Thursday Jun 18, 2009

Election Results

Official results of the IR of Iran's presidential elections are posted here.

(Thanks go to Pooya K. for having found and posted the link for me.)

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 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

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. 

Monday Jan 14, 2008

Getting off LH601

This was LH 601, Jan. 6, scheduled to depart at around 3 am Tehran time from the IKIA airport. We got on board and the snow started and it did not let go. Visibility was quite poor and roads to the airport were later closed.

We got off the plane at around 10 am and taken to a "transit" area for another 10 hours or so, and later to a hotel. (It stopped snowing at around 7 pm on that day.)


I've written about the problem earlier.

Press TV reports the dismissal of the IKIA airport managing director.

Saturday Jan 12, 2008

Pouring Tea

نگین خانم افتخار دادند و برای خا نواده چای ریختند 

This video shows my daughter Negin serving tea in one of Isfahan's restaurants called Sofreh Khaneh Sonnatieh Naghsheh Jahan:

Thursday Dec 13, 2007

Taking the Tehran Metro

It is getting really late here in Tehran but a friend at work had sent me a request asking me to write a few things about what I'm doing. 

I've been in Tehran now for the last two days, and besides reading the local papers, eating Persian food, and visiting with my parents, my grandmother, my aunts and my uncle, I had a chance to get out a bit. Earlier today (3 am California time), and along with my family and my brother and his family (visiting from Turkey), I took the Tehran Metro from the Beheshti station, near my parents' home to the Sa'di station. Ticket price for all seven of us: less than $2. Objective: to travel to the electronics bazaar near Sa'di square to buy a new home phone system for my parents, to buy a new fax machine for my dad and to pay a short visit to Cafe Naderi, for  cappuccino, ice-cream and cake. (The cappuccino could be better but the Turkish coffee was excellent. Incidentally, Panasonic rules the phone and fax market here, and the choice was rather quick given the abundance of supply.)

The Tehran Metro Art is quite astounding and the continuous improvements in the last few years in passenger management, traffic and ticketing (including RFID installations) are quite nice to see, and of course, what might impress some visitors most would be its cleanliness.


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


The only problem is that Tehran can use scores of other stations and many more lines (see the current map), and unfortunately, at one point, I did read in The Washington Post that the large Chinese conglomerate which originally supplied some of the electric powered wagons used in the Tehran Metro  was subsequently, and very soon, put on the sanctions list by the U.S. This was about 3 or 4 years ago, I believe. I did read later, somewhere in the Iranian media, that Iran is now making these wagons in the country but I'm sure it will always be much more convenient and timely to use some of the production capacity in China or elsewhere to supply the lines and more capital investment can surely help with building the remaining lines and stations...but Persians, like all traditional and rooted cultures (and that just happens to be a good starting definition for any culture), are a patient people and will always value honor, commerce, justice and generosity more than threats and hand-outs.

Thursday Sep 20, 2007

Zero Degree Turn -- Persian TV mini-Series


Farnaz Fassihi of The Wall Street Journal ("Iranian Unlikely TV Hit"), Washington Post, Nasser Karimi of Associated Press ("Iran's Newest Hero Aids WWII Era Jews"), a certain teenage family member ("Persian Stuff: Zero Degree Turn") and now NPR ("Romance on Iranian TV Crosses Cultures") have all published stories and bits and pieces about "Zero Degree Turn," an Iranian TV mini-series shot in Paris and Budapest.

The mini-series involves a love story between an Iranian-Palestinian Muslim man and a French Jewish woman during World War II. It is based on the true story of an Iranian student-diplomat in Paris who saved some 1,000 French Jews by issuing Iranian passports to them as a means of passage to the safety of neutral Iran.

YouTube seems to have some pieces of some of the episodes. I hear that the theme song of the mini-series has become quite a hit in Iran, and every Monday night people gather to watch it. Here, in the U.S. it broadcasts every Friday night on JJTVN through free satellite connection.

(I also ran into a CNN character and political analysis of the mini-series on YouTube. Unfortunately, it was grossly, almost purposefully, inaccurate. While commenting on the mini-series, the reporters don't even bother with getting any of the characters correctly and blatantly confuse very minor characters for the major ones. However, I am hardly surprised. Much of the mainstream media's bar on accuracy in reporting on Iran remains fixed shamefully low.) 

Saturday Jul 14, 2007

International Physics Olympiad

The 38th international physics olympiad unfurled in Isfahan.

Thursday Mar 08, 2007

Shiraz, 2003

Shiraz 2003 

In July 2003, I visited Shiraz with my family on holidays. I've finally posted all the digital photos from that trip on my flickr gallery. I also have some video clips which I might venture to post on YouTube later.

In the meantime, you can watch this low-resolution video of my younger daughter (then five) running in the courtyard where we took the photograph above.

Sunday Feb 11, 2007

Color of God


Now that I've just mentioned Bahman-e Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly, I should probably also mention, again, Majid Majidi's Color of Paradise, another Iranian movie worth a very close viewing.

In the original Persian, the sub-titled movie was called Ranghe Khoda, or Color of God.

This movie tells the story of a father and a son, a blind boy who yearns for home.


Turtules Can Fly

Recently, I had a chance to watch Turles Can Fly, another Kurdish film made by the Iranian film-maker Bahman Ghobadi and winner of several international prizes in 2004 and 2005.

It depicts an almost surreal world of children living in a ruined Kurdish village and refugee camp in Iraq, near the city of Arbil.

Disillusionment comes in a world caught between brutality, wars and invasions, and hope looks for cracks in the walls of this world.

Thursday Feb 01, 2007

Print vs. Digital Media

Even as papers have gone far in changing their business models to accommodate to digital media, the paper editions remain superior to their digital versions targeted to desktop readers not only because of the technological qualities of paper but also because of the design of the paper editions.

Everything from font face and size of the headings to the arrangement of columns and stories on the print pages guide the reader to the intended destination. Take a paper edition of Financial Times, and you'll know what I mean. (Note that Financial Times has not yet broken the folding symmetry, which The Wall Street Journal did break on Jan. 1, 2007, by reducing its columns from an even to an odd number.)

Of course, I cannot help write about the paper edition without mentionting that while the designer of Financial Times does a good job, its opinion columns and editorials remain what they are as is expected in all papers with editors.

For example, one of the Financial Times opinion columnists, the editor Jacob Weisberg, seems to be on a solid contract to write a regular but a rather poor column on Iran in every so many issues.  While the intent of Weisberg's column reminds me quite a bit of Michael Ledeen's "work" on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal back in 2002 - 2003 era (before he got caught with the serial lies he kept stringing together almost at will), Wiesberg may yet prove to be a better poetic writer, has a better sense of drama (as in plays) and has taken upon himself to offer somewhat more fanciful strategum.

In all this, what surprises me most is that these writers actually get paid to feed propaganda to their hapless readers and write with confidence and an air of authority about subjects they know so very little about.

We can think of this nauseating activity in two apparently distinct ways: Propaganda for Pay or Pay for Propaganda. Take your pick -- but you need to pick one as if it matters. Any way, why does the first seem a bit more shameless?

In the same vain, I truly wonder and am quite curious to know whether Weisberg's dreamy columns on Iran actually see the light of the day in the European print editions of Financial Times or whether only we, the naive American readers of the print edition, have the fortune of being regularly subjected to the drama in his columns.

The topics captured in the above paragraphs remind me again that in the world I live, form, farce and fiction continue to matter way more than substance, seriousness and certainty.

Wednesday Jan 17, 2007

SMS Record in Iran

Tonight's JJTVN reported that celebratory SMS notes sent for Eid Ghadir Khumm on January 7 resulted in the biggest SMS revenue day ever for the Iranian mobile telecommunications industry.

Box Office Hit in Persian

Cease Fire 

The Persian (Iranian) box office hit of last year was Tahmineh Milani's Cease Fire.

Thursday Dec 21, 2006

A Painting Biennial in Tehran


While looking for a photo of yalda celebrations this year, I ran into this interesting photo from the scene of The Fourth International Painting Biennial of The Islamic World in Tehran, Iran.

Click on it and you'll see a larger image at Flickr.

I believe the biennial started in the last week of November, and it looks like it ended today, December, 21, 2006.

Here are some other pictures I found.

It would be good to see more photographs of this exhibition. (As another example, check out this work.) There does not seem to be a website for the biennial or one that actually displays all the paintings.

I believe my friend, and ex-Berkeley-ite, Bobak Etminani, also has several paintings on display in the biennial.

Friday Nov 24, 2006

Thanksgiving in Tehran

Since I have been traveling to Europe to attend a work-related meeting the week after Thanksgiving, I decided to see if I could take an extra day off to pay a visit to family and friends in Tehran during the Thanksgiving holidays. I was fortunate because the circumstances came together and made this possible. So, the moment I arrived in Frankfurt earlier this week, I went to a ticketing agent and purchased a ticket to Tehran. Only 370 Euros from Frankfurt to Tehran on a flight that takes only 4.5 hours. (I paid about that much in the summer of 2004 for a train trip from Frankfurt to London and back.)

In contrast to its hot summers, Tehran is quite cool in November. I arrived at midnight and took a taxi from the airport to my parents, a very smooth ride on the freeways that connect the different parts of the city. My parents were waiting, and after a short nap, I went out to buy sangak bread freshly made in the neighborhood. There had been snow in higher elevations in the city, and as I walked back to have breakfast with my parents, I could see the magnificent mountains to the north covered in a white blanket.

Unfortunately, I was only there for a few days and had no time for mountaineering, an activity everyone who visits Tehran should accommodate in their travel schedule. Instead, I spent most of my time visiting family and friends, includling my good friend and prominent painter Bobak Etminani, who also took me to a birthday party where I met a group of Berkeley (California) friends after more than a decade. We had lots of lively conversations at the party and afterwards, and I had a good chance to touch base with Bobak about the recent turn in his work.

Please stay tuned. I will try to include some images of Bobakäs recent paintings in a blog entry after I return to the States. I will also post some photos on my flickr album.

I should probably end this short diversion by saying that I don't make it a habit to leave my wife and children behind in the U.S. during Thanksgiving holidays. Really, my absence this year was not that bad. Back in California, my family have had very good visiting campany, including many friends and a grand-mother, and they were invited to a very large, extended-family Thanksgiving dinner at my wife's uncle.

Sunday Nov 12, 2006

Koppel on Social Change

People in their 30s and 40s may still remember Ted Koppel from "the hostage crisis." He made a career out of reporting it. Now, for the Discovery Channel, he has filed a new video documentary on Iran, speaking to a number of individuals and opinion makers. While still rooted in the common biases of the Western and American discourse on Iran, it provides a platform for a potentially better understanding of the immense transformations that have followed the Islamic Revolution of 1979 by virtue of interviews conducted with a relatively broad range of Iranians. (Most of those interviewed, either appear to know little about those biases or, out of sheer politeness, let Koppel get away with them. A good training in journalism would make it clear to anyone that every question can come loaded with assumptions. However, one needs a good sense and training as a politician to respond or to unload and disclose the assumptions.)

Saturday Jul 15, 2006

Hiking on Mount Damavand

  A hike  on Mount Damavand can be both exhausting and exhilarating.
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