Saturday, March 21, 2009

Walking through a Maze of Artworks

Personally speaking I don't like Dallas very much... in fact the flat terrain irritates me quite a bit. But sometimes I find myself adoring the man-made natural wonders which dot the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) landscape. These green spaces have been created thanks to the commitment of several enterprising and passionate people. Recently I chanced upon one more of such a space: The Texas Sculpture Garden, Frisco.

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Set amidst commercial office buildings and contiguous to the Dallas North Tollway, the Texas Sculpture Garden showcases the private collection of businessman Craig Hall absolutely free and in the open. Usually art collections and exhibits are either showcased in a museum or gallery and entry is by ticket only. But here is Craig Hall who is of the firm belief that: "Art is good for the soul; it nurtures the spirit and inspires the imagination." and feels that "making pieces from the collection available to the public has always been a personal priority."

The result of this philosophy is the Texas Sculpture Garden, which comprises of over 100 beautiful sculptural installations created by artists from across the world. There is an obvious prominence given to the works of 41 prominent Texas artists: an effort to promote local talent. These artworks have been installed in and around the Hall Office Park, the commercial district of the city of Frisco, Texas.

Apart from the artwork themselves, I simply love the beautiful landscaping in this part of the commercial district. This is supposed to be a place for offices and one would expect lots of traffic, noise, people milling around etc. But this place enjoys pin-drop-silence except for the occasional car whizzing past and the faint vehicle sounds from the Tollway or the Tx-121 highway. Otherwise the beautiful lawns, lakes, fountains and even a waterfall, interspersed by walking trails provides a fantastic location to enjoy a good outing. You don't even have to carry a picnic lunch because there are lots of eateries in the neighboring Stonebrair Mall.

Another reason one must visit this place is that there is no entry fee. It is absolutely free to walk around the park, enjoy the artworks and scenery. My tight schedule prevented me from taking in the entire Art Landscape but in the limited time I shot numerous pictures of the space, here are some of them... watch out for more and yes... do let me know what you think of this unique open air art museum.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Movie Review: The Last Confederate

Praiseworthy Effort!!
One thing about Europeans and Euro-Americans (White people in the US) that continues to leave me awed is their ability to take up even the most trivial incident and tell a hugely successful story which will subtly enhance their image in front of the world. The Last Confederate is a movie which showcases the true story of American Civil War Hero Robert Adams is a similar effort.

The movie is set in a period just before the start of the American Civil War and narrates the story of the life of Robert Adams, during the civil war years. The story portrays the passion, courage and love of the protagonist for his land, people and way of life. Robert is a southern planter who enjoys the good life, served by slaves, meandering from one party to another, supervising agriculture, riding fine horses, etc. He wants to continue leading the same life like the greater part of the southern white population. He falls in love with beautiful Eveline, a teacher from the North (Pennsylvania) and wants to marry her.

But with the federal government abolishing slavery the southern states decide to secede which leads to the Civil War. Robert Adams passionate about his land, lifestyle and people decides to enter into the fray and is recruited as captain of the Confederate forces. During the course of the war he is captured and imprisoned, but manages to escape and reunite with his love for a brief period. He reenters the battles and fights till the end of the war and emerges as the only surviving confederate soldier (at least according to the movie), thanks to the pity of a Union soldier who just fires in the air and lets him go.

If one were to watch the movie without bothering about any historical knowledge/ perspective, then this is a brilliant story and one can't help but become a great admirer of Robert Adams. But I am a big time skeptic, so when I watch any movie I examine the story, narration and characters with an array of lenses. Ideologically speaking this movie is a sham, for one thing the makers of this movie are glorifying a man who fought for slavery. What can be a bigger insult to democracy and equality than this? Then what is great about Robert Adams? He fought for Confederates to protect his land, which his fore-fathers and millions of other white people illegally, inhumanly and unethically usurped from native American tribes. He fought to protect his family and to have the freedom to continue to lead the same way of life, which is commendable, if one looks it from his side.

Summing up, I would say this movie has a lot of lessons for Indians. Here is Julian Adams the great-grandson of Robert Adams who produced, wrote and starred in the film. Look at our country, the first film about Mahatma Gandhi was produced, directed and acted out by foreigners. Till date no descendant of Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharana Prathap, Chattrapathi Shivaji or any other Indian Hero has ever bothered to sponsor/ produce any movie to tell the true story of their ancestor. Robert Adams is no historical figure in the US, but now thanks to this movie, his place in the popular perception has been created.

Indian film directors make movies showcasing the glories of people who invaded and plundered our country, killed our people and attempted to destroy our culture, traditions and religion. The most glaring example of recent times would be Jodha-Akbar starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai. I wonder if our people will ever become enough patriotic and aware of our country and strive to create an honorable place for its heroes in the popular perception. Yes some movies have been made such as few about Shaheed Bhagat Singh, but this is simply not enough.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lake Lavon, Wylie, Texas

I had blogged about our visit to In-Sync Exotics, a rescue center for wild cats such as Tigers, Cougars, Lions, Leopards and other endangered animals. I also mentioned that this shelter/ property is located in a beautiful location... stone's throw away from Lake Lavon, a large lake/ dam/ reservoir of fresh water. Being a piscean I can't help but be fond of water and whenever I come across a large water body such as Lake Lavon, it fills my spirit with its enormity, beauty and a sense of awe. Beneath the surface, every water body is the habitat for millions of living organisms, plants, algae, fish, etc. And of course a sense of adventure is always there around water. Water sports have always been a draw to my spirit and soul.

Since I had forgotten to carry our camera I could not get any pictures which flatter my photography skills. But I did manage to get some decent pictures of the Lavon Dam thanks to my wife's blackberry.

Sluice gates of the dam

This railway track passes by the dam.. I am sure view from the train would be spectacular

I am neither fond of this picture nor photographing trash.... But then even in an environmentally aware society like the US, trashing up lakes and natural water bodies seem to be very common..

Another View of the Dam Gates

One of the simple but efficient features to help people. Tubes to rest fishing rods after casting. If we could install it on dam piers in India, I am sure lot more people will get into fishing both for food as well as sport...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pornography Detection Technology

Internet has brought with it several advantages: speed of communication, enhanced processing, data transfer, e-commerce, websites, e-mail, online telephony, etc. This has helped individuals and businesses improve productivity to a great extent. On the flipside Internet has been responsible for so quite a bit of problems too. For example, internet has made access to pornography easy and fast.

Businesses are working hard to tackle the challenge pornography poses to their productivity. No matter how many firewalls, trackers and other devices are installed porn-addict employees find a way to access porn at work. Confronting them directly has the potential of creating hostile work environment. At the same time porn at work can't be tolerated. Now there is a brand new tool, SurfRecon ERT (Emergency Response Tool), which helps businesses, remotely analyze computers in the official network for pornographic content. This enables HR/ IT executives to discretely detect pornographic content on the official networks and gather evidence to take action.

Visiting a Wild Cat Rescue Facility

Yesterday I finally was able to make it to In-Sync Exotics a facility which cares for exotic cats. "Exotic cats" are those Tigers, Lions, Cougars, Leopards and similar wild animals that have been bred in captivity to satisfy the whims, fancies and satiate an individual's pride. Some of them have even been subjected to cruel treatment such as getting de-clawed, de-toothed etc and they obviously don't have the capacity to get back and live in the wild.

Recently I heard a statistic which made my jaw drop... "There are more Royal Bengal Tigers in captivity in Texas, than there are in the wild". After visiting In-Sync and listening to the stories of these large, adorable cats I am more than convinced that this statistic is quite true. Apparently there are several Petting Zoos and amusement parks in Texas where they bring in 2-week old tiger cubs and have visiting children take pictures with these cubs. Once these cubs reach an age of 3-3½ months, they are too large to be carried by children and too dangerous too. At this point in time they are just discarded, and this is when In-Sync and other similar shelters come into play.

These shelters are permanent residence for these cats till their death. Committed volunteers help the non-profit take care of the animals. Funding is completely by private donations. Looks like I will be spending a substantial amount of my weekend time at In-Sync soon....