Friday, December 30, 2005

Has Bush ever read the US Constitution?


I chose to live in the US because I thought it is ruled based on a constitution that protects the rights of people more than any other constitution I know. A constitution that has amendments such as the following amendments.
The constitution does not seems to have any meaning anymore. Read the latest news here.
Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

- Thanks to Notes from the Museum of the Middle Class for bringing this to my attention.
- Cartoon by Mr. Fish. From Harper's.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

God Bless America

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God Bless America

Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God.

The gutters are clogged with the dead
The ones who couldn't join in
The others refusing to sing
The ones who are losing their voice
The ones who've forgotten the tune.

The riders have whips which cut.
Your head rolls onto the sand
Your head is a pool in the dirt
Your head is a stain in the dust
Your eyes have gone out and your nose
Sniffs only the pong of the dead
And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America's God.

Harold Pinter, January 2003.
- Pinter's lecture as winner of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Pinter's website.
- Harold Pinter's Timeline.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Saturday Afternoon in Downtown Chicago

chicago

It is two days I am in Chicago. Today in Art Institute of Chicago, seeing one of my favorite paintings, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, was a total surprise for me.

Chicago in many ways is like New York—much cleaner (which is nice,) but more racially segregated (which is unpleasent.) At the first few hours after leaving the airport I found it difficult to adjust myself to the weather (I think I am now officially "addicted" to living in California.) But after the first few hours I began to enjoy the snow again. Today, walking around in downtown Chicago and feeling the cold breeze on my face took me back to the winters of Tehran and the joy of aimless wandering in the crowded streets.

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

- Photos are my own, taken this afternoon.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Tree in Pasadena

The Tree from Pasadena

From now on every now and then I am going to add photos to "The Labyrinth." Here is the first one: different faces of a tree, the sky and the earth. Taken a few months ago in my favorite city of southern california, Pasadena.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck



Who knew George Clooney could direct movies?
Good Night, and Good Luck is a low budget movie, without any sex or violence, without any "action" scenes. It is all shot in a few rooms in a TV studio. The movie surprises the viewer with its thought-provoking content and beautiful black and white cinematography. It is an exception to mainstream Hollywood cinema, and it was made by an unexpectedly talented director.

The movie goes beyond the criticism of the current administration and reminds us of something more important: the fact that even in the height of the McCarthy era there were journalists in the mainstream media who questioned the validity of the actions of their contemporary fascist "patriots." It also remind us of the absence of such journalists in our own time.
- For more about Edward R. Murrow click here.
- If you want to see the movie reading this would be helpful.


Saturday, October 22, 2005

An Important Testimony, Not Covered by the Media



This video (Clinton Curtis, at the December 13th, 2004 Congressional hearing in Columbus, Ohio) is such an important testimony. One wonders why it did not get any coverage by the media. Is it a fake video? It seems to be shot by a person who sits somewhere among the people who are watching the event. It does not seem to be fake because it shows some members of congress asking questions... or are those characters fake as well?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What should a Persian Actor look like?



Below is the description of a Persian messenger in a casting call for a Warner Brothers movie:
[PERSIAN MESSENGER] MALE. Age: 30's - 40's. ETHNICITY REQUIRED; PERSIANS are scripted as being: Assyrians, Arabians, Bactrians, Cappadocians, Medes, Karians, Babylonians, Armenians, and other Asiatic tribes...'a hundred nations'. Could be middle-Eastern, Asian, African... They can (and probably should) have an 'old world' somewhat Arabic-sounding accent. MUST BE SCARY, TOUGH & POWERFUL LOOKING; A scarred face and sharpened teeth (all prosthetics) through which he delivers his message to Leonidas: kneel in servitude to the God King Xerxes or perish. It is the same message he has delivered to many other Kings and he carries pieces of their skulls as a grim warning to those who would oppose Xerxes's rule. He has no fear. He serves Xerxes - the most powerful man in the world - and what's more, he is a messenger and so believes that he is untouchable. But his arrogance is his undoing. Leonidas holds everyone accountable for their words. Even messengers. And his insults directed at Sparta and her Queen earn this messenger a one-way trip down a very deep well...HORSE-BACK RIDING EXPERIENCE A PLUS. APPROXIMATELY 4 SHOOTING DAYS.
Yes, ... Middle-Eastern, Asian, African, ... doesn't matter. As long as he doesn't look European. His face should show that he is inferior to us. His scary "scarred-face" and "sharpened-teeth" face should reveal what kind of a savage he is, and how dangerous he can be to "our freedom."

By the way, did the Greeks really look like the blue-eyed blonds as Hollywood movies portray them? As far as I know Greeks do not look like this at all. Even the Romans did not imagine Greeks to be blonds (look at this mosaic of Alexander in Pompeii.) As a matter of fact the Greeks, and later on the Romans, considered their northern blond neighbors, the Germans and Gauls, to be nations of savages, far more barbarous than the sophisticated empires to their south and east.

I don't want to sound "nationalist" here, nor do I want to rant about the "great Iranian empire" and the other crap many Iranians talk about these days. But to me it is important to see what Hollywood-style Greeks stand for in today's pop culture. Greeks in these movies and novels are blond and European-looking. They clearly represent the "West." They are depicted as the only open-minded, rational, and intelligent people of antiquity, thus implying that Western culture (meaning European and Northern American Culture) IS the only open-minded and rational culture of the world. Europeans are the only real civilization in the anciant world, and the rest of the world are depicted as a bunch of Barbarians. There cannot be any dialog, any cultural exchange, or anything else between the barbarians and the Greeks. Greeks are freedom-loving creatures by birth, and the Eastern barbarians are incapable of understanding it. There is no way to make peace with the barbarians except by conquering their countries and ruling their lands, as Alexander finally did. The Greeks here are not a part of history, but rather a character in a mythology that creates a certain worldview and justifies a certain political agenda.

In this mythology it does not matter how far this story is from reality, or that Greece never was a part of "European" culture, or even how false the whole argument is. What matters is that Bush should look like Alexander entering Babylon, and Persian/Middle-Easterners should look like a bunch of scary animals that should be killed in a preemptive war.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

George Carlin on God and Religion



Can theologians take George Carlin seriously and give us a decent answer to his basic questions?
* From stuntcook.com. This extract is from George Carlin's HBO special, "You Are All Diseased", recorded live at New York City's Beacon Theater on February 6, 1999.

Monday, October 10, 2005

What country should the US invade after Iraq?

What country should USA invade after Iraq?

The American public is very well-informed about their government's foreign policy and the world outside the US borders. Click here to see it for yourself (Windows Media Player Format).

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

"Extraterrestrial Route" in Puerto Rico


Reynaldo Rios, an elementary school teacher who says he's been communicating with alien visitors to this U.S. territory since he was a child, holds a pyramid while pictured standing in front of a sign reading, 'Extraterrestrial Route,' in Lajas, southwestern Puerto Rico, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2005. Rios wants to build an alien landing strip, equipped with pyramids as control towers, on a nearby hilltop, in an area where many locals believe they have seen UFOs in the past. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

I miss my cousin. He could become very famous here in the US.
Source: Associated Press. Link here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Fight Club, September 11, and Project Mayhem


We have front row seats for this theater of mass destruction. The demolition committee of Project Mayhem wrapped the foundation columns of a dozen buildings with blasting gelatin. In two minutes, primary charges will blow base charges and a few square blocks will be reduced to smoldering rubble.

The last part of the movie Fight Club, made in 1999, shows several high-rises exploding and collapsing. Tyler Durden, the man behind this terrorist act and the leader of the Al-qaeda-like organization named Fight Club, describes his dream as follows:
In the world I see - you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.

Tyler Durden's ideal world reminds me of Mullah Muhammad Omar and his Emirate in Afghanistan. I can even imagine Omar writing the script. In the image I have from him in mind Omar seems to be a cool guy. He even calls the exploded area "Ground Zero" two years before it becomes fashionable:
[Tyler points a gun into the Narrator's mouth]
Narrator: [voiceover] People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden.
Tyler Durden: Three minutes. This is it - ground zero. Would you like to say a few words to mark the occasion?
Narrator: ...i... ann... iinn... ff... nnyin...
Narrator: [voiceover] With a gun barrel between your teeth, you speak only in vowels.
[Tyler removes the gun from the Narrator's mouth]
Narrator: I can't think of anything.
Narrator: [voiceover] For a second I totally forgot about Tyler's whole controlled demolition thing and I wonder how clean that gun is.

That's exactly what I am thinking about as well. The gun is too clean. Either Bin Laden writes scripts for Hollywood, or Hollywood works for Al-Qaeda. Either way, this gun is too clean for a bunch of villagers in Afghanistan.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Contemplating Hell



Migrating from Iran to Los Angeles, it is difficult to compare the city to hell. Bertolt Brecht probably had the same feeling when he escaped Nazi Germany and moved to LA. But there is something here, in Los Angeles, that made him write this poem. Something that might be partly true.
* Contemplating Hell
Contemplating Hell, as I once heard it,
My brother Shelley found it to be a place
Much like the city of London. I,
Who do not live in London, but in Los Angeles,
Find, contemplating Hell, that is
Must be even more like Los Angeles.

Also in Hell,
I do not doubt it, there exist these opulent gardens
With flowers as large as trees, wilting, of course,
Very quickly, if they are not watered with very expensive water. And fruit markets
With great leaps of fruit, which nonetheless
Possess neither scent nor taste. And endless trains of autos,
Lighter than their own shadows, swifter than
Foolish thoughts, shimmering vehicles, in which
Rosy people, coming from nowhere, go nowhere.
And houses, designed for happiness, standing empty,
Even when inhabited.

Even the houses in Hell are not all ugly.
But concern about being thrown into the street
Consumes the inhabitants of the villas no less
Than the inhabitants of the barracks.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

There's no way like the American way



No comment.
* The photograph: "At the Time of the Louisville Flood", by Margaret Bourke-White, 1937.
© Margaret Bourke-White/Timepix.

* Also see the new cartoon by Steve Bell in Guardian.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Slavoj Žižek on Iranian Nuclear Program



In These Times has published an article named Give Iranian Nukes a Chance written by Slavoj Žižek about Iranian nuclear program . Žižek's criticism on American hypocritical foreign policy makes sense to me:
Why are Timothy Garton Ash, Michael Ignatieff and other internationalist liberals-who are otherwise full of pathetic praise for the Hague tribunal-silent about the idea to deliver Noriega and Saddam to the Hague? Why Milosevic and not Noriega? Why was there not even a public trial against Noriega? Was it because he would have disclosed his own CIA past, including how the United States condoned his participation in the murder of Omar Torrijos Herrera? In a similar way, Saddam's regime was an abominable authoritarian state, guilty of many crimes, mostly toward its own people. However, one should note the strange but key fact that, when the U.S. representatives were enumerating Saddam's evil deeds, they systematically omitted what was undoubtedly his greatest crime (in terms of human suffering and of violating international law): the aggression against Iran. Why? Because the United States and the majority of foreign states actively helped Iraq in this aggression.

But I can in no way accept his conclusion:
It is here that one approaches the crux of the matter: Such an optimistic reading relies on the problematic belief in a preestablished harmony between the global spread of multi-party Western democracy and the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States. It is precisely because this harmony can in no way be taken for granted that countries like Iran should possess nuclear arms to constrain the global hegemony of the United States.

What a lame argument... what a shame for an intellectual to make such a comment.
* I found the link to Žižek's article in Payam Yazdanjoo's blog at Francula. If you can read Persian you might want to take a look at Payam's criticism to Žižek's scary defence of the Iranian Nuclear Program here.
* Photograph by Denis Sarkić

Monday, August 22, 2005

Chimpanzee Culture


BBC Science News reports:
Chimpanzee culture 'confirmed'
By Helen Briggs

Primate experts say they have proven that chimpanzees, like humans, show social conformity.
By training captive chimps to use tools in different ways, they have shown experimentally that primates develop cultural traditions through imitation.
This has long been suspected from observations in the wild, but has not been shown directly.
It suggests that culture has ancient origins, scientists write in Nature.

The study was carried out by a team at the University of St Andrews in the UK and the National Primate Research Center of Emory University in Atlanta, US.
They presented two different groups of chimps with a problem relevant to their wild cousins: how to retrieve an item of food stuck behind a blockage in a system of tubes.
One chimpanzee from each group was secretly taught a novel way to solve the problem. Ericka was taught how to use a stick to lift the blockage up so that the food fell out.

Another female chimp, Georgia, was shown how to poke at the blockage so that the ball of food rolled out of the back of the pipes.
Each chimp was then reunited with its group, and the scientists watched how they behaved.
They found that the chimps gathered around Ericka or Georgia and soon copied their behaviour. By the end of two months, the two different groups were still using their own way of getting at the food and two distinct cultural traditions had been established...

Billions of years from now the great-great-grand children of these poor chimpanzees will kill each other over the right ways to do the Poking rituals and use the Sacred Stick. Many chimpanzee philosophers will contemplate the hidden meanings behind the holy stick and create systems of thought based on these metaphors. Moral systems will be created to describe if it is appropriate for two chimpanzees to hold the stick in their right hand at the same time, if the poking should be done by the males or females, and if peeing is ok when one holds the stick in one's hand.

Through the centuries chimpanzee poets will write thousands of beautiful poems about the mysteries of poking, and great chimpanzee composers will bring tears to the listeners' eyes by making moving musical pieces containing the real spirit of the stick. Pieces that can unite the followers with the source.

Many important things might happen in the future history of the chimpanzees. They might even show us the real meaning of the world. A meaning that reveals itself through the stick, but a meaning that we never completely comprehend.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Patron Saint of Oil



I didn't want to have another post on the same subject, but I couldn't resist showing you "Patron Saint of Oil" by Ingy. I took it from this post at LA Voice.
For seeing a bigger picture click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Mullah Mohammad Omar of the United States



Great!
See what Mullah Mohammad Omar of the US has to say about evolution.

I immigrated from Iran to get rid of this type of idiots in power. But it seems they take the power one country after another. Where should I escape to? Mars?
- For the best April fool's day article ever click here:
Scientific American apologizes for not being balanced.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Por-rooyi, Ta'aarof, Gheyrat, and Aaberoo

The Mocking Bird has a post about a funny piece published in Iranian.com. In a comment to her post I asked her if there is any word in English for Por-rooyi. She couldn't find any, like many others I have asked.

I wonder if having the word indicates that something annoying exists in the culture that needs to be described. Something that probably a Norwegian or French or American does not experience that often. Maybe it is for the same reason we have the word ta'aarof in our language. There is no exact word in English to describe ta'aarof. The same is true about gheyrat and aaberoo. Unlike por-rooyi these words are not invented to describe something annoying (even though they are annoying to me!) but they still represent ideas that do not exist in many other cultures, at least in the same way we have them in the Iranian culture.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

"Elevator to the Gallows" In LA

Ascenseur pour l'échafaud

If you live in Los Angeles, enjoy watching old Louis Malle's movies, and love to hear one of the most beautiful Miles Davis' works, don't miss the screening of Elevator to the Gallows (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud) at the Lammle theater in Santa Monica boulvard. It's about two blocks west of 405.

Maybe I shouldn't be so confident in suggesting a movie I have seen years ago. Maybe seeing it again would be very different from seeing it years ago, the same way watching Wings of Desire was different. But I want to try it anyway. Even if I don't enjoy it this time, watching it tells me something about myself and shows me how my taste in music and movies is changed.
Hear a sample piece of Miles Davis' improvisation on the movie here.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Ganji Nears Death

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I am certain that this night of darkness will not last long. The moon of freedom will finally step out from behind the clouds of religious tyranny, and will shine rays of joy upon us all.
from Akbar Ganji's letter written on July 22, 2005, his 43rd day of hunger strike in Evin Prison.

I admire Akbar Ganji, despite things I don't like in his letters from the prison. His self-sacrificing revolutionary tone of voice is outdated, and his presentation of himself as a martyred hero (a hero who supposedly "wakes up the masses later in the future") is something I don't like, and his constant quoting from Carl Popper reminds me of religious people quoting from the Bible or Qur'an. But I still admire Ganji. His courage to speak out his mind and his dedication to non-violent ways of opposing the system is beyond anyone else in the Iranian politics.

I don't think he was right in his decision on beginning the hunger strike. I don't think any idea is worthy enough to die for. Ganji is a great journalist and a lively activist. I don't know how he justifies his own death. Even for fighting for democracy and human rights he should to be alive. His death is the best the Iranian regime can wish for. It cannot change anything, except the names of a few schools and streets in a far future, and probably a few pages in the history books—lamenting over his unjust "martyrdom."
* * *
Ganji nears death. What can we do?

Visit here and here for more on Ganji. In case you want to sign the online petitions for his freedom click here and here.
Cartoon by Davoud Shahidi.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Iranian Lessons

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Today's New York Times' article by Michael Ignatieff is both well-written and accurate in the way it describes Iran.
I especially liked this section:
From their vantage point inside a theocracy, young Iranians long for ''a wall of separation'' between religion and government, as Thomas Jefferson called it, and they told me they found it puzzling, even disappointing, that religion and politics are not actually separate in the United States. I tried to explain that keeping God in his place in a democracy is work that never ends.

and this one:
In any event, America has almost no capacity to promote democracy inside Iran, and some capacity to do harm to Iranian democrats. Every Iranian I met wanted to spend time in the United States -- and wished there were more scholarships to take them to America -- but nearly every one of them laughed when I mentioned the recent Congressional appropriation of $3 million to support democratic opposition groups inside and outside the country. Iranian democrats look on American good intentions with incredulity. It would be fatal for any of them to accept American dollars. ''Do they want to get us all arrested as spies?'' one said to me.

But nothing is truer than this:
With oil at about $60 a barrel as I write, there is little likelihood that the regime will be forced to open up and reform the economy. But unless it does, there won't be much democracy or progress for the poor. One human rights truth, universally acknowledged, is that oil is an obstacle to democracy in every developing society. When a government can get what it needs out of oil derricks and ceases to derive its revenue from taxes, it loses any incentive to respond to the people. Theocracy in Iran is built on oil and will endure as long as the oil price holds up.


- Photo by Lynsey Addario/Corbis, for The New York Times.
- Read a criticism on Michael Ignatieff's views here in the leftist website, Counterpunch.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Benjamin Franklin on Liberty and Security

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"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Benjamin Franklin

Picture: Benjamin Franklin. Courtesy: National Portrait Gallery. From IEEE Virtual Museum.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Newsweek's Report on Iranian Everyday life

Dadbeh Bassir

Turn the speakers on, click here and listen to the Newsweek's report on the everyday life in today's Iran.
The Photograph: The Exit Signs, from "My Life; Self portraits" by Dadbeh Bassir. Courtesy of Kargah.com.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I Awake in Your Eyes

Kourosh Adim

The July issue of the Italian photography magazine, Private, is about Iranian contemporary photography. To my surprise it didn't have anything from photographers like Shirin Neshat (who are famous not for their talents but for their connections to the New York art business) or Abbas Kiarostami (who is famous for his movies but somehow managed to become famous for his photographs as well).

"I Awake in Your Eyes" (the name of this issue of Private) is a fine selection of contemporary Iranian photography. Many of the photographs in this collection are by artists I know to be genuine representatives of Iranian photography. I once mentioned some of them in a link here in this weblog, and I even chose a picture for the post that is also published in the first page of "I Awake in Your Eyes". It seems my taste is very similar to that of the photo editor of this magazine.

Iranian photography flourished after the revolution. Compared to Iranian painting, theater, and even cinema, Iranian photography is far better in its artistic quality. It reflects more of what is going on in that surreal republic, and at the same time it doesn't exoticize the culture for the "Western" eye. Despite the media's realistic nature, Iranian photography is very much based on metaphors, a characteristic that connects it to an older tradition of poetry. At the same time the fact that for years photography has not been taken seriously as an "art" form in Iran gives it the opportunity to get rid of what Iranians call "Ostaad" or "Masters": a bunch of useless obsolete "experts" in different art fields who don't know anything about anything but are the ones who have the last words in everything.

The only art field that can compete with photography in Iran is graphic design. Iran has developed a very unique style in graphic design that has not gotten the international attention it deserves. The reasons for the obscurity of both Iranian photography and graphic design are not clear to me, especially at a time when the worst Iranian movies get so much attention in Europe and the US. I hope that publication of collections like the latest issue of Private will be a beginning for their introduction to the outside world.
* This issue of Private is published both in English/Persian and Italian/Persian.
- The above photograph: "Présence Pure" ("Hozoor-é Nâb" in Persian) is by Kourosh Adim.
- The photograph below is by Mehran Mohajer, 2001.


Image

Saturday, July 02, 2005

My Silence

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I know... this time it took me a long time to blog again. What can I do? I guess I should call it "blogger's block" ... like "writer's block."

What happened in the last few months could be one of the the biggest changes in Iran during the last 8 years but I was completely indifferent. I guess I am used to Iran's constant surprises. In Iran you never know what is going to happen in a few months. Future events are always very different from what everybody thinks.
Iran's culture changes constantly. It changes so quickly that people who try to analyze it can not catch up with its fast pace.
It is like a turbulent ocean. A strong whirlpool might take you down to the bottom of the sea in a matter of seconds, and you might never know which wave took you there, what caused it, and who is responsible for the death.

It is a very dynamic society, too dynamic to be understood.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Under the Sign of Saturn



Susan Sontag, reading from her essay "The Last Intellectual," 1978. (Real Audio)
- The audio from The New York Review of Books.
- The latest issue of Dissent has an article On Susan Sontag by Paul Berman.
- Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Eyranian's Wedding

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I used to call The Eyranian the "guru" of Iranian blogers. Reading his weblog made me addicted to checking it every hour to see if there is any new post or comment I haven't read.

Today I am going to his wedding. I never thought reading someone's blog can take you to his wedding one day... strange things happen in Blogestan. Any way, The Eyranian's readers are not going to have "From My Dating Files" any more, but what can we do? This is the way the life is. It changes.

I wish Pedrum the best in life, both inside and outside the internet.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

When can we get rid of God?

Image
A family lights a candle at a section of the Kennedy Expressway underpass in Chicago, Illinois where a yellow and white stain on the concrete underpass has left what many believe to be an image of the Virgin Mary. Hundreds of faithful and curious people have visited the underpass since it was discovered 10 April 2005, leaving flowers and candles(AFP/Jeff Haynes)

So it is not just in Iran that people can see Khomeini's face in the moon. Idiots are everywhere...
The only thing I can see here is just dirty stain from water and probably salt from a homeless peeing there.

Believing in god is like cancer. You take it out from people's mind, and it comes out from somewhere else. Is it a mental disease? Is it a brain problem that majority of people have and a minority haven't? When can we get rid of these disgusting sacred objects? When can we get rid of God?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Molotov Cocktail

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The letter N has a funny story about Iranian revolution of 1979 and her grandmother's involvement in making Molotov Cocktails.
The story reminded me of the revolution years. I was a child back then, but I vividly remember everything: the enthusiasm, the hope for the future, and the hatred toward Shah. "Har gohi biyaad behtar az ine!" ("Any piece of shit would be better than this one") This was what he said repeatedly in those days. A few years later he regretted saying that. Not because he wanted the Shah back, but because he —like many others— understood how wrong the policy of "anyone but Shah" could be.

When overthrowing a government is the only goal —and nobody knows what is going to replace it— it is not a surprize to see it replaced with another "piece of shit."
The painting: "Molotov Cocktail" by Alexander Kosolapov. More details here.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Look at me

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To me, a movie is good if some of its images, dialogs, and moments come back to me the day after watching it. A movie is even better if it brings me questions I have no answer for. Look at me was such a movie for me today, and I feel its moments come back to me for a few days. It is a beautiful movie, very French in the tradition of Eric Rohmer, and consequently very unpopular, I think. Last night I saw the movie with only three other people in the theater.
* * *
Searching for the movie's website, I found this great photography project. It is an online exhibition of snapshots: old photographs of unknown people looking at us. Here is what the website says about the kind of photos it exhibits:
These photos were either lost, forgotten, or thrown away. The images now are nameless, without connection to the people they show, or the photographer who took them. Maybe someone died and a relative threw away their photographs; maybe someone thought they were trash.
Some of the photos were found on the street. Some were stacked in a box, bought cheap at a flea market. Showing off or embarrassed, smug, sometimes happy, the people in these photos are strangers to us. They can't help but be interesting, as stories with only an introduction.
The "Look at Me" project started with a few photos found by Frederic Bonn and Zoe Deleu in a Paris street in 1998.
The collection now contains 464 photos.

The website gives the regular family photographs a new dimension. The photographs in this website do not stand as a replica of their subjects anymore. The nature of the snapshots is changed by the anonymity of the subjects and the way they are presented there. Unknown family photographs are transformed to a metaphor: an ironic metaphor for all the efforts we make to eternalize ourselves by printing our image on a rectangular piece of paper.
- The Photograph from Project Look at me. To submit a photo to this project click here.
- Look at me's trailer here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What the hell are they waiting for?

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From Harper's magazine. Friday, February 25, 2005. By Mr. Fish.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Gore Vidal and Imperial America

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Gore Vidal's interview (RealAudio) with Australian ABC's Lateline host, Tony Jones.

- Transcript here.
- Other links: Uncensored Gore, State of the Union, 2004, Imperial America, Inventing a Nation.
Photo by Murdo Macleod. From Guardian.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Zohre and Manouchehr

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[In the city of Tabas,] women do not dare to talk to men. If any woman would do such a thing she would be killed, and the man would also be killed…Of the cities I have seen in the lands of Arabs and non-Arabs, this city was one of the four places I found safe and ruled by justice.
Nāser Khosrow, Safar-nāme (The Travel Notes) written in the eleventh century.

Last night I saw two movies at the Annual UCLA screening of Iranian movies: Maryam Keshavarz' Color of Love (2004) and Mitra Farahani’s Zohre and Manouchehr (2003). Both movies were about the ways that contemporary Iranian society deals with sexuality. Color of Love pictured the interactions between several young couples in the city of Shiraz during Āshūrā, and Zohre and Manouchehr mixed interviews of different types of people about having sex with a Parajanov-style depiction of a nineteenth-century Persian poem about sex.

Watching these kinds of documentaries about sexuality is shocking to the Iranian community outside Iran who has been away from the “mainland” culture for years. Iran has changed a lot during the last 27 years. The societal restrictions imposed by the Islamic government (in order to form the kind of “model society” Nāser Khosrow speaks about in his travel notes) and the imagined model society presented on the satellite TV and the Internet deeply have affected the current moral system. Many people do not respect the traditional moral "values" any more. Many others see them as still valid and want to force them on others who don’t believe in them. Many imagine “the West” as a land of free sexuality and dream about moving there. Others, mostly the older generation, see it as a threat to the traditional values. The culture is obsessed with the idea of sexuality. Thinking about concepts such as Bekārat (virginity), Qeyrat (male extreme jealousy and feeling of honor in ordering around the female members of the family or community), and Nejābat (female suppression of her sexual needs) are sometimes more important to Iranians than anything else in life.

I have never forgot observing this in my daily life in Iran. As a male it was impossible for me to get into a taxi full of male passengers (in Iran we share the taxis with other passengers) and not hear a sexist comment about “how horrible women are these days.” There was always a passenger or a taxi driver who had a story about “a corrupt woman” who tries to seduce him. The story mostly ended up with him, strong and victorious, rejecting the seduction and going back to his proper moral life. The story always was followed with comments from the narrator of the story, or the others, about what a moral disaster this is. “Āqā, vaz’ kheyli kharāb shode… zanā az dast dar raftan.” (Man, this is a disaster; women don’t know their limits any more…) The first part of the story was basically the same literary material the porn film industry uses in its studios in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. The second part is very similar to the value system that makes it possible for the churches, prostitutes, and the casinos to co-exist in Las Vegas. The difference here is that the repression of desires and the contradictions between what people say and what people do is hundreds of times worse in the Iranian case.

Sexuality is the main topic of conversation for Iranian men and probably women. It also is the main problem that Iranian society has with “Western culture.” Controlling the sexual behavior of the citizens (and not their political actions) is the main justification of the government for controlling the society. This justification sounds convincing to many, even those who hate the government. The mentality of the eleventh-century writer, Nāser Khosrow, is still pretty much alive in twenty-first-century Iran. Having justice and safety is still tied to the government observing the social life of the citizens and correcting them by force. The public still supports the punishment of those, who respond to the sexual hormones in their blood, and sees the government’s enforcement of moral values as legitimate and defendable.

The fact is that in today’s Iran the divorce rate is high, prostitution is widespread, and the new generation questions anything related to morality. The younger generation is passing through a "1960s". A sexual revolution has begun among the youth that scares the elders. The Iranian government blames “corrupt Western culture” for Iranian “moral problems,” and the political opposition outside the country accuses the Islamic government of destroying the “integrity of Iranian culture” by creating an environment that makes prostitution possible. The media on both sides sheds tears for the moral corruption of the nation, and both sides believe that what is happening among the youth is a major problem that the country is facing.
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Despite all of these facts, hearing the news about all these supposed corruptions is music to my ears. To me, this disgusting rotten corpse known as Iranian traditional morality, based on eleventh century moral values, needs to be buried, and if the spread of prostitution helps this process I definitely support it. Getting rid of Iranian traditions such as keeping virginity and glorifying qeyrat is more essential for the nation than having democracy or fixing the economy… ok, reading this might upset the few Iranian readers of this blog, since for some obscure reasons we think we should defend some outdated moral values just because they have been there for years. My opinion on this issue is very different: the right to have sex is as basic as the right to drink water or to breathe air, and if a cultural code deprives people of that right, I hope to see such a moral system eradicated. In a world ruled by religious fanatics (either the Bush type or the Iranian mullahs) fighting with traditional moral values is as essential as fighting for freedom of speech. The seemingly apolitical Iranian youth has already begun the fight in Iran. I think the manner in which this fight ends will eventually change other aspects of the culture, including politics, both in Iran and the Middle East. It eventually forms a new version of Islam that is more tolerant towards sexuality and probably more tolerant towards everything else. Am I a dreamer? I hope not.

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* Photos:
- Top: From Color of Love (2004).
- Bottom: From Zohre & Manoucheh (2003).

* Another post on the Iranian youth here.

Radio Farda and Arash Cigarchi

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A few days ago the Iranian blogger, Arash Cigarchi, was centenced to 14 years in prison for expressing his ideas in his blog (read the news here). The Letter N shows how the U.S. funded Radio Farda is partly responsible for his arrest.
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* For more on this issue go to Committee to Protect Bloggers.
** The cartoon by Touka Neyestani.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Ayatollah's Book Of Etiquette

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To have a touch of living as an Iranian I suggest you read The Ayatollah's Book Of Etiquette in the latest issue of Harper's.
What you read there is a part of "Ahkām" (The Orders), a series of Islamic teachings on harām and halāl, "must-do" and forbiden acts, and all the other 'laws' every Iranian child should study at school as a part of curruculom.
I never forget those wasted hours of my life learning Ahkaam. Never hated my country more than those hours in Religious Studies class.
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* A few more readings on this subject:
- For knowing more about life in Iran after the revolution take a look at this book.
- For more on Islamic Shia "Cleaning Laws" see here.
- For more on some Jewish "cleaning laws" (the Islamic ones are a copy of these ones, ... as usual) see here.
- Those ultra-Iranian nationalists who think Zoroastrian religion doesn't have this kind of crap better read Bondahesh. Unfortunately no copy of Bondahesh is on the internet, but I am sure you can buy a copy (in Persian) somewhere on an Iranian online bookstore. Sometime in the future I will translate the parts of Bondahesh about the creation of Woman, and you will see how Zoroastrianism can be as disgusting as the Abrahamic religions.

* Forword (Feb 18, 2005): I finally found The Bundahishn ("Creation"), but the part I wanted to make a link to is removed from the text in the online version. It is at the end of the chapter 15, titled as "On the Nature of Women."

Friday, February 04, 2005

Dirty Harry and Geneva Convention

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This article in Wired reminds me of the editorials in Tehran's right-wing newspaper Keyhan, and its justifications for whatever the Islamic government does in the name of a set of "values" (supposedly more important than human beings.) The article in Wired refers to Dirty Harry and other "ass-kickers" in Hollywood movies to justify torture and other unlawful acts against Geneva convention. According to him these actions are justifiable as long as they are done by the "good guys." It reminds me of the Shah, Khomeini, and the others who justified their actions with the exactly similar kind of reasoning. The one in power never considers himself a bad guy. Of course he is the "good guy" of the story, and of course what he does is for the benefit of people and for their own good: that is why whatever crime he commits is justifiable by his own reasoning.

The article is one of the many examples I see everywhere in the US media these days showing how the extreme-Right thinks in this country. Another example is the Fox channel's 24 (with the Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo acting in it as an Iranian terrorist.) In a very Dirty-Harry-style "24" justifies torture as the only way of stopping terrorism. It is ironic that the same people trying to hijack ideas like "freedom" and "democracy" are the ones who justify torture and violation of human rights. They are the same people who make fun of Geneva convention, the UN and its most precious achievment, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Unfortunately this people are very successful with their show. Their ethical and political view is shaping people's mind here by replacing the reality with Hollywood movies and TV shows.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

"Khayal" by Kaushiki Chakrabarty

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Listen to Kaushiki Chakrabarty. Her "Khayal"is just amazing!*
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* Khayal in Persian means "imagination". In India it is a form of music.
For more information click on the title of this post.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Attack with a Roll of Dice

Risk

Yesterday I went to San Diego for my 3-year-old cousin's birthday party. Before getting there I went to a Toys-Я-Us to buy a toy for him. Browsing through the toys there made me astounded with the fact that toys are much more related to our daily life than what I expected. Here is the text—printed on a toy-set box—that was so ironic to me that I wrote it down in my notebook:
RISK®
The Game of Global Domination

In this classic game of military strategy, lead your armies as they sweep across vast continents to launch daring attacks against your enemies. But keep an eye on your flanks: your opponents are fighting to capture your troops and claim your territories. Reinforce your armies, then attack with a roll of dice. Capture all 42 territories, and you dominate the globe.

Play the classic RISK® game, then play with the rules variations for experts. For a shorter game, play CAPITAL RISK®. Or play European variation called SECRET MISSION RISK®, and complete your specific mission to win.

RISK® ... Leading the world in military strategy games since 1959.
Made in USA with Dice made in China.
* The photo from of tidal-w.com. It is a toy called John, Baghdad International Airport, 3rd Infantry Division.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Parking Gallery

Reza Abedini

If you haven't visited Parking Gallery yet, check it out. It is a web gallery presenting the works of the young Iranian artists.

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Poster by Reza Abedini