Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Stolen Picasso

One of the hardest works in teaching is grading papers; At least for grading exams and Q&A type homework the instructor (me) will have an answer sheet. With papers however your personal taste, as the grader, plays a significant role. So I was struggling with this issue since the last week.

If you are interested to know about the Silk Road, and you don’t have time to read about it, take a look at these documentary series: The Silk Road, NHK production in 1980 with Kitaro’s music. It is one of the best movies (or better say the only documentary) ever made about the Silk Road. It took the Japanese team near a decade to research, plan and to shoot this series.

Also Abbas Kiarostami is in NYC. There will be an exhibition of his works (films and digital media) on MOMA from March 1st to 19th called Abbas Kiarostami: Image Maker.

And another art robbery made today’s art news. This time at least two of Picasso’s paintings were stolen from his grandchild’s house in Paris.

Jacqueline's Portrait, Picasso, 1954

Maya & Doll, Picasso, 1938

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Countdown!

This is my speculation list of the winners among the Oscar Nominees in different categories mostly based on my favorite movies. I don't mention Makeup and Sound since I think for these one needs to be an expert, even for guessing:

Actor in a Leading Role: Leonardo DiCaprio for Blood Diamond: I like for Leonardo to win but I don’t mind if the Oscar goes to Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children: He really deserves it; he was damn believable!

Actress in a Leading Role: Oh God it is a very hard category I love all of them although I think Merly Streep has a small chance. My first choice is Judi Dench for Notes on a Scandal. Then of course Penelope Cruz and Helen Mirren and Kate Winslet are all great. It would be funny if both Kate and Leonardo win the Oscar tonight I would love that!

Actress in a Supporting Role: Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine. Kate Blanchett is not even close although she gave a good performance in Notes on a Scandal.

Animated Feature Film: I will kill myself if Happy Feet wins this one; it as a horrible animation. I think Cars is the best choice here.

Art Direction: By sure I vote for Pan’s Labyrinth: I don’t think The Good Shepherd has that much chance when Pirates of the Caribbean is there.

Cinematography: This one is an argumentative category for me, since the ones that I think deserved it are not even nominated. I will go with the Children of Men.

Costume Design: Dearm Girls will get this one, but I like for the Marie Antoinette to win!

Directing: this is my favorite category and of course I think Martin Scorsese for The Departed.

Documentary Feature: I only saw An Inconvenient Truth which I don’t think will win. I think Jesus Camp and Iraq in Fragments haven’t much chance either. So I don’t guess this one. The same is with Documentary Short: I like for The Recycled Life to win but …

Film Editing: The Departed is the best candidate for the Oscar!

Foreign Language Film: I like for the Water to win, and I hate it if Days of Glory wins.

Music (Score): The Good German, and then Babel and for Music (Song): Dream Girls doesn’t give any chance to others.

Best Picture: Little Miss Sunshine by sure is going to get it. It is going to be another surprise like Crash for the last year. And Boy I love surprises.

Short Film (Animated) I like The Danish Poet to win just because Torill Kove has a good eye for portraying small things.

Short film (Live Action): I didn’t see any of the movies here, which is a shame!

Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, although Superman Returns will take it!

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): Is the most competitive category. I like for the Notes on a Scandal to win but I think they will give it to The Departed.

Writing (Original Screenplay): Little Miss Sunshine deserves it and it will make my upset if they give it to Letters from Iwo Jima.

Have a Happy Oscar Night !

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Adventures of Iman: a Children's Book

After the Graphic Novels of Persepolis (a set of 4 published between 2000-2003: the first 3 are available in English 2004-2005) came out by Marjane Satrapi, I was eagerly looking for other kinds of graphic novels and comics about Iran and Middle East.

Parts of my hunger for other graphic novels, I think, originates from Satrapi’s honest and smart portrayal of an educated middleclass family (her own family) in the peak of the great change in Iran, the Islamic Revolution. However I feel it is not only Satrapi’s honesty in narration but also the medium itself - graphic novels and comic books - has a narrative potential that permits a creation of a reliable and at the same time a fun story. One should note that I honor the power of imagination and the value of a creative mind of any artist or novelist in any expressive medium and I don’t always look for a truth to be told by them, so when here, I say reliable or honest I don’t mean it in a duty-wise concept. It is not hard to imagine that my interest in finding other graphic novels doubled, when I found out about The Adventures of Iman; Although it is a children’s book and not a graphic novel, it made me interested

“The Adventures of Iman” by Rima K is a children’s book about another modern Superhero; this time the superhero is a Moslem (Muslim) girl who gets her magical power when she holds her pendant, an Allah medallion, in her hand and says Bismellah (in the name of God). She wears modern clothing and she only puts her veil on when she prays.

Her adventures are limited to rescuing her classmates from their daily troubles, for example from a group of gang-like teenagers who are teasing one of Iman's classmates. After the rescue the gang become Iman’s friends and of course they start to behaving themselves and don’t tease people especially for being different.

Why I liked Rima’s book, although is slightly different from my reasons for liking Satrapi’s book, has a shared approach to it. Here I like Rima’s, not because of its honesty but because it helps the westerners catching a glance of a friendlier side of other cultures, in this case culture(s) of the Middle East. (Middle East, itself is a geopolitical word referring to a combination of different countries, cultures and traditions. Countries who want to be distinguished from one another.) So my hope is that little by little by production of such books, Islam becomes a casual religion, like other religions. Moreover I believe it helps moderate Moslems, who these days suffer from a double-discrimination: both by outsiders to their cultures and by Moslem Fundamentalists, to be recognized by both groups.

I also found out about Nylon Road by Parsua Bashi another Iranian Cartoonist. But the book is not out yet in English.

The Adventures of Iman, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mardi Gras,

The Last seven days have been the busiest days ever. Besides preparing my lectures, I had planed to go to the CAA (College Art Association) 2007 annual meeting in New York. I managed to go there for two days of the 4-day conference. I loved the Visual Culture sessions; speaking of Love we also celebrated Valentine’s Day so Happy Valentine’s Day! Then I had a toothache, which is better now.

And finally we got a chance to see Letters from Iwo Jima (2006). The twin movie of Flags of Our Fathers was also directed by Clint Eastwood and it is based on a book by Iris Yamashita. Compare to the Flags it has an interesting story and as the result it is a better movie. Letters from Iwo Jima doesn’t have an enforcing voice-over, and the narration is rightly limited to the readings of some letters that the Japanese soldiers, stock in the deserted island, wrote to their families in the Main Land; letters that didn't get there on time. Iwo Jima's tale, like Flags of Our Fathers, starts by the discovery of these letters in the present time and continues as a collection of flashbacks. I think it is an (A) movie.

Today, Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) festival is being celebrated in New Orleans. Here are some photos that I took from the hurricane Katrina’s Festival in the 9th ward in New Orleans. Also some pictures of our icy lake in Princeton, where people enjoy ice skating.

Ninth Ward, New Orleans, 2007

Ninth Ward, New Orleans, 2007

Ninth Ward with Cowboy, New Orleans, 2007

Ninth Ward, New Orleans, 2007

The Musician Village, New Orleans, 2007
under construction by the help of volunteers

Take a Walk on the Carnegie Lake, Princeton, Feb. 2007

Ice Skating on the Carnegie lake, Princeton, Feb. 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Brooklyn Museum: A Pan's Labyrinth!

Since the Policy changes in Brooklyn Museum I was eager to see how these new policies have affected the museum. The changes include a new curatorial plans and emphasizing on educational programs. These changes caused a massive resignation of the curatorial departments’ board members last fall. This Thursday I got a chance to visit the museum, because of a trip planned for a core course for which I am working as an assistant. This Thursday the museum’s lobby was full of students in small groups, most of them were school kids, ranging from preschool kids to high school students and of course college kids who were in our group.

We visited the Asian and Islamic galleries on the 2nd floor, as it was planed and sadly the information about the three selected pieces that our tour guide gave us was about the same as the printed information next to the pieces. So the point of having a guide was not clear; we were promised a collection expert, but I am sure we would have a better time without the so-called expert. Brooklyn Museum’s new policy had also promised a better educational program, of which I didn’t see any trace. Will the Brooklyn Museum change these non-scholarly new plans in order to keep its over 10-year old visitors? I certainly hope so.

The Movie of the Week:

I saw Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) directed by Guillermo del Toro (2006). It is a violent version of a war drama; a violence which is driving form del Toro’s wild imagination. Although I did not watch the movie eyes-wide-open, I liked the surreal ties between the two worlds, the fantasy world and the real world. The latter is a place that one doesn’t mind to escape from and take refugee in a dream world. Sergio Lopez (Capitan Vidal) and Ivana Baquero (Ofelia) have performed brilliantly. I strongly recommend you to see the Pan’s Labyrinth especially if you are dare enough to keep your eyes wide open throughout the film.

Pan's Labyrinth, 2006

Happy 100th Post!

This is Tameshk's 100th post and as it is a common tradition in film industry in celebrating the 100th shot and as a former cinema student, Tameshk and I will celebrate it by going to bed now; Perhaps tomorrow we will have a cake or something!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Do you carry a Heavy Handbag ?

Last week, the same morning that I, unknowingly, graduated from Brooklyn College, a paper shredder chewed up my Student ID card. I looked at the unfortunate card vanishing into the thin crack of the paper shredder and felt a sudden pain in my right shoulder. The pain was not gone for a while and I kept thinking what had caused it. Perhaps I had slept on an odd angle last night or maybe it is a physical reflection of a separation anxiety attack: me being separated from my ID Card; after all, it was the most persistent companion, I had during the long commutes in the grimy trains of Metro North and sordid tunnels of the New York Subways. Whatever the reason was, because of the pain I couldn’t think clearly that day. (Not that I can think clearly in any other day, but just for the sake of the argument; the pain was dreadful.)

The next morning when radio announced: heavy handbags are considered health hazard for women, without tilting his head up from his book, my beloved husband, paternally said: Are you listening? those Gunnies that you use as handbag are health H-A-Z-A-R-D, pronouncing hazard by stressing on every single letter. Although, by then, I had realized what the probable cause of my shoulder pain was, I couldn’t help but to reply: Perhaps they didn’t consider a mathematician husband in their studies; if they had considered both you and the handbag as health H-A-Z-A-R-D-S, they would have realized that the result of multiplying two negative integers is a positive one which has no health risk at all.

Since then, in my daily commutes to New York, I can’t help but noticing how heavy women's handbags are. Most of the time they are carrying two bags – heavy ones – (Maybe dividing the weight in different bags help, but those that I saw didn’t fit that purpose.) Also I think it is understandable if one has a baby and needs to carry the baby's stuff. But I don’t have any baby and my handbag is still heavy. It was hard to locate men with huge and heavy bags, but they were out there too.

Anyhow this kept me asking myself: Why people (mostly women) carry too many things around? Do they/we need all of these things? Do they/we feel more secure to have all these stuff (that might be needed one day) with them/us all the time? Or !

What do I carry with me in my handbag? – Bibi Huryeh (my MacBook), my valet, one or two printed articles, a notebook, a book, Bibi Negar (my IPod Shuffle), a pen or pencil, and a lip protection and some other mysterious belongings (I use my pockets to carry the key chain; so that in case of robbery I can get into the house). These all fit in one bag and of course they make it a bit heavy.

There are things that gradually have been eliminated from my handbags since I moved to the States, such as an extra set of toothbrush and a small soap, needle/string/scissor pack, extra coins for telephone call and …(My mom wanted us to have these basic things since you never know what may happen to you the next moment or where you will end up the next day).

Take a look at this post by Sheveta. I found it interesting.

Times Square, New York, Jan. 2005

Thursday, February 01, 2007

De Niro & Macdonald

I have a headache and my beloved husband has fever. I think my headache is due to the frosty wind of this morning when I went out to the Pilates class at 7:30 am. February has just started and I know it will be a busy month for me. So God Please No Flu !

In the last two weeks we saw The Last King of Scotland (2006) Directed by Kevin Macdonald. We have missed its first release but we finally caught up with it in its comeback. Although the reviews were very good and I should say it was not a bad film at all, but I did not like it. It made my skin hurt and I cannot forget its last sequence.

Also we saw The Good Shepherd (2006) directed by Robert De Niro, which I liked despite its bad reviews. I think its rather slow rhythm is a must for the story. Most people see the story a historic tale of CIA’s birth but I think first it was a movie about the life of a shy, intelligent and ambitious CIA agent, Edward Wilson and then in the layers of his character the viewer could see a story of CIA. I really enjoyed seeing Angelina Jolie’s struggle for playing a different role, a woman who is not being loved by every single male character in the story, pays off and she did a fair job.

O.K. I have to get some sleep now.

The Last King of Scotland, 2006

The Good Shepherd, 2006