Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Day of 2006

In the last day of 2006 I thought I write about my last intellectual activities in 2006.

The last book that I read in 2006 was Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler. It is the beginning of a series of crime novels, which I like very much. The most recent books that I am reading (listening to) nowadays are Marx Sisters by Barry Maitland and the audio book for Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck. Of Mice & Men was my nighttime story when I was 8, I sometimes think it was a strange choice for that age but I loved it. I really was into Lenny then. I just wanted someone to read it to me once more so I get its audio performance. My mom read a lot to me when I was a kid, and I don’t mind re-hearing them since I miss her a lot.

The last movie I saw in 06 was Blood Diamond (2006) directed by Edward Zwick, who also directed, The Last Samurai (2003) and Glory (1989) and the producer of Shakespeare In Love (1998). Blood Diamond is what I call a Moral Drama-Thriller. It is a thriller, concerned with humanitarian problems, war and desperation; now add to it an attractive journalist and let it be happening in Africa the “God-Forgotten Continent”. The movie, I believe is a nice fictional narration of Blood Diamonds a nonfiction book, which was published about the bloodshed behind the smuggled diamonds from Africa to Europe and America written by a freelance journalist, Greg Campbell. However the screenplay and the story are written by Charles Leavitt. Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is beautiful and I think he deserves an Oscar for it as well as for his role in Departed.

The last photo project that I did in 06 was a set of 8 self-portraits. I don’t like to be photographed at all, but I wanted to send some pictures back home so I took them myself. And the last time I opened a dictionary in 06 was about 30 minutes ago to look at the meaning of Philanthropic.

The last meal I cooked was Khoresh-te- Geyme. I am still thinking about cooking meatloaf for tonight, we might as well go out for dinner so it is not clear what will be our last meal in 2006.

Now I have to study which will be the last study of 06.

Happy 2007!

View from Washington Monument, Washington DC

P.S. Finally I cooked two dishes: Meatloaf and Basil-Shrimp-Angel Hair Pasta and our friends have come over and of course the talk of the night is Saddam Hussein’s sudden execution and memories of Iran-Iraq war.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Visit to MOMA & Validity of Information

This Wednesday was not one of those crowded days in New York, considering the fact that we are getting closer to the end of the year. I went to MOMA to see America Fantastica the show I was planning to see since the beginning of December. After going up and down the stairs for about 15 minuets and checking the museum plan, I asked the information desk. Following my explanations and their inspections they came to the conclusion that I am in the wrong museum. I referred them to their own website but nothing happened. The Exhibition existed on the net but not in the real world. I visit museums so often that most of the times I skip the permanent collections and I get to the specific exhibitions that I have planed for. Despite the inaccuracy of their webpage, I was happy that there were two more exhibitions, which I wanted to see and luckily for me all the museums in New York State are Free (except Guggenheim).

I saw Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/ 1960 to Now and Manet and the Execution of Maximilian (He is Not Monet. They - Claude MONET and Edouard MANET- met each other but Manet is the older one and his works were like a bridge between Realism and Impressionism). A socio-historical approach in Manet exhibition was very interesting especially the old documentary photographs of the real execution of Emperor Maximilian. In the Eye on Europe I really enjoyed the most recent work of Mona Hatoum, a series of Etchings called Hair There & Everywhere (2004). Not only I enjoyed it I felt it since they really portray the detached human hair.

MOMA and a little bit of invalid information was not my concern then but I think in a broader view it should be. How much are we all are relying on the validity of the information given to us by the web? Are we conscious that the online information may be false or we are so drawn by the easiness of the availability of it?

The apocryphal information does not do much harm as far as the branches of humanities - such as arts - are concerned. But what about sciences and medical information!

Today on Talk of the Nation on NPR I heard an interesting talk about Education Frontiers and Podcast U, which was exploring different aspects of the uploaded lectures by university instructors on iTunes. A few of those who called during the program were concerned about the accuracy of educational information, a Yale Historian among them. Still most people were quite enthusiastic about these Free classes and Free information and Free etc. It was frightening for me to see when something is free people think that it is worth it, and of course I don’t mean one should depend on some information only if they have paid for it.

With Wikipedia, podcasts and all other online sources, a crucial question everyone should ask him/herself is this: Is the Democratization of Information positive and valid and if it is, in what extend ?

The Execution of Maximilian, Manet, 1867-8

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Two Must See Movies !

Sick and devastated by flu from last week, I am still struggling to inhale as much air as I can. Yet I managed to work out three things on top of my Must To Do List and thanks God I am done with them. First of all I had to double-check some dates on some letters in Seligmann’s ducuments, in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, which I did a few days ago; I also managed to spend some time with my little friends there in New Haven. Then I had to catch up on my Mystery Mondays book club reading Marx Sisters. And last but not least I had to go through my photo library and sort out more than 2658 photos. There are 4 more things on my list, waiting for me to get to them and hopefully I will be done with them before next week.

I also saw two very good movies. They are both Must Sees.

First one was Volver (2006) directed by Pedro Almadovar. A nice Spanish story, through Almadovar’s eyes with Penelope Cruz’s excellent performance, it is a magical narration, which could not be told in any other medium but Cinema. Currently I am reading a selection of Latin American short stories or Novellas and Volver adds some more spices to the mysterious and magical images that I get from reading those novellas.

Then there was Little Children (2006) directed by Todd Field. It has a very powerful decoupage and lots of memorable images thanks to the director and Antonio Calvache, a thoughtful Cinematographer. The story is a narration on the lives, thoughts and behavior of a well-established community in Massachusetts. While the narration remains neutral toward main characters (Sarah and Brad and Ronald) the viewer somehow gets a sense of being in favor of them and against the judgmental community they live in. yet at the end, the most obvious change of character happens for Larry (a retired police officer) who is negatively passionate about his duties as a police officer that he is not any more and Lucy (Sarah’s daughter) who finally gets into the car-seat. No need to mention Kate Winslet’s great performance.

Enjoy the Holidays!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

From Celebration To Movie

Coming to the point to apply for Ph.D. was not that hard especially since I enjoy Art History and Criticism and its theories so much. But in this process filling the applications and putting together materials requested for each school was one thing and accepting that your package is good enough to be sent was another. It is with this second part, that I really have a hard time. Getting satisfaction from the materials, which I am sending, and saying to myself: “it is enough and there is nothing left for me to do” was and is so painful that I don’t even want to get there. Anyway I just sent my application for two of the schools that I am applying for.

At 9 am the post office was packed with people sending their holiday cards, mostly for Christmas and New Year and not for Hanukkah, since we are in its second day already. I waited 20 minuets for my turn. I usually prefer to use the Self-Mailing-Machine rather than going to a clerk but today the machine was not working either. At any account I sent them today with a lot of hope anxiously hanging in my belly.

I am still busy with my paper. Although my adviser was very happy with the second draft of my thesis and I got a lot of “Bravos” and “Excellent Jobs” I like to write some more formal discussions on the painting itself.

And soon it is our Mithraism celebration of Shab-e Yalda. It is the historical Persian celebration of the longest night of the year. Mithraists considered this the night in which the sun is borne and since this night days become longer and longer. I love Yalda, but around this time I always miss my family greatly: we always celebrated Yalda in our home with watermelons, pomegranates and lots of dried fruits.

Today we are invited to join the celebration of the second day of Hanukkah with our dear friends. And I have to get ready. so: Happy Hanukkah.

P.S. we just got back; it was a very cheerful night; lighting candles, dancing and singing about 14 songs. My friend translated the songs for me they are about lighting the candles and the miracle of light that happened after a victory in a war and we had a really merry night.

In the last month or so I saw these movies and I make it short since I am going to see one right now:

The Queen (2006): B+ [Good and slow, the thing that I did not like very much was the release of this News weeks after The Queen was shown.]

Marie Antoinette (2006): A [I like Sofia Coppola and once again she has proved that she sees from a new angle with a very creative music choice: Modern Music over Louis the XIV ‘s Royal Curt.]

Happy Feet (2006): F [even for Kids it is not good just save yourself some time and money don’t see it. Your are hearing it from someone who loves animations]

Flags of Our Fathers (2006): A- [Not one of Clint Eastwood’s best but certainly kept me hanging for seeing the second part.]

Stranger Than Fiction (2006): B- [When a nice story gets destroyed by famous actors: Not that they did not play good. In fact they were really good but for such a story you don’t want to know the actors. I believe the cast should have been made of amateurs. I would have liked to read the story rather than seeing it. I think my imagination would have worked better.]

Hanukkah Night

Monday, December 11, 2006

Weekend In Action

On Friday we went to see/hear Princeton University Orchestra. It was a very cheerful performance to the point that the freezing cold of that Friday night became forgivable. The piece that I really liked was Debussy’s Nuages (Clouds) and Fetes (Festivals) from his Nocturnes.

There are two exhibitions that I would like to check as soon as possible. One of them is a photo exhibition near Princeton, on Gruss Center of Visual arts in Lawrenceville, called Eyes On Me: Portraits of Muslim Women. I am more interested to see Shirin Neshat’s influence on these artists: at least by the look of the invitation card it seems she had a lot of influence. This exhibition is up until December 15th so there is not much time.

The second exhibition is America Fantastica: Art, Literature, and the Surrealist Legacy in Experimental Publishing, 1938–1968 which is up until January 22nd on MOMA. I read all volumes of View and VVV on the rare book section of Princeton art library. I think these publications are one of the most amazing avant-garde magazines that have ever existed.

Since I was studying very late on Saturday night and through Sunday morning I had planed to see Mars, Mercury and Jupiter on daybreak, exactly where the sun rises on the east. We could see it with naked-eye. It was a very unique experience. My poor husband wanted to go to sleep, but of course I did not let him.

Also this is the first post that I write/type with my new MacBook laptop for Tameshk. Her Name is Bibi Huryeh and she was my birthday present. (There is no need to say that I love her.)

Bibi Huryeh, My new MacBook Laptop

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Power of Photography !

This past Saturday, on my way back from the barbershop, I was listening to NPR (National Public Radio). I always like to listen to NPR especially to the Weekend Edition. The program this time was far more interesting than I could imagine. After more than 20 year, an anonymous photographer of an execution photo, which had won the Pulitzer Prize, has been found by a Wall Street Journal reporter.

What made it more important for me was the birthplace of the photo that goes back to Iran. It is of the execution of 9 Kurds in Sanandaj in 1979, one year after revolution. I hardly could wait to see the real photo. After I got home I went to the NPR website and it was there; a black and white photograph, so powerful, so sad and so touching. It tells the story of 9 men being executed in the mist of a newborn revolution with the presence of no jury no attorney, only with one Judge/Prosecutor in a 5-minute trial. It was not the first nor the last time that this kind of execution took place in Iran but it was the first time that a reporter along with a photographer were present and the story was covered in the media. After the photo was published in the first page of Ettelaat, an Iranian afternoon newspaper, it made world news and became the picture of the Islamic Revolution. It mainly was because of this photo that newspaper censorship began in Iran of after the revolution. You can hear the story of this photo and its not-anymore-anonymous photographer from Josh Prager the Wall Street Journal reporter, who spent 4 years in order to discover the photographer and the story of these men.

Photographer: Jahangir Razmi
A government firing squad executes nine Kurdish rebels
and two former police officers of the deposed Shah of Iran
after summary trials, Aug. 27, 1979.
The next day, another 21 Kurdish rebelsand military deserters were executed.

Other photos of the same day by the same photographer are here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hardship & Joy

About a week ago I visited the Prints Study Room at Met (the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Now I truly believe that the hidden treasure of any museum, if they have one, is the Prints’ archive and in the Met they have an unbelievable collection. I love prints especially Japanese prints of 18 and 19 century. But I started to appreciate printmaking more after I paid a visit to the Prints study room at Met where I realized how much work is needed to make a single print board or a metal plate; hardship and joy together, I guess.

Among the various printmaking techniques* I like Lithography the best. It will be interesting to see the Met collection of Drawings and Prints. But you better know that due to the sensitivity to light of works on paper, selections from the collection are featured in temporary exhibitions. The permanent collection of this department at Met comprises approximately 11,000 drawings and 1.5 million prints. Huge isn't it!

Jane Avril, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Lithograph/Poster, 1899

Skaters, Sybil Andrews, Linocut, 1953

The Three Trees, Rembrandt, Etching-Drypiont-Engraving, 1643

* The basic techniques of printmaking are: Woodcut, Engraving, Etching, Mezzotint, Aquatint, Drypoint, Lithography, Screen-printing and Digital Prints.