Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Wonder Years - Through Our Nieces

Today's blog is about our (A and me) five nieces. Their age range is from six months to twelve years (6 months, 4 years, 8, 9 and 12 years). The reason why I write this post is because we get to see a whole spectrum of growth as we look at all five of them and different stages of development - their current interests, how they change with time, what they learn, etc. What each of them individually goes through at their respective age and how the transition happens to an older age is amazing. I don't want to name names, so for the sake of simplicity, the oldest (12-year old) is called A, 9-year old is B, 8-year old is C, 4-year old is D and the youngest is E. This blog is not about how each one of them is (her personality, individuality, etc). It is about the different stages of their childhood and pre-adolescence.

I have seen D and E (the younger two ones) since the time they were born. And have seen A, B and C since they were two, three and six years old. We now talk to the oldest one as an adult. She is a tween. If you were to chat with her, you would not realize that she is a tween. The only thing that gives it away is her extensive use of emoticons and smiley faces. When B and C were three and four years old, we used to spell out words, so they would not understand it. Now we do that for D. D was super excited that it was her birthday near Christmas. She was looking forward to having a princess-themed cake and candles for her big day. Yes, like other girls her age, she loves princesses and was a princess on Halloween. The older nieces went through that phase also, and have since, moved to dressing up as other characters for Halloween (read as scary witch, bed head, etc). The youngest one was too little to have a Halloween costume, so she will wait one more year for her own costume. At the end of the day, irrespective of the age they are, they all enjoy their candies and chocolates!

When we see E, the youngest one, A (the husband and not the niece!) and I are reminded of our nieces when we saw them when they were so young. E's latest thing is that she has just begun to turn on her own. I remember D began rolling from her bed the first time when we got her to Connecticut in 2008. My sister and I were in the kitchen and when we came out, she had rolled out of her little make-shift bed. E will give you the best smiles when you spend time with her.

It is so interesting to see how each has their own personality and how that plays in with their age. A and her sister C, are four years apart. Till about a year and a half back, they played with their common friends and A would play the same games as C. We are now seeing that she has grown out of that, and spends time with her friends during parties. And C plays with her own friends. With becoming a tween, also comes the thing of sleep overs. Being the oldest, she was the first to be invited to sleep overs at her friends' place as well as host sleep overs at her place. If she has moved on to sleep overs, D is still at the play-date age. She loves to go her best friend's place and play anything from lego to playing with excavator trucks to their parents reading them books.

B and C are only a year apart from each other. When we did the family trip to Canada during last summer, it was very interesting to watch both of them. The cousins were meeting after a long time. So when they first met, B and C were walking on the road, hand-in-hand. They talked non-stop and had much to share. There were a few times I think when all three were in the same car. I can only imagine what the adults in the car must have gone through! We no longer can distract them and make them silent by saying, "Count the number of red cars that pass by" or saying "Let's play the game of who stays quiet for longer". While that trick still applies to D. She remembers that and a day or two after we have left her place, she will tell her mom that she spotted a red car! I am sure within a year or two, she too will outgrow that. A (the hubby) used to spell things out when his nieces were younger. Like spelling out I-C-E C-R-E-A-M, so they would not understand it. We now do it with D. B was a terrific host when we went to Canada. Although she is nine, she made sure that all of us were comfortable and was a great guide at Calgary's stampede.

You must have already noticed that we do get to see a wide spectrum of interesting aspects with the girls and how different they all are. D's best friend is a boy and to her, he is just like her. B and C believe that boys are bad, and they are their enemies. While A is beginning to understand a little more than that. When we see all of them, we sometimes do wonder how each of them will be when they grow up. From all five of them, E has the best life as of now. She eats and sleeps. The oldest one is entering the phase where school work has just begun to get important, along with following other activities. B loves to ice-skate, C enjoys swimming and tennis, and D had her first swimming lessons this past summer.

They are not different in everything. We do see some similarities. All four girls love to dress up and they all love make-up. They wait for an occasion when mommy will allow them to apply some make-up. Another thing - they all love celebrating their birthdays. If one had a princess-theme, another was all too happy to spend her birthday with the entire family. She told her classmates about it excitedly. The others like it at a gaming plaza or having friends over for a sleep over. A (the hubby) and I can't help, but remark at times, that we get to see such different stages of growth in all five of them. We feel lucky for that and to a very large extent - it is a big learning experience for us. If you have stories about your nephews and nieces, do share them. I would love to know about them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pictures from the Newseum

Cameras used by photojournalists - Then and Now

Part of the Berlin Wall. This was seen as a time when there was lack of communication between people.

Advent of New media

9/11 Newspaper Front Pages

Saving the best for the last - the view from the terrace

Visit to the Newseum

As I write this title, I feel like a child in 4th grade/ standard, who has been told to write about her visit to the zoo! I am not in 4th grade, and I did not go to the zoo either, but I sure was as excited as a ten-year old to go to the Newseum. One – the Newseum, as the name suggests, is a museum for news (read as media). That being my former profession, it definitely interested me. Two – there are some great exhibits there, which I will talk about in this post. Three – I had awesome company in A 
I had already been to the Newseum in September with my friends, N and H from Columbus, Ohio. They too, live in the greater DC area. I will start with two of my favorite exhibits over there. One was that of Pulitzer prize winning photographs. There were breathtaking photographs, most of which made you think for a few minutes before you moved to the next. There was a beautiful picture of a family being reunited after the Second World War. The expressions are that of relief, joy and so much more. There were pictures of the fire that took place in Chicago so many years back, and all the destruction that took place. There was one picture, where only a woman’s hand was shown. Her fore arm was infected, and she was shown holding a household blade. It was a picture depicting female circumcision in Kenya. It is alarming that that despite awareness being raised about it, that painful tradition still is a part of some African countries.

A gripping picture was that of a famine in Africa, taken in the early 1990s. There was a small child (less than two years), clearly malnourished, in a very dry place. And behind her was a vulture, waiting to make the child its meal. The photographer managed to get rid of the vulture, and made the girl safe temporarily. He received a lot of negative comments when the picture was released, as to why he never saved the girl. And he was noted telling a friend that he had felt very bad about not helping the girl. After a few months, he committed suicide. There was a 10-15 minute video presentation that kept running, where Pulitzer prize winning photographers talked about their tasks. There were some that stuck with me. One said that you don’t do your job thinking that today I am going to click a Pulitzer Prize winner. It just happens. You can’t plan for it. Another lady said that she had seen so much pain and suffering in adults and in a lot of children, that in order to deal with it, she took pictures of people helping other people. And how she could show compassion through her photographs.
This was one of the sections that I really liked. The other was a sub-section of a bigger section. The bigger section was that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It had various exhibits within it, giving a good historical aspect also. One of my favorites was that of Sept 11, 2001. It had collections ranging from the plane’s parts to what was found in it, to confiscated passports of the terrorists in the planes. One of the most striking things there was the original letter that was given to each of the terrorists, which they were to read the night before Sept 11. It was not written in English, but a translated sheet was kept next to it. The letter stated the justification given to them, as to why they were doing this, and the supposed thing that it was the right thing to do. When I read the letter the first time, I re-read it. And yet I took time to digest it. When I went with A this time round, I told him to read it. He too was in disbelief.
Moving on from this emotionally-charged exhibit to a lighter one, there was a temporary/ traveling exhibit on sports photography. Several photographs were from the magazine, Sports Illustrated by Nick Leifer. There were pictures that showed the intensity of former tennis players, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. The photographer mentioned that Mohammed Ali was a delight to photograph, and had a wonderful personality.
One of the other really nice permanent exhibits is the evolution of media from radio to television to the Internet. It was historically rich, and wonderfully captured key moments in history and how media was used to broadcast that news. For instance, they showed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and how people got information at every step of the way. The other one, where millions of viewers turned on their TV sets was the wedding of the beautiful Lady Diana and Prince Charles. I wish that along with the wedding of lady Di, they kept a big poster of the big 2011 wedding of Prince William and Katherine.

That would have plastered a smile on my face for the rest of the day. The historical perspective continued with key political moves, natural disasters and other important events. A small room was also dedicated to social media, and how it was used in the revolution in Egypt. A humorous angle to social media was how Twitter would have been used if it was around during the time of the Civil war. It was quite funny to read that. The other humorous part in the Newseum was continuous clips being shown about late night TV shows. This included shows of Stephen Colbert, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Saturday Night Live and others. They have played a key role in media and portraying the truth behind key developments in a humorous and satirical manner. A and I, along with other visitors had a nice time laughing at these clips, especially after watching some intense displays.
On the same floor as the late night shows and development of media, was one more intense display. It was that of September 11, 2001. This was different from the one of the FBI. This gave the journalists' perspective. The center piece was the destroyed top of one of the towers of the World Trade Center buildings. On one of the walls were front pages of national and international newspapers on the day after this horrific incident. I was at the Newseum the first time on September 10, 2011. Several people choked up and some were crying as they went through this exhibit. A video clip that was being played showed raw footage, interviews with people who saw it up and close and the destruction that took place.

On the other side of the center piece were remains of the only journalist, a photo journalist, who died while covering what was happening on that sunny morning in September. His was a moving story of how he and his wife were walking their dogs when they heard about it. He rushed home to get his cameras, and never came back. They retrieved his cameras, which revealed some of his best shots. But he didn't live to see them. It was touching to see his glasses, phone and other personal belongings on display.
Journalists that made an impact
There was one exhibit on Katrina that was there when I went in September. Without going in the details, there was a clip of Anderson Cooper of CNN where he was livid about politicians making tall claims and doing nothing while people died and suffered in the aftermath of the disaster. And there was another clip of Brian Williams of CNBC being angry about the same thing. I had this thought then that it would be terrific if both these men featured in the same show. They would make a great team. Here is a collection of headlines after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.

The other one was the exhibit on Tim Russert. He was the long time face of the show 'Meet the Press'. The exhibit was that of his office when he died a few years back. He was a journalist who made an impact not just on the viewers, but even the people he interviewed. He was known for having a wealth of knowledge and who read and pored over newspapers from all over the country. He was a dedicated family man. Even after all the years of hosting the show, after a particularly important show, he would go to his office and call his father and ask how he liked the show and what his opinion was. There were imminent people in Indian media who remain very memorable, and we still talk about them.
I try to generally end on a happy note. There were a series of photographs in one of the hallways of the White House Presidential dogs. These pictures are kept to engage younger museum visitors. The Kennedys had nine dogs when they were in the White House, while one of the presidents chose to have a goat instead of a dog. And there was one who had held his dog by the ears. He received a lot of negative reactions because of the way he treated his dog.
I hope that if you are in DC, and if you have not been to Newseum, you get a chance to visit it. And if you get lucky, you may get to go free (yes, my sister N gave me a link where free tickets were being given by Newseum) or go at half price (shout out to Groupon)!

P.S. - As I browse through pictures - I am going to post a few pictures on this post, and have a new post with just the Newseum photographs