Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Filmi

About a month ago a friend of mine sent me an e-mail from Tehran and asked me to publish it somewhere. Reading it reminded me of the way I used to live in Iran and all the sufferings that was a part of it. The e-mail brought me back a vivid image of the life there: the love for art, the backward religious government, and the hopelessness that rules the heart of every young Iranian.

His political views on many issues are not similar to mine but I don't think it matters at all. To me it does not matter if people suffer under Pinochet or Castro, Taliban or US puppet government of Karzai, they need to be heard.

The e-mail was published in Iranian.com. Click here to go to Guardian and read a translation of the story. There are certain parts of the letter that need to be clarified for non-Iranian reader; like when he talks about "innocent Palestinians" or when he expresses his feelings about pro-peace Europeans. But these are the boundaries of "language" for explaining the social context of the piece. That letter needs a huge footnote to convey all the meanings of the words it has used.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Tehran, LA, New York

Image

If there are two cities in the world that should be called “sister cities,” they are Los Angeles and Tehran. These two are so similar in their ugliness, in their freeways, in their beautiful purplish dry mountains, and in the lack of character in their faces.
Iranian immigrants intuitively have found the similarity between the two. Los Angeles viewed from the houses on the Hollywood hills, or mountains in the San Fernando Valley, is similar to Tehran seen from Shemiran, or Farahzad. Certain parts of downtown are exactly like “Joonoob Shahr.” East LA, with all the Mexican shops -with shirts hanging from the ceilings and mustaches walking- is so much like “Baab Homaayoun.” In every thing Tehran is a third world replica of Los Angeles, a replica in an uglier way.

But putting aside the ugliness, the dry mountains, and lack of character, Tehran is like New York: The grocery stores in Queens, jay walking, the presence of taxis everywhere you are, and the craziness in the air. Both cities are on the edge all the time. Both cities are like “Zire Pole Seyd Khandaan” -all the time.
There is something about “Vali-asr” square at 6p.m. that reminds me of “Times” Square. In Tehran, buildings are not as huge and tall, neither are there any big TV billboards on the buildings; but a craziness, a piercing scream is hidden behind the faces that makes these two cities both disgusting and attractive. Living in New York or Tehran makes you feel a mysterious energy which is constantly released into the air. An energy which is changing the world, in a hidden way.

__________________________________________________

Photo: Tehran, Mirdamad St.
courtesy of Tehran 24

Sunday, June 15, 2003

How many roads

Image

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

--Bob Dylan
From the album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963.


For listening the song click here.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

405 Freeway

Image

Last night, looking at Los Angeles from Getty Museum on the top of the mountain, every thing was mesmerizing. "405 freeway" was passing through the city like a couple of artery and vein. Back red lights of the cars were moving towards the south and the front lights were coming toward me, making them look like a current of blood circulating in a body.
I was looking at the city, thinking if I would have felt more tranquility by looking at nature. I looked at the ocean behind the city and felt the city is like a formicary. One can look at it as a part of the nature. Still, there is a human dimension in the city that differentiates it from the rest of the nature. There is a certain kind of energy there, in the city, that makes it different from all other animal "nests."
Watching the city, for me, is like watching the sea. I can stare at its waves for hours. I can listen to the waves crushing on the shore for hours. There is a mystery that takes me to the sea, makes that gaze in my eyes; and still stays unsolved after watching it.
Last night on the top of the mountain I was thinking about the waves, and I had the same gaze and the same mysterious feeling about Los Angeles, and about 405.
__________________________________________________

Photo courtesy of Chris Gregerson, Phototour of Minneapolis

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Demonstrations in Tehran

Image

Demonstrations in Tehran and smell of violence, my friend's e-mail, my own life...
Everything remindes me of that beautiful scene in Los Olvilados, when the blind man wishes the children were dead before they come to this world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Public Radios

There are many public radios playing classical music in Southern California. I know at least three of them. And there are many others which play world music, Jazz music, and alternative music.
Sometimes I thing if we had such radio stations in Iran political future of the country would have changed much faster and more effective than now. I am sure there are many "Ansaar" who will be moved and changed by hearing a piece of good music, and they can't be the same person again.
I remember the time I used to teach in Bahman Art Center in southern Tehran. There was a Piano teacher there -who had got her PhD in Music from a school in Austria- whose especiality was teaching music to children. She was there from 8a.m. to 8p.m. teaching piano to the poor children of "koshtaar-gaah," those who never had a chance to learn piano or even listen to a piece of music. I think that woman did more changes in Iranian political system than any opposition groups outside the country.

Monday, June 09, 2003

A Crossroads

Image

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly."
--Woody Allen, From "Without Feathers"

Saturday, June 07, 2003

...

There are nights that I feel extremely alone. Tonight is one of those.

The Wedding

Image

My aunt once told me this story about her wedding day:
She was married at age 13 or 14. At that age she didn't know exactly what the marriage is about. The family had told her that she is going to marry someone whom she didn't know at all, and told her about the date of the wedding. That was all she knew about her own marriage.

At the wedding day the family "prepared" the product -her body and her appearance- with the dress, make-up and all of that stuff and asked her to sit there on a chair facing the guests, and not doing any thing else.
She sat there and after a while they brought her a new "decoration," a new "technology" for an Iranian wedding ceremony in 1930s. It was a series of small light bulbs connected together through a wire, with a button on it to turn the light on and off.
While the others wrapped the light bulbs around her the father asks her, the bride herself, to hold the button and continuously turns the lights on and off. She sits there staring at the gusts in silence the whole night, turning the stupid light on and off ,... on and off.
To me this can be a beautiful scene, sadly beautiful, from a surreal movie. Sometimes our experiences of "Iranian life" goes beyond reality. I think that is the reason Marquez is so popular in Iran. Latin America's Magic Realism is so familiar for Iranians. Their every day life is a mixture of naked reality with something disgustingly unbelievable.

The darkest part of my aunt's story was hearing a word from her, repeatedly, after every sentence: the word was "NEKBAT" (Adversity.)
I don't think any other word can explain our "Makondo" clearer than this one.
__________________________________________________
Photo: Wedding portrait of Iranian couple, Mahin Khavari and her husband. ca1948. Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

From Diaries of a Steppenwolf

From Diaries of a Steppenwolf (Monday, June 02, 2003) who lives in Tehran:
"...Last year when I was in Switzerland, the weather was terribly hot. They said it was once in 30 years! From the hotel where I was residing to the office it was 10 minutes by walk everyday. One day, while going to the office in the morning, I noticed a crowd of 3, 4 people in front of me on the sidewalk looking at something on the ground and discussing. Then someone made a phone call and explained the situation. In less than 2 minutes, municipality car arrives with a siren (no sound, just the light), two people came out and cleaned the dog shit from the pavement.
It's not a joke! But if I had not seen it with my own two eyes, I wouldn't believe it.
Yesterday, I had a one day trip by car, 475 km to go and 475km to come back just to visit a client for 3 hours. Kind of boring. I'm not going to explain the roads condition and traffic security in Iran. Just want to mention that there had been an accident on my way, apparently hours ago, and there were two bodies on the ground, lying down for hours.
I'm not going to conclude a moral for this one. I'm too upset about it..."

- I am not going to comment on what Steppenwolf says. It is just sad.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

A History of Everyday Things

Take a look at results of my search on Amazon.com for "history of everyday objects." Click here to open a chapter of the book A History of Everyday Things: The Birth of Consumption in France, 1600–1800. It is a PDF file.
The back cover says:
"Things which we regard as the everyday objects of consumption (and hence re-purchase), and essential to any decent, civilised lifestyle, have not always been so: in former times, everyday objects would have passed from one generation to another, without anyone dreaming of acquiring new ones. How, therefore, have people in the modern world become ‘prisoners of objects’, as Rousseau put it? The celebrated French cultural historian Daniel Roche answers this fundamental question using insights from economics, politics, demography and geography, as well as his own extensive historical knowledge. Professor Roche places familiar objects and commodities - houses, clothes, water - in their wider historical and anthropological contexts, and explores the origins of some of the daily furnishings of modern life. A History of Everyday Things is a pioneering essay that sheds light on the origins of the consumer society and its social and political repercussions, and thereby the birth of the modern world."
Who does shed light on the origins of the Iranian surreal society and its social and political repercussions? Somebody should do that.

Two Photographers

Image

Go to the web pages of these two photographers at "kargah.com":
* Shadafarin Ghadirian:
http://www.kargah.com/ghadirian/index.htm
* Mohsen Rastani
http://www.kargah.com/mohsen/index.htm
and see how a change in culture can be visualized in photography. These photographs are beautiful, creative, and in the case of Rastani "very Avedon-ian" -which is not bad at all.

Image

Monday, June 02, 2003

The Worthless Objects

Image

How important were the "worthless objects" in the formation of our modern life?
I mean worthless things like "spices" which were the main reason for Europeans to try to find a way for reaching India. "Spices" were the reason for passing the Atlantic ocean and the "discovery" of the New World and all the disasters and beauties that followed it.
Or things like sewing machine and zipper which were invented in 19th century. They transformed the style of clothing in the next 100-150 years, but their role in this transformation is not mentioned that much. I go one step forward and ask myself what is their role in the transformation of human beings' lifestyle and behaviors? Without the invention of sewing machine and zipper the mass production of jeans -and informal clothing in general- could not be possible. Informal clothing have changed the way people stand and walk all over the world. So one can ask himself how much these kinds of inventions have been affected the way we talk and walk today?
What about pencils, fountain pens, and ball pens? How much the invention of these little writing machines has transformed our writing habits, our literature and our daily life? How important they have been in establishing a modern system of documentation and measurement for every thing?
What about watches and clocks? By beginning to use them human beings developed a feeling for "minutes" and "seconds." Watches and clocks completely changed our conception of time. The quantitative measurement of time -that used to be more of an unclear feeling- transformed a vague concept to an exact measurement of hours, minutes, and seconds. And quantitative measurement of time made many other concepts measurable as well. In this story of eggs and chickens one can ask if these inventions owe their existence to the modern science or it is the science that owes them its rebirth.
I think a history of worthless objects might tell us more than what we think about humans and the way our modern mind works.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Translations in My Head

How can I get rid of these translations in my mind? When do I begin to think in English? It looks like it never happens. I am destined to do the painfull process of translating my thoughts from Persian to English, forever.
After living here in the US for about seven years I haven’t still found an English word for kaashki. A word that brings to life all that sorrow and longing hidden in the Persian word.

...

This is the first sentence of the labyrinth, a documentation of my daily trips into the strange process called life.