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.)

Friday Mar 20, 2009

Happy Persian New Year, Happy Nowruz!

Happy Persian New Year (Nowruz)!

As a friend wrote to me, "This morning at 4:45 am [California time] the Sun crossed the equator signaling the first moments of the Spring, and the start of the Persian New Year :-)   The site has a good explanation of what constitutes March Equinox."

Foreign ministers of Persian speaking countries celebrated Nowruz in Afghanistan.

Friday Jan 30, 2009

Modern Rendition of a Classical Theme

I blogged about it here.

Thursday Oct 02, 2008

Classical Persian Music

Naim has collected a series of photos on Classical Persian Music.

To the left is a photo of Saba Kamkar, a member of the Kamkar Ensemble, playing dayerh.

(In Persian, dayereh means "circle")

To the right is a photo of Bahareh Fayazi, playing tar.

(In Persian, tar means "thin thread".)

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.


Thursday Mar 20, 2008

Happy Persian New Year

Happy Persian New Year, 1387 A.H., 2008 A.D.

Patricia Khashayar has written a pretty good report on Nowruz for Press TV. Press TV also carries a report on an underwater Haft Seen in the Persian Gulf.

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.) 

Tuesday Jun 26, 2007

If one day you journey away ...

A French Canadian has produced an interesting rendition of Faramarz Aslani's "If One Day You Journey Away ..." (Agheh Ye Rooz Beri Safar) song in the original Persian. Her next goal should probably be works by Dr. Mohammad Esfahani, say the ones in his recent album Barakat.

The only problem is we cannot hear her play her guitar here. For that, we may consult the young duo of brothers playing the song:


Tuesday May 08, 2007

May It Live Multiple More Millennia

Having downed my wine glass filled with orange juice at one of the JavaOne parties, I left San Francisco for San Jose on 280 at around 11 pm Tuesday night.

As I was reflecting on the day and all the stimulating conversations I had had with my colleagues at Sun and with people from companies as widely different as IBM, Zimbra, Amobee, Funambol, Oracle-Tangosol, Hyperic, RedHat, JBoss, Ericsson, Motorola and others, and with people who are using PostgreSQL and Java DB I was also flipping through the albums on the iPod connected to the car stereo and landed on the first track of Kayhan Kalhor's Nokhosteen Deedar-e Bamdadi ("The Original Dawn Visit"). This is the same Kalhor of the Silk Road Project, and the track I believe to be his best work by far. The genius Kalhor has gathered and focused in this album should be sufficient to let Kamanchech (a multi-millennial Persian string instrument) speak to future generations for multiple more millennia (far longer than any computers or computer languages can survive).

I should point out that the faint-hearted may have some difficulty grasping the work. However, our daring to stay the course of drawning ourselves in Kalhor's musical expressions will prove rewarding as we open the locks we habitually put on our minds.

In summary, Nokhosteen Deedar-e Bamdadi demonstrates Kalhor's genius most convincingly and proves that the living tongue of the Kamancheh can proudly speak volumes to modern audiences for the foreseeable future.

(I believe I obtained the album in a summer trip to Iran in 2005 and unfortunately I do not find it on the Amazon CDs from Kayhan Kalhor to make a good recommendation.)

Wednesday Mar 28, 2007

Norouz Slideshow

Palo Alto Weekly photographer, Marjan Sadoughi, has put together a slide show of local Persian New Year (Norouz) celebrations.

Tuesday Mar 20, 2007

Happy Persian New Year


Spring equinox arrives in about 3 hours from the time I'm writing this entry.
Happy Persian New Year!
Happy Norouz!

Friday Mar 16, 2007

The Largest Carpet in the World


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


Wednesday Jan 17, 2007

800 Years Later at Stanford, 1400 Years Later in San Jose

A colleague sent me a reminder that Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207–73)'s 800th birthday celebration at Stanford University will be held on Saturday January 27th, 2007. Mahmoud Zolfonoun will perform some muscial pieces, several Mawlana scholars will hold a panel discussion, and Robert Bly will be reading some translations of Mawlana.

To some readers, I've promised my first podcast will be a reading of the first few verses from Mawlana's Masnavi in the original Persian, followed by my own rough English translations. (Note that I'm by no means a Masnavi scholar. So, my reading and translation will only give you a very rough idea of  a very small corner of Mawlana's poetry. Masnavi, by itself, contains thousands of lines of poetry and Divan-e Shams, even more.)

The tickets for the Stanford event, including the catered dinner, are priced at $90 per person.

An English translation of Masnavi can be found here.

That same Saturday also coincides with the day of Ashura, the 10th day of the lunar month of Muharram, marked by Muslims since some 1400 years ago as a day of commitment to justice.

This year, I hear there may be a local Ashura procession in downtown San Jose. See here for BBC's account of Ashura, and here, for another scholarly account of its 'recent' history. The BBC notes that "Ashura has been a day of fasting for Sunni Muslims since the days of the early Muslim community. It marks two historical events: the day Nuh (Noah) left the Ark, and the day that Musa (Moses) was saved from the Egyptians by Allah. Shi'a Muslims in particular use the day to commemorate the martyrdom of Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet (pbuh), in 680 CE."


Box Office Hit in Persian

Cease Fire 

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

Friday Nov 10, 2006

A Persian Blogger Comes of Age

 The Power of the Press

If you know Persian, occasional viewing of Hossein Derakhshan's Persian weblog might benefit you. He also has an English weblog and a photoblog worth a visit for a cultural study if nothing else. The Washington Post carries another regular blog of his.

Derakhshan's recent piece analyzing current politics of Iran might be a good lesson for those Persian speakers who have a tendency to provide knee-jerk analysis of the Iranian history of the last 30 years. The title is a bit odd but clear "چرا با براندازی حتی نرم هم مخالفم" ("Why I'm opposed to regime change of even the soft variety"). I've not included the link to this particular entry of his but you can search for it on his Persian blog if you're interested. If you don't know Persian, you can turn to his Washinton Post blog, mentioned above, for a taste of his writings.

Athough Derakhshan takes the job of the journalist somewhat seriously and does quite a bit to expose double-standards everywhere he can see it, his failing (if any) seems to be related to an exaggerated view of the role of the journalist in modern society up to a purist theoretical limit beyond any dreamed up by common Western journalists in Europe or North America. One may also detect an exaggeration with respect to the actual (as opposed to either the theoretical or the subservient) capability of a journalist to transform society, which in practice tends to remain limited because of subtle realities of human life that stand beyond and above opinions of one sort or another. To his advantage and credit, Derakhshan insists on remaining at least self-consistent unlike some of his peers who go as far as advocating false concepts such as judicious double-standards.

In his "History of American Journalism classes," professor Thomas C. Leonard of UC Berkeley used to ask whether journalists, under the Fourth Estate, had perhaps evolved into a new type of priesthood (The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting), and Kierkegaard would have hated that very aspect of modern times, The Present Age, and Ayn Rand tried to capture it all in her Fountainhead. This perspective, focusing on the leveling effect of the journalistic approach to understanding our moral place in the world, while full of modern rings, goes back all the way to Socrates and his dislike of the rhetoricians of the courts who could make anything sound right or good. Hence, his repose into dialogs

Who is right? The confusion continues, and perhaps, the disintegration of authentic communities of moral practice tend to give rise to priestly elites who busy themselves with "useful" justifications (of torture under "rules," e.g., by Alan Dershowitz: here, here, here; here and here) instead of advocating well-established and crystal-clear moral concepts having to do with human beings and their due integrity and honor, and also, to journalists who play the missing priests--to use professor Leonard's reluctantly-drawn  but apt analogy.

Tuesday May 02, 2006

Lecture on Zoroastrian Revelations

What can be learned when you pore over five pages of Deenkard and compare them to 2000 pages of Western ethics?[Read More]



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