White Balloon

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

Friday, October 31, 2008

Me , Halloween and fantasy

A side effect of growing up in Iran is that I'm quite alien with most of the western fairytale and fantasies. In my childhood I mainly read Persian children literatures (mainly serious leftist themes) , some comics like Tin Tin and some Dickens and Jules Verne. The TV shows that we watched also presented a different type of fantasies. Disney had minimal presence in Irainian TV and we were very much exposed to some romantic Japanese and some eastern European animations. And of course we didn't have VCR at home.

I was rarely exposed to the fantasy stories that were influenced by the Roman-Celtic culture. These types of fantasies are very popular among Americans and probably most western population. Ranging from Halloween culture to Harry Potter and Lord of the Ring, Chronicles of Narnia, I find myself totally alien. I can't understand popular concepts like witches and zombies. Moreover, the catholic theme of Good vs. Evil that is present in this genre is a totally annoying concept for me. Every time that I've tried to reach a film or book, I have terribly failed right early on (eg. never enjoyed lord of the rings).

As a result tonight that is Halloween and I'm invited to a costume party, I have decided to stay home and enjoy reading my books. Sometimes I think being this much alien with these concepts make me a terrible father if I grow my kid in US. Maybe my kid help me to get an idea ...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

... Home is best

It sucks to leave a sunny paradise like Hawaii and fly back to a cloudy freezer named Pennsylvania. Get into the plane in shorts and get out somewhere that you need a strong jacket. But then it's great to walk back to my cozy apartment. Home sweet home! Where I see my plant has suddenly blossomed in this cold weather! where I get a lovely post card from a dear one.... As my father says "East or West, Home is Best".

The Hawaii trip was wonderful. With Arash, we had a Sideways like time: Wine, Woman and Words! And it was a glorious time! If you're going to Hawaii, you should visit Maui's Road to Hana! This is on my top 3 beautiful place list. A 52 miles paradise road that you can simply spend an entire day driving through it.

I met a few interesting people in the conference. A lot of smart-ass technical talk and smart jokes and interactions.... Among them, one smart young researcher asked me "Where do you like to be in 5 years?". And I didn't have a convincing answer.... But I know one thing, that her answer was definitely far from what I like to see myself.... I need to think about this question.

Yet again the magical power of trip is right there. Even the most lousy trips boost my attitude towards life. The famous poetry of my dad is resonating: "...And you will come to a home that is not same as yesterday! ...."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Taxation in Iran

These days there is a lot turmoil in the traditional Iranian market (Bazar). Based on a parliament bill, Ahamdinejad's government has started applying a sales and dividend tax. This is a huge change for the traditional market which will enforce a decent level of revenue transparency. Traditionally, transparency has been minimal in most levels of Iranian economy and bazar is not an exception.

The traditional merchants or bazaris have been knowns as one of the most important power circles in Iran since the revolution time. Strong connection between the traditional Bazar and the Islamic schools and the cleric bodies is not secret in Islamic republic.

The public's take about tax is not quite positive. Similar to US, there is mistrust towards government and people hide their income and property information to minimize their taxes. Some traditional parts of the society, prefer to pay their taxes in religious forms to clerics and religious organizations.

Ahmadinejad is the first government that is trying to change the tax system in the country. Most popular governments like Khatami or Rafsanjani (in his hey days), didn't dare to make major tax changes.... The opposition to the move has been quite strong and like a blow to the Ahmadinejad. There have been large scale strikes in most of the traditional markets such as gold, fabric and carpet. Although the governement has put a hold on the bill's implementation, the strikes continue.... And now the large alliance between Ahmadinejad's group and the traditional right wing of the regime is broken.... Considering the Bazar's political influence, the move can cost Ahamdinejad and his entire clan, the upcoming presidential election and their whole influence on the Iranian politics for years. But on the other side, the move can bring large popularity from the the poor... A large part of depends on the media coverage specially the state's official TV (that is sandwiched between two strong power circles now).

Independent of his motives and the way that things are going to be implemented, the move is the start of a major shake up in Iran's power structure. The outcome is tough to guess, but in the long term it can go as far as weakening the traditional economic establishments and even the traditional clergies in Iran.... But what would it be replaced with? Certainly Ahmadinejad doesn't seem to have a better replacement for such power structure. Most of his policies are random moves with no clear long term plans.... Is this another one of those random ones, or it's one major push? If it's the later, then in the coming months, I expect to see major changes of alliances in Iran's power structure.

Surrealism in action: Texans dance and sing Indonesian

Tonight, I went to a concert in my university, titled Rock Meets Islam in Indonesia. This was a rock concert by a legendary Dangdut musician Rhoma Irama. The program started with a speech by Indonesian ambassador to US, who reminded me the Eastern ritual of non-sense lecturing: random stuff about Indonesia and significance of Islam over there.... And then giving awards to some students who are research fellows (what does have to do with a concert?)....

Before Mr. Irama and his band take the stage, a Texas band with complete cowboy outfit came on stage... Actually the name of the band was Texas Cowboys. You would think they're playing some rock or country music before the Indonesian fellows start. However, they started playing some Indonesian music and to my surprise the Texas girl in boots started singing Indonesian. The scene was extended when one Texas guy (some how a red neck dude) started singing along again in Indonesian and shaking his body with the local rituals.... And finally the treat was completed with 3 white guys from the audience standing up and going to the front of the music hall, dancing Indonesian.... Later Indonesian and more White American crowd joined those 3 dudes dancing. But frankly the dancing skills of those three guys were exceptional.... It was quite a moment.

With such a start treat, Mr Irma came on stage with his 5 player band and 3 female dancers (dancing very much like shy Iranians girls) .... The Indonesian band's music was hard core rock. They really rocked the stage.... Most themes had eastern melodies, but the bass and guitar were quite rocks style and actually very good rock music... The dancing scenes continued with very large crowd (almost half of the music hall went to the front and danced).... In an medium size American city where the Indonesian population is less than 500 (for a country of 150 million that's nothing), hundreds of Americans singing and dancing in Indonesian.... That's quite a surreal treat.

And I forgot to say about the great Indonesian sweets and cookies that I discovered during the intermission. It was a night to learn about the large and important country that is not much present in the news, but apparently has quite a significance for some Americans, specially those Texan cowboys!

Thursday, October 09, 2008


I watched Religulous in cinema tonight. It's an entertaining documentary filled with Bill Maher's very funny satires about religion. Maher does a good job in ridiculing the organized religion in its God Business like ways. The documentary has a nice edit and flows very well.

However towards the end of the film, Maher takes a prophet-like tone and talks with a certainty that the movie is supposed to negate. How is he so sure about all his argument? Isn't he offering his views as another religion to us? I wish he had spent some time talking about the extreme atheist crowd too... The group who have an absolutist approach towards negating the existence of God, etc. without strong scientific proof. Isn't that another type of religion? With the same line of attacks!

Yet at the end, I was thinking is it really religion and organized cause that is the root cause of troubles in our world? Or lack of education and debate that eases the way for people to buy the most superstitious readings of each religion? I look at Nazi Germany or Stalinist USSR or Maoist China who caused the most tragic pages of 20th century history and none of them used religion in their platforms (they're actually anti religion). However the ideological approach in all of those three regimes was a fanatic style of blind following that some religious cycles also have.
So does removing or weakening the religion as an isolated move solves the social ignorance problems? Or maybe we should simply create the basic tools of debate and dialogs through education in our societies and trust our people to enlighten themselves and reach a logical consensus?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Global Economic Chaos

Over the lunch time, I skimmed through Wall Street Journal... The new stories about the economic downfalls sound like Armageddon. A large scale global crash! There is not a single good news in the paper. And then you see huge one page advertisement of the Oil giants talking about rescuing the planet.... The oil giants and military industry have made so much over the past 5 years that for now, they can simply lay on their pillows. But how much Americans will remember this chaos 5 years later when things are back to normal? Zero!! When Clinton was finishing his term, there was a surplus in the budget. There were signs of slow down in the dot com boom, but nothing in the scale of what came from Bush....And yet people voted to bull shit discourse of W. Bush's compassionate conservatism.... Not once, but twice...

I don't know how much this global crash influences Iran at the end. Some say because Iranian economy is not much in the global system, the influence will be minimal compared with the rest of the world. In contrast, our neighboring gulf state economies are already starting to drop... BBC reports about a large crash in Dubai and Saudi's stock markets... At some point, Iran will also pay a price from the drop in oil price.... And with populist policies of Ahmadinejad that has wasted billions of dollars on commodity spending, we'll have difficult days in Iran too.

My PhD Proposal

A bit of narcissist-style note:

It took me two month to write and revise it... Quite a long time.... At the end it's 57 pages of juicy content and ideas and I'm quite proud and happy about it!!

Still need to present it and so much to do to finish it!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The magic of cyberspace

Learning about someone that is shaking my entire body. You lose the relativeness of time in these moments. You think that time and life just started. This could be tomorrow, next month, yesterday... I'm thirsty to read her! And there is a lot to do before ....

Monday, October 06, 2008

My Conspiracy Theory

Hypothetically I see a connection between the crash of world markets (including wall street) and US election. There is a consensus in some powerful circles that Republicans should be ousted. Maybe even from the congress!

I predict things will be slightly improved after the election. And of course the bailout plan has set enough guidelines for Obama, not being able to do much of his social programs... but markets and even housing market will be improved after Jan 2009. It's the time to buy.

noon kareh asal

Life's beauty can come down to having a delicious snack at 2:30 AM: Bread, Butter and Honey ... never to forget Tea!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

In search of non-crappy blogs

I'm searching for content rich Persian blogs.... There are thousands of Persian blogs out there... And there is a central network of 200 of them that are at the center are interconnected.... Most of these central ones are about

1. Superficial chick language stuff... romantic messages about partners, kids, etc... break up stories... ambiguous review of memories in a way that no one except the inner circles understand....
2. Feminist materials filled with frustration and activism... some have some real analysis and solutions, the rest are copies of each other in complaining and nagging about laws, events, etc.
3. Depression manifesto
4. Political development in Iran.... An extended version of BBC News, Roozonline and Tabnak... Anti Ahmadinejad materials...

10% of the people in this central network have something rich to say that might make them entitled to their position.... The rest are members of a gossip network...

I'm desperately trying to avoid this central mafia and find the ones out of this network.... people like myself who don't care about the network effect and the fame and just write their thoughts... it's quite a challenge to find ...
I'm not against writing personal materials... i do it all the time.... i don't enjoy reading chat-flirt materials on a blog....
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