I Am Iran

It's Friday. I have had a whole week of very exciting and very exhausting events. My older son was applying for university admissions this week. Waiting until the last possible moment created so much stress for him, something from which I hope he has learned a thing or two. Truth be told, I am learning a lot of things, too, about myself, about him, and about life in the process.
I leave you with a video clip which sweet Roja Najafi, Tameshk, has made. It was an idea I had, which she understood with all her heart and ran with it, adding her own soul to it. It is about Iran and about our collective desire to protect it from a potential attack. It was inspired by anti-war protests in San Francisco and Berkeley in October and November. You will see many of the photos that I have collected about Iran in the slideshow. My beautiful and talented friend, Vaaleh, performs her song "Mojdeh-ye Vasl," based on a Hafez poem in the background. I hope you enjoy it. Do tell us what you think. If you can' access Youtube, watch it here on FileDen.
I hope you have a good weekend, full of joy and warm feelings. Think about peace this weekend. Talk about it. Share this video clip with anyone you like, if you find it useful. Do anything and everything within your power to raise awareness about peace. Life is beautiful, full of promises of joys and accomplishments and good memories to come. All of that can only happen when there is peace. When there is no peace, there is fear, there is hate, and there is hopelessness. Peace is what our world needs the most. That's the least we can give our children and their children. Be good y'all.


Parsi and Persepolis in Berkeley

I went to listen to Dr. Trita Parsi present his new book, Treacherous Alliance, The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S. Parsi is President of National Iranian American Council, and Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Parsi's book discusses the different eras of relations amongst Iran, Israel, and United States. His most important point is that though the relations have been defined by each country's ideology during certain periods of time in recent history, currently it is one of strategy and not ideology. He discussed each country's motivations in behaving the way they do, and why having skipped diplomacy and starting at the present hot-headed critical stage of dialogue is costing every country so much and how this is threatening world peace. As I have said before, the best part of going to a lecture is when questions are asked and answered. Parsi is an excellent orator and his speech was flawless, and he particularly answered his questions well. I bought his book and when I have read it, I might talk about it.
Later, we went to a sneak preview of Marjane Satrapi's animated film, Persepolis. I had read her books before, but seeing the movie was a remarkable experience. In the movie, Satrapi talks about her childhood and her memories of Iranian Revolution, Iran-Iraq War, and growing up in Iran. Many sequences were funny, some of them were dramatic, but the majority of them were sad for me. I cried several times during the movie. I remember FarNice had said that she had cried during the movie and I had wondered at the time how an animation could make one cry. I found out how tonight. I recommend this movie when it opens in the US in late December through mid-January. Of course, the best part of tonight was seeing my friends, old and new, and feeling like a part of the large Iranian community in Berkeley.


Inspired on A Wednesday (Part III)

Last, I want you to look at a slideshow depicting one woman’s story. Her name is Mahtab, and she lives in the Ghassemabad Village of Baluchestan. Her art and trade is soozan doozi (embroidery or needlework). Ghassemabad is a village that has gone through ten years of draught; its men have moved away to find work, and it is now left with a population of women, children, and old people. Mahtab taught her village women how to do soozan doozi, and women of the village saved and continue to sustain the livelihood of the village through this art. Look at her hands and her feet, listen to her voice telling her story, and see her beautiful creations. Don't be sad at Mahtab's story and the story of her village. Be inspired by her triumph over adversities and her life which has inspired and sustained so many, including me on this Wednesday.

Inspired on A Wednesday (Part II)

While on the subject of inspired and inspiring paintings, I would like to make sure you have all heard the story of a Mazandarani woman by the name of Mokarrameh. Have you heard it? It is an incredible story, which my friend Alef Shin shared with me not too long ago.
A very young village girl was married to a much older man about 60 years ago. The young girl was deeply sad and unhappy, looking for an outlet to release the pain and abuse she had suffered in her world in Darikandeh Village of Babol. Later in her life she became attached to her pet cow. When she was too old to take her cow grazing, her children secretly sold the cow. Mokarrameh went through a depression after which she started painting. At first she was painting with raspberry juice. She then started finding paper and paint, painting more elaborate and sophisticated designs. She painted day and night, giving her paintings away. When she ran out of paper, she would paint on her walls and furniture and appliances. When asked why she painted, she responded that she had so much to say, but she was illiterate and couldn’t read or write, so she started to paint to express herself, her hopes, her fears, and her demons.
Mokarrameh started a revolution in her village, where slowly other village people started painting, too. She started having visitors from Tehran , mostly artists and fellow painters. She received national and international attention until in 2001 she was named Woman of The Year in Sweden. Mokarrameh died in 2005, leaving a legacy of love for painting and hope in her village and in every Iranian's heart. Each year artists from all over Iran gather in her village to remember her. On that day everybody paints in her memory. Take a look at this slideshow on BBC Persian about this year's event. You can read more about her here. Doesn't this story just inspire you?

Inspired on A Wednesday (Part I)

My friend, Talieh Shahrokhi who is a photographer has posted this picture on Iranian.com today. It is of a piece of a Hafez poem, written on a wall in the Corcoran neighborhood of Minneapols, Minnesota. Citizens of Corcoran have gathered to create artwork on their neighborhood's walls. Take a look at this slideshow which shows how they did another wall, that one depicting another piece of Hafez' poem. It made me so proud to see this. I felt inspired and strengthened in the humanity this project reflects. Hafez rules in my world and as it appears, in other people's, as well.
P.S. Can anybody tell me which Hafez poem in Farsi this is?


Laugh Like There Is No Tomorrow

Parviz Sayyad and Mary Apic perform a special version of The Swan Lake Ballet in the 1970's Kaaf Show. Watch this. This is one of the funniest things that ever happened on Iranian television, well, in my opinion. Simply priceless!

There is no mystery in the aging process. There is no fountain of youth drinking from which will keep us young. We grow old and our bodies fight and lose to gravity. Our skins develop wrinkles and sags, bulges and stretch marks. Yikes! This is no fun at all! We develop wrinkles around our eyes and if we have frowned too much, the wrinkles on our foreheads make us look permanently puzzled or angry. I am aging and developing wrinkles just like everybody else.

I am happy about the way my face has grown old and somewhat wrinkled, though, because my most profound wrinkles happen to be two lines around my mouth, what Americans charitably call "laugh lines." I am proud of my laugh lines, because I have earned them laughing throughout my lifetime! Laughing at the most obscure and ordinary things, laughing at things which only appear humorous to me, and most importantly and on a regular basis, laughing at myself! Some days I laugh so hard at myself, my sides hurt. I think the best approach to life is not to take ourselves too seriously. That means that we must laugh, boisterous, loud, and hearty laughs. At the end of the day, we all succumb to age and gravity. It is so much better to succumb enjoying ourselves and brightening our space with the sound and feeling of laughter. My approach to life on most days is: laugh like there is no tomorrow. My advice to you is: Do try this at home! And if you feel up to it, do leave me a joke or a funny memory in this post. I thank you in advance.


Artsy Afternoon

I went to San Francisco yesterday afternoon. I had taken someone to meet Arash Sobhani for an interview. We went with Jahanshah, who was taking pictures. This picture is not by him, though. It is by Shadi Yousefian. Arash is such a sweet and warm person, approachable and not pretentious at all. I am glad he pursues his professional career as an architect in addition to his musical activities. The Kiosk will be a part of a performance on Friday, December 7th at 7:00 p.m., at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts. My very good friend, Hamed Nikpay, will also be performing that night, and I am really looking forward to attending, if I can manage my life!
While those guys did their interview, we went into Cafe Trieste in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood (601 Vallejo Street). (Photo by Jahanshah Javid)
Full of life and excitement, Cafe Trieste is said to have been "the first place for Espresso on the West Coast back in the 50's." A Piano player played beautiful music for us, full of emotion and dramatic presentation.
After running around like a crazy lunatic for days, fighting a scratchy throat and what feels like an emerging massive cold, it was relaxing to wind down and be engulfed in San Francisco's Sunday afternoon scene in the company of friends.

One More Picture

Photo by Vahid, Leva's better half.


Occupied Chairs

My only picture of my dinner table. When I get better pictures I will replace this one. (To those who took those millions of pictures: get with it, send them to me!)
Sorry for disappearing from the radar! I have been so busy this weekend, preparing for a gathering of friends and a few family members, as well as looking after my house guest, Mersedeh. I think the party was a success. I invited several of my friends to come and to be my family. They came and some of them brought their friends, so it was a lively event, full of joy and warmth and friendship. My little house was teeming with people and joy. Of course there was food and dancing (it wouldn't be an Iranian party without those two elements), but there was also a lively game of pantomime, which was entirely too hilarious, and live musical performances by unnamed Northern California bloggers. I missed all those who couldn't make it, and rejoiced at welcoming the ones that came. It is always a good day when the chairs are occupied, the plates are used, the food is eaten, and the doors are opened to welcome all those breathing, thinking, feeling, and smiling faces in my house. This was a good day for me to be thankful for second chances, new beginnings, and flawless feelings of friendship and harmony. Jaye hamegi khali bood.


Progress Report

I am preparing for a dinner at my house tonight. My good friend, Mersedeh, is here from Southern California this weekend. Poor baby, she has been chopping and mincing and cutting things for me all evening! She is working on the pomegranates now, as this is a very popular dessert item. I thought this picture would make for a good progress report. Well, to be fair, it is "Mersedeh's Progress Report!" Of course, someone has to take pictures and write blog entries, so I take that part on! I just love the excitement of a house waiting for dear guests. Life is good.


Family, Friends, and Food

Thanksgiving dinner at my sister's house. Jaye hame khali bood.



It's Thanksgiving Day in the US today. The original British pilgrims who arrived America in search of religious freedom were not very lucky in securing themselves food the first year they arrived. Many of them perished in the cold weather of US East Coast, and they all suffered much. The next winter, American Indians came to their aid, gave them agricultural produce such as corn and fruits, and turkey. Americans celebrate this day as a day of national prosperity, familial traditions, and to a very small degree as a religious gathering to thank God and count their blessings.
Just as with any other idea in the country, there are those who discredit the authenticity of that "First Winter" story, and those who view the story as a mockery of how native Americans were treated in the hands of the pilgrims. While research in the area makes for excellent reading and a good conversation piece, I find that Thanksgiving in the US is neither about history, nor about religion anymore. It is about families and friends getting together, and it's about food, food, and food! My family get together on Thanksgiving day at around 2:00 p.m. in my older sister's house and eat a big dinner together for several hours (pictures to follow). I will have my Thanksgiving turkey dinner on Saturday with my beloved friends and some family members. I have already started cooking for the event. Take a look at my Salad Olivieh preparation scene! I will show you more pictures of my cooking as the weekend progresses. Happy Thanksgiving you all. Remember, you don't have to be American or religious to feel contentment and joy in appreciating what you have. As I chop and mince this morning, I am grateful for all that I have.


Waiting For the Birth of Hope Anew

Nomad woman rides in Ashayer Festival in Lorestan.
Come The Night
When was it and how....That breeze ....Told me of your graceful amble?
How long has it been .....Since your humble birth?
When was it and how ....That fire ....Told the story of my burning ecstasy?
How long has it been ....Since a volcano last erupted?
When was it and how ....That water ....Talked of our flowing purity?
How long shall we wait ....Until the sea storms again?
When was it and how ....That the earth ....Was an undeniable truth beneath our feet?
How long shall we wait ....Until the birth of hope anew?
Poem by Ahmad Shamloo, translated by Joseph U. Freeman


Kuchalara Su Sapmisham

A young Rashid Behbudov performs Kuchalara Su Sapmisham.

I grew up listening to Rashid Behbudov. He was an Azarbaijani musician with a heavenly voice. Iranians loved Rashid Behbudov, and he loved Iran and Iranians, traveling to Iran frequently, and even singing some Farsi songs. Though I don't speak Azari, there is something about the music, language, and people of Azarbaijan which tugs at my heart, and fills me with love and respect for them. I have countless Azarbaijani friends, some of whom in sheer moments of friendship and kindness to me, have pronounced me an "Honorary Azarbaijani!" I can't get enough of their music. I am listening to a wide variety of old and new Azarbaijani music these days, all of which are beautiful and worthy of sharing with you. I think it appropriate, however, to share this beautiful love song by the old master, Rashid Behbudov, with you. In this song, he talks about sweeping the street, setting up the samavar, and putting sugar in his lover's tea cup, in anticipation of her arrival! I think it is one of the most touching songs I have ever heard. I want to give this song to Marjan, who is a young Azari with a heart of gold, full of love and anticipation these days. Yashasin Azarbaijan!

P.S. Thanks to Bayram, here's the Farsi translation of a piece of the lyrics. See how sweet it is:

کوچه را آبپاشی کردم تا زمان آمدن یار گردوخاک نباشه... جوری بیاید و جوری برود که در میانمان حرفی نباشد... سماور را آتش کردم و در استکان قند انداختم... یارم رفته تنها مانده ام... چه شیرین است یار... چه عزیز است یار

And I fixed the song name to Kuchalara, based on Neda's recommendation (see Comments). If I still have it wrong, please do let me know.


Nostalgia In A Hotel Room

Autumn in Qom Province, Iran.
I am in a hotel room, exhausted from a very long day of driving to an intensive training class and "team building" with several colleagues from work. Unpacking, I realized I had forgotten to pack the book I was reading. Without a book, I will have a hard time falling asleep tonight. I searched the room and found nothing to read. I then turned on the television, hoping it would help. I laughed, as I couldn't remember the last time I had mindlessly turned on the TV! I switched the channels, feeling smug to have the remote control all to myself, absent my kids who usually hoard the device and the appliance! Switching from station to station, I found there was nothing I wanted to watch. I have simply grown out of the habit of television, it seems, and I don't mind it at all.
My room overlooks a man-made lake on which colored lights and fountains are creating beautiful sites and sounds in the dark. A thought grips me again, as it does everytime I find a moment to sit down quietly. What is happening in Tehran right now? It's early morning hours of a Tuesday there now. What are my friends doing right now? Who is driving through the streets that once used to be my neighborhood? Are the shops open now? Soon, the Haji Agha that runs the small produce market on the corner would set up the tray which holds heaps of large red beets, laboo, to be cooked and ready for sale by noon, clouds of steam rising from it, and the delicious and unparalleled smell of it filling that corner of the neighborhood on a cold November day. I am dead tired and my mind is filled with memories, sights, and smells of Tehran. I miss it again tonight.

And Words Flow Again...

The Twins.
I am glad to report that my "writer's block" has been cured for now. For several weeks, other than my blog, I was unable to sit down and write some self-imposed assignments I had been contemplating. Finally, I managed to get one of them out of the way today. This wasn't as easy as it sounds. Even when I can write about some personal feelings, it is so easy for me to dislike the final product and to push "delete" on it, a common occurrence of late. I am cured and it feels good! I had to lend my car to my son today, and without a car, all I could do on a Sunday was to work around the house and think and write. I think I will try this method the next time I become incapable of writing again! I am leaving for a two-day work-related trip tomorrow morning. I will write a post tomorrow night if I can manage it. Otherwise, I'll be back on Tuesday night. Be good y'all.
If you live in these parts, make note of the following events:
1. There will be a free film screening of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis on Thursday, November 29th, at 7:30pm at UA Berkeley 7, 2274 Shattuck Avenue. The movie is in French with English subtitles. For your free ticket, call Persian Center at 510-848-0264 or email info@PersianCenter.org. Note: Admission is by ticket only.
2. Stanford's Hamid & Christina Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies presents "An Evening with Forough" (Farrokhzad) with Professor Farzaneh Milani, Director, Claus Strigel and Mr. Hossein Mansouri. Event includes viewing of documentary: The House Is Black (on her life), Monday, Nov 26th, 5:30-9:00 pm , Cubberley Auditorium, Stanford University. RSVP to iranianstudies@stanford.edu by November 23rd.
P.S. Yes, they are related to me.


Dr. Soroush in Oakland

Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush giving his lecture in Oakland's ICCNC tonight.
من غلام قمرم، غیر قمر هیچ مگو
پیش من جز سخن شمع و شکر هیچ مگو
سخن رنج مگو، جز سخن گنج مگو
ور ازین بی خبری رنج مبر، هیچ مگو
دوش دیوانه شدم، عشق مرا دید و بگفت
آمدم، نعره مزن، جامه مدر، هیچ مگو
گفتم: ای عشق، من از چیز دگر می ترسم
گفت: آن چیز دگر نیست دگر، هیچ مگو
من به گوش تو سخنهای نهان خواهم گفت
سر بجنبان که بلی، جز که به سر هیچ مگو
قمری، جان صفتی در ره دل پیدا شد
در ره دل چه لطیف است سفر! هیچ مگو
گفتم: ای دل، چه مه ست این؟ دل اشارت می کرد
که نه اندازه’ توست این، بگذر، هیچ مگو
گفتم: این روی فرشته ست عجبیا بشر است؟
گفت:این غیر فرشته ست و بشر، هیچ مگو
گفتم: این چیست؟ بگو، زیر و زبر خواهم شد
گفت: می باش چنین زیر و زبر، هیچ مگو
ای نشسته تو درین خانه’ پر نقش و خیال
خیز از این خانه برو، رخت ببر، هیچ مگو
گفتم: ای دل، پدری کن، نه که این وصف خداست؟
گفت: این هست، ولی جان پدر، هیچ مگو
I went to see Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush in Oakland tonight. He talked about Molana (Rumi) and love. He mentioned how that which is in a person's soul (ravan), will eventually find its way to his tongue (zaban). As such, he made extensive reference to how many times Molana has mentioned the words shekar (sugar), shirin (sweet), halva, and ghand (sugar cubes), showing how blissfully sweet he thought life to be. He also talked about the use of words zir-o-zebar (transformation) in Molana's poetry, and how Shams' assignment to Molana, or Molana's gamble, was to give up everything he held dear in quest for that transformation, to evolve into what we know of him today. I enjoyed the lecture immensely, especially as I had gone with my lovely niece and nephew and ran into my sweet friend, Shohreh, there. I am also delighted to report that my book, Ghomar-e-Asheghaneh, by Dr. Soroush is now properly autographed by him! My head and my heart is reading Molana tonight.


Whispers and Shouts of Love

Ballet Afsaneh perform a magnificient production of Persian Dance at San Francisco's City Hall in Nowrooz 2007. Music is by Mr. Mohammad Nejad. I searched everywhere and found multiple copies of this performance, but they all had very poor quality as compared to this one, which has three other pieces following it. I am recommending section 1, but you are welcome to watch all 4! Please watch all 7:32 minutes of the first section, as it is simply awesome!
It's Friday. I'm finally home, having put a crazy busy week behind. My job is getting more exciting and demanding everyday, and it seemed that something was happening on the social, academic, and cultural front everyday of this week. I'm exhausted and feel great to be home and relaxing a little. I'm going to catch up on my emails and visit my friends' blogs and just hang out. I will have to take a two-day trip to attend a training class in Sacramento early next week and right now, nothing feels as good as my home, filled with the sounds of another basketball game, which has my older son glued to the set on a Friday night.
I wish you all a weekend filled with joy and peace. Relax, eat and drink whatever pleases you, build a fire if you can, and gather with those who are dear and important to you. Sayeh says she talks with her mother about having never learned to express her love, that her mother never "taught her how." I don't believe that. She has been giving messages of love and understanding to many for many years as a blogger. Her way of expressing herself may be just a little different from others. This weekend, say it whichever way you can, however many times you want, and to as many people as you wish. Say "I love you," and "I miss you," and "I wished you were here." Whisper it, type it, say it, and if you feel the need, shout it! Say it and listen to what you hear with all your heart. You will hear the whispers and the words and the shouts of love and affection right back. My humble experience guarantees it.


Take Me To Kurdistan

Sanandaj Bazaar in Kurdistan, Iran. Photo by Arash Ashoorinia.
I have many Kurd friends. Colorful, vivacious, and kind, Iranian Kurds are some of the nicest people I have ever known. My Kurd friend, Leila, is generous, beautiful, and a most superb and soulful singer. I love their music and I love their dance. I have tried to learn their dance steps, but I have been an utter failure in that effort! I once listened to a lecture by Maestro Hossein Alizadeh, in which he was describing the nuances of Kurdish music. He said Kurdish music is mostly the music of agricultural work and movement, motivating and inspiring farmers to move. When their dance music reaches its crescendo, I have learned to step back and let them do it themselves, where my most humble contribution becomes serving the spectacle as a spectator. Ah, watching that energy grips me and mesmerizes me, taking me to a place as yet unseen, Kurdistan. Kurdistan is on the list of places I want to visit someday. I so hope for it to be soon.
Watch this video clip of Kurdish music, performed by my friend and neighbor, Rojan, and the Shams Ensemble, directed by Tahmoures Pournazeri. It's electric. Enjoy.

Mary J. Blige, No More Drama

After a very long time, I'm sleepless tonight. Here, listen to what I'm listening. If you can't access YouTube, listen to the song on Deezer. Lyrics here.


Protest in Berkeley

There was a gathering in UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza today at noon to protest a possible attack on Iran. The participants were also protesting the use of "water boarding" as a torture method used during US interrogations of terrorim suspects. There was a good crowd gathered around the speeches and the "water boarding simulation," which was heart wrenching to watch even in simulation. Most of the protestors were Americans. I went with my friend, Renaud. Renaud is a Frenchman and an American who was raised in Iran and graduated from Razi High School in Tehran. He speaks fluent Farsi and loves Iran. I talked about him, in a post in March.


Kafka, Pink, Nacht, and Soroush

1. My older son is learning some things about what it means to own a car. Enough said on that topic, I had to give him a ride to the train station after a long time this morning. As I pulled into my parking spot in Berkeley, I called him to see if he had made it on the 7:30 train. He had, but he didn’t want to talk about trains (which less than 2 hours ago was all he had wanted to talk about). Instead, he wanted to talk about Kafka, which he is reading right now, and as reading Kafka goes, he is shocked and a little frightened by what he is reading. In between the things he was saying he said: “I read my first Kafka story when I was 15. It was in a book of short horror stories you bought me. What was going through your mind when you bought that collection of dark stories for me? What if I’m permanently damaged as a result of my exposure to Kafka when I was only 15?!” I told him to keep on reading his Kafka, until he has read them all, and then he should read some other books which I’ll tell him about later, and then see some ballets and operas which I will also recommend, before he is done. He said: “Done with what?” I said to him: “What you need to be a good date, where you can talk about a broad range of topics and things.” For the first time, he didn’t tell me to mind my own business.
2. I’m going to an event on Thursday. If you live in this area, I highly recommend your attendance. Foreign policy: Future of American-Iranian relations; Thursday, November 15 7:30-9 p.m. 2060 Valley Life Sciences Bldg., UC Berkeley. Here's the lecture description: "Regardless of sanctions and diplomatic alienation, Iran has not backed down from the claim that it has a right to its own nuclear program. As tensions heat up and the our position in the Middle East grows more complicated, we are faced with a number of choices. Michael Nacht, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, and Darren Zook, professor of International and Area Studies, will discuss the the probable and preferable futures of American-Iranian relations."
3. My friend, Dr. Zari Taheri, has sent me the link to this song by Pink. It's called "Dear Mr. President." Here are the lyrics.
4. Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush will be giving a lecture on "Molana va Ghiaymate Eshgh" at Oakland's Islamic Cultural Center of Northern Califonia on Saturday November 17, 2007at 6:30PM. The program is in Farsi. ICCNC's address is 1433 Madison Avenue, Oakland, CA.
5. Tomorrow at 12:00 noon, there will be a protest by Iranians against a possible US attack on Iran at UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza. It will last for one hour. I am attending this protest. If you live in this area, come join us.


The Bird Was Only A Bird

The bird said, “What scent! What sunshine! Ah!

Spring has come

And I will go in search of my mate”

From the portico’s edge

The bird flew away; like a message, it flew away

The bird was little

The bird did not think

The bird did not read newspapers

The bird was not in debt

The bird did not know men

The bird flew through the air

Over red lights

At the altitude of nescience

And madly experienced

Blue moments

The bird, Ah, was only a bird

"Parandeh faghat yek parandeh bood," Another Birth, by Forough Farrokhzad, Translated by Ismail Salami


A Nostalgic Evening

I stepped out into a rainy afternoon and evening of pure nostalgia. Who better to take along than Mr. Nostalgia himself! Bayram and I attended a reception in honor of Nasser Rastegar-Nejad. Do you know him? I didn't until tonight. He is a musician and a poet. He has written scores of songs for old time Iranian singers. His lyrics for Mahtab, Vigen's first song, introduced first our parents and then my generation to Vigen's music. He has written songs for Delkash, Pouran, Elaheh, and Mehrpooya. Do you remember the song, Shab bood biyaban bood, which first Pouran and then Fereidoon Farrokhzad sang? He wrote the lyrics for that song.
The MC was Manoocehr Sakhaee, and in between the introductions, he sang his old songs for us. Several talented singers and Shahrzad Dance Company's dancers also performed. It was a fabulous evening. I will write something about it on Iranian.com soon, when I have access to the video clips of the event and can also show Mr. Rastegar-Nejad's fascinating slide show, in which he has been photographed with tens of old time Iranian singers, musicians, poets, and cultural figures. I am so glad to see Iranians honor an artist when he is still alive and can participate in his lifetime's achievements' celebration. Mr. Rastegar-Nejad, now 68, has donated his personal library of musical books, instruments, and memorabilia to Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation, and Dr. Ehsan Yarshater's personal note in this regard was read. It was a great evening. Old time music still rings in my head blisfully. I am so lucky.


Hearts, Arms, and Eyes

Ballet Afsaneh dance Persian dances. Music: The Hunt, by Azam Ali from her Niaz Album.

It's Friday. My kids got dressed up in their nice clothes and went to a birthday party. Days ran one after another this week, and before I knew it, another Friday evening is here, when I catch my breath, relax, and write another Friday post. This was a good week. I made tangible progress at work, in my personal affairs, and in some of my relationships. With a reception and many meetings to start a new project at work, I talked entirely too much this week. I am so appreciating the silence of this cool and dark evening. I am a generally sociable and noisy individual. I talk a lot and laugh a lot. It may be a surprise to most people, then, to know how much I value my solitude and quiet. When it's quiet, I get to think and regroup. It took me years to learn this need in myself. Now that I know it, I exercise it frequently!

I leave you with a dance clip of Ballet Afsaneh. They are a local dance company, specializing in Persian, Central Asian, Tajik, Afghan, Uzbek, Indian, and Azerbaijani dances. Though they have some Iranian dancers in their company, their dancers are mostly Americans. They have won many perfoming arts prizes and are regarded as a respectable dance company. You can read more about them on their website. Though a bit blurry, I hope this video clip makes you happy and lets you forget some of your worries.

I wish you all a fabulous weekend. I hope your hours and days are filled with rays of light, winds of joy, and sounds of laughter. I hope you stay warm with the love of your friends and family. Return those phone calls, write those emails, send those photos, and visit the ones waiting to see you. Remember, at the end of the day, nobody really cares how many times you mopped your floors or how vigorously you vacuumed the carpets; they care whether your hands were wrapped around their shoulders, your voice soothed their souls, and your reassurances made them strong. Go get busy with the business of love, understanding, and peace. Please don't shout, don't hunk your horns, and don't frown. Open your hearts, your arms, and your eyes. You may feel, touch, and see things you hadn't before. You just might. And don't forget to pray for peace.


8 Fragments of 60 Conversations Today...

He says: “I have decided to take it easy at work and not care anymore. Just this morning I caught myself rushing in to work and I had to tell myself: ‘Hey, Mister, slow down. Why are you running?’ My heart breaks for my friend who received a special service award last year this time.
His voicemail message says: “I wonder what I’ve done to make you ignore my phone messages and my emails.” Reminding him that it makes me puke to have married men make passes at me is not only pointless, it will also necessitate talking to him, which I don’t want to do.
She says: “I am so happy the twins will be coming to visit! Whenever I get depressed these days, all I have to do to cheer up is to remind myself that they are coming. All I want to do is to look at them for hours and forget everything else.”
Her voicemail message says: “I miss you, though I don’t think you miss me.” I must call sweet Leila tomorrow.
She says: “In my last performance evaluation, my boss said there have been numerous complaints about my talking too much at work. I told him this has been my problem for 21 years and I haven’t been able to do anything about it. I asked him if he could recommend a solution for this.”
He says: “…and I thought......, and I feel……, and I will….. . Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in a meeting. Oh, call me when you get out.” I will have to call someone who has never asked me how I feel.
She says: “I don’t know why you stopped returning my calls.” I must call my old and faithful friend, Monir, tomorrow.
She says: “I don’t miss having a man in my life. The only thing I miss when I don’t have a man in my life is how it feels to ‘be a woman.’ I want to wear sheer stockings; I want to put on sexy lingerie; I want to put on perfumed lotions. When there is no man for whom to do this, I don’t feel like doing it. When there is no man in my life, I miss myself.”
My mind is fried. I’m calling it a day and going to bed.


تصور کن

تصور کن، اگه حتی تصور کردنش سخته

جهانی که هر انسانی تو اون خوشبخت خوشبخته

جهانی که تو اون پول و نژاد و قدرت ارزش نیست

جواب همصدایی ها پلیس ضد شورش نیست

نه بمب هسته ای داره، نه بمب افکن، نه خمپاره

دیگه هیچ بچه ای پاشو روی مین جا نمیذاره

همه آزاد آزادن، همه بیدار بیدارن

تو روزنامه نمیخونی نهنگا خودکشی کردن

جهانی رو تصور کن بدون نفرت و باروت

بدون ظلم خودکامه، بدون وحشت و تابوت

جهانی رو تصور کن پر از لبخند و آزادی

لبالب از گل و بوسه، پر از تکرار آبادی


سیاوش قمشی


Piles of Happiness

I am organizing myself, again! Papers, envelopes, bills, books, CD's, magazines, notes, and files are strewn all over the table, and I am painstakingly going through the disorganized mess on my dining table, trying to bring some kind of order to my madness! I am making some progress, feeling marginally accomplished. Now I have piles. Piles of bills. Pile of books. Piles of CD's. Piles of magazines. I am keeping at it. I have to finish this. The low-grade anxiety about neglected paperwork has been killing me. My older son comes home. I must look pathetic, as in an increasingly rare occurrence, he comes, hugs me, kisses me, and says some really sweet and wonderful words of greeting. He goes to watch basketball, his passion and joy. Immediately I hear him yell with glee for his favorite team in the TV room. I go back to my organization project. I move the stack of books to the bookshelf and put them back exactly where they should be, Hafez, Shams, Jibran, and Nima. I move the stack of CD to their containers and file them. I take the magazines into the other room. I come back and start on the paperwork. The table is already looking cleaner and tidier. I give myself an undeserved break, sipping my tea, and think: sometimes happiness is a clean dining table, some sealed and stamped envelopes containing paid bills, poetry books on a shelf, and a young man messing up the TV room again, as he roots for his favorite team.


Eerie End

I was getting ready to leave work for the day when I heard sirens and saw the flashing lights of fire trucks and police cars outside. Stepping out, I came face to face with a Berkeley police officer, diverting foot traffic from the sidewalk outside. The pavement was cordoned off with yellow police crime scene tapes, just like in movies. I asked the kind officer (in the photo) what was going on (you know how fozool I am!). She said a suspicious package had been discovered at the footsteps of Berkeley City College next door, and they were investigating. I asked her for permission to snap a photograph and she said if I did it and left quickly, it was O.K. Here we are. It's not a very good picture, but it was my only shot! I thought if I stuck around trying to get a really good picture, I might appear as suspicious and get into trouble! I wonder whether it's mid-term examinations time at Berkeley City College. Last year at my sons' college, there were "bomb scares" at around finals time, and I read in the paper that it is not unusual for prank calls to be made to colleges, resulting in cancelled classes and exams! Under the present tense circumstances, authorities have to take every such call seriously, and to search the entire campus before they let people back in. I must say I'm grateful for this policy. Another event-filled day ends in Berkeley.



Water polo team members of a neighborhood high school and their parents wash cars to earn money for their team. My car, Shabdiz, got a good washing today.
In the middle of the goings on of this weekend, I talked to my journalist friend for a few minutes. At his urging, I watched an hour-long program about Iran on History Channel, entitled Beyond Top Secret-Iran. It was really horrifying. For the first time, American media presented not a speculative view into Iran's nuclear ambitions, but a so-called documentary about Iran's search for nuclear weapons. History Channel is not Fox News or CNN. I don't remember their having been front runners in the American public opinion formation; at least I haven't been aware of such tendencies on that channel. It was, therefore, pretty shocking to watch just that in action.
I think programs such as this are directly aiming to justify and legitimize an attack on Iran, built on the fear factor now in full operation in American minds after September 11th. It is devastating to listen to so-called "analysis," speculating the shape the attack on Iran would take. Let's not be mistaken. In order for public acceptance of a war on Iran, Iran must first become ugly, uncompromising, and a menace to the world. In just a few months, Mr. Ahmadinejad has become the ugly face of Iran, portraying Iran as deserving to be bombed and destroyed. Everyone else in Iran is suddenly faceless and voiceless. They show him denying the Holocaust, gesturing, and threatening the world, forgetting to mention that he is not all of Iran. They talk about potential attacks on Lavizan and Natanz, forgetting to mention that these facilities are located in densely populated areas of Tehran and Iran, posing serious human casualties in case of an attack. For the first time, I hope I am over-reacting about an issue. I can't bear to think about the unthinkable.
History Channel will air the program again several times this week. Take a look if you can, and please tell me that I am over-reacting. It will air on Monday, November 5th at 11:00 PM, and again on Tuesday, November 6th at 3:00 AM. I am heartsick.


Loving Signals

My autumn flower arrangemet. Photo by Tameshk.
On my way home last night, I received a phone call from my niece, giving me some bad news about family members. My lovely aunt (my Khaleh), the oldest member of our family, passed away peacefully yesterday. One of my nieces continues to struggle with a mysterious blood condition, and another one of my nieces has been in an accident, but is recuperating now. All of a sudden I missed my family so much. I told my niece: "You know, I have been so anxious recently, feeling overwhelmed with life. I wonder whether it's because I haven't been spending enough time with my family." And the wise young woman said to me: "I think so. You know when we are near our family, even when no words are exchanged, a lot of energy and loving signals are sent and received, and when we get up to go home, all of a sudden we feel better."
I am going to go hug and hold three of my oldest friends in America, my sisters, my nieces, my nephews, and, oh, O.K., my four brothers-in-law today and tomorrow. I am going to call my nieces and nephews and other family members all over the world today and tomorrow. I am going to "send and receive" loving energy over the weekend. I know you know what is best for you; but if you are like me, who know these things but sometimes "temporarily forget" them, just as my young niece reminded me, let me be the one to remind you to go hug, kiss, write and call your family and friends and send and receive loving energy. Have a good weekend you all, and keep those energies flowing.
P.S. Listen to this Rast Panjgah piece by Alireza Eftekhari and only a piano accompanist. It is one of my few favorite songs by him, and it happens to be one of my most favorite pieces of music in the world. It is not a very happy tempo, which is why I had never recommended it before. I love it because it is so soulful, and I listen to it whether I'm sad or happy.

Friends With Red Lips

I had such a relaxed time last night with my friends. After dinner at Faz, the three of us reached into our purses, pulled out our lipsticks, and got ready to leave for the lecture. We laughed when we realized we were all wearing the exact same shade of red! It was so funny!


Holakouee Lecture in Sunnyvale

My friends Nazy and Kathy and I are going to listen to Dr. Farhang Holakouee. He is a guest of SIP tonight. Here are the lecture details:
"You Need to Create What You Want",
based on the law of attraction (as discussed in the book, The Secret) Presentation in Farsi; Friday, November 2nd, 6:30 p.m., FAZ Restaurant Ballroom, 1108 North Matilda Avenue; Sunnyvale; Members $10, Other $15. For more info call 408-236-2188.
Truth be told, I am more excited about going out with my friends than the lecture! If I learn anything noteworthy, I will come back and share with you.


Sohrab's Irony

A few years ago, the Emamzadeh in Mashad Ardehal near Kashan, where Sohrab Sepehri is buried was going through a renovation. As a part of the renovation, the plan was to move Sohrab’s grave from where it was to another spot in the graveyard. In Iran and amongst Moslems, exhuming a dead body from the grave is considered a deep insult to the dead. There was a huge social uproar and the plans were changed to exclude the removal. The reconstruction and renovation efforts went on at the Emamzadeh. One day a truck backed onto Sohrab’s grave, and broke the tombstone. This was so ironic, considering on his tombstone, verses of one of his poems say:

If you come to visit me, Come softly and quietly, Lest the thin china of my solitude Is cracked.

I saw this picture today. A crack through the words "the thin china of my solitude" is visible. I wonder whether that tombstone was replaced and the new one is now also cracked, or this is the original tombstone. Either way, I think Sohrab would not be insulted by the irony. I think he is smiling about it, the optimistic, happy poet of our times. Photo by Behrang Barzin. See more pictures of his trip to Iran here.