Monday, September 27, 2004
Sunday, September 26, 2004
What is the relationship between Thomas Edison, electric lamp, electric chair, and camera?
In this early documentary film (MPEG), produced by Thomas Alva Edison in 1901, a cold and distant performance of a murder is carried out by a new scientific invention called 'the electric chair.' The performance is documented by another newly invented scientific device called Kinetoscope camera. The neutral eye of camera tries to prevent the emotions to get involved here. Nothing is supposed to be present but the absolute dominance of scientific precision.
That is how the civilization began its 20th century.
1879- Thomas Alva Edison invents a reliable, long-lasting Electric lamp.
1886-The New York State Government established a legislative commission to study humane forms of capitol punishment.
1887 - Edison conducts demonstration in West Orange, New Jersey, to show how perfect the "Electric Chair" works. He kills large numbers of cats and dogs by luring the animals onto a metal plate wired to a 1,000 volt AC generator.
1988- Thomas Edison invents his Kinetoscope camera.
1888- Edison uses dogs, horses and cows to demonstrate how AC electricity kills 'swiftly.'
1890 - The first execution by electric chair.
Sing Sing prison, New York, circa 1900. An African American prisoner strapped into the electric chair is observed by white American witnesses and guards before the moment of electrocution.
Source: Hulton Archive, another picture here (from the collection of George Eastman House.)
Thursday, September 23, 2004
The Eyeranian has translated a piece of Hakha's daily show into English. It gives you an idea what I was talking about when in one of previous posts I wrote about the surrealism of my country's politics.
Here I re-write my comment to The Eyeranian's post:
It is true that just a small number of people have believed what he says, but the fact that he EXISTS as a political figure says something about the Iranian culture. You don't see such a phenomenon in Chile, Burma, Vietnam, or Ivory Coast. The only place in the world that such a caricature of a 'savior' can appear in the political scene is our great country, Iran. After all 'we' are the ones who invented the concept of "savior" for the world. (what a shame,... the world could be a better place without it.)* For seeing Hakha's TV show on September 17, click here.
Friday, September 17, 2004
One of the advantages of living under a religious dictatorship is watching a lot of Laurel and Hardy, since many of their movies have nothing ‘unethical’ according to the strict moral codes of the Islamic regime.
Watching those movies helps you recognize a stairway in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, when you walk through Vendome Street near the intersection of Del Monte. This is the stairway used in the Laurel & Hardy movie, The Music Box, in 1931.
Excited from seeing the real stairway, you walk up its 133 steps like a pilgrim visiting a shrine. It is like paying homage to an unseen friend who has brought smiles to your face many times during your teenage years. The years one couldn’t see anything but death on the Iranian TV.
The stairway’s meaning for you goes beyond the meaning of the Laurel & Hardy movie. Your experience of the movie includes the daily news of the Iran-Iraq war ‘martyrs,’ the dreadful face of Khomeini, and all the propaganda shown before and after the movie.
* * *
Keeping a smile on your face back then was like holding that music box and taking it up to the top of the stairway. In the years the majority of the population didn’t have the illegal item called VCR, and the only movie you could watch on TV was shown once a week (on Friday afternoons), watching the Sisyphus type of work Laurel and Hardy performed in The Music Box made you think of your own life, made you laugh at it, and made that life bearable in its unusual way.
Coming down from the stairway you think all these might be the reason you never forget the stairway.
- You can see parts of the movie here: 1, 2.
- A picture of the satairway can be seen here.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
The German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has added an online service in Klingon. According to BBC, this is what is happening in DW director's brain: "We should celebrate our 10-year presence in the online universe with a cross-border language. This should help users from other galaxies get an impression of Germany."
After centuries of building 'reality' based on illusions in the form of religions, it seems now humans have began to get inspirations from scince fictions. Crazy species!
The Klingon language is an artificial language created for the TV series Star Trek. To know more about Klingon language click here.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
This is the first part of the poem "Song of Childhood" By Peter Handke. It reminds me of the day I asked my mother who "I" am. She didn't understand what I meant, and I didn't find more words to explain my thoughts. I was a little kid. I guess "language" itself was too new for me to handle this type of question, or maybe language was an irrelevant factor since I still have the same problem when I ask the same question.
Read the complete poem here.
When the child was a child
It walked with its arms swinging,
wanted the brook to be a river,
the river to be a torrent,
and this puddle to be the sea.
When the child was a child,
it didn’t know that it was a child,
everything was soulful,
and all souls were one.
When the child was a child,
it had no opinion about anything,
had no habits,
it often sat cross-legged,
took off running,
had a cowlick in its hair,
and made no faces when photographed.
When the child was a child,
It was the time for these questions:
Why am I me, and why not you?
Why am I here, and why not there?
When did time begin, and where does space end?
Is life under the sun not just a dream?
Is what I see and hear and smell
not just an illusion of a world before the world?
Given the facts of evil and people.
does evil really exist?
How can it be that I, who I am,
didn’t exist before I came to be,
and that, someday, I, who I am,
will no longer be who I am?
Originally translated by Gabriel, revised by Doug Rosebrock.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Last Friday I went to an event in Glendale Public Library, organized by KPFK and Union of Progressive Iranians. It was titled "1953 US Military Coup in Iran and US Empire Strategy in the Region," and promised to show a documentary. Documentaries on this subject are rare to find, so I went there to watch it.
The event was a disaster. Nothing was organized and every thing began late. We were packed in a small amphitheater, way behind its capacity (despite the fire safty regulations,) and we had to wait for the speaker an hour later than what was announced. During this one hour a bunch of people -mostly old people from the '60 and '70s generation- came to the podium, rased their fist in the air and shouted leftist slogans. The microphone was disconnected several times, and the speakers were intruppted repeatedly for technical problems. Worst of all, no documentary was shown and the subject of the speech was not the Coup but the US forign policy. It contained no deep insight into the subject, and we heard nothing but slogans, slogans, and slogans. Seeing all these I thought there is no wonder the Republicans and the Right are so popular in this country. The Palestinian flags and Hugo Chavez poters were not forgotten on the walls, but the microphone and the documentary were forgotten.
I left the place in the middle of the speech. There were so many people attending the event. It was a pity to see how the event was wasted like that. I wish the American left could grow up and do something that makes sense, instead of wasting its energy for selling books from dinousors like Mao or Lenin (yes, Lenin is a dinousur too) on the doorway, and wearing Che Guevara t-shirts and Red Star beret.
The extreme Left in the US reminds me of a 10 years old child, still playing with songs, raising fists, and slogans. To be Leftist here is the US is following a fashion more than a way of thinking that tries to critisize and analyse the subjects. To be a leftist here is having tatoos, shop organic and fair trade stuff in Trader Joe's, sign online pettitions, praise the dictator of Cuba (yes, I mean the dictator known as Fidel Castro,) and every now and then participate an event like what I saw on Friday. That is it. "Being a Leftist" is defined before being one. Like everything else here, it is a ready-made package to buy as it is. Despite all the criticism against the chains like McDonald and Berger King, to be a leftist in America is very much like going to a Mc Donald and choosing between Combo 1, 2, or 3. The Green Party, Anarchists, and a few other oprtions are your choices, and for being one of them you have to follow a certain pre-defined set of rules. Everything about them is so predictable. They don't do any action, but just reactions to what is set for them by the Republicans... and it is always in ways set up in a Combo 1-2-3 fashion: Don't drink Starbucks, don't shop from Gap, listen to certain bands and singers (mostly with psudo-revolutionary lyrics with no real "revolution" in the way they play their music,) and criticize the big corporations (but follow the fashion they set up for you.) Doing these all helps your conscience and makes you a 'leftist.'
All these shows why the American Left is such a loser. It has completely seperated itself from the reality. In Iran, the reality of the 1978 revolution and the massacre of the leftists in 1980-87 was like a slap in the face that waked up the leftists. The American Left lacks that experience, and I hope the experience never comes to America the way it came to the Iranians. But I think the American Left needs to find a way to touch what is going on in the world instead of palying with Che t-shirts and 19th century anarchist books. Praising a human disaster like Cuba, or selling Mao's books shows nothing but lack of ability to think, and being out of touch with the world.
Isaac Deutscher once said "The Right is evil, the left is idiot." (I translated it from Persian the way I read it in an article. It says "Raast-haa palidand va chap-haa ahmagh.") The Friday event reminded me of Isaac Deutscher, and how right he was when he talked about the left.
* For Elvis T-shirts click here, for Che click here.
* For seeing the comercials for "revolutionary Taco" click here
Saturday, September 11, 2004
It is September 11,
Let's remember all those who died during the American coup in September 11, 1973, in Chile, and all those who died during the 1953 American coup in Iran against the democratically ellected government of Mossadeq, and all those who died in 1954 during the American/Chiquita coup in Guatemala, and all those who were tortured in Indonesia, and thousands of people who were killed after the American coup in 1965 there, and all those who were tortured and executed after the pro-American military coup in Pakistan in 1977 that changed the country into the first Islamic Republic in the Middle East,
... and also all those who died in September 11, 2001, in World Trade Center, New York city. All those innocent people who paid (and are still paying) for the hate that is created during all these years.
Let's remember them all.
There is no way to the peace, the peace is the way.Ted Rall's cartoon here.
Monday, September 06, 2004
A message from the Minister of Propaganda, Herr O' Reilly, at FoxNews. I took it from a blog I read regularly. Read the complete text here.
I don't have any respect by and large for the Iraqi people at all. I have no respect for them. I think that they're a prehistoric group that is -- yeah, there's excuses. Sure, they're terrorized, they've never known freedom, all of that. There's excuses. I understand. But I don't have to respect them, because you know, when you have Americans dying trying to, you know, institute some kind of democracy there, and two percent of the people appreciate it, you know, it's time to -- time to wise up. The big lesson is that we cannot intervene using ground troops in the Muslim world ever again. What we can do, is bomb the living daylights out of them, just like we did in the Balkans. Bomb the living daylights out of them. But no more ground troops, no more hearts and minds ... ain't going to work. They're just people who are primitive.
-- William 'Bill' O' Reilly, 8/7/2004, Tim Russert (CNBC)
Ahura Khaleghi Yazdi is the new cultural product of my surreal country. In his daily 4 hours programs from Rangarang TV (one of the numerous 'opposition' Iranian TV stations, located in Washington DC) he asks the Iranian people to put faith on his revival of a supposedly old Iranian religion of Achaemenid (shortened as Hakhaa) as the only way of freeing Iran from its Islamic dictatorship. He asks people to close their eyes, believe in him as the representative of "the real world," and gives them an exact definite date (October 1st) for his victorious return to Iran, and overthrowing the Islamic regime. In his strange speeches in Rangarang TV, he promises "to dance with the Iranian people in the streets of Tehran" on October 1st, and tells them their liberation would be not only a political triumph but also a spritual recovery from years of 'mental corruption.' "We all go to the real world together." A countdown clock on his website and on the TV screen shows the numbers of days, minutes, and seconds remaning from Islamic regime's life, visually showing how near the victory is. "Look at this clock," he says, "when I began to open your eyes to the reality there were many days you had to wait... now it is just 26 days."
Watching his programs on TV, makes me wonder if I have to laugh or cry. As an Iranian, one has to develop an ability to cope with unexpected social behaviors, and strange and surreal forms of political actions. To name a few of these type of actions I can mention Khomeini's Fatwa about Salman Rushdie in 1988, people seeing Khomeini's face in the moon in 1978, and Shah's talk with Cyrus the Great in 1970 assuring him that 'the Empire' is in good hands. But the craziness of Ahura Khaleghi Yazdi gives every thing a new dimension. By using the Internet and satellite TV he has added new abilities to the old Iranian business of inventing religions and Messiahs. Interestingly the spiritual leader of the new religion is also into some businesses in Iraq's reconstruction programs: he is a U.S. contractor for rebuilding Iraqi Airways. His glorious resume says a lot about the kind of political connections he has with the Iranian Monarchists and the countries who plan to bombard the beloved motherland he has inherited from 'Achaemenid.'
What makes me sad here is not the idiot I see on TV speaking about his insane religion and that exact day of 'liberation' by "Hakhaa" forces. What disgusts me is hearing the telephone call he gets from Iran, from people who have faithfully believed in his secret Achaemenid "knowledge" as the only way to liberation. People who say they are ready "to kiss his feet and become his slave" as soon as the prophet of Hakhaa goes back to Iran. According to e-mails I get from friends the number of Hakhaa beleivers in Iran is not that low, or at least way higher than what I expected.
The area which is now called Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, is the birthplace of many important ideas in philosophy and religion: the dichotomy between good and evil, the notion of punishment day, the idea of paradise and hell, and the invention of Messiah as a liberating force. These ideas are repeated throughout the history in the forms of different religions. The latest one was Baha'i Faith, in mid-19th century which reinvented all these concepts and applied them to the Modern life. Many thought this would be the last religion there, since the myth of Modernity itself was supposed to replace all those old systems, but it proved to be a naive idea. The cases of Khomeini, Iranian Mojahedin, and Dr. Ahura Khaleghi Yazdi show how the root of the problem is grown deeply far into the culture. The disaster is happening beyond what is expected to be the boundaries of this craziness. "Religionizing" every thing in Iran has nothing to do with Islam. It is Islam that is a part of 'the religion' the Iranians believe: a religion that can change its colors and names, easily replace turban with suite and tie and change the look, but it always is there to respond to any question in any period, with the same repeating answers.
Friday, September 03, 2004
Thursday, September 02, 2004
During my three hours trip to San Jacinto Mountains, and on the way back to Los Angeles I listened to a song from Tom Waits' Alice over and over: Watch Her Disappear.
For years I have been addicted to Tom Waits. I discovered him sometime in 1990, or 1991. I listened to Frank's Wild Years at a friend’s house, where we used to listen to music and drink alcohol, both being offenses punishable under Iranian law.
I remember I discovered Tom Waits the same night I drank Stolichnaya vodka for the first time. In a country where you didn’t have a CD store, in a country where you couldn’t find any drink other than terrible homemade raisin vodkas, “TomWaits/Stolichnaya” was a great mixture, a heavenly pleasure.
Tom Waits reminds me of Tehran, the city I hate and the city I love, both for the same reasons: for all the pleasures and sufferings that makes its character, and all the sorrows it carries on its shoulders.
Watch Her Disappear
(Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan 1992)
Last night I dreamed that I was dreaming of you
And from a window across the lawn I watched you undress
Wearing your sunset of purple tightly woven around your hair
That rose in strangled ebony curls
Moving in a yellow bedroom light
The air is wet with sound
The faraway yelping of a wounded dog
And the ground is drinking a slow faucet leak
Your house is so soft and fading as it soaks the black summer heat
A light goes on and the door opens
And a yellow cat runs out on the stream of hall light and into the yard
A wooden cherry scent is faintly breathing the air
I hear your champagne laugh
You wear two lavender orchids
One in your hair and one on your hip
A string of yellow carnival lights comes on with the dusk
Circling the lake with a slowly dipping halo
And I hear a banjo tango
And you dance into the shadow of a black poplar tree
And I watched you as you disappeared
I watched you as you disappeared
I watched you as you disappeared
I watched you as you disappeared