Category Archives: Film

5 Countries to Invade (or Emulate) for Ideas

February 18th, 2016

I recently saw the new Michael Moore film “Where to Invade Next,” http://wheretoinvadenext.com and I can only say that here in the U.S. we have a lot to learn from our friends in Europe and even in North Africa. Moore takes us on a journey to Italy, Finland, France, Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Iceland, and Tunisia and highlights one aspect of their civil society and its myriad of benefits. His mission in the film is to “invade” these countries not for their natural resources or to overthrow governments to spread democracy but to bring home to the U.S. one positive attribute. In all his encounters, those he interviewed, regardless of country, reminded him that they used the U.S. (e.g. our Constitution, Civil Rights Movement, etc.) as their model to emulate and perfect.

Since this is an education blog, I’m going to focus on those countries Moore visited to highlight the great strides they’ve made in cultivating their education system from curriculum, teaching methodology, assessments, to school meals.

Finland
finland

Moore visited Finland where the country decided to overhaul its entire pre-K through high school public education after rating low on world education rankings in the mid 1990’s. Since then they have done away with testing, or standardized testing as we are so familiar with here in the U.S., scrapped homework and reduced classroom hours. Children get more time to socialize and play at home and with friends. Public schools throughout Finland receive equal funding and enjoy the same resources so children of different neighborhoods benefit from the same quality education and socialize and integrate with each other despite their socioeconomic backgrounds. It was also interesting to see that when Finns get their paychecks they receive a detailed breakdown of exactly where their taxes are going. Would we react differently if we saw that 56% of our taxes are directed toward military and defense instead of education and other social services?

Moore’s takeaway from Finland: Do away with the standardized tests and reduce homework and make teaching fun and engaging. And, include a detailed breakdown of exactly what percentage of taxes support which government programs!

France
France

The next country on Moore’s itinerary was France where he visited school lunchrooms to witness at firsthand what French children eat.  What he found was astounding. School chefs meeting with Ministry of Education-approved nutritionists to plan the monthly menus, refrigerators stocked with fresh produce, including varieties of cheeses and sit down lunches where children were served four course meals. You may be thinking that he had visited a private school. No, these were public schools, some in poorer neighborhoods and some in more affluent, but the one thing they had in common was healthy food, prepared with great attention to the ingredients to ensure the children received a balanced nutritious meal. Lunch was served on china, where children sat at dining tables covered with table cloth and were served by a member of the kitchen staff. They were not lining up cafeteria style with trays in hand and having mystery meat plopped on plastic plates. Children even helped serve each other and ate their meals using proper silverware: knives and forks. The point was not only healthy eating, but learning table etiquette and the ability to sit alongside fellow classmates and sharing a meal. In fact, these children were sharing their desserts and having conversations! And the beverage served? Water! Yes, water. No sugary sodas or artificially sweetened drinks. Plain, delicious, water. By the way, he also demonstrated how the cost to have healthy freshly prepared meals on site for the children at schools in fact cost far less than the mass produced nutritious deprived lunches at our school cafeterias. Moore also sat in a sex education class and when he asked the teacher and the students if there were also taught abstinence as is the case in U.S. schools, they looked at him in bewilderment. The teacher said studies show that including sex ed. classes in schools reduce teen pregnancies.

Moore’s takeaway from France: Incorporate a menu of healthy nutritious meals at our public schools using the French system as a model, though minus the scallops and coq au vin. And, worth returning sex ed. classes in our school curriculum that provide students honest and uncensored information.

Slovenia
Slovenia

Next was Slovenia where Moore interviewed students attending the University of Ljubljana where both domestic and international students benefit from free education. He spoke with two American students who had chosen to study there since they couldn’t afford the high cost of U.S. higher education. One student even said that she felt Slovenia’s higher education was by far more superior compared to U.S. undergraduate studies which she thought was more on a par to the country’s high schools. When Slovenia’s government had considered charging tuition, Slovenian students protested against it and they were so effective that they succeeded in having the political party in charge step down. When tuition goes up in the U.S. we seldom see students protesting and demanding any change.

Moore’s takeaway from Slovenia: Free higher education means access to a larger population of students and a graduating class unburdened by student loans and debt.

Germany
Germany

In Germany, besides meeting with worker’s unions where it is a law that workers have representation on the Boards of companies and any worker suffering from stress with a doctor’s note receives a two-week company-paid stay at a spa to rest and recuperate, Moore also visited a public school.  He sat in on a class where the students were taught about the atrocities committed by Germany during WWII under Hitler’s leadership. The students weren’t taught a simplistic view of what happened. There were no revisionist interpretations of history, no excuses or admonitions that since they weren’t alive then they are not required to assume responsibility. He also showed how Germany is acknowledging its past by commemorating those who were taken from their homes and sent to concentration camps with gold plaques bearing their names and signs throughout streets in towns and cities in the country.  It was a stunning look at how Germany is not trying to forget or ignore its past actions.

Moore’s takeaway from Germany: One lesson Moore wishes the U.S. to adopt is a full recognition of its treatment of the indigenous Native Americans and its use of African slaves in building its infrastructure. If our children are taught the facts without any censorship or sanitizing, then there most likely will be a deeper understanding of our country’s history and a greater sense of accountability. Another takeaway is protecting our unions and giving the workers a seat on the Boards of U.S. companies. A 2-week paid spa retreat isn’t a bad idea either!

Tunisia
Tunisia

Although Moore’s focus on visiting Tunisia was not related to its education system, I still think it’s worth sharing since it has much to do with the topic of women’s equal rights in a country that in 2011 experienced a revolution in what we’ve got to know as the start of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has been able to bring about sweeping changes that have elevated the role of women in society by including in its constitution a bill of rights for women. In Tunisia women have full rights concerning their reproductive systems, can run for political office can serve in parliament, and share the same rights and privileges as men. A Tunisian female journalist had a few poignant words of advice for Moore and I’m paraphrasing: America is very lucky to be a strong country but it is very ignorant of others in the world, while other people of the world know about America, its politics, its music, literature, art, film, fashion, and even speak its language, Americans don’t know and don’t seem to want or care about the rest of the world. Tunisia, she said, is small, but it too has a rich history. She reminded us that it was the U.S. that invented the best technology ever: the Internet.  She asked that we use this valuable resource, research, read, and learn about the rest of the world and stop watching mindless shows like the Kardashians.

Moore’s takeaway from Tunisia: Be curious and look outside and beyond our four walls.

The sign of an evolving and advanced society is not pulling down the shutters and closing our eyes, minds and hearts to the outside world. It’s also not looking at everyone that talks or dresses funny, practices a different religion, or eats food that look strange to us, as a threat and with fear but to be curious, ask questions, research, engage, have conversations, learn another language, experiment with food and listen to music and news from other parts of the world, watch their films and TV shows and see for our self that we are not all that different.

My takeaway from this film besides all those shared by Moore, was that everyone he met, from young children in schools in Finland, to the women in Tunisia, spoke English. Many spoke three or four languages fluently. Language, my friends, and knowledge of more than our own, is how we can connect and stay connected with our neighbors, community, and the world. We need to make the learning of a foreign language a core component of our school curriculum, consider incorporating study abroad as a required component in our undergraduate programs, and encourage students to travel and/or join the Peace Corps on graduation. These are just a few examples of how we can inspire our young to become exemplary citizens of the U.S. and the ambassadors to the world.

Frustrated
Frustrated Evaluator

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Love and Romance: Our 3 Favorites in Music, Literature, Art and Film

February 13th, 2014

Last year for Valentine’s Day we posted a blog on how different cultures and countries celebrate the day. This year, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve invited three of my friends and contributors to ACEI’s AcademicExchange blog to chime in and share their most favorite romantic songs/musical compositions, literary creations, film and art. Here are some of their personal favorites.

Music
Contributor: Tom Schnabel

My three picks in the music category are:

“I Only Have Eyes for You” by The Flamingos

Tom: “This is a late 50’s doo wop classic and always makes me swoon with wonder and fills my heart.”

“Romeo and Juliet” by Tchaikovsky.

Tom: This is the story of passion against a backdrop of doomed love. It also reflects some of the great composer’s conflicts of being a famous closeted gay man in Tsarist Russia. The melody theme comes about 10′ after the opening and is one of the most ravishing melodies in all of music.

“In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel.

Tom: This mid-80s song is a longtime favorite, and still resonates with listeners today.

toms
Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Check out Tom’s show Rhythm Planet and his blog

Literature
Contributor: Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

This was a tough assignment as there are so many brilliant works of literature by authors who have tackled love and romance. I see a theme in the three I’ve picked for this post and that is their timelessness and relevance to today’s times.

Here are 3 of my favorites from a very long list:

“Jane Eyre” (pub. 1847) by Charlotte Bronte.
janeeyre

Jasmin: Jane Eyre, has been one of favorites since I was a teen and the book was required reading in school. Set in Victorian England, the novel’s gothic, melancholic tone and the hauntingly imposing “Thornfield” manor, home of its moody and mysterious master, Mr. Rochester, shows Jane’s evolution from a young woman into adulthood. Though her love for Rochester is palpable, she’s not willing to settle for anything less than she feels she deserves. Jane Eyre is considered by many to have been ahead of its time given its exploration of such taboo subjects like sexism, religion, and class structure. Jane’s single-minded character, her strong desire to be Rochester’s equal but remain independent (she has no reservation in advertising for a new post as governess when she thinks her current post is ending) is also a bold feminist statement at a time when such sentiments were neither welcomed nor discussed openly.

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Jasmin: All my friends and family will vouch for me when I say that I’m a certified loyal fan of Jane Austen’s novels. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a classic tale of love and misunderstanding set in early 19th-century class-conscious England. It depicts a time when the choices young English women had was either marry, become a governess, join a convent or enter the oldest profession to survive. Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist in Austen’s novel, is an intelligent, educated and like Jane Eyre, another single-minded independent young woman who refuses to abide by the traditions of the time. The novel shows us the world through Elizabeth’s eyes and the love that evolved between her and Mr. Darcy, member of the landed gentry, as she lets go of her prejudice and he overcomes his pride.

“The Red and the Black” by Stendhal
stendhal

Jasmin: I first read the English translation of Le Rouge et le Noir by Marie-Henri Beyle–the French author who is best known by his pen name Stendhal–in my early 20’s, fresh out of college and wondering what I wanted to do with my life. It’s not a “romantic” novel, per se, but love does play a part in the protagonist’s life that ultimately betrays him. The novel is a sociological satire of 19th century France and chronicles the life of Julien Sorel, a young man of modest means from the French provinces who rises up the social ladder amidst hypocrisy, deception, emotional and romantic entanglements fueled by jealousy. He’s imprisoned after attempting to kill the married woman he had once loved when he finds out that she had a written a negative character reference calling him a social-climbing scoundrel who preyed upon emotionally vulnerable wealthy women. His love for her is resurrected when she visits him in prison which she continues to do so until his execution by the guillotine.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

Art: Paintings
Contributor: Clayton Winston Johans

Well Ladies and Gents I was hoping to get to some more somber and less fantastical representations of Love’s joys and outcomes however, I could not pass up these three classical representations of love incarnate, despite either infamy or popularity!


“The Kiss” (1907) by Gustav Klimt

TheKiss

Clayton: Gustav Klimt appearing in the world, July 14 1862 and leaving it, February 6 1918 is considered one of the most prolific Austrian painters of the 20th Century.



Utilizing inspiration from Bizantine mosaics and use of actual gold leafing techniques, Gus cranked out the The Kiss and other paintings of variable similarity in a series of paintings  later deemed a part of his ” Gold Phase”.


Here is how I feel the situation went down from the Man’s point of view:



(Read slow for best results)



I cloak myself in gold and meet her in the fire. 

Hips swivel and one knee rises as she turns to me,
revealing a river of hair that splays across the
sheen like a splash of molten copper.
Palming my hand across her cheek, she embraces my breath.
I greet her. 
A kiss for life, a kiss for now.

Two ivory figures liquescent, amongst a spread of velveteen amber.


“Romance” (1932) by Thomas Hart Benton

romance

Clayton: Thomas Hart Benton April 15, 1889-January 19, 1975 was a Missouri Native and American surrealist. It can be said for the sake of description that Benton’s work was centered around working class American life and its simplicities and colors as seen through a warped looking glass (perhaps the bottom of a wine bottle). To put it simply, Romance 1932 was inspired by two young lovers sharing the joyous contemplation of life’s beauty and plainness while walking together.


Be aware that my interpretation of how the Woman’s feelings are depicted in this image are based solely on my view that this painting is of a couple’s nightly stroll, regardless of the hues and values that obviously suggest otherwise:


That air was so sweet with life and I breathed it in as we walked past the house.
That mother pearl shone above us,
lighting our way through our walk in that night.
Just the two of us. Yes just us, walked past that oak tree.
Looking at him and him back with delight.
He said I was all smiles, brighter than the moon herself.
Like flower of the night.

“Amor and Psyche” (1638) by Anthony Van Dyck

Amor

Clayton: Van Dyck, Flemmish Baroque painter, known for his time spent painting for the English Royal court, illustrated a scene from one of Rome’s most romantic stories ever told, Cupid and Psyche.

I can’t make up a better description than this:

Jealous of her magical love affair with Cupid (Amor), Psyche’s sisters convince her that her mysterious lover is a demon.  Deceived and curious to know the truth, Psyche seeks out her lover’s identity, where they meet in the dark with a lamp and a dagger. At the site of her true lover’s beautiful demi-god form, she cries in surprise, spilling hot oil on his body. Cupid flees to his house in the heavens and his mother Venus casts Psyche on an odyssey to appease the gods for her treachery. When Psyche completes the final task of retrieving a box full of Proserpina’s* tears said to cause everlasting beauty, she is struck with curiosity to look inside the box.  Upon opening the box, she is struck unconscious and enters a deep state of sleep. Cupid, all wounds healed, sets out for his love and awakens and brings her before Jupiter. In trade for his servitude, Jupiter happily weds Cupid with Psyche. At the wedding feast, Jupiter feeds Psyche ambrosia, sealing their lives and love eternally.

* (Queen of the Underworld)

Clayton
Clayton Winston-Johans
Director of Communications, ACEI
http://www.acei1.com

Extra!

The Frustrated Evaluator’s picks:

I decided to jump in here and throw in 3 of my favorite films on love and romance. They may not be your traditional favorites, e.g. Casablanca, Gone With The Wind, Doctor Zhivago, and even contemporaries like When Harry Met Sally, etc… (which happen to be favorites of mine), but ones I think address love and romance in not so traditional ways.

Harold and Maude (1971)

haroldmaude
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067185/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Frustrated Evaluator: Simply put this is a love story between a young man Harold and a much older (79-year old) woman, Maude played by Ruth Gordon. Through Maude, Harold who’s intrigued with death learns to live life to its fullest and begins to see and appreciate life as the most precious gift of all.

The Graduate (1967)

Graduate
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061722/

Frustrated Evaluator: Directed by Mike Nichols, this film is the story of a young college graduate Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) who is seduced by an older married woman, Mrs. Robinson (played by Anne Bancroft) and ends up falling in love with her daughter Elaine (played by Katharine Ross). Let’s also not forget the terrific soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkle. The film is classic boy meets girl (Benjamin is set up on a date with Elaine), boy loses girl (after he breaks the news to her that he was having an affair with her mother), boy wins girl (crashed Elaine’s wedding to Carl and takes her away). But it is the final scene, the last shot, that sticks with you where a disheveled Benjamin and Elaine still in her wedding dress sitting in the back seat of a bus. At first they seem ecstatic and exhilarated by what they had just pulled off but gradually their expression changes as they both realize what they had done. You can hear them both thinking: “Now What?

WALL-E (2008)

Walle
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910970/

Frustrated Evaluator: Not just another one of Pixar’s usual genius with animation but a love story. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland that was once our planet but abandoned for eons. WALL-E is the robot that remains on this wasteland and reminds us of what we all need and seek: companionship, protection and trust. I never expected to get wrapped up in the romance between a pair of robots. But I did and so will you.

I know this is cheating and we were all asked to give 3 of our favorites, but I’m going to sneak in a few more of my odd and not so odd romantic favorites: Star Man, The Lady and the Tramp (animation), The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Crying Game, Jules and Jim, Gilda, Brief Encounter, In the Mood for Love, Lost in Translation, and one my favorites from the ‘80’s “Say Anything,” which compliments Tom’s favorite music selection.

Hope you like our list. Now, it’s your turn: Tell us what are your favorite romantic films, novels, music and paintings?

And, Happy Valentine’s Day!


The Frustrated Evaluator
www.acei1.com

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January 1964: A Retrospective

January 2nd, 2014

3894222760_7285673a25

As we start the New Year, we thought it would be interesting to look back and see what historical events took place on this month in January, fifty years ago in 1964. As you can see from the list below, in only one month, a great deal happened around the world, some of which continue to be part of the news today.

We hope you’ll find this retrospective interesting or at the least amusing in that history does have a way of repeating itself, from political unrest, revolution to diplomatic stalemates. It also chronicles some firsts, such as the announcement about plans to build the World Trade Center, the first female presidential candidate and the Beatles having their first #1 hit in the U.S.

January 1964

January 1st – In Africa, Federation of Rhodesia & Nyasaland dissolved


January 2nd – Failed assassination attempt on president Nkrumah of Ghana (though 2 years later in 1966, a military coup led to his ouster forcing him to seek exile in Guinea)

January 3rd – On TV in the U.S., the Jack Paar Show shows a clip of the Beatles singing “She Loves You.” To view the clip, click on this link:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ8RfymgO8Q

January 5th – Pope Paul VI visits Jordan & Israel


January 7th – Bahamas becomes self-governing
(and on July 10, 1973, it gained its independence)

January 8th – European Parliament accept Mansholt Plan

January 8th – U.S. President Lyndon B Johnson declares “War on Poverty”

January 11th – Panama ends diplomatic relations with US
 after the breakout of anti-US rioting that started two days earlier on January 9th

January 11th – U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry reports that smoking may be hazardous

January 12th – In Tanzania, revolution overthrows Sultan of Zanzibar, one month after independence Revolution

January 13th – Hindu-Muslim rioting breaks out in the Indian city of Calcutta – now Kolkata – resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

January 14th – Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1st public appearance (TV) since President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. To see a clip of her TV appearance, click on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auVIO5zM8C0

January 18th – Plans for World Trade Center announced (NYC)

January 22nd – At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, the Wisconsin Pavilion displayed the world’s largest cheese (15,723 kg or 34,591 pounds) manufactured

January 24th – 24th Amendment to US Constitution goes into effect & states voting rights could not be denied due to failure to pay taxes

January 25th – Beatles 1st US #1, “I Want to Hold your Hand” (Cashbox)


January 25th – Echo 2, US communications satellite launched

January 27th – Margaret Chase Smith (Sen-R-Maine) tries for Republican Presidential bid

January 29th – 9th Winter Olympic games open in Innsbruck, Austria

January 29th – Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” premieres

Kubrick
Film Director Stanley Kubrick

January 29th – Unmanned Apollo 1 Saturn launcher test attains Earth orbit

January 30th – Military coup of Gen Nguyen Khanh in South Vietnam

January 30th – Ranger 6 launched; makes perfect flight to Moon, but cameras fail

January 31st – The U.S. report “Smoking & Health” connects smoking to lung cancer

Together, let’s help make 2014 a year of remarkable achievements and breakthroughs that promote the betterment of our global society and planet as a whole. Happy New Year!

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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How I Discovered Bollywood

April 4, 2013

LP cover - Bollywood - Tuhje Nahin Chhodunga (1991)

My first experience with Bollywood music came with a couple of cd’s back in the 1980s called Golden Voices from the Silver Screen, on a cool UK label called Globe Style. Vol 2 featured songs from the TV series Movie Mahal; the first volume featured classics from Lata Mangeshkar, her kid sister Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi, and others. I was aware of the two sisters who held the Guiness World Record for most recordings. Lata was #1, Asha at #2.

I remember leaving KCRW once back in the late 80s and pulling into a Chevron Station in Santa Monica to fill up, with a cassette of Lata playing. An attendant came over and said, “you know our divine Lata?”. Yes I said smiling proudly.

Later came Bappi Lahiri’s “I am a disco dancer”. Another hit, “Pump Up the Bhangra” came shortly after Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Volume”.

I watched Satyajit Ray’s epic Apu Trilogy with the great soundtrack music from Ravi Shankar. I’d known about Hindustani classical Indian music all the way back into the 1960s, when Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan came onto the American scene. I remember a great Ali Akbar Khan lp on the World Pacific label called Sound of the Sarod. It featured a rhapsodic piece called “Chandranadan”. Hearing it engraved it into my memory forever.

When I taught World Music at UCLA Extension in the 1990s, I invited two people on Indian night. The first was a guy named Jac Zinder, who ran a wildly eclectic pop-up nightclub that featured Bollywood videos, music, as well as fluff from Herb Alpert and other light fare. Jac showed some of the wilder clips from classic Bollywood films such as Gumnaam, which my class loved. When Jac was done, a very flustered and annoyed Harihar Rao–who founded LA’s great presenting organization The Music Circle with Ravi Shankar in 1966–admonished the class, telling students “I hope this isn’t all you learn about Indian culture!!!” He was clearly rattled.

I was delighted to see Lagaan come to mainstream cinemas here. Four hours never went by so fast. I was also the host of the big Bollywood Show at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago; it was an unbelievable night, 18,000 people cheering. A.R. Rahman’s big entrée into Hollywood. A later show featuring orchestral versions of his soundtrack followed, but it lacked the spectacle and energy of that first show. I felt the second show was to show that Rahman can write orchetral soundtrack music for any film….not just Bollywood.

I wish Bollywood movies appeared at more mainstream theaters…..in LA you have to go to Artesia or in the past to Laemmle Fallbrook Theater, which has now closed and become another AMC venue. Channel 18 on Saturday mornings 11-12 noon; there are also Indian channels on Dish Network.

It may be that for non-Indians, following Bollywood is just something for those who know. It is fun and the films are produced in the most fantastic manner….you get it all: soap opera, musicals, dancing, spectacle, beautiful clothing. What’s not to like? I love it, and hope Bollywood finds a bigger audience.

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2013

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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