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Young Indiana Jones

Not long ago I discovered that ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ TV series is available on Netflix. I remember seeing a couple of installments of this show in 2007 on Saturday mornings, and I was really impressed by what a great show it was. So I was thrilled to see it available for me and the kids to watch the entire series on Netflix. And after seeing several of the hour-and-a-half long episodes of this series, I must say I’m totally in love with this show! After a brief history, I will tell you why I love ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’ so much.

George Lucas created the series that ran from 1992-1993. It was originally called ‘The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles’ and aired in one hour episodes. The show got great critical acclaim and was nominated for and won several awards; but after three seasons it was canceled due to high production costs and low ratings, although I read that in Europe and other countries the series was very popular. Apparently Americans found it a little too ‘cerebral’, because, wow; along with what I consider some pretty rip-roaring adventures, this show was actually about interesting historical characters, moral dilemmas, history, art, different cultures, religion and philosophy. The purpose of this series was to educate, in an entertaining, personal way, about world history of the early twentieth century by having young Indy meeting many of the great historical figures of the time. A concept, I’m sad to say, that may be even more unappreciated in this country today than it was twenty years ago!

But then in 2007 the series was re-edited (as Mr. Lucas is so fond of doing) and re-packaged as ‘The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones’; combining two original episodes into single 2-hour (one and a half without commercials) episodes; leaving out a lot of stuff, but making the time line of events more coherent. Over the years the series has also been shown on several different networks, including The History Channel. There were also four made-for-TV movies of Young Indy a few years later; as well as a series of novels and a Darkhorse comic book series that filled in more of Indiana’s later adventures.

But let’s get back to my mini-review. The series begins when Henry Jones Junior (Indy) is ten years old. The first series involves his father, the famous professor of Medieval History at Princeton taking his family and Indy’s tutor, Miss Seymour, traveling to England, Africa, India, Greece, Italy, China and Russia in 1910 on a whirlwind lecture tour. This was an absolutely brilliant concept for an educational series; based on an adventurous, beloved character who amazingly gets to meet dozens of historical figures like Teddy Roosevelt, Norman Rockwell, Picasso, Leo Tolstoy, Lawrence of Arabia, young Krishnamurti and Ernest Hemingway, among many others. Later, back home, when Indy is sixteen years old he solves a mystery with the author of ‘The Hardy Boys’ daughter, meets Thomas Edison, joins Pancho Villa’s army (narrowly missing death on numerous occasions), and the last one we watched Indy is just heading off to Europe with his friend Remy to fight in World War I. Much of the later shows involve Indy’s experiences during the Great War.

Every aspect of this series is awesomely done! The production value of each episode is like watching a feature film. The filming locations are breathtaking. The actors are all incredible, not the least of which are the actors who play Indy at age 10 (Corey Carrier) and the older teenage Indiana (Sean Patrick Flanery). Lloyd Owen, who plays Indy’s father, Henry Senior, is also really wonderful. He speaks and sounds so much like Indy’s father from ‘The Last Crusade’ that when I close my eyes I actually see Sean Connery! The way he says “Junior!” is remarkable!

The series adds tremendous richness and character development to the ‘Indiana Jones’ saga and fills in a lot of backstory about the father/son relationship. In some ways I actually enjoy this series more than the original movies. They’re grounded in ‘the real world’ as opposed to the mystical craziness of the films. Actually I love the first and third Indiana Jones movies, but pretend that ‘Temple of Doom’ and ‘Crystal Skull’ never happened! ‘Temple of Doom’ got so damn dark and sadistic (I only have watched it once, when it first came out); and the last Indy film from 2008 (Nuking the Fridge, anyone?) just left me awfully disappointed. I had such high expectations! (It was nice to see Marion again). But watching this wonderful show has been a delightful experience for me, and the kids both love it! It’s entertaining, educational, emotionally moving and funny as hell at times. It shows both the lighter and darker sides of twentieth century history; the rich complexity of clashing cultures and human nature. It shows how a young boy changes through his experiences to become the man we know from the feature films.

I would highly recommend this series for young or old; as entertaining storytelling and as a great way to teach history and culture. It’s also a rich  homeschooling resource for me! I’m including some links to much more information below.

Young Indiana Jones Unofficial Home Page: A wonderfully thorough resource for all things Indy!

Adventures in Learning with Indiana Jones

The Raider.net: Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Young Indiana Jones Chronicles: Wikipedia

DVDPlanet: The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (Good prices for DVDs! Also available on Amazon and other places on-line).

Khan Academy

A while back my wife told me about a great home schooling resource called ‘The Khan Academy’. We’re home schooling our kids and I’m constantly in search of new resources besides textbooks and other written material we already have. There are numerous websites, TED, and other on-line educational resources, but I finally got around to checking out The Khan Academy the other day, and it is brilliant!

The website was started by a guy named Salman Khan, a successful hedge fund manager who originally made some algebra videos for his cousin and decided to branch out and create a ton of videos on Youtube covering a wide range of subjects. It has now grown into a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing a quality education to anyone (with a little help from Bill Gates) for free. But instead of me going over the story here, check out the links below for more in-depth information.

The range of topics covered on The Khan Academy site are incredible! Not just tons of math, but history, biology, physics, astronomy, economics, politics, SAT preparation; to name just a few. And the format of these videos is brilliant! This is not your average televised talking head type of video. It’s more like computer blackboard illustrations that go along with the narrative, all done by Sal Khan himself, that last approximately 10 to 15 minutes in length. And there are also interactive practice lessons available. My son and daughter love watching them, and so do I! There’s material for every age range right up through college level instruction. I’ve been spending at least an hour or so a day watching videos with the kids.

Such a simple idea, but I think his really could produce a revolution in education. But check out the Khan Academy for yourself. I love this guy!

How Bill Gates’ Favorite Teacher Wants to Disrupt Education

Yes, The Khan Academy IS the Future of Education (video)

Decoration Day

It’s the day before Memorial Day; or Decoration Day, as my older relatives used to call it. People first started celebrating the holiday by decorating the graves of veterans and those who died in war with flags and ribbons. It seems like most young Americans nowadays think of this holiday as a big party that heralds the beginning of summer. Though because of the current war in the middle East I’m sure there are many Americans who are painfully aware of what this day represents. But this Memorial Day has even more meaning for me than in most years.

For many weeks Arthur and Fiona and I have been reading about American history for some of our home schooling activities. And a big part of that involves learning about the many wars that Americans have fought in. We’ve particularly read a lot about the Civil War and more recently the Viet Nam War and World War 2. There are some great movies we can watch too, but some of the best ones may have to wait till the kids are a little older; like ‘Saving Private Ryan’ or my favorite Civil War film, ‘Glory’. Arthur and I just watched the first part of a really good documentary film on Netflix called ‘WWII in HD‘. It follows 12 real soldiers, 11 men and 1 woman, throughout the war using color film footage that’s recently been discovered. It’s amazing stuff! There are interviews with a few who are still alive, and actors reading from the written accounts of these people’s experiences in Europe, Africa and the Pacific.

But getting back to the point; it’s interesting that we’ve been reading and watching all this stuff about Americans and the wars they’ve been involved in so close to Memorial Day. Sometimes I don’t think all that much about what this holiday is really about. But this year I feel more thankful than ever to all the American Service people who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we have today. And even though I get pretty pissed off at what our political system has become today; the divisiveness, hypocrisy, corruption and corporate control of government (the subject for another time and post, for sure) I am still lucky as hell to live in America. And I’m still hopeful we can overcome the problems that face our country and find some balance of sanity and responsibility; to return to a government that cares about all its people, not just those with wealth and influence.

Just realizing how many millions suffered in World War 2 and how perilously close the Axis came to taking over the world really blows my mind! And realizing what a major role Americans played in that war makes me incredibly thankful to their generation and to the spirit that turned that tide of darkness from engulfing the Earth. I mean, the odds against the American Armed Forces in 1941 were incredibly daunting, but they gave everything they had and turned the tide of the war.

It’s that spirit that we must honor tomorrow. And the spirit of all those who put themselves in mortal danger in the past and to this very day to preserve the freedom of others.

I thank my children’s education for reminding me of these truths which we can so easily overlook.

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