I love cartoons!

Recently I had a few hours to kill in San Francisco, California and found myself near the Yerba Buena Gardens. While searching for local attractions nearby, I chanced upon the Cartoon Art Museum. Located in a very unassuming building with a modest admission fee of $8.00, the museum appeared fairly ordinary, and at the first glance, sort of boring, even though it was described as “the only museum in the US dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of all forms of cartoon art”. However, once inside, I started looking at each cartoon exhibit carefully, and ended up spending an entertaining hour in there, all by myself.

There were cartoons from various eras, from the 19th century to present times. The most entertaining were political cartoons, especially from the second world war, post-war era and the cold war era. It is amazing how potentially inflammatory material is presented in these cartoons, which stated in any other manner would be completely unacceptable and probably banned in print. Therein lies the beauty of cartoons: the ability to present controversial issues using exaggerated, caricature-like strokes, while keeping the message short and somewhat enigmatic, such that readers can interpret it from their perspective.

Also interesting were satirical jabs targeting different sections of the society: women (of course, most cartoonists seem to be men), teenagers, Russians (in the cold war era) etc. Then there were cartoons documenting important world events such as the Neil Armstrong’s landing on the moon, subjects that would appear to be unlikely fodder for satire. Since the museum was basically built by an endowment from Charles Schultz (creator of Peanuts), there was a whole section dedicated to these cartoons.

The museum transported me back in to a forgotten era; when I lived in India and never missed the daily cartoon by RK Laxman featuring the “common man”. I still remember the somewhat harried, middle-aged balding man with exuberant facial hair who was perpetually caught in the whirlwind of national affairs. I think that was the only political cartoon I ever followed.

Anyway that was all I had to say on this subject…ciao!cartoon museum

Cartoon Art Museum: at the entrance (above); and 2 cartoons from the museum (below)

Please pardon the picture quality: images taken with an i-phonecartoon1 cartoon2

Customized reading

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seussclimbing higherOnce upon a time, stories were meant to be passed down orally from generation to generation, with some help from drawings in the cave…

Then scripts were invented, and people started putting their thoughts on paper/papyrus/leaves/cloth…

Then came the printing press, and books as we know them today came in to existence….

When I was growing up, reading a book meant curling up with one in your hand…

Welcome to  e-books in the 21st century…. These  can be downloaded not only to your kindle devices, but also to kindle apps on smart phones and tablets.

You can do that with one click and download a book immediately!

Most classics are available free of cost, while other books are available for about a third of the cost of a print edition. I love the freedom of getting a book anywhere there is a wireless internet connection….it is liberating for an avid reader like me.

Not only do I read fiction in this format, I have also bought course books. In fact, once I bought a Q&A format review book for my exams, and downloaded it to 2 devices. I would sit with the page set to questions on one device, and answers on the other. This eliminated some annoying page-turning!

Among the most popular websites for free classics is Project Gutenberg, the largest collection of books that are out of copyright and available for everyone for any purpose. This site has over 20000 books now, and you can download these books to your computer.

If reading is too trying for you, welcome to the world of audiobooks. You can listen to these audiobooks while driving and exercising. I prefer to read, but my husband swears by his audiobooks for long drives.

I recently discovered that my library has online links to borrow e-books too. Though I have not used this feature yet, it is perfect for when it is impossible for me to make a run to the library!

Not everything is available in the e-book format though. A few months back, shortly after Gabriel Garcia Marquez died, I was really hunting for his epic saga “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. It was unavailable in the library (authors get more famous posthumously, I guess), and I could not find a kindle edition. Then I stumbled upon an article which stated that the English translation of this book was unavailable as a kindle edition (though the Spanish version was). Unwilling to give up, I scoured the internet and found a pdf file free of cost that I downloaded. I started reading it on my laptop, but soon found a print edition in the local library.

So what’ s your excuse for not reading then? Pick your medium and immerse yourself in the illuminating world of books today!

Happy reading (or listening)!

P.S.:   Image: Comcast Building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US- the tallest building in the city

Baby, let’s read together

I have always been a loner, and what better for a loner to do than to read books?

Reading is my nirvana, my catharsis, my anxiolytic, and my antidepressant..I have been passionate about reading since I was very young, and it gives me immense pleasure to inculcate the habit of reading in my child.

While I am no expert on the topic of teaching a child to read, I can certainly share my experience. The following points may be useful when starting out:

1. It is better to start reading to your infant as early as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud to infants as it promotes better language skills.

2. Starting  with picture-heavy books, that have simple pictures showing one theme on one page, is a good idea. There are numerous books that try to cram too much pictorial information in one page, and they can be distracting for the young child.books

3. As your child grows in to a toddler, get him/her more involved. One can point out pictures to then in a book and ask them to name them. The attention span of a toddler being what it is, long stories are not for them.

4. I have found that setting aside a fixed time everyday helps establish a habit of reading. Now my 3 year old himself brings books to me in case I forget. We have also decided that we are going to read 2stories/ 2 books a day, and we usually stick to that.

5. It is a good idea to take them to the local library and read books with them there. Personally, I love picking out books in a library, and my son has started doing the same. It helps that the child has a limitless variety to choose from. I am still squeamish about borrowing books at his age, though, because I don’t want him to damage them in the midst of a temper tantrum!

6. Buying new books can be expensive, but I buy books for a dollar or less at the local library. Moreover, the donated books we find at the library have usually been read and liked by other children, so their likability factor is usually high.

7. Playdates can be modified to “read aloud” dates, where you and your friends can read aloud to children instead of leaving them alone with toys.

8. Being an immigrant family in the US, we celebrate both local and Indian holidays. That calls for a LOT of gifting! I try to alternate buying books and toys as gifts for my son. (Guess I am lucky I have a boy because he does not ask for clothing and accessories as gifts!)

9. I think it is important to have a variety of books. For my son, I have relatively complicated story books with different characters (ranging from Disney characters to folk tales from around the world), simple picture books with fewer words (so that he can start reading words for himself), factual books (eg. books on planets, animals, human body etc.) and poetry books, to name a few. We try not to repeat books for a week or so, but sometimes I have to bow down to his wishes..

As you continue to read with your child, you’ll find them developing abstract thinking. Pretty soon your child will be weaving fact in to fiction, creating dramatic stories, and building up his/her vocabulary in the process..

One Amazing Thing…

First, a disclaimer. The title of this post is plagiarized. Ok, not plagiarized, maybe inspired. This is the title of a book by an Indian American author where a bunch of people stuck in an adverse situation tell each other “one amazing thing” about their life..

One amazing thing that I realized today is how a positive attitude can be the best medicine…As part of a team trying to give hope to patients who are extremely sick (creepy sick, as we sometimes call them), I have witnessed several instances recently where we give our patients a poor prognosis (based on scientific data and experience), but they prove us wrong, refusing to believe us, letting their positive attitude guide them. It is at once gratifying and humbling to be proved wrong when the patient turns a corner.It also serves as a reminder that we do not save lives on our own, we are merely tools that a higher power uses to fulfil the destiny of people who have placed their lives in our hands…

I know this is getting too serious, but I needed to put it out there, since this thought has been dominating my cerebral cortex all day…

This is also a reminder to me to never give up, not for my patients, not for myself..

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve their turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing left in you

Except the will which says to them, GO ON!

From: “If” by Rudyard Kipling (quoted from memory, may have inaccuracies in the verse)lone cypress tree

This is the Lone Cypress Tree standing tall, and alone for 300 years along the California coast..

Growing Pains

I look at my 3 year old and wish time would freeze….

He is cute, talks non-stop and gives me the most awesome hugs and kisses..but that’s not why I wish he would not grow up further.

It’s his enthusiasm for everything, his general joie-de-vivre, that I want to capture and freeze in time. At his age, everything is amazing, and the most mundane objects turn inspiring..I wish he would never lose that sense of wonder, the joy of discovery, and the ability to immerse himself completely in the task at hand..

I hope he never grows up to be like the cynical, jaded adults we all seem to evolve in to. Most of us are always trying to think and plan ahead, and apparently lose the ability to be in the moment and to savor the present completely. Every time I see him excited about something trivial, my heart skips a beat and I try to look at things from his perspective too. Mostly I end up being unsuccessful because of years of conditioning that bring conflicting thoughts in to my mind, but once in a while, I do lose myself in the moment and enjoy……with unbridled enthusiasm..

crystal ball

I added this image of glass art from the Corning Museum of Glass because I was reminded of a crystal ball where I would love to capture these precious moments…

The sensual flower

I am sure this title sounds pretty quirky for the first post..so let me explain. ..

Of all the flowers I have seen, none has captured my imagination like the orchid. Orchids come in a stupendous variety, with a wide range of colors, patterns, and arrangement (while some flowers grow by themselves, others exhibit themselves in an inflorescence). However, that’s just one thing. The reason I am writing about orchids is that I find them very sensual…looking at orchids is like a pleasurable assault on my senses. No wonder different varieties of orchids hold the honor of being national flowers for several countries including Venezuela, Columbia and Singapore!

So here I am sharing a photo album of delectable orchids from a horticultural exhibit at Longwood Gardens near Philadelphia…


orchid 2orchid 5orchid 3orchid 7orchid 4    orchid 6  orchid 8 orchid 9 orchid 10 orchid1orchid 11 orchid 12

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