Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Return of the Stolen Bike

patent drawing of bicycle
Yes folks, my dear bicycle, which was stolen from in front of the house 2 months ago, showed up a block away, still locked, with just a tiny bit of damage to the chain guard. Oh happy day!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Harleys in Lebanon

From Borzou Daragahi's piece at the LA Times:

"Once you get on a Harley you feel that you are really free and that your spirit is always up high and you're going through the wind," said Abraham Kadoumy, 51, who discovered motorcycle culture when he lived in Los Angeles in the late 1970s and early '80s.

"Freedom is what it's all about," he says.

Harley-Davidsons also have deep roots in Lebanon. Police here have been riding them for decades. In fact, bike dealer Tarraf says he fell in love with Harleys after getting a lift on one stolen from the cops during the 15-year civil war.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cezanne? No! Seh Zan

When we hopped on the train from Amsterdam to Rotterdam to attend the opening evening of the Iranian Film Festival, I had no idea what to expect other than music from the incredibly talented Pejamn Akbarzadeh. When we arrived at the cinema, I heard that we would be seeing "Cezanne"
Cezanne painting: Still Life with a Curtain (1895). The Hermitage Museum.
Hmm... I thought, Cezanne, what does he have to do with Iran? The answer was that we were seeing "Seh Zan," Three Women, by the director of Women's Prison Manijeh Hekmat.

Pegah from the film Three Women

The film followed a woman, her daughter, and mother. The central figure tries so hard to control every aspect of her life from the potential loss of an historically significant carpet to the lives of her daughter and mother. As a result, she (physicall) loses all three: the carpet, her senile mother, and her young daughter. Her efforts to find them do, however, give her insight into the inner world of her daughter and mother.

I loved the film, despite the fact that our friend Shervin Nekuee thought that the ending was weak. "Most Iranian films have the same problem," he said, "They don't have strong endings." (I would say that a notable exception is Cafe Transit, which had a really strong ending.)

Okay: weak strong, the film had me and Kamran talking about it the next day. Kamran told me about the Radio Zamaneh interview with the director and then interviews with filmhouse owners who talked about why they are not booking her film (nobody wants to see it, they say). (We are going to discuss this in another post.)

On the way back to Amsterdam, we were joined by the (unknown to us) Dutch director Pim van Hoeve, who seemed interested in constructing a romantic comedy around our friend Pejman. He obviously has a great sense of character: Pejman would make the perfect protagonist: he's talented, charming, and mysterious. Proof of his talent:

More things to look at:

Three Women in Chicago

Manijeh Hekmat sells cigarettes
to earn a living

Hassan Rezai writes about the conditions in Women's prisons in Iran.

Myspace page with music from the Iranian band 127 who make an appearance in the film Three Women.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Wind Will Take Us Away

If you aren't reading Sahand's site Punch the Sun regualarly, then you do not know what you are missing. So don't miss this week's beautiful poem by Forough Farrokhzad. If you haven't read her, well then you are in for a treat!

(BTW, I also love the Kiarostami film that uses the poem's title as its own)

Intro to The Ayatollah Begs to Differ

Haven't read the book, but that does not stop me from enjoying the intro. Found via the blog: Fudzail. UPDATE: Just realized that the well-written commentary on Fudzail's site was from Iran Writes.

Now that you've seen it, I have 2 comments:

1. Only a man could claim to be "sometimes" reminded that he is living under Islamic rule. For women, the reminder is relentless.

2. I agree that the lack of fear is surprising in Iran; that there *can* be no palpable sense of secret police. I do, however, think that if he were to stay for a really extended time, say a year or two, he would have a different view. (If he had an American wife staying with him, I'm positive he would have a different view.)

I would also argue, that if he were a woman, he would think differently as well. Every woman I know who returned to Iran after spending a significant amount of time abroad, had the sense of being watched. Many of the Iranian women I met, who had become accustomed to life in the UK or the US or the Netherlands or any number of other places, had lost much of their ability to maneuver easily in the society. It wasn't even an issue of "ability," it was an issue of willingness.

It was so much easier for me than for my expat Iranian friends. My taarof mishaps were excused, my aggressiveness accepted... People expected me to be inflexible, selfish, and miserly. With those kinds of expectations, it's easy to impress. I was treated like a full grown child: spoiled and doted upon. Trust me, had I been culturally Iranian I would have been taken to task for every misstep: whether perceived or purposeful.

I would love to hear from expat Iranian women out there who want to chime in and tell me how wrong/right I am.

I'll even tag a few:

Pedestrian at Sidewalk Lyrics
Homeyra at Forever Under Construction
Beja at A Voice of Two Cities
Ava at Love Jihadi

(I hope commenters will add to this list and chime in with their own experiences)

Friday, October 03, 2008

How do people get doctorates

...and still believe that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is true?

Tehrangeles: Starbucks, sushi, and Chabad House

I was hanging out with a 22 year-old Iranian-Dutch woman who was telling me about her summer trip to LA to visit cousins. (Raise your hand if you have cousins in LA. I know I do, and I’m not even Iranian.)

“You wouldn’t believe it,” she told me, “My cousin drove for an hour to buy sweets so she wouldn’t have to buy them from the Jewish baker. She said, ‘I want my money in the pocket of a Muslim, not of a Jew.’”

Part of me was appalled, and part sympathetic. After all, when I was growing up, we bought from Jews whenever we could. That was the rule. My father still complains about certain university types who did not understand the importance of supporting Jewish merchants and would buy from anyone. “They just don’t understand how hard it is to earn a living,” he says.

Irangeles, apparently, is starkly divided by religion: Iranian- Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Bahai’s divided by semi-strict borders. “Even the coffee shops,” my young friend says. She told me of her cousin’s dismay when a group of Jewish 20-somethings dared to step foot in the coffee shop they were visiting. “They have their own. What are they doing here?” When my friend expressed her disgust with her cousin’s attitude, she was met with a blank stare. “We just don’t do that kind of thing in Amsterdam.” To be fair, Iranians in the Netherlands are pretty divided by political lines. It is true, however, that the 20-somethings are more likely to blur those lines than their parents.


Starbucks, sushi, Chabad House. Starbucks, sushi, Chabad House. A little Spanish, a lot of Persian, some Hebrew. That’s what Kamran and I experienced when we visited LA last Spring.

In a Persian restaurant in Westwood, a young Baha’i told us how disheartening it was to try to bring the Irangeles community together. He confirmed our Iranian-Dutch friend’s experience of the strong religious divisions in the community. Another man we met told us that when young Iranians arrive in Irangeles, they are comfortable crossing the borders between the religious communities. “They don’t seem to care at all about religious divisions at all. They’re just so much more relaxed than those of us who grew up in this community.”


Yesterday Kamran and I had lunch with some friends who live in Iran. “Do you think anti-Semitism is growing among Iranians?” I asked. (An article in the Washington Post had been haunting me since I read it.)

“Do you mean anti-Zionism?”

“No. I mean anti-Semitism.”

They told me that the young people born after the revolution to parents who lived most of their lives with the current regime had, in fact, become more susceptible to the message of the regime. “I mean, my friend’s younger sister has no problem throwing off her hejab and wearing a bikini in public, but when she talks you are surprised to hear her echo the message of the regime.” She’s not unique, just specific.