Friday, March 30, 2007

Only, When !

You are my vision,
Dreamlike and yet not
I concurred you in daylight
In sunshine while in night

For thousands of miles
No weeping willow wept
And no stony brook ran
No Persian carpet cleaned
And no Persian tea made

You are my dream
Yet I was

Don’t reason with me
Neither because I am in Love
nor because I am drunk!
Don’t reason with me
You love me back !

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Way I see It !

Today in the middle of a lecturer by our guest lecturer on Central Asia Before & After Soviet time, and while sipping my morning Starbucks tea I started reading my Coffee Cup and floated away from the class:

The Way I See It # 225
People don’t read enough. And what reading we do is cursory, without absorbing the subtleties and nuances that lie deep within – Wow, you’ve stopped paying attention, haven’t you? People can’t even read a coffee cup without drifting off.
David Shore
Creator and executive producer of the television drama House.

Reading “The way I See It” of Starbucks’ cups has become my daily habit this spring*. Although I read them dutifully they are not always interesting. But this one was ironic and at the same time- at least at that time and place- interesting; I have read something that was criticizing people/me for not reading and paying attention. Also I, myself, should have listened to the lecture and not read my coffee cup. And now The Way I See It: Hey you! Sip your caffeine, listen to the lecture and don’t bother with your paper cup!

On the bottom of the cup - in a smaller font - it is printed: This is the author’s opinion, not necessarily that of Starbucks. To read more or respond, go to:

PS. Das Leben der Anderen - Lives of Others - (2006) directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmack, is a must-see movie. I saw it last week in the snowstorm and it was well worth fighting the storm. Also Check Global Feminisms exhibition at Brooklyn Museum. It is up until July 1st 2007.

Ulrich Mühe, Lives of Others, 2006

*Last fall I was into reading trivia of my oatmeal packages.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Spring!

Spring has really arrived; Just look how beautiful it is today. Happy Spring, Happy Nowrooz and Happy New 1386! A special Happy Nowrooz to Afghans, Tajiks and Uzbeks who along with Iranians are celebrating the beginning of spring today.

I have to go and get ready; the New Year is in less than an hour.

Our Haft Sin, 1386/ 2007

Happy Nowrooz !

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Weekday News

Kitchen News:

This Wednesday, I finally had some productive time with my friends, Roya and Sanaz. We got together to make Turshi and Shoor, kind of Pickles. The difference between them and American Pickles is that Turshi has more acidity due to the huge amount of vinegar and Shoor is saltier. I am going to post the recipe in a week, after I tasted the first jar. Though I won’t post it here in Tameshk. It will be in another blog: a Cooking version of Tameshk, which I have been preparing for since October 06 and the first post will be on the first day of the spring.

Art News:

According to Art News, Brooklyn Museum hired three new curators.

Literature/Cinema News:

Here is an exciting news for fans of Jose Saramago, a Portuguese writer and Noble Prize winner: One of his most read books, Blindness, will become a movie in 2008 by Fernando Meirelles who had also brilliantly directed Cidade de Deus (City of God, 2002). Among Saramago’s novels my favorite is All the Names, nonetheless I am eager to see Blindness. you can read about it here and also check the movie link above.

Three jars of Shoor and One Jar of Turshi, March 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

300: When a Movie becomes more important than Life !

Inspired by Baloot and Nazy.

I came back from the AMC theaters in Hamilton, NJ after getting into the last screening for the day for 300 directed by Zack Snyder. I did not hate the movie as most of Iranians expect me to, but it was no Sin City. In its first week 300 have sold 70.9 million dollars and yet many among the Iranians Community have started a Google Bomb campaign. Their main problem is the unsophisticated presentation of the great Persian army and their Emperor, Xerxes(I). Of course not everyone in that crowd agrees with this opposition and their number is so small that their side has not been heard properly.

I fall somewhere between the two sides of the argument. Given the fact that Iranians are proud of their own rubbish, specifically the ones related to the Great Persian Empire, I am very happy that most of these people who do not like 300 have chosen a civilized way to confront the issue; by using media bugs they are informing others of the inaccuracies that they believe exists in 300’s historical narration of Greco-Persian war(s). There are still some who consider taking legal action against Warner Bros Incorporation. On the other hand and aside form my happiness about this civilized reactions I don’t think 300 is a bad movie and moreover there is nothing offensive in its depiction of the Persian Army as most of Iranians believe so.

First of all it is a movie based on a comic book and any Heroic comic book, by default, has two sides: good and evil. It also looks at the world in black and white and so the exaggeration follows. The 300, a comic book by Frank Miller, won three Eisner Awards in 1999, for Best Limited Series, Best Writer/Artists and Best Colorist, Lynn Varley. Although I think the story was not a good choice for a movie as Sin City was, 300 the movie was an eye-catching film that should be seen in the big screen. So don’t wait for it to come out on DVD.

About the objections on the presentation of Persians’ armor and clothing, which many think has made them look like savages, I think it was a fare picture and in fact accuracy does not matter here; there are some facts about the huge amount of jewelry that Kings of Kings of Persia wore. At the same time except ear piercing we don’t know about piercing for other body parts. One should ask what artifact we have about the Achaemenid’s clothing besides some faded limestone (relief) relieves of kings, soldiers and defeated enemies standing next to the mysterious winged-lions, in ceremonial costume, posing in front of the king*. Also don’t forget that those stone relieves were decorated by jewels and gems as part of their design (those are gone today mostly due to theft). So there is a great chance that the Persian army and especially the Empire wore armor and different costume in times of war.

According to 300 the Persian army was a trained army. It was massive with at least four different divisions. Persians of 300 were aware of war strategies and they were civilized enough to send messengers three or four times to the small group of Spartans giving them amnesty. Spartans were offered to keep their own land, kingdom, people, religion and become wealthier under Xerxes; they only had to accept the Kings of 1000 Nations as their savior. Now please tell me which part of this is uncivilized and savage like. What was funny was that the Spartans were so sensitive about kneeling before Xerxes.

Please don’t be offended about the women in the Persian camp. Emperors would have the company of some women (of course not the queen) in wartime due to the long time that they had to spend in each war and as for the solders they would get their share from the civilians of the collapsed cities. Also keep in mind that what you think of savages today is different from the definition of uncivilized and savage in 500 BCE. Back then in the world of only few Empires, being a warrior, especially a pitiless one, was highly praised.

The Battle of Thermopylae, where only a few hundred Sparta held back the Persian army for three days, has been always admired in the West as a battle of loyalty to ones country. Xerxes, surprised by the small number of Greek soldiers, learned that Greek warriors were participating in the Olympic Festival at the time of the Persian attack and by the Olympic regulations they were banned from engaging in any battle. It is not the first time that the Battle of Thermopylae has been chosen as a subject of art.

Finally please give a little room for the creativity of the artist and the filmmaker. No one signed any petition for the biased facts in the history books (from Herodotus time up to today) and yet against 300, which never claimed to be historically accurate, people are campaigning; 300 is just a B movie.

300, The leader of the Immortals,
Xerxes’ elite fighting force,
Isn't it a sophisticated army with special divisions like this?

300, Leonidas (Gerard Butler), Ruler of Sparta
Who had a harsh childhood like other Spartans to become a great warrior

* Honestly do you think Achaemenid army would fight in those costumes; if it had done so, borders of Persia would have hardly reached the extent it had before their collapse in 330 BCE by Alexander the Great.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Cinema Revisited Through Abbas Kiarostami

Abbas Kiarostami was here in Princeton today* as a guest of the Visual Arts Department at Princeton University. It wasn’t the first time that I heard Kiarostami in one of his lectures and like all those other times this one was exciting; like my undergrad years back home, when Cinema and Theater Department of Art University had a filmmaker as a speaker. The only difference was that I was here in the US and Kiarostami spoke more freely than other times. Despite a bad flue his friendly tone was friendlier today and he was more eager to answer questions from the audience rather than the panelist, Ivone Marguleis. The session began by the screening of his latest short film Roads of Kiarostami and it continued by a short interview and then Q&A.

Kiarostami, tired of the cliché questions about censorship and restrictions in Iran said: “I am tired of this question, and I refuse to answer this question. Every single time someone asks me about censorship; I am answering this question for 25 years.” He continued, “just to show you that my denial to give an answer is not rooted in fear but is out of devastation, I say: Of course we have censorship and restrictions, of course censor is chopping our films up, but what is gone is gone. My films are what they are, not what has been cut out. Can’t you ask a question about what is there and not about what is not there?”

There was a question about Close Up’s ending where the sound cuts off. Kiarostami explained that it was intentional since the real conversation between Makhmalbaf and Hossein Sabzian did not fit in the rest of the movie. Here he said that Hossein was not aware of the microphone but Makhmalbaf was; this caused a problem since Makhmalbaf started to act pretentiously and made the whole dialogue in his part seem slogan-ized.”

I also asked a question about what he thinks of his film Iconology, by which I meant the new visual vocabulary that he has been creating through his image making and today these icons are seen as symbols of our era. He said that he never tried to use symbols and if he has created any, it wasn’t intentional. He also pointed out that these icons are more apparent if one sees series of his works in a row.

Another question was about his targeted audience and the effect that his films are leaving behind among the locals in the villages and whether he intends to change their mentality by his works. He answered, “No I have never tried to change mentality of the villagers. In fact my films are funny for them; they laugh all through the film even to the dramatic moments. They don’t enjoy or sympathize with my films because they have been part of it; so they do not believe it. They like movies that they can relate to and that cannot be something that they have been involved in its creation.

About choosing countryside as a location for most of his films Kiarostami said: “every no and then I get tired of Tehran and the city: it is crowded and filthy. You see! Everywhere in the world (around us) as people age they start building themselves a house in the countryside, well I go out there and build (make) my films; my films are my country house.”

There were more questions but these are what I liked the most among those. I will try to find the recorded tapes of this session and see what else is interesting. This session was a gift from me to myself for March 8th and I am glad that I canceled my office hours today, to get back to Princeton on time for this program.

A discussion between Kiarostami and Ivone Margulies
Visual Arts Dept. Princeton, March 8th 2007
I took this photo by my Cellphone.

* Since I posted this around 2 am March 9th I have to say Kiarostami was here yesterday!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Happy March Eighth!

Based on the latest news, three of the captive Women Right Activists are still in the devision 209 of the Evin Prison; the rest of the prisoners have been released with bail.

It is their flawless will, though not their shattered bodies that gives the way to a better tomorrow. Happy March Eighth to all of you, especially to those who make the hardship of this path easy for us behind!

The little girl in a small park next to Zayande River,
Esfahan, Summer 2005

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Devil's Hand!

As we get closer to March 8th (the International Women’s Day), the day that we always celebrate in my family and in recent years every human right activist in Iran regards it highly, yesterday more than two dozens women right activist got arrested in a peaceful gathering in Tehran. These arrests are a sad reminder of last year’s event in Hafte Tir Square, where again authorities arrested a group of human right activists, some still in prison and the others expecting their trial.

Today, when I talked to my mom at 5am Tehran time, she was aware of the incident, which was not yet published in any of the morning newspapers. Her speculation was that they are going to keep them at least for four days, so that they can not join the March 8th Rally in front of the Parliament in Tehran.

Tonight I pray for the safe return of the prisoners and tomorrow I hope to do more!

This is a link to Azadeh Pourzand’s post, an Iranian blogger, about the news. Also Kayhan, one of the most right-wing afternoon newspapers, brings the fear of another filthy trick planned by its chief editor. The plan suggests linking all such oppositions to the US and goes far enough to say that the US government supports the feminism movement in Iran in order to dispatch the Iranian Regime.

Miniature Painting, Reza Abassi,
Ali Qapu Palace, Esfahan, Summer 2006