Monday, December 04, 2006


Mannequins, Downtown Los Angeles, Broadway Avenue, December 2, 2006.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Inside a bungalow, The Ambassador Hotel

Inside a bungalow. The Ambassador Hotel (Now demolished.) Los Angeles, April 2005.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Process of Non-thinking Called "Faith"

I recently discovered the NPR program, Point of Inquiry. The most interesting episode to me was this one, featuring an interview with Richard Dawkins about “the process of non-thinking called faith.”

You can listen to the MP3 file here, or subscribe to Point of Inquiry's podcast in iTunes.

- See also: The God Delusion and The Virus of Faith.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Power of Nightmares

The Power of Nightmares

In the winter of 2005 a friend of mine brought a copy of a the BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, from England. It was about the Neo-Conservative movement in the US, the Islamic foundamentalism in the Middle East, their origins of both, and their role in what is happening in today's politics.
Not surprisingly PBS did not dare to show this documentary in the US. The content of the movie was too informative for the US audience. It was aired on the BBC on January 2005 and got a lot of response in the UK. To my knowledge it is the only documentary that talks comparatively about Leo Strauss and Sayyid Qutb and their influence on the formations of these two political movements. During the last year I wanted to write about The Power of Nightmares but I found it useless to comment on a documentary not available in the US. Now thanks to the Internet it can be watched and downloaded on either The Internet Archive or on Google Video (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
Watching all of three episodes takes about three hours but I bet you'll get more information about 9/11/2001, today's politics in the US, and the Middle Eastern fanatics than any program you have seen on any mainstream media in the last five years.

* Two more issues to mention:
1. I have my own criticisms of Adam Curtis' documentaries, especially when it comes to siymplifying the history of both the movements he talks about, his support for Kissinger's policies, the documentary’s comments about the environmentalists, the abscencse of information on the Trotskyist background of the Neo-Conservativism, and the lack of emphasis on the role of the Iranian revolution and thinkers like Shari'ati on the emergence of Modern Islamic fundamentalist politics. All of these issues hopefully will be the subjects of another post in the future.
2. Adam Curtis' style is a little bit eccentric. Don't let that stops you from watching the video, if you don't like it. And if you like the content and style of the work watch the other documentary by him, Century of the Self, which is about the role of psychoanalysis, marketing, and public relations in the United States.

The Power of Nightmares by Adam Curtis
Part 1 - Baby it's Cold Outside | 64kbps | 256 kbps | mpeg2
Part 2 - The Phantom Victory | 64kbps | 256 kbps | mpeg2
Part 3 - The Shadows in the Cave | 64kbps | 256 kbps | mpeg2
- To watch the movie in other formats go to its page on The Internet Archive.
- You can also see the documentary here, or on Google Video (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

* Links:
- The making of the terror myth. The Guardian, October 15, 2004.
- The Exorcist, by Tim Adams. The Observer, Sunday October 24, 2004.
- Feign of Terror, by Adam Curtis. Village Voice, April 19th, 2005.
- Beware the Holy War by Peter Bergen. The Nation, June 2, 2005.
- The Power of Nightmares by Katrina vanden Heuvel. The Nation's Blog: Editor's Cut, posted on 01/25/2005.
- Neo-Fantasies and Ancient Myths. by Robert Koehler. Cinema-Scope 23.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Xerxes and W

I am in the Washington D.C. area for a short period of time. Yesterday, walking only a few blocks from the White House, I was lucky enough to see an ad in the street about the staging of the oldest known play, The Persians, and tonight I watched it. It was a play--I never had read--about the decline of a greedy empire, Persia.
The play is released at a time when the "West" (believed to be the heir to Greek culture and civilization) is supposedly threatened by the "Persians." But in contrast to what is expected, it uses ancient Persia's defeat to represent the imminent demise of the United States' imperialistic foreign policies.
If you live in DC area, go an watch it. You will not regret it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Botero and Abu-Ghraib

It took me more than a year to hear about the works of one of my favorite contemporary painters, Fernando Botero, on an unusual subject for his type of paintings: Abu-Ghraib. I heard about the works from a friend coming from Iran. I had not seen him for 11 years. I felt very sad when I found out that he not only is more up-to-date about the works of our favorite painters, moviemakers, and photographers but he also knows the details about the works of many artists whose works are on show in LA galleries but are completely unknown to me.

Getting the news from my friend was somehow embarrassing. While listening to him, I was thinking I know more about the details of Angelina Jolie's relationship with Brad Pitt than the latest works of Botero. The food is probably cheaper here in the US and I can pay my rent much easier in LA comparing to Tehran, but when you look at the cultural side of life you feel something is trebly missing here, even when you actively fight against it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Every nation is a lie

“Every nation is a lie for which time and history have gradually fashioned an appearance of truth – as they did for ancient myths and classical legends. No nation ever arose naturally. The coherence and fraternity that a few still display conceal alarming realities beneath fine literary, historical and artistic fictions that underpin their identity. In these nations too those “contradictions and differences” – creeds, races, customs, languages, and not always minority languages – were demolished, for just like Albert Camus’s Caligula, the Nation needs to eliminate these things in order to feel secure, safe from the risk of fragmentation.”
--Mario Vargas Llosa
- Photo by Morgana Vargas Llosa

Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Defenders of the Faith"

During the last month I have written several pieces but have not posted any of them because I never could finish them. I wanted to talk about the movie Chronicles of Narnia and how it should be a favorite movie for Ahmadinejad and Pat Robertson. I wanted to talk about my trip to Costa Rica and how much I enjoyed to see a country that abolishes the institution of military forces and replace its headquarters with a butterfly garden. I wanted to talk about the movie Syriana, about the experience of visiting Ashes and Snow at Nomadic museum, temporarily located at Santa Monica beach. I wanted to talk about many other things too but never could fource myself to seat in front of the computer and write it down.

I still don't feel I want to write anything. But Zizek's short piece in today's New York Times made me create another post. So far it is the most inteligent reaction to the stupid "cartoon crisis." It might be removed from the site later on so I post the entire piece here:
March 12, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor

Defenders of the Faith


FOR centuries, we have been told that without religion we are no more than egotistic animals fighting for our share, our only morality that of a pack of wolves; only religion, it is said, can elevate us to a higher spiritual level. Today, when religion is emerging as the wellspring of murderous violence around the world, assurances that Christian or Muslim or Hindu fundamentalists are only abusing and perverting the noble spiritual messages of their creeds ring increasingly hollow. What about restoring the dignity of atheism, one of Europe's greatest legacies and perhaps our only chance for peace?

More than a century ago, in "The Brothers Karamazov" and other works, Dostoyevsky warned against the dangers of godless moral nihilism, arguing in essence that if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted. The French philosopher André Glucksmann even applied Dostoyevsky's critique of godless nihilism to 9/11, as the title of his book, "Dostoyevsky in Manhattan," suggests.

This argument couldn't have been more wrong: the lesson of today's terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted — at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations. In short, fundamentalists have become no different than the "godless" Stalinist Communists, to whom everything was permitted since they perceived themselves as direct instruments of their divinity, the Historical Necessity of Progress Toward Communism.

During the Seventh Crusade, led by St. Louis, Yves le Breton reported how he once encountered an old woman who wandered down the street with a dish full of fire in her right hand and a bowl full of water in her left hand. Asked why she carried the two bowls, she answered that with the fire she would burn up Paradise until nothing remained of it, and with the water she would put out the fires of Hell until nothing remained of them: "Because I want no one to do good in order to receive the reward of Paradise, or from fear of Hell; but solely out of love for God." Today, this properly Christian ethical stance survives mostly in atheism.

Fundamentalists do what they perceive as good deeds in order to fulfill God's will and to earn salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. Is this also not our most elementary experience of morality? When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God's favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence.

Two years ago, Europeans were debating whether the preamble of the European Constitution should mention Christianity as a key component of the European legacy. As usual, a compromise was worked out, a reference in general terms to the "religious inheritance" of Europe. But where was modern Europe's most precious legacy, that of atheism? What makes modern Europe unique is that it is the first and only civilization in which atheism is a fully legitimate option, not an obstacle to any public post.

Atheism is a European legacy worth fighting for, not least because it creates a safe public space for believers. Consider the debate that raged in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, my home country, as the constitutional controversy simmered: should Muslims (mostly immigrant workers from the old Yugoslav republics) be allowed to build a mosque? While conservatives opposed the mosque for cultural, political and even architectural reasons, the liberal weekly journal Mladina was consistently outspoken in its support for the mosque, in keeping with its concern for the rights of those from other former Yugoslav republics.

Not surprisingly, given its liberal attitudes, Mladina was also one of the few Slovenian publications to reprint the infamous caricatures of Muhammad. And, conversely, those who displayed the greatest "understanding" for the violent Muslim protests those cartoons caused were also the ones who regularly expressed their concern for the fate of Christianity in Europe.

These weird alliances confront Europe's Muslims with a difficult choice: the only political force that does not reduce them to second-class citizens and allows them the space to express their religious identity are the "godless" atheist liberals, while those closest to their religious social practice, their Christian mirror-image, are their greatest political enemies. The paradox is that Muslims' only real allies are not those who first published the caricatures for shock value, but those who, in support of the ideal of freedom of expression, reprinted them.

While a true atheist has no need to boost his own stance by provoking believers with blasphemy, he also refuses to reduce the problem of the Muhammad caricatures to one of respect for other's beliefs. Respect for other's beliefs as the highest value can mean only one of two things: either we treat the other in a patronizing way and avoid hurting him in order not to ruin his illusions, or we adopt the relativist stance of multiple "regimes of truth," disqualifying as violent imposition any clear insistence on truth.

What, however, about submitting Islam — together with all other religions — to a respectful, but for that reason no less ruthless, critical analysis? This, and only this, is the way to show a true respect for Muslims: to treat them as serious adults responsible for their beliefs.

- Cartoon courtesy of Tooka Neistani

Sunday, January 29, 2006

ZIZEK! The Movie

ZIZEK! (the movie) will be released very soon. I saw the trailer today. "Elvis of cultural theory," he is named. Seems to be a quite a character, doesn't he?
- For watching the trailer click here. For watching a section of the movie click here.
- Read about the director, Astra Taylor, here.
- My other post about Zizek and his opinion about Iranian nuclear program.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pillars of Society

Pillars of Society
George Grosz
Oil on Canvas, 1926. Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Grizzly Man

Watching Grizzly Man is shocking. It is a visual description of what Herzog previously has described in his "Minnesota Declaration":
10. The moon is dull. Mother Nature doesn´t call, doesn´t speak to you, although a glacier eventually farts. And don´t you listen to the Song of Life.

11. We ought to be grateful that the Universe out there knows no smile.

12. Life in the oceans must be sheer hell. A vast, merciless hell of permanent and immediate danger. So much of a hell that during evolution some species - including man - crawled, fled onto some small continents of solid land, where the Lessons of Darkness continue.

- "Minnesota Declaration" can be found at Werner Herzog's website.
- What reminded me of Herzog's "declaration" was CK's comment on the movie.