Sunday Jul 12, 2009

Ten Thousand Days

In The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi writes:

No matter how many opponents you beat, as long as you do anything in contravention of training, it cannot be the true path. ... 

This is something that requires thorough examination, with a thousand days of practice for training and ten thousand days of practice for refinement.

Saturday Apr 04, 2009

One More from Majid Madjidi

Majid Majidi, the director who has made a series of internationally released masterpieces (Baran, The Color of Paradise and Children of Heaven) has now released one more: The Song of Sparrows.

My daughter and I got to watch this movie in a Tehran cinema in January (2009), and I'm delighted to see that the movie has made it to the U.S. so quickly after its screening in Iran.

Its US screening started in Manhattan yesterday (April 3, 2009, coincidentally with Persian New Year's sizdah-bedar tradition).

You can read the reviews in The New York Times and in The Wall Street Journal. The latter review includes an interview with Majidi and some deeper analysis of his works. 

There's something strangely attractive about Majidi's work—his handling of simple and universal human emotions, the likes of which one rarely sees in movies made by major houses. If you watch The Song of Sparrows and have some liking for it, you should also explore his other works, each of which study a different dimension of the human emotional core in a completely different setting.

Here, I'm searching for a proper description but I cannot find it. A story can hardly be summarized. It can, in fact, only be told, and each of Majidi's stories are wildly different which help make his works completely fresh and always unexpected. It is also amazing that in many of them Reza Naji has a leading role, and he remains equally perfect for all of these roles. Is it his acting skill? Is it the core, simple character that he has built which keeps seeping through the various stories? In one of Majidi's movies, Baran, Naji plays a minor role but as Majidi's viewer you will keep wondering whether you're dealing with the same man in all these movies where Naji appears. In a sense, Naji has tied the movies together through his acting and simple character play.   

In closing, note that Hossein Alizadeh, one of the living masters of classical Persian music, has composed the music for Sparrows. (I purchased the CD in Tehran's Home for the Arts in January but I've not had a chance to listen to it in full yet to see whether it includes any tracks beyond what we hear in the movie. I would not be surprised if it does.)

Sunday Mar 29, 2009

Mobile Phone Orchestra

My cousin, Kia Hadipour, a graduate student in music at Bloomington, Indiana, points to this video of "Standford's Mobile Phone Orchestra"—a cool fusion of art and technology.

Friday Jan 30, 2009

Modern Rendition of a Classical Theme

I blogged about it here.

Thursday Sep 25, 2008

The Engineering of Elections

Returning home always makes you wonder what is going on.

No place on earth has the art of engineering elections been better perfected than in America, the "mother" of all modern Western "democracies" with the possible exception of the version of it practiced in the British Isles. Queries and probes can now be blocked at a whim, and all possibilities of candidate comparisons relegated to remote, meaningless but comfortable corners. The "system" systematically survives even as it atrophies and wilts to its very roots.

Wednesday Aug 27, 2008


The Butchart Gardens

We expect all steps to lead somewhere.

These steps, near a parking lot at Butchart Gardens, lead to two flower pots.

The gardener meets our expectations.

Sunday Jul 27, 2008

Randy Pausch (Oct. 23, 1960 - July 25, 2008)

Randy PauchThe Last Lecture, "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams":

Sunday Jun 01, 2008

Modern Persian Ceramic and Carpets

A friend sent me a link to an interesting video report on a ceramic exhibition by Iranian women artists posted on Jadid ("new") Online. (Interviewees in the report speak in Persian but you can read the English subtitles which provide pretty good translation.)

Jadid Online's report on carpets by the late Iranian artist, Abolfath Rassam-Arabzadeh, contains an amazing display of his works described by his daughter, Zhila, with a sneak view into the museum and workshop built in his honor in Tehran.

Apparently, a Japanese museum had once offered $11 million for one of Arabzadeh's works containing several scenes from Persian poet Ferdowsi's Shahnameh

Friday Mar 28, 2008

Experimenting with New Ink

Experimenting with New Ink

Once, when I was 7 or 8, I received two lessons from a master Persian calligrapher, a Mr. Foradi, in Tehran.

Mr. Foradi used to be on contract at my fathers' advertising and design firm. In the first lesson, he taught me how to hold the pen, how to ink its tip, and how to cushion the thin calligraphy paper. He then asked me to write, 100 times in a neat row: "A Man's Virtue is Far Better than His Post and Wealth"—a piece from a 1000 year old Persian poem.

  ادب مرد به ز دولت اوست. 

It is hard to find expert Persian calligraphers and the right equipment and training in the U.S. 

My father bought me the Persian calligraphy pen shown in this photo from The Persian Calligraphy Institute in Tehran, Iran, in August of 2006. 

I used the pen and the special ink, which my father had also purchased for me, to write "Traditional Music" on a piece of printer paper. (I should say here that I didn't think much of Persian traditional music when I first arrived in the U.S. as a teenager. Now, I have learned to appreciate enough of its subtleties to enjoy it.) 

Once, when I was 7 or 8, I received two lessons from a master Persian calligrapher, a Mr. Foradi, in Tehran. Mr. Foradi used to be on contract at my fathers' advertising and design firm. In the first lesson, he taught me how to hold the pen, how to cushion the paper and asked me to write, 100 times, that "A Man's Virtue is Far Better than His Post"—a piece from a 1000 year old Persian poem.


Wednesday Jan 30, 2008

When Art Becomes Work

Art becomes work for these men. 

Except for the thumping of the print blocks, their work can be as quiet as prayer.

They make products that others sell.

They themselves use suppliers, for paint and for print blocks.

Those who carve the print blocks, have suppliers for carving knives and pear tree wood blocks of the right kind. 

Wednesday Aug 08, 2007

Sometimes, pictures ...

Sometimes, pictures can tell or cover-up whole stories—more than any news report or any press conference can.

In the English-speaking world, John Berger, more than any art critique I know, has shown how pictures and looking can disclose a great deal about events, people and places. (See his Ways of Seeing and class of the same name by Professor Lori Landay at UC Berkeley.)

When I write this entry, i.e. during lunch hour on August 8, 2007, two of the three pictures above are less than 24 hours old.

What do these pictures tell you?

Monday Jul 30, 2007

Hands Cutting Things

A couple of hands cutting things:

Sunday Jul 22, 2007


Don't let the trailers fool you.  Once, a movie from Ireland, casts a cinematic glimpse at the passion and art of music making. It refreshes the concept of the musical cinema while weaving multiple stories about separation—the enigma and engine of all art and drama (to restate a maxim first stated by the British art critique John Berger.)

Once mixes music and movement ("movie" = a little thing capturing movement) to appeal to the intelligence of its viewers. It "is," and "is not," simply a wonderful musical. It "is" because it is a movie with music and about music. It "is not" because it defies the Hollywood tradition of the musical containing large amounts of dance although it fills the space with simple movements of everyday life. 

If you like music, play an instrument, have been separated from instruments or people you love, or have made music with others, you shouldn't miss it. For more comments about the movie, see here. Other sources include: an NPR interview. It is also worth reading the official Once press kit to see how this John Carney movie came together.

Once: Winner of 2007 Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic. Excellent piece of work. "R" rating for some use of four-letter words but no sex and no violence. A great story, very creative composition and magnificent music presented in a simple space.

See the Washington Post  ("For 'Once,' A Musical Strikes the Right Cord" and "Breaking into Song, Bursting with Ideas") and the Associated Press ("'Once' deconstructs and reinvents the movie musical intimately, brilliantly") reviews. I have given some more review links elsewhere.

Wednesday Jun 20, 2007

Multiple Dimensions

Tonight, I finally finished watching Kevin Kline's Hamlet, and as I was going back and forth across various scenes, I was immersed in the fullness of the subtlties in this production, not in its theatricality but in the superb delivery of its performance.

While, in recent years, multiple renditions of Hamlet have kept arriving on DVD --and I have seen several of them over the years-- the best so far, must be Kline's. It was apprantely recorded in a New York Shakespeare festival and released in 1990 under the Broadway Theatre Archive series. By comparison, Kenneth Branagh's 1996 Hamlet, a movie and not such a bad Hamlet, proves to be a rather weak cinematic imitation of Kline's theatric production. (Let's not even touch on Mel Gibson's Hamlet, which is even more poorly done in comparison to Kline's.)

It is the logic of Hamlet --or rather what we know of it-- that any good theatric production must preserve and propagate to the audience. The visual fanfare of cinematic productions (Gibson's and to a lesser extent Branagh's) obscure that logic. It is as if the visual display pleases the eye but deafens the ears (the heart?) to the story. In describing the logic of Hamlet, Lajos Egri says it right:

Literature has many tridimensional characters--Hamlet, for instance. We not only know his age, his appearance, his state of health; we can easily surmise his idiosyncrasies. His background, his sociology, give impetus to the play. We know the political situation at the time, the relationship between his parents, the events that have gone before and the effect they have had upon him. We know his personal premise, and its motivation. We know his psychology, and we can see clearly how it results from his physical and sociological make-up. In short, we know Hamlet as we can never hope to know ourselves.

In a good play, every scene works to advance the story and its premise. Not an extra word. Not an extra move. 

Thursday May 31, 2007

Tehran Metro Art

Route: Line2
Station: Azadi
Art Name: Winter
Artist Name: Ali Mehdi Heidari
Dimensions: 4.95\*2.40 (meter)
Art Kind: Tiles

To view Tehran Metro art pieces, turn here.

Thursday May 17, 2007

Labels, The Internet and The Musician


Internet, as a giant copy and distribution machine, may and should continue to afford artists with greater autonomy well into the future. Reports of musicians' success in using this copy-and-distribution tool continue to pour in.

For example, Wall Street Journal's John Jurgensen writes about how musicians use the Internet to promote their work ("Singers Bypass Lables for Prime-Time Exposure," May 17, 2007, WSJ, B1). The report focuses on the case of singer and musician Ingrid Michaelson, "a 26-year-old Staten Island native who ... was discovered on MySpace by a management company that specializes in finding little-known acts and placing their works in soundtracks for TV shows, commercials, movies and videogames."

Many shows will only pay unsigned artists about $1,000 for the use of their music on TV, while artists on major labels might garner more than $30,000. Since she has been signed to Secret Road [Music Services, not a label], Ms. Michaelson has been paid up to $15,000 each time her music has been featured on a show or commercial, according to someone familiar with the deals. Secret Road says its cut of Ms. Michaelson's income is in keeping with industry standards of between 15% and 20%.

TV, of course, has become an increasingly powerful force for driving music sales. Apart from "American Idol" and "Saturday Night Live," possibly the most coveted TV slots for musicians are on "Grey's Anatomy," which has helped make songs like "How to Save a Life" by the Fray into top sellers on iTunes. A finale spot on "Grey's" is considered a particularly plum slot. Last year, the finale allowed Scottish band Snow Patrol to break through to a broad audience and played a role in making its featured song, "Chasing Cars," a hit.

Because Ms. Michaelson doesn't have a record-label contract, she stands to make substantially more from online sales of her music. For each 99-cent sale on iTunes, Ms. Michaelson grosses 63 cents, compared with perhaps 10 or 15 cents that typical major-label artists receives via their label. So far she has sold about 60,000 copies of her songs on iTunes and other digital stores. Ms. Michaelson is pouring most of her profits into pressing her own CDs and T-shirts, hiring a marketing company to produce promotional podcasts and setting up distribution for her CDS.

The fact that much good music today is discovered on the Internet before it ever makes it to the labels demonstrates that the labels need to reconsider their full "supply chain" and continue to review their policies and rules governing the protection and distribution of cultural content they come to license ("for a limited time").

On the same day as the report above, The Wall Street Journal also reported a significant move away from DRM which indicates the labels are recognizing the role of the Internet as a means to build networks of fans for artists through low-cost copy-and-distribution of content:

EMI Group PLC, the world's third-largest recorded-music company by sales (and the fourth-largest in the U.S. market) announced yesterday it would license its catalog to Amazon's DRM-free service. The three other major music companies haven't said publicly whether they expect to play ball with Amazon, but people close to all three companies said they don't expect to license content to Amazon in the near future. That means consumers shopping for downloads on Amazon will be able to buy tracks from EMI artists like Norah Jones and Coldplay, but are unlikely to be able to find music by most other major artists, including, for instance, each of the top-10 selling albums last week. Another complication: Apple's iTunes is moving toward offering music without copy protection, and also plans to release EMI's catalog in that format.

Much of the early use of DRM technologies has focused on limiting the power of digital copy and distribution of content.

Saturday May 05, 2007

Neghar-ghari Art Exhibition


A scene from Neghar-ghari Art Exhibition, Tehran.

For more photos from the exhibition, see here and here

Friday Apr 27, 2007

Comedy of Book as Technology

Back in April of 2005, Robert MacMillan of The Washingtoon Post commented on a blog entry I had written earlier praising paper and books for their "user-interface" qualities and the durability and mobility of content they transmit. Even farther back, in 2001, Knut Nærum wrote a little comedy about the book as technology (of medieval times) performed by Øystein Backe (helper) and Rune Gokstad (desperate monk). You can find the 2001 act, originally taken from the Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) show, "Øystein og jeg," on Youtube and on Boreme.

Sunday Apr 22, 2007

Architecture without Architects

Ahmad Kavousian took this (top, left) photograph of the village of Masule in 1975, and the photo on the right, probably taken in the city of Isfahan just in the last year or so, is from Alieh, who has posted some other, amazing photos from wonderful Isfahan, the capital of the Safavids. (Thanks go to Pooya for sharing his Flickr contact list.)

Friday Mar 16, 2007

The Largest Carpet in the World


One record for largest carpet in the world is being outweaved by another.





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