Thursday, June 14, 2018

Bourdain, the Loveable Stranger

I have been a big fan of Anthony Bourdain, ever since I watched his episode on Amsterdam on a flight to Europe several years ago. Being a foodie, traveller, and culture enthusiast, I was attracted right away to his language, curiosity, and bluntness. He was not the type of person to shy away from expressing his opinion. He was bold, courageous and was very comfortable with it.

I started watching his videos from "The Layover" and "No reservations" and later, "Parts Unknown". I read his book, "Kitchen Confidential", and signed up for the first release of "Appetites", from which I learned that Caesar salad is not Italian but Mexican and it does not include chicken. "God does not want you to put chicken in your Caesar" as he put it. I laughed out loud alone in my apartment, reading a recipe from Appetites. I don't think anyone has captured my hatred of club sandwich as best as Bourdain.

When I travelled, I went to his recommended places to eat and to hang out with the locals I met from couchsurfing or simply met with, around food, from Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, to Venice, Savoca in Sicily, and more. I devoured in street food and haute cuisine alike and often times had something on the house after staying couple hours eating and drinking and talking to the waiters, chefs or the locals. The waiter at a restaurant in Venice told us where Bourdain sat and spent hours eating so much, he could barely move. A chef in Savoca gave us his best olive oil and told us "Anthony Bourdain is a strange man...he was not sympatico but I like!" I knew what he meant by sympatico.

Bourdain was a badass and from a personal experience did not come off as sympatico. On the way back from the trip to Sicily, I bumped into him at Rome's Fiumicino airport. I was so excited I went to say hi. I felt awkward. What was I gonna say, that I'm a fan? That I love your enthusiasm in food and culture? That I love your show? That I love your politics? That I love your badassness? He was checking in on the same flight as me but in business class of course. I went and said, "Mr. Bourdain?" He turned back and saw me like a teenage groupie. Then the airline employee blocked me from going further into the business class line. It pissed me off and I was like, bitch please, I'm just gonna say hi; I don't have a ticket for business class, what the heck are you afraid of by not letting me get in and say hi. I checked in, passed the security check and I saw Bourdain again on the moving walkway. I told him that it was such a coincidence seeing him in Rome, after having been to the restaurant he went to in Savoca, which I really enjoyed. He said: "Oh yeah?" and then walked away. I was really pissed and thought, what a dick. When I thought about it later, I took it that he's a celebrity but needs his space and privacy. It can be really frustrating having to talk to random strangers who are fan wherever you go. Maybe he was tired, had headache, or just sad that he would be missing his Italian girlfriend. It was OK. I'm not a child, I get it.

Bourdain's pungent voice irritated so many but attracted many more. I loved his politics, his social awareness, and going beyond measures and what food tastes like. He once said "there is nothing more political than food", and I wholeheartedly believe that. He wasn't a type of guy to follow mainstream movements without having an opinion on his own. He ate seal with the Inuit and pled with people who signed on to a boycott of Canadian seal hunt. He rightfully understood that the campaign would doom Inuit communities. He reminded me that one can't blindly adhere to an organization like Green Peace. It was a difficult moment to realize that an association whose many actions and campaigns I support and still support, has not only failed with regards to the seal hunt campaign, but has also wreaked havoc to the Inuit population of Canada. I felt betrayed by Green Peace. Though, what I learned was to have critical eyes and accept that failures are possible, even by well-meaning organization.

Bourdain was one of the few American celebrities that was vocal about the Palestinian cause. In his trip to Palestine and Israel of Parts Unknown, he didn't go to Tel Aviv and instead went to the contentious Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. He sat with the settlers at a table, looked at them in the eyes and asked one of them why they did not paint over the "Death to the Arabs" sprayed over a an Arab's house. In his trip to Haiti, he showed us the complexities and the consequences of good intentions.

He will be missed by many, and I'm glad I'm not alone here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Don't suck your drink through a straw before reading this

If you are concerned about the environment and recycling, continue reading.

This is not a nag. This is a small list of suggestions to anyone who wants to be able to dare looking into the eyes of the next generation; who wants to eat fish and seafood that does not contain plastic, who wants to enjoy nature, and in short, who wants to live and pass this planet to their kids or others' kids.

Like some of you, I feel distressed, angry, sad and hopeless whenever I see how our living environment is getting dirtier and filled with plastic and garbage. I do not think that we can continue living on this planet if we keep using and wasting and throwing away here and there.

I am tired of nagging, so I am writing a few things that you, me and every one of us can do as our share. It doesn't matter if some people are irresponsible or stupid; it doesn't matter if we live in a capitalist world that doesn't fine those who dump waste or plastic in the ocean; it doesn't matter if Trump is the president; it doesn't matter that we're all gonna die someday, it's always been like that. What matters, is that we as individuals can choose not to take part in what we don't like. We can tell our friends and they can tell theirs and in the end, hopefully we will be many. We can educate ourselves, and then others, including kids.

What we can do:

1- practice correct recycling. I realized a few days ago that I have sometimes been an aspirational recycler, because sometimes I did not recycle correctly. For example, I did not know that items with number 6 as recycling code, are not recyclable. 

Here's an article on NY times that can help you figure out.

2- If you do not know what can be recycled in your city, check the website of your city/municipality for information. If this information does not exist, write them and ask them to update their website.

I live in Montreal and I realized that on the city of Montreal's website, plastic bags are considered recyclable. However, the article above suggests the opposite. The article also mentions that if one side of the pizza box is not greasy, you can tear it off and recycle that. I wrote an email to the city of Montreal and asked for clarification and referred them to the NY times article above. I'm waiting for an answer.

3- Please do not use straws. As humans, we have the physical capability to drink without straws. If your hands are too weak to lift your drink, or you're addicted, it's OK; we all have our weakness. Buy stainless steel straws, carry one in your bag, and put one in your house if withdrawal from plastic straw is as painful as heroin withdrawal.

You might have read many statistics so far, but just to give you an idea, 8 million metric tons of plastic pollute oceans each year. Animals including whales, fish, turtles, seabirds die as a result. Even giant corporates such as IKEA and Royal Caribbean have stopped using plastic straws. Come on! we can do better!

Here in Montreal, already some restaurants and bars stopped offering straws. You can also encourage your favourite place to stop offering them. Trust me, your words will have an impact.

4- Buy reusable tote bags in canvas or more generally reusable bags for your groceries. It will not cause you arthritis.

5- Get yourself a reusable mug/container/thermos to drink coffee/tea at work. Once you go to a cafe next door to take a break from work, take it with you and ask them to pour your drink in it.
"Your disposable coffee cup might seem like it can be recycled, but most single-use cups are lined with a fine film of polyethylene, which makes the cups liquid-proof but also difficult and expensive to reprocess (because the materials have to be separated)"

6- Likewise, use a reusable bottle for water and refill. Did you know that nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute?

7- If you go on a hike, trekking, or camping, follow the principles of LNT (leave no trace). No, you shouldn't throw an apple core in nature! It's easy: Pack it in, pack it out.

Unfortunately I have seen so many plastic bottles, cans, or simply garbage that people leave on the trail. It is not cool at all. Sometimes I collect the garbage but sometimes I just get tired of cleaning up someone's shit who thinks it's OK to leave garbage/recyclables behind.

8- Don't feed non-domestic animals. This includes birds, squirrels, racoons, etc. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviousrs, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.

9- If you have kids, teach them about recycling and the environment.

Some resources:
1- National Geographic guide on Planet or Plastic

3- If you wanna get inspired and take baby steps in changing your environment for the better, take a look at here. Take your pledge. Share it on your feed if you think that makes a difference. But remember your pledge.

4- 4 Ocean an initiative by two amazing surfers to clean the ocean. They were shocked at the amount of plastic on the beach and in the ocean on their trip to Bali. You can support them by buying a bracelet made out of recycled plastic, which funds the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean and the coastline. If not, just read their story and what they have done so far by gathering people on different places around the world who care for the environment and started their baby steps with them. Maybe next time you go to a beach, adults or with kids, spend a few minutes taking plastics off the beach. I do that most of the times. Trust me, this does not dehumanize you, leaving behind plastic, food remains, beer can or bottle does.

5-SeaWorld, Ikea and Royal Caribbean are getting rid of plastic straws and bags

Also, how do you like this image? I took it from National Geographic "What happens to the plastic we throw out?"

This is real and it's not far from happening next to us.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How facebook made me a lesbian!

No, despite identity hybridity, I'm not lesbian; I never was, and didn't become one because of facebook, in case the title of this post is ambiguous. 

Like many, I'm also a user of facebook. I share stuff: news, articles, funny stuff, sometimes events. I do not share photos of food, coffee from a hundred angles, my babies (I don't have any), my boyfriend, etc. All of these are for a reason and of course, a matter of taste.

A cup of coffee is shared zillions of times on facebook and I do not see why I should add yet another one to this repository of non-information. It is not a photo of Emerald Lake or Spirit Island. If I see a photo of a cup of coffee, I will not 'like' it.
I don't have kids, but if I had, I would not share their photos online, because I think I am not in the position to make that decision for them. One day, when they grow up, they will make the choice themselves on how much they want to share of themselves online.
I am also a private person, and therefore do not like to post images of me and my boyfriend, whether I am having a great time with him, or I want to tell him how much he means to me, or how lucky I am to have found him. I don't need the world to know; no need for affirmation, compliments, show-off. If it's his birthday, I will wish him the best. If we are having a great time backpacking, eating, watching a movie, traveling, hiking, discussing politics, etc, I tell him how much I enjoy; I hold him in my arms, I kiss him, I express my feelings TO HIM. I don't need to let the whole world know. I just don't see any point in that.

Everyone, yes, every single person who shares something on facebook, including me, expects a reaction from the people called 'friends' in their network. A reaction is 'like', and now, 'love', 'wow', 'anger', not to mention comments. Please don't say you are an exception cuz that just makes you a liar, not modest nor exceptional nor different from others. Even one of my cool professors who posts very interesting stuff once raised her concern that she did not see any 'like' or comments on her posts and thought it was not possible until she found that she had mistakenly changed the faceook setting. It's OK to seek attention; don't worry, we all do. We all need confirmation. It's just a matter of degree. 

So, back to the title of this post. As a result of the reasons I mentioned above, the photos that appear on my facebook page, include my close female friends, and in the past 2 years, particularly one of them. Then a few friends whom I do not see much and/or are not in frequent contact with, asked me, if I became a lesbian. It is so amusing to see how inadvertently my facebook profile made me a lesbian in the eyes of these people. Looking at the photos, I must say, I don't see them at fault. However, reading the comments me and my friend wrote below some of the photos is a testament to the fact that we're making fun of our image(s). 

How many times have you posted your despair, vulnerability, anguish, need for love on facebook? How many times have you seen people in your network do that, or post a photo of yourself in a sad, angry, or with disheveled hair, or after you just broke up, or lost your job, felt alone and had puffy eyes? 

Facebook can create fake personas; not only that, but people also use this to create a fake persona and image of their lives. This fake image is usually that of a purportedly very lucky, happy person. Images of couples, their lovey dovey relationships, how fortunate they are, how beautiful, and perfect they are in a photo, as if there is no pain in this person's life. Encounters with some of these people in real life showed me the opposite. I know men who got married or went into a relationship just because they wanted to have kids and not because they loved their woman. Their partner on the other hand would post images of their happiness on facebook, images that were hollow in my eyes because I knew the real story. I know men who post lovely words addressed to their partners on facebook, because they are insecure that their women would leave them, or have already made the decision to leave them. I know people (mostly women) who change their relationship status on facebook as a way to secure their positions in the eyes of their partners, ignorant of the fact that their partners found this quite intrusive on their privacy, hasty, and immature. I know women who went with men because of their social capital (wealth, fame) and found themselves competing with their peers on facebook photos.

If you pay a bit more attention, you will find that most of the times, people who are actually happy, do not brag about it on facebook. It is as if the number of 'like's under those photos where they are expressing their love to their partner, will temporarily account for the real moment of happiness they are seeking. Of course, as always, there are exceptions; artists, or people who just want to share with their fans/closed ones. I admit it is easier to share on facebook and get excited to see the red notifications of reaction received, than sending them by email or sharing them on dropbox for instance. 

A while ago, I read an article by an entrepreneur from Montreal, in which he voiced his personal concerns and relationship with facebook. He asked, what if he would have to pay for each 'like' on facebook. Would he still spend as much time and 'like'? I think that question influenced my social media behaviour too.

Anyways, that was a segue. The main point I wanted to make here, was how amusing it is for me to see the way people read facebook profiles and how facebook can consolidate the construction of the image in people's minds. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Happy Birthday Leonard Cohen

Happy Birthday poet!

You filled my silent moments with your husky voice that ages like whisky and becomes evermore tender as you get older.

I don't know where to start... from finding your house near Marie-Anne street in Montreal, or the tears I shed in Budapest while sitting in the first row, watching you perform 'Lover, lover, lover' with that amazing lutist? From the depth of a kiss to how you say 'I'm your man'? From the flaming words of 'A thousand kisses deep' to the blues of 'famous blue raincoat'? From the excitement of 'First we take Manhattan' to then taking Berlin? I don't know which one... I have memories with all your songs... memories in different places, memories that travel.

Happy Birthday poet
Happy Birthday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Wojtek, Krakow, me, and my host

Krakow had been on my list of cities to visit since more than a decade ago. The reason being its beauty and the fact that I heard a rumour that it was so beautiful that Hitler didn't destroy it. This was a nonfact indeed. The fact was that Krakow was invaded in the first week of September in 1939. Of course I told this to my courchsurfing host in Krakow, when he asked me : why Krakow?

My host's profile on couchsurfing was the one I had spent the longest time reading since I joined couchsurfing 4 years ago. I clicked on different links that he shared to intriguing ideas and the group he had started on couchsurfing, to gather TEDsters and couchsurfers to share ideas.

My host was a British living in Krakow. One of those amazing travel stories was that when he was driving me to his place, he told me that he was involved in a project to commemorate Wojtek, the Syrian Soldier bear that was found in 1942 in Iran by the Polish refugees from Stalin's gulags. Richard told me that the statue of Wojtek was unveiled the day before, i.e. the day I arrived in Krakow. I was astounded. What were the odds that I, an Iranian travel to Krakow and be hosted by the person who had a significant role in making this project happen, and Wojtek's statue be unveiled the day of my arrival in Krakow? Richard's goal was to use Wojtek, to draw attention to the history involving Poland, Germany, Russia and Iran. He created a facebook page for this project.
Can the statue of Wojtek be built in Iran?

Here's a part of an article on the untold story of Soviet deportations during WWII.

"...When Stalin switched sides after Hitler’s surprise attack on Russia in June 1941 and granted the Polish exiles a short window of so-called “amnesty”, only a small number, about 115,000, led by General Anders, managed to escape to freedom through Persia (Iran) in 1942. This is the untold story, Ms. Golubiec believes, that the film “A Trip to Nowhere” captures so eloquently in an animated collage of images, songs, sounds and voices of the survivors."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A shared New Year's Resolution: Talk, Look, We're Still Physical Creatures in a Physical World

Last week, while I was watching The Daily Show on Comedy Networks, I saw a commercial that was quite different from what we usually see. A woman was recording a message on her voicemail, saying that she was not available that day and gave instructions to callers to either leave a message or call her other colleague. The camera zooms out and we see her in her kitchen. She hangs up and almost burst into tears. Then we see a bold line appear, "Everyday, 500,000 Canadians miss work due to a form of mental illness." A curious as I was, I searched and realized that there is a "Let's talk" campaign and in Canada, it is actually a serious problem. The sad part is not only this but that it became a serious problem only when loss of capital is calculated to be enormous. "With 500,000 Canadians missing work each day because of a mental illness, the impact in lost labour -market participation was an estimated $20.7 billion in 2012 alone."

It's the age of loneliness. People do not die from plague anymore but dozens of mental illness, especially in the west are plaguing people. It is becoming more and more difficult for people to communicate with each other, not only verbally but by looking and smiling at each other. I was talking to an American friend of mine in Berlin who's been living there for the past 5 years. She told me that one of the things that she learned there about Germans, was that when she walked in the street, if there were people in their balcony, she should NOT look at them because then she would be invading their private space, "so I look straight ahead," she said. Another instance came from my uncle who lives in Norway and told me that one out of four Norwegians take pills for mental illness, the most important of which is a result of lack of talking.

There are a few commercials and projects that deal with people's issues with human contacts and how they have changed in our times with the ubiquity of smartphones and social media. I do not think that we should stop using them cuz that is retrograde. I just think we have to know HOW to use them in order to avoid sad consequences of loneliness, loss of eye contact and actually talking to each other.
Since last September, I've been spending a lot of my time working and studying at home with no real human contacts except with my classmates in class and people I see in gallery openings.  I can see that when I go out after a while, I become excited to see people but sometimes became upset that most people are playing/working with their smartphones and are so aware of keeping their distance from each other.

A few months ago, I was introduced to someone in a gallery and while I was talking, the girl just pushed me away from her and said that she needed her space because she had a bubble around herself. I was so shocked at that moment and became doubtful about my physical distance from people. As soon as I left there, I called my closest friend and asked her if she thought I stood too close to people when I talked to them. She thought for a few seconds and as surprised as she was at my unanticipated question, said, "No, why do you ask this?" I told her the story and said, "I guess people here are very outright with saying how they feel." But it was not about being outright, she thought it was rude, "I wouldn't push someone if I feel they're too close, I would step back myself; besides, I don't think you stand too close to people. This is an extreme encounter and it's the first time someone tells you this, so don't worry." But then, I could not stop thinking about this. I even thought it could be because of a cultural difference but again, I lived in different countries west and east, and it never happened to me.

I found these videos interesting, so I just share them here. I just wish that we become closer to each other, look at people, exchange smiles, feel at ease to start a conversation in public transport, and less concerned with our physical space in 2014.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When the bubble magically bursts

After I closed my music weblog on the 69th day of posting a song, something magical happened for the second time in my life. I was thinking about it since yesterday that it happened and when I decided to write it here, I realized that there are some experiences in life that unlike the title of this blog, repeat in one way or another, though that doesn't make them alike. I write it as a witness to remember, though I can't promise myself that I will learn from it and that's when the unrepeatability of the experience comes to the fore.

Has it ever happened that you found out that you were in a bubble for a while, protecting yourself from the existing realities? A bubble that floated in the air, carrying you over the clouds, leaving you with positive thoughts about things and people around you; a bubble that acted like a shield and helped you to avoid negative thoughts and to see people through rose-tinted glasses. Then suddenly that bubble bursts and you fall, you will most probably fall on a hard surface and will find it hard to get up. You will feel numb and it will take a while to understand you're no more in a bubble. Then you will feel pain in your body, a kind of withdrawal pain, in the most dramatic case, a kind of pain that a heroin addict might have while trying to quit. Then if you're strong enough, you gather yourself for a leap. Your vantage point when you stand up on your feet is different from the one inside the bubble. The rose-tinted glasses are smashed and you look at life with no filter in front of your eyes.

The best possible person to burst that bubble is the very same person for whom you put yourself in that bubble; the same person for whom you put those rose-tinted glasses on, for the sole reason of not destroying your good memories and positive thoughts about them. When that person bursts your bubble with a simple touch, you wake up into reality and see them the way they are, not the way you wanted them to be.

To go over the shock of the fall, the numbness and the pain, you have to overdose yourself with the very same thing that made you reminisce about the past and stabbed your heart. You have to overdose yourself with it and shatter your heart into pieces. Then you will feel like a patient who had just been recovered from a surgery; or a person who had just thrown up after feeling inebriated. The wounds heal and your mind clears, you're ready for a new view.

Through your fall, that person also falls and breaks like a glass and his pieces scatter away. Unlike your heart that is still alive with the blood that runs through it, and gathers all the torn pieces to heal your wounds, that person will never be the same person in your mind. No, you will not hate him, but you will become neutral as if he never stepped into your life; as if he never told you those rosy words; as if he never kissed you for half an hour; as if he never stayed in your arms the whole night twisting his legs around yours; as if you never felt feverish sitting on the couch, talking to each other, listening to music till four in the morning; as if he never touched his forehead saying "oh God" after seeing you on skype; as if he never gave you any of those compliments... Instead, you will remember how unnecessarily kind you were. You start remembering all those words and acts that hurt or disrespected you and you never thought about them until he burst that bubble around you and reminded you of what was going on.

After I recovered from overdosing myself for one day with THE song, my view was clear. There was no mystifying element about him and about what happened or didn't happen. There was no question mark. All was gone... It was time to sing.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Taken 2

I wrote this on April 22nd.

A friend once said that it's a sin to watch a decent film on the plane. So I decided to watch a Hollywood  style movie (if you know what I mean) on my way back to Montreal from Edinburgh. I watched Taken 2. When I watched Taken a few years ago, the film did not have its Muslim vilification flavour. I guess a lot of things have changed since then. At the moment that I'm writing this, less than 10 days have passed from Boston marathon explosion and  already a considerable number of Muslims have been the target of disdain by some ignorant people in the States.
Taken 2 is another cinematic attempt to vilify Muslims by taking advantage of the current political atmosphere against Muslim and as a consequence, it consolidates the existing Islamophobia.
For those of you who haven't watched it, in Taken the daughter of an x-CIA agent is kidnapped by a Albanian gang in Paris. Since Bryan's daughter is virgin, instead of being drugged and exploited as a prostitute, she is saved to be sold to an Arab Sheikh for a high price. Why an Arab Sheikh? Because some of them think that having sex with a virgin girl will prolong their lives. The gang functions in Paris since they have a connection with a corrupt former French agent.
In Taken 2, the story happens in Istanbul and we realize that the gang was Muslim when the father of the guy who kidnapped Bryan's daughter, announces that he wants to take revenge at the burial of his son, after saying some prayers in Arabic. Then we see Hagia Sophia's minarets, we hear azan in the background that all together prepare us for the theme of the movie and decide for us the hero and the villains. By the time the 3 members of the family are in Istanbul, we know that this innocent American family is going to be the target of kidnapping by some ignorant Muslims who are led by a father who is filled with feelings of revenge and hate. The daughter, Kim, has failed her driving test several times but she's a stunt driver in Istanbul's narrow alleys, drives like James Bond and passes in front of a train within a few milliseconds it crashes the car. Don't worry if you don't pass the driving test in America, you can still drive like James Bond in the Middle East! Your father keeps his cool even when your mother is hung upside down with a rope in a dungeon in front of him. He calls you, gives you the directions, tells you to detonate a few grenades here and there and guides you to his location with an accuracy more precise than a GPS. Heaven knows how he came up with that while he was blindfolded in a car. Oh no, I forgot, he's an American, a superhero, this is a piece of cake for him.
The movie ends with a happy ending where the family is reunited and everyone has a milkshake. How lovely! How innocent, how intelligent these Americans and how villain, revengeful and corrupt these Muslims are!
I wonder, I just wonder why we never see any movies about Rais Bhuiyan, a victim of hate crime after 9/11 who instead of hating Mark Stroman, the man who shot him and left him with severe injuries in his right eye, launched a campaign requesting Stroman's death penalty be commuted to life in prison with no parole (read more here.) Why there is no film on the outrageous Khandahar Massacre in which Robert Bales, the American soldier killed sixteen Afghan civilians, or similar events?
It's a sad reality. May we all be conscious of what's going on in this world and not be transfixed in front of the screens of leading film production companies.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Granny, the house feels empty without you

Yesterday I called my dad while I was still in bed, before getting into town and discovering Edinburgh on foot. "I have a bad news for you" he said, making sure that my conference presentation was over and that I had already submitted my exams. My heart started beating fast. I was silent. "Your granny passed away two days ago," he said. I burst into tears. "We didn't want to tell you to distract you from what you were doing." For a moment, I thought how considerate of them but how distant I was from them.

Granny was my great grandmother, a selfless beautiful woman inside and out, who had stayed in home for almost twenty years, because she had problem walking, yet this imposed confinement did not make her grumpy nor did it create any sort of complex in her character. She lost her husband at a young age and never remarried. She was forever in love with him and because she was religious, she had one wish only, and that was to reunite with her husband "if I deserve to go to heaven" as she said.

When she talked about him, tears ran down her eyes. She lived with her only daughter and was the light and joy of the house. She thought about everyone and her arms was a refuge for all of us, her great grandchildren, her grandchildren and her daughter. I never heard her lie or give an unfair comment about anyone. She was an honest storyteller whom I always trusted without a shadow of a doubt . Whenever we were leaving the house, she said "I entrust you to the hands of God." I could never find an equivalent in my own words but I could feel the beauty of her words in the mind of a believer. It was the best kind of farewell. One could tell someone, "I entrust you to the powers of the good," or "I wish you safety on your journey," or "I wish you a safe journey" or… I don't know.

My granny was going to hospital back and forth in the past few months. Every time I called my uncle, I was hoping not to hear a bad news. She was suffering from heart, lung and kidney malaise. My aunt told me that when they were after the 13th day of the year (in Iran, the new year's holiday ends after the 13th day), she had told her: "now that the 13th is over, I can die; I won't ruin your new year's holiday." I sobbed when she said this. How thoughtful can one be to even think about the time of her death? My auntie also told me that the night before she died, she had dreamed of her husband telling her "you have suffered enough; it's time you come to me." She died peacefully the next day. Now that I'm writing these words on a train and watching the scenery passing the train by, I'm thinking about our journey in life, how life passes us by with all its good and bad memories, with the pains and laughters. We know about death, it's been there for zillions of years and yet we feel so weak and helpless when we face it, when one of our closest ones dies.

I was thinking about the first time I faced the death of a person whom I had seen in real, my father's uncle. It was weird and uncanny. I did not comprehend that he did not exist anymore, that he was simply not there and was not going to be there. I went around the house and came back and wanted to call him but kept silent when I realized that he was no longer sitting on his armchair.

It will still be the same when I visit my granny's house. I will still be searching for her in that house, on that chair near the stove where she cooked the most delicious foods for us, on the floor where she sat and knitted pullover and scarves, and on the leather chair she sat where I combed and plait her beautiful all white hair. I never wanted to think that I wouldn't see her when I said goodbye to her last year before leaving Iran. My granny, my sweet, kind granny, that house should feel empty without you. I don't know how I'm gonna enter it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Beautiful Country (Die Brucke am Ibar)

It is not easy to be neutral when talking about war. It is not easy for a photojournalist to choose between his responsibilities as a documentarian and as a human. History is written by the victors or rather is more disseminated. The question of taking side of which country is not as straight forwards as it is decided in the meetings of politicians over a table, having a cigar in one hand and a glass of cognac in the other hand. The life of innocent people is definitely not the first concern in these meetings.

In “My Beautiful Country”, Michaela Kezele, the Serbian-Croatian director, observes the war from the perspective of human relations and emotions, emotions that don’t recognize war. Danica, a young Serb who still mourns the loss of her husband during the war, lives in a small Albanian-Serbian village near Ibar river with her two young boys. When Ramiz, an Albanian soldier seeks refuge in her home, she is scared and hesitant at the same time. By accepting him, she would be officially making her home a shelter for her enemy; by refusing him, she would disregard her values as a human. She chooses the first because these values still weigh more than the rules that made her once neighbour, her current enemy. A bridge over Ibar, which is the translation of the original title (Die Brucke am Ibar), separates these neighbours, but cannot raise hatred in people like Danica who doesn’t have time for hatred!
The natural relation between Ramiz and Vlado, Danica’s younger son develops into a friendship, which is in stark contrast with the way soldiers brutally humiliated their opponents in the beginning of the movie.
Love develops between the alleged enemies; between Vlado and a young Albanian kid, between Vlado and Ramiz and of course between Danica and Ramiz. The beauty of this film is how these loves relate and their protagonists follow each other as they take us with them throughout their journey.
An important issue brought up in the film was the use of depleted uranium ammunition by NATO in Kosovo and Bosnia. This issue was so controversial that prevented the screening of the film in parts of the concerned region.

The tragedy of war is not always about people who are killed by their enemy but people who are killed by their ally. This, in my opinion was the highlight of this film and the director portrayed this as delicately as possible.
“My Beautiful Country” was Kezele’s first feature film and was shown in the 36th Montreal World Film Festival. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Words


We admire authors; their words are our companions in bed, on the plane, in the park and in our solitary moments. The words take us to the ancient times, to the farthest place on Earth we never visited; to the lives of people like us or so different from us. The words play with our imagination. Deprived of visual means, the words can so delicately describe a scene with such details that we would not notice if we were to see them with our own eyes. Words portray a feeling so subtly that we can trace the most powerful inner emotions just as we can trace the brush strokes on a canvas. 
Although we think highly of our favorite authors, we don't really know what they went through to get to the point where their words get published and reach us. 
"The Words", is a story within a story of two men, both aspiring writers whose fate coincide in a dramatic circumstance. Rory, a young American writer, dreams of having his two novels published. His words are ‘too artistic’, ‘too fine’ to be published as an unknown author. The continuous rejection by publishing houses frustrates him when he suddenly finds a story as old as the yellow papers on which they were typed, in a vintage bag his wife buys him during their honeymoon.
Reading the story affects Rory tremendously to the point that he believes he is nothing compared to the unknown writer of his discovery. He decided to type the story, without changing a word or a single punctuation. When he receives his wife’s awe and praise after she accidentally reads the story, for a moment he believes himself to be the writer of that novel. 
The book gets published, Rory reaches stardom as his dream came through. But not long after, he encounters the truth, the real author who followed him after his fancy book openings, not to defame him but to tell him his life story and his inspiration to write that novel. A man who loved his words so much that he sacrificed the woman who inspired him to write them.
‘The Words’ takes us on the journey of two writers with extreme ambitions. One leaves his wife for the sake of words, the other steals is so desperately fascinated by words that he steals them. 
Although there is a third story containing these two stories, its presence in the movie was completely unnecessary and in my opinion it even marred the riveting story line. The bogus and tawdry gestures of Olivia Wilde and her ostentatious act and dialogue with Dennis Quaid not only didn’t relate to a Columbia University grad student but also gave a cheesy taste to the movie end. However the masterly play by Jeremy Irons as well as Bradley Cooper save the movie and one can ignore that downside.

‘The Words’ by Brian Klugman was in the world competition in Montreal World Film Festival, with the presence of Klugman and the crew at Cinema Imperial on August 29th. 

Anfang 80 (Coming of Age)

When we think about falling in love, most of the times we relate it to youth. When we think about ‘happily ever after’ couples, we imagine an old couple walking hand in hand on the street. If we see such couples, we usually picture a long life they’ve shared together; through the good and bad; through happiness and pain; and through laughter and tear.
‘Coming of Age’ transforms this impression by portraying some of the most heartfelt feelings between people of age. It does this not by arousing a sense of pity towards the old; on the contrary, it enlightens some of our wrong perceptions about them.

Rosa, an eighty-year old woman, meets Bruno, after discovering about her terminal cancer. She is quite independent and unconventional as she refuses to undergo chemotherapy. Rosa is still alive yet her niece rents her apartment without her permission.

Bruno’s inspiration after he meets Rosa, his will to enjoy the taste of love in the last years of his life is astounding. He is quite levelheaded when he announces the news to his wife and his children. He doesn’t bother explaining much.

Together, they rent a new apartment; they go to IKEA for choosing furniture for their home; they make love; they dance; they even smoke pot. Careless of the world around them, they taste the beauty of love and caring beside each other.

Rosa is elegant. At the age of 80, she smiles and laughs from the bottom of her heart. Her firm character during the movie and the way she manipulates different situations with young people is admirable. To the young, the old are ‘invisible’ as she put it.  However she does not give in and insists on her visibility. She is not piteous; she’s admirable. Rosa, this daring woman slaps the young radiographer after she mindlessly ignored that Rosa was standing there, waiting for her instruction for quite a while.

The astounding play by Karl Merkatz who portrayed an old man’s desire to taste love and his efforts in taking care of his love, at the age when he himself needed to be taken care of, was remarkable. There was a perfect balance in the choice of the accompanying role by Christine Ostermayer.

Anfang 80 or Coming of age, a movie by Gerhard Ertl and Sabine Hiebler, was in the world competition in the 36th Montreal World Film Festival.  Karl Merkatz was chosen as the best actor in the festival on September 3rd. The movie also won the Public Award for the most popular movie of the festival.