...

So why the digression about Life is beautiful? Well, the Tank which i recently built from a DIY woodcrafting kit reminded me of the final scene from Life is beautiful. The kit is similar to other woodcrafting kits and comes with 3 sheets of wood. It takes around 2-3 hours to assemble and here's the completely assembled wooden army tank:

Not too real? Ok lets start painting the Tank.

I tried painting the tank with a camouflage pattern thats common in the Army. But somehow it didnt work out and i settled on bottle green for the whole tank. To make it look darker, the bottle green color was obtained by mixing green and black to give the tank varying shades of bottle green. And after painting for over an hour, here's the Tank in all its glory:

It looks even more real on a camouflage cloth.

Now that's a Toy Tank that even Joshua will envy me for! (unless he joined the US/Italian army!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chandler's Creative Discontent

Chandler is the funniest and most sarcastic guy in Friends. This is not about his funny lines, but about his Christmas in Tulsa. In one episode, He is supposed to work in Tulsa during Christmas to finish some paperwork or else he'll get fired.

Monica: This is so unfair. You don't even like your job.
Chandler (surprised): So who does?
Phoebe: Oh I like my job!
Joey: I like my job...
Rachel: I love my job!
Ross: I can't get enough dinosaurs!

Chandler might be naive to think that because he doesn't like his job, no one else does. But the rest of the friends gang totally love their jobs. contentment and discontent, not just in job, even in other aspects of life. There is an article by J. Krishnamurti titled Creative discontent which argues that discontent is good because when you're discontent, you don't just stay happy, your discontent will direct you to take initiative in a lot of creative ways to find contentment, and that's good for the world. Thats how most big inventions and business ideas are born. Even though contentment and job satisfaction is what most people aspire for, its not too bad to be discontent at times.

After Tulsa, Chandler quit his job doing "Statistical Reconfiguration and Data processing"(!) to join Advertising as an Intern and to find his real calling. Not sure if his fictional initiative helped the world in some creative way, but it definitely helped the producers and writers of the show and the subject of this blog post.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Choice And Time

Road Not Taken is a beautiful poem by Robert Frost. It illustrates the confusion we have in taking decisions.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference

Robert Frost's choice of the Road Less Travelled may not always be the right choice. You don't just choose to be different without judging the merits/demerits of each choice. Sometimes its not a question of whether its less travelled or more worn out. Sometimes its more than two roads that diverge. Sometimes the choices are influenced by others and sometimes you just don't have the time to choose.

The author of The Paradox of Choice says that the more choices we have, the less happy we are. Here's an excerpt from One Minute Book Reviews:

"...unlimited choice produces genuine suffering. The more choices we have to make, the less certainty we seem to have. When we have 285 kinds of cookies to choose from in the grocery store, how can we be sure we’ve picked the right one? And that’s just cookies. When faced with seemingly unlimited choices that have significant consequences like which stocks to invest in, which career to pursue or even which person to marry, many people make choices that will never satisfy them."

Here's a TED talk of the author making his point:

When a Poet can't help you make an informed decision and an Author tells you the choices will make you unhappy anyways(i haven't read the book yet!), Punk Rock band Greenday gives a completely different perspective in the song Time of your life.

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

Billie Joe (Greenday Lead singer) tells us that sometimes you let Time take the decision and just let go. In the end if you look back it tuns out to be right and it couldn't have been better. Reflect on your life and think of the times you were totally confused. Time chooses the Road for us at such times.

He'll keep you in a jar

Some Psychedelic Rock songs of the 70s and 80s can evoke a rare moment of philosophical enlightenment. One such song is Sappy by Nirvana. The song title itself is an unusual word play on Sad and Happy - Its called Sappy. Its definitely not one of their popular songs (in comparison to Smells like Teen spirit). But it is definitely Kurt Cobain's favorite song . He tried singing the song in different tones and moods and could not attain the perfection he wanted. There are even two different lyrical changes here and here

The lyrics of the song makes you wonder if Kurt Cobain was elevated to a whole new spiritual level when he wrote this song. Songmeanings and Songfacts have several interpretations of the hidden meanings of the Song. Here's the solo from the song:

He'll keep you in a jar
And you'll think you're happy
He'll give you breathing holes
Then you'll think you're happy
He'll cover you with grass
And you'll think you're happy

You're in a laundry room,
You're in a laundry room

The metaphor that impressed me a lot is the line "He'll keep you in a jar" comparing God to a small boy playing with bugs in a jar. And no prizes for guessing what the bugs represent!

Creation vs Evolution has always been a topic of major debate between believers and atheists. There are several alternative theories to dispute the existence of God. God could be a Simulator controlling earthly forms like the game Sim city and the simulator could be just another Alien. A very humorous take on this comes in Hithchiker's Guide to the Galaxy where Earth is just a super computer built by a superrace of Mice(!) in another galaxy to find the Ultimate question for the Ultimate Answer to Life, Universe and Everything (Click here to get Wikipedia's help in your ultimate spiritual quest to find the meaning of it all). Why not Aliens or Mice, why should it be an Unexplainable God is the argument here. Another interesting take on Reality comes in the movie Matrix where we humans are part of a Matrix, which is just a battery source, and what we perceive as reality is just electrical signals being fed to our brains. Computer programmers might even say 'God is real unless declared int'. Being a confused agnostic and a programmer, im just adding the interpretation of this song to my Array of God theories.

The song Sappy uses He as a reference to God to minimize controversy. It offers a whole new perception of God, happiness and what we want in life. 'breathing holes' is a metaphor for the basic essentials.'grass' represents materialistic possessions and money. And the 'laundry room' represents the cycle of birth and death or maybe something else!

The chorus repeats thrice and each time it is preceded by a different verse:

And if you save yourself
You will make him happy
And if you cut yourself
You will think you're happy
And if you fool yourself
You will make him happy

If you strive for salvation and redemption you'll make God happy. And when you endure Pain and Hardship in life you'll make yourself happy. And if you accept both you'll only fool yourself and make God happy (if he exists)

There are two different endings to the song. "conclusion came to you" refers to death before you realise this. "clue that came to you" refers to the enlightenment that comes with this realisation or maybe i'm clueless about Kurt Cobain's lyrical depth