Thursday, February 26, 2009

The 97th CAA Conference in LA

In Los Angeles for the CAA 2009 annual conference:

Yesterday at CAA conference: I enjoyed panels on Surrealism, photography and Islamic Arts: Surrealism au Naturel (part I), Seeing and/or Believing the Photography, The Erotic and Sensuous in Islamic Art.

Today so far I went to Kitsch in the 1960’s and I really enjoyed the Society of Contemporary Art Historian session on What is Contemporary Art History? The session magnified issues concerning the contemporary art history; the room was packed. Variety of brilliant ideas were presented and interesting questions were raised, which I admit all were necessary. But it seems to me that the panelists did not construct any subtle proposal (no one expected any solution of course) for the further direction that one may get about the issues concerning the Contemporary Art History. The panel was more of a tête-à-tête among art historians who seemed all to be in agreement about the ongoing issues of contemporary art history. I enjoyed it because it gave me a lot to think of.

To follow the 97th CAA annual conference; check the official CAA 2009 Conference Blog here.

Just finished my green tea latte in the blizzard of people wondering around the corridors before the afternoon sessions begin. Related and unrelated to this last panel is my paper cup that quotes Chef, Marcus Samuelsson, “Taste is Subjective. Taste is democratic. Taste is powerful. […]” (The Way I See It # 270)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Exhibition of A Translation:

The role of a translation in popularity of a poet and his poetry in the West:
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám' in West,

"The Persian Sensation:The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in the West" is a 6-month long exhibition that focuses on the earliest translations of Khayyam’s poetry in the West. 200 items are exhibited in The Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin from February 3rd to August 2nd, 2009. The exhibition is centered on Edward FitzGerald’s translation of The Rubaiyat, which was first published in 1859 and is known to be the first English translation of Khayyam’s poetry in the West. FitzGerald has also translated a selection of the poems to Latin.

Although an amateur translator, FitzGerald’s works on Rubaiyat came to be the most famous translation of Khayyam’s work. He changed the order of Khayyam’s stanzas (four-line poems) to get to a clear narrative on the mystical message of Khayyam’s poetry that encourages all to cherish the moment they are living in. FitzGreald was criticized by many for not being devoted to the verses in his translation by rearranging the poems; some even called FitzGerald translation “The Rubaiyat of FitzOmar.”

The question of “what is a genuine translation especially when it comes to poetry?” has created many scholarly fights. As an amateur translator, I have often had problems with this question myself, especially growing up reading great translations by Beh-Azin (Mahmoud Etemadzadeh- محمود اعتمادزاده), Ahmad Shamlou and Mohammad Ghazi, whose manner of translation differed from one another, has brought me to the belief that depending on the literary text the translation can follow various styles; the best example perhaps is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which was translated to more than 100 languages. Look at Shamlou’s translation of The Little Prince: Shamlou practically re-wrote the book and God knows how poetic Shamlou made it. This translation was so poetic that people of my generation didn't hesitate to quote Shamlou’s Little Prince next to Persian love poems in their love letters. (The same book was also translated by Ghazi, who used a more traditional line of translation; some readers prefer Ghazi’s work to Shamlou’s. I certainly prefer Shamlou's.)

The Persian Sensation in Harry Ransom Center has developed four parts in answering this question: 'How and why did a translation of medieval Persian poetry become one of the most famous books in the West?' The sections are: "The Poets' Rubáiyát" concentrating on both Khayam’s poems and FitzGerald’s translation and the history of British presence in the Middle East. "The Cult of Omar" touches on the impact of Rubaiyat on Oriental objects. "Everybody's Rubáiyát” focuses on the popularity of Khayyam’s poetry in the world and "In Search of Khayyám" looks for the traces of Khayyam and his poetry in today’s Iran.

Interesting to know and related to this exhibition is Rubáiyát Film Series. (For the schedule visit here.) If you are curious to know how Titanic (the ship) is related to Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, check the link for the exhibition and pay a visit to Harry Ransom Center.

Poster for the Exhibition
The Persian Sensation:The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in the West

Harry Ransom Center, Feb -Aug 2009

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by FitzGerald, First Edition

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This Week's Snapshots:

A Great Documentary:

I was on the Netflix waiting list for months. But Standard Operating Procedure (2008) another mind-blowing documentary by Errol Morris was really worth it. S.O.P. is a documentary about the abuse of terrorists suspects at the in Abu Ghraib prison by U.S. forces. Like other Morris' documentaries, Standard Operating Procedure is an interview-based documentary, where the director's presence is reduced to his masterly jump-cuts and his composed camera close-ups. The film chases the photographs taken by prison guards and the interview follows the line of the investigation that took place after the notorious photos broke the story of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to the world. The director is successful in raising questions on the role of photography (or a photograph) in transformation of people’s belief.

The film made me think of photography and the agency that the medium has obtained through the history of photography. In the early days of its invention, photography was seen as the true representation of reality. This early reputation has been long broken: in early days of photography, one believed what one saw in a photograph, but this aspect of ‘photography equals reality’ was broken by the photographic trickeries that developed pretty much early in the history of the medium. But the Abu Ghraib prison photos, in a way touches on this early reputation, which saw photographic picture as an agent of reality, a true evidence of what happened and nothing matters outside the picture. Of course there are much more going on both on Morris’ documentary and the actual historic event of 2004. What appeals to me through the film and the historic event, is the fact that the investigation for the abuse of prisoners has stopped with the photographs: the investigator looks at each photograph and stops where the frame limits him. Perhaps that’s why the only people who got in trouble because of the abuse are the prison guards who were there in that frame.

I really didn’t mean to go on and on with my photo-philosophical thoughts, (The course I am taking on the early history of photography make me think like that), I just wanted to encourage you to see this brilliant documentary.

My Cool Backpack:
Another exciting but much less intellectual deed of mine last week was the purchase of my first backpack. Of course I had backpacks before, but they were all gifts. This is the first time I bought a backpack for myself. It is so spacious and very comfortable on shoulders. I love its design: it is a Golla design from Kolobags. And as you can see it is green; I don’t think I need to tell you about the Green color!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Enjoyable Crowded Days!

Busy weeks, sleepless nights and rushed mornings is a typical description of my life but in the past two weeks something is different: I am similarly busy, sleepless and rushed, but I am less nervous, more excited, less guarded and more productive. I enjoy my busy, rushed and sleepless days and I think I have learned not to be nervous about them.

I finally got my Texas driving license; Texas had a new regulation since October 1st 2008; no Driving license or state’s identification card will be issued to the international residents (aliens) whose I-94 card has less than 6month of validity. The thing is that most other states, if not all others, accept the receipt of the application for a new I-94 card and consider it as an evidence of the legal status of the applicant. At any rate it was a nightmare and it is gone now! But not really, it is not gone! The fact of the matter is that it is not my nightmare any more. If you live in Texas and you are an alien resident and you don’t want it to become your nightmare in future: Contact the international office of your school, institute or company, reflect your concerns in writing and ask them to reflect it to their supervising seniors. Your critique will eventually find its way up to the ears of the lawmakers. You can also contact your local representative in the House, even if you are not a US citizen; they listen and many times they tend to change things for better.

Listening to music is a task for me; by this I mean, usually I don’t enjoy background music. But I guess working in coffee shops has changed me in this way. Now I can tolerate background music of my choice. A year or so ago, Kia (not the car) told me about a free online music radio, Musicovery, which I use a lot these days. Musicovery plays music depending on your mood: you can choose your music style and your mood (Dark, Calm, Positive, Energetic)! If you already are a Musicovery user, I like to know what you think of it. If you just heard about it please check it out and let me know what you think. I think they have a cool and easy to use website and a good collection, which still has some room for improvement. I listen to lots of Country music there!

At last,
A late Happy Darwin's day! An early Happy Valentine’s Day! And as some people celebrate it; Happy Singles Awareness Day!

I am enjoying my crowded days; Enjoy yours!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Golden Illusions!

When I first knocked* at the door
When you first looked at me

I looked into many poems to find the right one
The one that could tell the tale of
That first knock,
That first look ,

A poem that is easy on eyes
Warm on lips
Simple to ears

And yet the one that can spell out
The shaking hands, the jumping blood, the rounded pupil,

A poem that rhymes with my frightened heart when I first knocked
A poem that laughs at me: oy, oy, I thought of that knock for so long!
A poem that could tell me now and back then, that
The eyes I thought to be unique, were in fact a visionary trick!
That I was nearsighted
you were far and so unlighted

I am tired of looking for the right poem,
Hoping for such verses makes me dizzy,

I hoped for it for so long and so hard that I even know its shape
I know the words that make it
I can even say the poet’s name!

It should be short, shorter than Haiku, perhaps with only seven words;

It should be something hard,
That only rhymes in the mind;
It should be something old
That says
Your alchemy turned my illusions to gold!

Alman Çeşmesi (German Fountain), Details,
Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2005

*Thanks for the correction Masoud Jan!