White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Cognition of a vocal Charlie Chaplin

Last night we went to a one-actor play which was about Charlie Chaplin and the time period that he was making The Great Dictator. Despite the fact that both the director and the actor did a superb job, but I couldn't enjoy the play at all. Since the first minute there was something truly strange for me and that was a vocal Chaplin which was not something that my mind could take. I hade seen couple of vocal movies by Chaplin (Lime Light & Monsieur Verdoux, and also the last sequence of the Great Dictator where he makes his wonderful speech are all vocal, but in none of them Charlie has his typical tramp role). But still for me Charlie cognotively is recorded as a silent genius of Cinema and as good as they try to portray him in a different vocal setup, it is difficult to cognitively tune with it. So I guess I should avoid any vocal portray of him after this.

Talking about Charlie, I am very surprised and some how disappointed to see he's not that much known and respected in US (Specially among people of my age). Even I have heard odd statements from smart friends like: "Chaplin is not funny", "His movies are not really comedy"!
Some people say because of his leftist view and Mc-Carthyism era, media still downplay him here, but I can't buy that. There are plenty of artists and intellectuals who have had (or currently have) leftist views and have a great level of respect and fame here. Even I have seen some how more respect for some of the icon geniuses of Soviet cinema like Sergei Eisenstein than for Charlie.

Tonight I went back to Charlie's wonderful closing speech at the end of The Great Dictator:

You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let's use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.

You can read the full text of his speech here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Free Mojtaba and Arash Day

I support: "Free Mojtaba and Arash Day".

Read the BBC News story about it.

Another misery

14 months after Bam, in the same region, in another sad early morning earthquake:
Over 500 death and an extensive destruction.
2 days after the mourning Ashoora holiday and three weeks before Iranian new year a bitter tragedy attacks our country. Misery and mourning does not stop in our land!

Check out ISNA's Photo report and Yahoo Photos from the region.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

We can do it!

Read this article, and then you feel more optimist about improving the current state of our world.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Iranian Education System

Rodman writes from Iran:

"An admired friend of mine told me last night that undergrad is not for learning, it's for gaining experience for life. You know, getting away from the family for the first time and beginning to become mature as a person. And as long as you get that useless degree at the end you have accompolished the mission. These words really made me feel better. At least another being in the universe thinks that I haven't wasted nearly six years of my life at the university."

He's right. I don't mean his point is right about undergrad studies, but his point is completely understandable based on what I know about the Iranian education system!

His posting suddenly brought all my memories about the dry Iranian education system and the sense of depression that most of the time I felt in that system. I lived in Iran till age 20 and I tasted both Iranian highschool and university (for one year) and I tasted the stress of the Iranian Konkoor (National University Entrance Test) which at least had a good result for me. Iranian education system is to large extent still stuck with the old fashion dry seminary school style filled with punishment and minimal level of support and appreciation. It's totally biased towards creating a few elite students and whoever that is not in the top 10%, is practically treated as a looser and should not survive in that system. The government spends some money to find those few elite and hard working ones and send them to international competitions for Math, Physics, etc. and the remaining students should deal with a system with minimal evaluation and change. In that system teachers and university profs survive with no scientific evaluation of their teaching performance and what students say do not affect anything. Most of university professors have a lifetime position (if they're politically right) and they expect students to respect them with no reservation. Let me make it clear that here I do not want to discredit the effort that these folks are putting in the academic circles of Iran (which has minimal payoff for them too). My problem is with an unhealthy atmosphere of debate between instructors and students which results in a continuous sense of emptiness and disappointment in students.

Why the general mentality of our education system does not catch up with the world and still is a very militaristic system? We keep talking about democracy and democratization of Iranian government, while in the top cultural institutions of our country which are supposed to be the exporters of the knowledge and understanding, there is not a democratic debate going on? I believe it's naive to blame everything on the political state of the country.

I have been truly lucky to taste the American education system which is filled with honesty and support for every inch of hard work and of course my judgment is biased towards the American way as I haven't tried any system which is somewhere between Iran and US. Of course, I agree that the American system is too much laid back and specially in American highschools, students have too much of freedom and practically learn very little (comparing with Iran). But in practice American schools are running by a democratic process of continuous evaluation. There might be a little bit of politics here and there, but in general the system tries its best to offer support for hard work. I can not see the reason for this difference only in the financial or political differences of two countries. I have seen very poor state universities in US that their budget is way bellow many Iranian top universities (a rational comparison). But still healthy debate atmosphere between students and professors holds in those schools.

The discussion of Iranian Education System is quite long and needs to be done in more depth by looking into several aspects of it. But it's a very important issue which affects the general public discourse in our society very much. I promise to continue this discussion in the future and I appreciate your comments.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Shirin Ebadi on the US policy towards Iran

Mrs. Shirin Ebadi (The winner of Nobel Peace Prize in 2003) has smartly answered Bush's fake middle east freedom propogation campaign:

"Respect for human rights in any country must spring forth through the will of the people and as part of a genuine democratic process. Such respect can never be imposed by foreign military might and coercion - an approach that abounds in contradictions. Not only would a foreign invasion of Iran vitiate popular support for human rights activism, but by destroying civilian lives, institutions and infrastructure, war would also usher in chaos and instability. Respect for human rights is likely to be among the first casualties.

Instead, the most effective way to promote human rights in Iran is to provide moral support and international recognition to independent human rights defenders and to insist that Iran adhere to the international human rights laws and conventions that it has signed. Getting the Iranian government to abide by these international standards is the human rights movement's highest goal; foreign military intervention in Iran is the surest way to harm us and keep that goal out of reach."

Read the full NY Times article (an alternative address).

Deficit and Mr. W.!

After spending hundreds of billions of dollars on another stupid war and totally filling the pockets of his army corporate lobbyist, Mr. W. has suddenly felt worried about the deficit problem! Oh, now we should do something for this deficit that we don't know how has happened. (it's probably act of those liberal abortionists or gays or probably Osama Bin Laden) What to do? Let's cut education, environmental protection, public transportation fundings. Should we cut anything from military? Of course not! We are at war and we need to spend another hundreds of billions to decorate our soldiers with all sorts products offered by our favorite army corporations. Instead, we need to cut Amtrak to make the average Joe drive his car instead of using public transportation (and inject some more cash into Exxon-Mobil’s gas sale). We need to cut MedicAid, kill (reform) social security, close public schools, increase public college tuition, cut financial aids, remove many supports for culture, arts, humanities, ...
God bless America and Mr. W., because he's watching our society to be absolutely moral and not be harmed by gays and abortionists. The rest (education, environment, social programs) are only fantasy stories. Is there a limit in the world of lying and deception?

Friday, February 04, 2005

A soundtrack of my life

Have you ever felt that a piece of art or works of an artist are very close to your character, life story and mentality that in someway you see a reflection of your characterisrics in that piece of art? I once did and after that many works of that artist became the soundtrack of my life story. I tasted many of the critical moments of my life with that music and in some ways it became part of my mentality. Tonight I’m writing about Ennio Morricone, the Italian composer of over 500 films with icon works such as Cinema Paradiso, The Mission, Once upon a time in America, etc.

It was first my passion to music, specially romanic pieces of classical music. And then cinema came into my life and golden years of discovering the avant-garde cinema of France, Italy, Germen Expressionism, and Independent Cinema of USA. And then soundtrack music merged these two passions for me. And one day: I watched the American movie: The Mission, directed by Roland Jaffe. A movie about the massacre of parts of the American Indians and the efforts of two white priests who tried to help the Indians to get out of white’s slavery system. The movie was nice, with a great performance of Robert Denioro. But the music was truly a heaven for me. An unbelievable strong voice of the chores and an incredible mapping of characters into musical instruments. It’s difficult to imagine how many times I played the final closing of the movie and listened to the music of the end title. It was almost impossible to find the soundtrack of this film in the regular Iranian music stores as most of western products did not enter the country through official and legal channels. In the coming months, I finally got a copy of the Mission’s soundtrack cassette. And man that was a real treat!
And then I saw Cinema Paradiso and that movie itself was a magic work. Now imagine that it had Morricone’s music on top of it! I guess I should spend a separate posting to write about Cinema Paradiso and the passion that I have towards that movie (I guess I have watched this movie over 20 times).

Most of these events happened when I was 15 years old and since then the sound track of my life is still some selective works of Mr. Morricone. My sense and understanding of love and passion, most of my successes and losses are merged with different chord’s of Morricone’s wonderful music.

Morricone is a master of creativity in melody and visual music. His music is so much filled with the sense of nostalgia and poetry that takes you away to your personal islands and keeps you there for while. Some times I think maybe my passion for his music is only because I am a very nostalgic and probably romantic person. But honestly more than nostalgia and romanticism, I have always found my idealism towards the state of human being and my personal passion for a better world in his music. And there is also another reason for me to be passionate with his works: Most of Morricone’s work that I enjoy are attached to beautiful movies which are filled with passion and love for life and humanity. The interactions of these memories create a unique sense of enjoyment for me that is not always easy to find in other forms of art (at least for me).
I should admit that although I have lived with some parts of Morricone’s music, there exist a large volume of Morricone’s works that I don’t enjoy at all. Part of the reason is that Mr. Morricone is busiest film composer of our time who has composed over 500 soundstracks in the past 4 decades and of course many of those works are commercial.

Last Fall, YoYoMa’, the great Chinese-American cellist played a great selection of Mr. Morricone’s work with Morricone’s hometown orchestra and published a memorable unique CD named “Yo-Yo-Ma plays Morricone”. Although I have lived with the original version of Morricone’s CD for years, I should say that Yo-Yo-Ma’s performance was totally a new experience of beautiful music. Ma’s Cello performance of Morricone’s music is a perfect appreciation of his music that only a master like Yo-Yo-Ma is capable of such a work. I should say to anyone who enjoys Morricone’s music or is interested to learn about the extreme beauty of his work: I fully recommend listening to this CD!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Iranian Antiwar Blog Movement

Iranian bloggers have started a campaign of antiwar movement against any potential military action of US against Iran. So far two blogs have been created:

1. http://www.nowaroniran.com/
2. http://nowarforiran.blogspot.com/

Already a diverse set of perspective have been put together both in the articles and some of the comments on these two blogs which are very interesting and definitely worth reading.

There is also an online petition letter to the UN's general assembly about this issue.

This is a great movement and quite on time and I ask you to support it by putting links on your blogs. These are critical days that Bush adminstration is still fairly silent and in the planning process for their 2nd term policies in the Middle East and specially Iran. It's important to show the resistance upfront. If the movement gets a good momentum, it can get some important media attention in the coming days and in the long term White House and generally Neo-Cons get the message that: Dude, Iran is a different story!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

US teens 'reject' key freedoms

A survey of 100,000 US students about freedom of speech shows how much this country is moving to the extreme right.

"Over a third of the 100,000 students questioned felt the First Amendment went "too far" in guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, worship and assembly. Only half felt newspapers should be allowed to publish stories that did not have the government's approval."

This is really dangerous and probably the best achievement of those who planned 911.

Read the full story on BBC.

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