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January 2007

LUNCH
Kateh-Maast
Layla Khamoushian
January 31, 2007

It's 12:15 p.m. and I rush downstairs to the small cafeteria owned by this Koran man, known as "Charlie". The safe foods to eat off of his menu are cold sandwiches normally. But today, I have a stomachache and some sort of nausea, caused most likely by simple anxiety. You know... the every day stress.

I ask him for just "white rice". I already have maast, or plain yogurt, in the fridge at the office upstairs, which I had bought one day recently from Ralph's when I had my first "Kateh-Maast" attack.

This is the third time I am getting just white rice from Charlie this month and he is clearly getting annoyed since "just white rice" is not exactly doing business for him.

So he suggests, rather kindly -- as if I have no idea what is good for me to eat -- that I should add some chili to my white rice. You know... make it a more meaningful lunch.

I smile (and laugh to myself of course, since adding chili will defeat the whole purpose of simplicity). By now, I realize that I have to tell him the truth -- or at least part of the truth. So I explain that I am not feeling well today.

He smiles back. He seems to understand now. I go back upstairs to get my maast to garnish my kateh.

I am happy now... some things like the simple concept of "Kateh-Maast" are so hard to explain to those who have never had it.

Maybe... only maybe, next time I go back, I will tell him about "it". Maybe then he will bring some to sell so I don't have to go Ralph's just for maast. Comment

WAR
Even if we lose this battle
Omid Parsi
January 31, 2007

NEW YORK -- As of late, I have been reading quite a bit of emotional "Vaaveila" from our fellow iranian.com contributors regarding the increasing likelihood of an imminent US military attack on the IRI.

While I think (and hope) that this threat will never go beyond heated rhetorical muscle-flexing between the USA and IRI and will most likely end in some sort of cop-out, here are three analgesic thoughts and reflections in case I turn out to be wrong:

1) Take a look here. If you did not already know (or somehow forgot), you may learn (or recall) that firing on bound and blindfolded captives, especially teenagers and pregnant women, is an Islamic pastime and a virtue (if not a turn-on!), in short an integral part of the newfound pride in Iranian revolutionary identity. Now, isn't that a soothing thought?! ...

2) In case you are a real compassionate pacifist and worry about the priceless lives of our brave and bearded guardians of the Islamic Revolution, then try to also find some sympathy for the cockroaches in your kitchen before you call the exterminator... They are no less pure and innocent than our warrior baseejis!

3) If we resist and fight the USA with the same zeal and bravery that the Persians once fought to hold back the savage bedouin Arabs and their idea of enlightenment ... then nobody will get hurt!

Remember that even if we lose in battle, as we have nearly always in the past, we can prevail by "absorbing" the new captors, by making their values our own and, hopefully, at least some of our values their own to forge a new form of enlightenment: One which values popcorn and MTV at least as much as torture and execution and grants the same liberties to people of all walks of life: Mullahs, vigilantes, thugs and others. Comment

Now how bad is that?!

TASOOA
Holy cow
Mohammad R. Khaneghahi
January 30, 2007

Today is Tasooa. I went for a walk, the whole god damn city was closed, but there were people everywhere, mostly walking. There was light traffic and at least three dastehs on the march. People were giving free food and drink everywhere. I even saw some goddesses with make-up and latest fashionable clothes as well. My observation: this is far in North Tehran where rich and educated people live. Now if they are like this, holy cow... what is going on in deep in the south?

Which one came first? Chicken or the egg? Did government indoctrination cause this degree of religiousness? Or are these people basically religious and the currnet government is the government of the people by the people for the people? Comment

DOCTORS
Proctologists Without Borders
Jeesh Daram
January 27, 2007

How many times have you asked a child, "sweetheart what do you want to be when you grow up?" Most kids answer an astronaut, firefighter, policeman or a doctor, but do you ever hear a child say, "I want to become a urologist" or even worse a "proctologist?" Don't take me wrong I know how important this field is, but what is it that triggers someone to pursue such career? These are the morbid thoughts that keep me awake during the day.

While we are at it let's have an illustration: How does a proctologist respond on his first blind date with a beautiful girl in a fancy restaurant, while the dinner is being served she asks: "so what do you exactly do for living?" and he has to hesitantly reply: "I am a proctologist!" Mother of Jesus, that puts shiver into your spine just to think about it.

I mean if someone says "brain surgeon" or "heart surgeon" then in your mind you think of the brain or you visualize the heart, but how do you show your admiration when you hear the word proctologist on the first date?

We can only speculate and assume that the top medical schools' graduates will become brain surgeons, neurologists or vascular surgeons and then the leftover seats go to would be urologists and the final few seats to the proctologist that usually end up just standing at the end of the class due to unavailability of seats. I could be wrong but doesn't't that sound logical that nobody would volunteer for such career and it only happens due to force majeure, act of god or kismet that one becomes a proctologist?

Take for example a "general practician doctor" which I believe is basically there like a toll booth to collect your $10 co-payment, strike a rubber hammer to your knee caps once a year and ruining your day by sticking his finger up your ass and then says "everything looks good!" At this day and age that man has sent remote control rovers to planets Mars, to the Moon and beyond why is it that we have not invented a remote control probe to search for prostate inflammation to replace the doctors' fingers? And then you blame me for believing in conspiracy theory! Suffice to say that a general practician is nothing more than an obstacle and hurdle between you and a true specialist that he ends up sending you to when he is puzzled what's wrong with you.

Years ago I was flying from LA to DC and somewhere between the ground and 30,000 feet an old man got a heart attack inside our airplane. Within a minute the stewardess came and asked the man who was sitting next to me if he is a medical doctor because his name was listed as a doctor on the passengers list.

The man put down his magazine, removed his glasses and with his five fingers combed back his hair and with an air of self-gratification like one would only expect from Marcello Masteroianni responded: "I am a doctor of entomology." Or if translated into Adult Education English we presume that he studied insects.

Up above the clouds that day all of us were as useful as this "doctor" was or as useless! An average moron gets bored five minutes after catching flies, and what does a doctor of entomology do between 9-5 each day? Come to think of it aren't we all entomologists in our own accord?

There should be a law passed enforcing only doctors of medicine to be called "doctors" and the rest of people with a PhD or a doctorate to be addressed with other titles such as Senior or Maestro, and in particular forbid attorneys to advertise themselves as "doctors" for Pete's sake. Those who got their PhD or doctorate on-line and through the Internet should be addressed as CyberSpaceMaestro or anything but "Doctor."

Reflecting on words of wisdom of country western singer Willie Nelson:

Mama don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mama don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys...

And if my doctor reads the above he would probably remind of me of what the Persian poet Saadi said:

"cho beh gashty tabeeb az khod mayazaar
cheragh az bahreh tareekee negahdaar"
Comment

ACTION
It will be too late -- after the bombs fall
Cyrus Mossaddegh
January 23, 2007

At the start of last week many Iranians were working towards preventing war between Iran and America. However, given the events of the past week it is no longer prevention of war but the stopping of war that we have to start working on. It is now a whole different ballgame.

For those of you that are deluded into thinking that this will lead to regime change for a better Iran you on the wrong side and need to think hard about what being Iranian means to you.

Many of you hold American passports and when you got that passport it was required that you pledge allegiance to the American flag and be prepared to take up arms to defend America, which also means taking up arms when America conducts military operations that are not defense in nature.

Since 1979 many Iranians that have left Iran have enjoyed the freedoms and lifestyles of modern society. Those freedoms have placed on you the responsibility of coming to the aid of your fellow Iranians in Iran at this very moment since a war on Iran will turn our country into another Iraq. This catastrophe can hopefully be avoided. But it can only be avoided if you become active in the anti-war campaign now. And the first step for that is to become informed of the facts. Once you have the information you will know what to do.

I strongly encourage all of you to read the mission statement of Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran. CASMII is run by individuals that saw the danger of war right after 9-11. But war is no longer on the horizon but is now here. Below is an excerpt from the mission statement of CASMII. Please visit the site and become informed. We post the latest news on Iran but also have information on how you can get involved.

"CASMII is independent of all political groups and governments in particular the Iranian government, and adheres to no particular religion or ideology. Our core values include respect for human rights and a democratic state, in particular freedom of expression, freedom of press, an independent judiciary, equal rights for women, ethnic and religious minorities in Iran."

The time to act is now, not after the bombs have started falling.

Cyrus Mossaddegh is on the editorial board of CASMII and also operates Iran Information Agency.

CASMII link:

CampaignIran.org

CASMII mission statement page:

campaigniran.org/casmii/index.php?q=about

Iran Information Agency link:

IranInformationagency.blogspot.com

Comment

Visit Iran Information Agency

POETRY
Solemn
Tina Ehrami
January 23, 2007

Sudden spring

Surrounded silence,

So, so solitary soliloquy

Surpassed sottovoce serenity

Saved solferino "son et lumière"

Surplusing someone's somnolence

SATIRE
U.S. turns focus to Iran missile systems
Florian Riahi
January 19, 2007

NEWS ANALYSIS: Washington DC -- The head of US Naval forces, Admiral James Glenstone acknowledged that an unusual war game with Iran exposed the vulnerability of the Patriot missile interceptors systems, claimed to be the best in the world. In a rare gesture of engagement last month, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Forces proposed to conduct a test run of Iranian Shahab missiles against the world renowned Patriot anti-missile batteries in the gulf region. After heated diplomatic debates, US agreed to conduct a non-binding indirect engagement "aimed at US show of force and lowering potential loss of human life" on the side of the Iranians as a result of a possible confrontation.

US military officials confirmed that the test took place in the morning of January 8, 2007 in international waters of the Persian Gulf. A total of eighteen shahab missiles were fired 25 kilometers southwest of the gulf island of Gheshm at 7:37am local time. A Pentagon official, on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that its world renowned Patriot missiles, stationed on board of USS Stenis, failed to intercept any of the Shahab ballistics. The Pentagon official speculated that the malfunction of Patriot interception lies probably within the type of fuel used by Shahab interballistics. Patriot missile systems are guided with highly sensitive heat sensors, combined with its sophisticated radar interception algorithms. The type of Shahab's fuel is now the subject of much heated discussions amongst federal interdepartmental agencies especially the Pentagon.

In an unmistakably Persian facial gesture of denial, head of Iranian Revolutionalry Forces, Shahriar Danishpour, rebuffed Pentagon's speculation for failure by placing his tongue between the teeth while giving a nod of disapproval and sucking the air, making a rough 'nuch' sound. He confirmed, however, that the success of the Shahab test is probably due to the application of "a little bit of somagh extract" to the Shahab fuel processing technology. Somagh is an ancient Iranian spice used mostly in Persian barbequed meat, better known as Kabab, as well as a favourite flavor to consume with fresh pomegranate grains. The spokesman did not wish to elaborate further on the details of the "extract" and its consistency.

The failure of the Patriot's interception places the two US aircraft carriers and other forces currently stationed in the Persian Gulf fully exposed to the threat of Iranian Shahab missiles. There are unconfirmed reports that US has called back all its naval forces from the gulf, to a comfortable distance of 4000km into the Indian Ocean, safely out of the range of the Iranian Shahabs. The Pentagon is sending a team of experts to investigate the unexpected results of the incident, and to reassess its military strategy in the gulf region. Comment

DISCRIMINATION
Chizi ke avaz daareh geleh nadaareh
Faramarz Fateh
January 17, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- As I was looking at a cartoon by Hossein Hajiagha titled "Born Muslim, living in North America" I could not help but to remember comments and complaints from a bunch of Muslim Iranians living in Los Angeles. I had the misfortune of being born in a Muslim family. But since moving to the States, I at least can declare myself a non Muslim who only believes in God and tries to be a decent human.

There is no question that there is overt and covert racism at play against people of Middle Eastern origins, Muslims, Arabs and Iranians in the U.S. However, this racism and its effects are minimal. No more than a handful of people in these groups have been killed, beaten badly, fired from their jobs etc in the past few years since 9/11. To be fair, there were around 200-300 people who were unjustly detained by U.S. military.

For the past 160 plus years, Bahais have been the subject of prejudice and systematic persecution in Iran. From the time of Ghajars during which tens of thousands of them were massacred to the early 1980s where several hundred were killed by zealous followers of Khomeini. 

I am married to a Bahai. Her dad was put in prison for 12 years because he was a Bahai. He died a week or so after he was released from jail. His entire body had badly healed flesh wounds due to severe beatings while in jail. My father-in-law is just one example. Thousands of homes belonging to Bahais were confiscated after the revolution. Many men were fired from their jobs. Attending university was and still is banned for probably tens of thousands of young boys and girls. Why?

Because during this 160 years, not even a dozen Muslim hamvatans in Iran said or wrote a word about this abuse of Bahais. Believe me, I am the first to admit that not all Bahais are saints. But they are no different than most of us.

They are humans, they have rights and they want and deserve dignity. Just like us Iranian, Muslims or not, living in the U.S. and minding our own business. None of us, nor our fathers said anything about this injustice because no one gave a damn. No one thought this inaction will come back to haunt them.

Well, guess again. Now that we are subject of discrimination, racism, injustice etc, there are not too many that give a shit about us either.

Hamishe migan, chizi ke avaz dareh, geleh nadareh. Comment

ESSPELLING
Anti-Western worshippers of the West
Nahid Shafiei
January 17, 2007

Your quiz question on misspelled words at Tehran airport reminded me of all the misspelled words that you see everywhere in Tehran, on store signs, cars, billboards, even on banners when they are demonstrating (and they are university students!) The only signs in Tehran without any spelling mistakes are highway signs. Not only are they spelled correctly, but the Farsi words are spelled with the universally accepted transliteration rules. For example "gheyn" is spelled with "gh" and "qaaf" is spelled with "q" and "eyns" are spelled with an apostrophe as in "Sa'dabad Palace" or "Mo'alem Street".  

But every other sign is misspelled. I have been to many other non-English speaking countries, including Turkey which "acts" so European, and nowhere do they INSIST on putting the names on every sign in English as well as their own language the way they do in Iran. And the results are sometimes hilarious, the spellings, the translations of businesses into English, etc.

I think (for whatever my two cents is worth!) this stems from that wonderful "ostentatious" and "pretentious" Iranian characteristic (see I am doing it right now with my choice of words, I want to show off my knowledge of English!!!!). The other reason is the other wonderful Iranian characteristic of "westoxication" or "gharb zadegi" as Jalal-e Al-e Ahmad put it. They HAVE to show off that they know English because knowing Enligh means you are "modern" and "civilized"!!!! We keep saying we are proud of our language and heritage and yet we have always been "gharb parast", even at the peak of our nationalistic and Islamic revivals and revolutions. 

Okay, enough Iranian bashing... here are some examples I remember of English signs I've seen in Tehran:

* "pay tool" for pay toll
* "brekfast, lonch, diner served" for breakfast, lunch, dinner served
* "still company" for steel company
* "supper market" for supermarket
* "shoe mending" for shoe repair Comment

LIFE
Clues
Hooman Golshan
January 16, 2007

it was three in the morning... he was still awake, staring up at the ceiling... as always he was deep in thought, thinking about her... they had been writing to each other for over five years now... five years... a very long time....

he was thinking back to how it all starte.... he would sometimes go to a little secluded coffee-shop... a little hole in the wall tucked away securely by the beachfront... it had a live-let-live atmosphere... you saw all types there... students, yuppies, shipwrecked youth, older men, homeless people... everyone... they all came there to let down their guard, and let the masks fall from their faces... if only for a short while...

on that fateful day, he ordered the usual... a mocha with no whipped cream... while he was waiting for it, he turned around and looked at the bulletin board... he saw the usual... someone looking for a roommate, an old table for sale... and half-a-dozen other ads... at the last moment one of them caught his eye... "looking for a soulmate -- must have a soul"... it was written in the most beautiful handwriting... she had poured her heart and soul into every letter... he then noticed that there was no way to contact her... no phone number or email address... and there was nothing else written on the note... nothing...

"your mocha is ready" ...

he turned around, paid for his mocha, and went outside... it was his ritual... he would take his mocha, walk down the usual trail by the ocean... and just look at the stars at night... there usually wasn't anyone else by the water that late, aside from the occasional lovers by the beach... that night, he finished his mocha, got into his car and drove home... he couldn't get that note out of his mind... the simple title... the handwriting... and even stranger no way to contact her... was there a clue he had missed? Comment

FILM
Cold warish
Leslie Lyshkov
January 16, 2007

When I saw a trailer for Warner Brother's movie "300", I was curious to see how Iranian-Americans would react to it. Much of what Siamack Baniameri says of the trailer, I agree too, although I have no doubt that the battle of Thermopylae did occur because the Greek historian Herodotus documented it soon after it was fought.

The pedigree of the film itself may interest Baniameri. The story has been around awhile. Frank Miller's graphic novel "300" (on which the film is based) is an adolescent adaptation of a "sword-and-sandal" film from the cold war era titled "The 300 Spartans."

The earlier film, like the 1950's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," is a wholesome apple-pie of paranoia with dialog like this:

"... The whole of Asia is descending upon us. Many times more men than there are Greeks. These men are fierce, savage, bloodthirsty, merciless. But that is not the reason why we should fear them. That is not the source of their power. Their power lies in their unity. Unity! Remember that one terrible word which will surely destroy Greece, unless we counter it with a unity of our own. A unity of free men fighting together resisting this united tide of tyranny ..."

and this:

"... Mere cities don't matter now. It is Greece that counts! Only by being united can we hope to avoid slavery ..."

Much of propaganda of the first "Spartan 300" film will remain in the newer remake. This time though the Persian horde need not serve as a metaphor for the Russian horde; this time there can be a literal Persian horde without the metaphor.

What is most disturbing about "The 300 Spartans" though was not the foreign horde. The comic book bravery and strength of the "300" Spartans will prove to be more than a match for the horde. What in the end will defeat the "300" will be those Greeks who attempt to negotiate and compromise with the horde. It is they and not the foreigners who are "300's" true villains.

"300" claims to exhort freedom, but in truth, the film discredits it. Warner Brothers Studio will say that "300" is mere entertainment, but the Cold War origin and purpose of the story remains a propagandist demand against domestic dissent and for political conformity. Comment

IRAQ
Commander in grief
Hussein Sharifi
January 16, 2007

I saw a broken, failed, and defeated commander-in-chief on Wednesday night on TV. I saw President Bush's "troop surge" speech in Iraq on Wednesday on television. I carefully watched his moves and gestures and listened to his half an hour address to the American people. I really was shocked at the end. I had never seen President Bush in such a pathetic and miserable state. There are reports in medical journals that he has been taking tranquilizers during the day and sleeping pills at night over the last few months. I told my wife perhaps he has missed a few pills, but later I thought it must be more than that.

When CNN showed clips of his previous speeches over the last few years promising winning, accomplishment, democracy, and freedom for Iraqis, I saw how the pressure of the job has aged him. But there was a striking difference between George W. Bush on December 3rd 2006 and January 11, 2006. There were more wrinkles in his forehead and his hairs were all grey. Over 5 weeks he had aged like ten years. His speech was hesitant, he stuttered a few times and on a signal from his advisor behind the camera to smile he did a forced smile and that was so pathetic that they decided not to ask him to do it again and left him to read his ever so practiced speech from the electronic monitor. The whole speech was very tense. This was not the George Bush on the deck of battle ship after piloting a jet. He was a broken, failed, and defeated commander-in-chief begging his people to give him time, money, and troops and a promising victory in the future. It showed that the burden of more than three thousand US military personnel and about 650,000 Iraqis on his shoulder. He was aware that this "troop surge" will definitely increase these numbers sharply.

At the same time he was blaming Iran and Iraq for his failure in Iraq, US troops under his command attacked Iranian consulate in Erbil, Iraq, kidnapped five Iranian diplomats and took them and all documents in the consulate with them. That was unprecedented in the diplomatic world. You might say that the Iranians did the same thing a few decades ago to American diplomats in Tehran. Of course they did, but they were not the Iranian government and they were not military force and it was not planned. They were bunch of fundamentalist student who entered the US embassy and kept the diplomats there for months as hostages before Khomeini approved them.

From this speech I sensed that US has already lost the war in Iraq, no matter what the commander-in-chief's promises are. I am sensing that he is under immense pressure from Ehud Olmert to attack Iran and Syria. Olmert was the only foreign head of the state that visited him 5 days after November election and brought him a new agenda and a new demand regarding Syria and Iran. Those who want to bring back our troops from Iraq should send a copy of this film to US military and their families and tell them watch it again and again. Tell them stop fighting this nonsense religious war which George Bush brought to Iraqis. Refuse to fight. Refuse to send your loved ones to Iraq. Get the troops out of Iraq right now. No war with Iran. No war with Syria. Terrorist who blew world tower all came from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirate. Their leaders are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Go and clean those mountains. Leave Iraqis to themselves. Comment

Hossein Sharifi is a journalist living in United States.

GUEST
The dogs went nuts
Fereshteh Saheli
January 15, 2007

Comment

WAR
Attack on Iran is inevitable
Faramarz Fateh
January 15, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- G. W. Bush and Ahmadinejad share one thing; they are both crazy. I am not using the word crazy lightly. Extreme idealism, heavily influenced by fanaticism in their respective religions has caused these 2 morons to fall off the edge of reality.

The problem for the people of Iran and us Iranian Americans is that one of these morons has infinitely more power than the other. What makes this worse is the fact that at least on the surface, Ahmadinejad has not realized this fact yet.

The missing link has teamed up with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to help third world countries in Latin America and Africa free themselves from the U.S. influence. Although this is a noble idea, its timing, prosecution and most likely its intent is badly flawed. Ahmadinejad's actions is analogous to those of a father with a kid fighting terminal cancer, setting up a camp for boyscout training and spending all his time with the kids at the camp instead of taking his own kid to get treatment for the cancer.

Iran's economy is in shambles. Unemployment is rampant. Prostitution is at an all time high; Tehran has more prostitutes per capita than even Bangkok Thailand. Iran's currency is further slipping in its value. Exports are 20% less than 2002. Worst of all, Iran is in the cross hairs of a very big gun and the trigger is being caressed.

An attack on Iran, by U.S. or Israel is inevitable. It may happen tomorrow, in October of this year or sometime next year. One thing is certain; the attack will happen before Bush leaves office. Combination of impending U.N. sanctions and an outright military attack on Iran will further devastate the condition of Iranian people.

No matter where the attack is launched from, Iran will retaliate by firing missiles towards Israel and you can envisage the rest. A lot of dead Iranians, a fully collapsed economy and basically another decade or so of misery for majority of Iran's 70 million people.

What would be the effect on us Iranians living in the U.S. The minor effect is a big jump in the price of gas, inflation and surge in unemployment. And guess what, if your boss needs to layoff an employee, the Iranian employee is the first to go because when the U.S. is at war with Iran, most American would not give a damn about you. At an extreme, if the war escalates and American casualties go above 4 or 5 thousand in a short span of time, ready yourself for months of stay in an enternment camp, much like what happened to the Japanese Americans around 1944. You may laugh. But the Bush administration is already polling to gage the sentiment of American public regarding this issue.

I am not sure what can be done at this point. I am thinking about investing somewhere outside the U.S., like Spain, France, Brazil or any other country which is unlikely to easily give in to pressures from the U.S. Maybe if I have a small apartment and a few thousand dollars somewhere friendly, I can protect my family and evade checking into a camp in central California until things cool off.

What do you think? Comment

FILM
The Spartans are coming... to a theater near you
Siamack Baniameri
January 15, 2007

On March 9th 2007, Warner Brothers will screen "300" in a theater near you. "300" is based on epic graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City) about ancient battle of Thermopylae in which 300 Spartans fought to death against Xerxes and his million-man-army. According to the movie, scarifies by the Spartans united Greeks against tyrannies of the Empire of darkness (the Persian Empire) and saved democracy as we know it.

Even though history is written by the victors and there is no evidence that the battle of Thermopylae ever took place, the part that is worth mentioning is Frank Miller's prophecy that in order to save "modern-day democracy", the Persian Empire (a country in the Middle East) must be defeated by sacrifices from freedom-loving Spartans (white Europeans).

"300" depicts King Xerxes as a fat homosexual and Persians as deformed and stupid monsters similar to what the Orcs looked like in "The Lord of the Rings". Spartans on the other hand are revealed as rocket scientists trapped in bodies of Greek gods with comic book bravery and constant worry of losing their beloved and hard-earned "freedom and democracy" to the damn Middle Easterners.

The similarities of "300" to today's events in the Middle East is noteworthy. As the U.S. enters the gates of the old Persian Empire (today's Iraq) to "defend democracy" against the army of darkness, and simultaneously engages in nuclear standoff with Iran (the Persian Empire), the administration, finding itself in a real snag, tries to appeal to the very essence of Western civilization. And perhaps the timely release of this movie is what's needed to wake the Spartan inside all freedom-loving people. After all, when shit hits the fan we all need to make sacrifices to defend our "democracy" against the Orcs.

Once the floodgates are opened, I suspect Iranian-Americans will crawl deeper into the rabbit hole and once again the "Italian" population of Los Angles will double. I hope I'm mistaken and this movie and many like it to come will test the will, character and tenacity of us Iranian expatriates. I'm not very optimistic. Comment

MOMENTS
Momentary philosopher
Rana Rabei
January 13, 2007

The secret to invincibility lies in the moment. Life in its entirety is unarguably limited. It comes with an expiration date, today a digital timer, yesterday an hour glass. A moment, like the distance between two points is infinite. You can fit a happily ever after inside each little increment. Segmentation is nature's way of maximizing the use of its resources. A moment is undefined, it is up to your nature to make one last a life-time or live a billion infinities up to your death. The best is when moments overlap. In those transitory times where infinite dimensions of possibilities merge into one reality; you can burn a lot of calories by weighting your options. And if our ultimate goal is essentially to eventually fall into everlasting sleep; I suggest we tire ourselves out with life, so we can have an effortless death. Comment

BLUE
That morning
Sheema Kalbasi
January 12, 2007

I write to you so that you will not leave, so that maybe you will find a way to return, so that perhaps becomes reality. That morning you left at dawn, I was awake, I didn't stop you. I was exhausted beyond words. I asked you to leave, and you left forever. I didn't know I would miss you, that I would wait for your return at 4:30 every afternoon, that you would not return and I would not come to seek. I still have the ring you bought me. The ring you put on my finger to hope in blue.

I did love you at one point. When we walked in the forest by the lake. When the path was frozen and birds had flown to the distanced lands. I did love you at one point when you bought me the roses and came to the kitchen and held me. I did love you when we showered together and made love beyond the time limit but I didn't like Sundays. I didn't want fall. I didn't like grays. I couldn't be me with you. You curled up by the heater and listened to music for a month. You dropped your classes. I couldn't love you beyond what I could. Now you are not. Now you have a different presence. Now you are multiplied into the men I love. Now you are faces, images, feelings, aching, and desires. Now I love Sundays and a Sunday is two days away. Comment

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TENDER
A day
Sheema Kalbasi
January 12, 2007

Night arrives, sun rises, and we live the sealed envelope. Snow flocks but then spring drives the reaming sighs to their tender homes. Your coast has brought grace to the mute words of the present and the future. It is unfortunate that I can't visit your heart, and you can't visit mine. You are not my known place of peace. You make me nervous beyond words. You may think I am a rebellion against my own kind, the poets. That I find loneliness in poetry and I reach an existence in your words.

What you don't know is you are glazing on my day-end and you are through me teaching me a new fate. You are the evening delight, the star's twilight, and through you I discover a new language to understand the world. You relieve me to want to relive the pain and to come to know your inspirations that now spread in my soul. Over your hands I cry for the wisdom is beyond an asylum amidst the desert of cares. You are unaware of the power you have or are unwilling to accept. Don't call these an affair from afar. I am not your bride. What is an affair of words after all? Do I write of orange trees or the moonlight?

Maybe I shouldn't seek wealth in your words, maybe I should seek protection, see your commitment to distance or visibility of forgiving to move and pass beyond the symbols. Time passes and I fear my messenger doesn't dignify the generosity you have provided me with your mind eye. Am I ignorant to want to know if it is I or my poetry that embodies your dreams and your notebook, that what air has made you write with such depth. I am questioning me if I should trust in your truth without the garment of hesitation and to find your island on the map just after a blue dot before the purpose of the heart melts away. Comment

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POETRY
Morality
Kathy Koupai
January 10, 2007

try to do
good
in this
world of
skewed
justice

where one man's
glory
is another's
demise

Los Angeles, CA
1/8/07

Comment

STREAM
Eternity
Sheema Kalbasi
January 10, 2007

Knowing you, the keel-man who slides against time and doesn't keep his promise of return, where will the river take me? Will there be a draft, necklaces made of leaves, benders and bows, realms of virgin rocks, or these waves are the awakening before merging with a stream, surrounded by the highlands to form a lake, or perhaps flow into an ocean?

Everything about you makes me conscious. You withhold, vanish, gasp, appear then disappear. Let me hold your hand. Spirits understand thirst. Dreams pave out shadows and nature is taking away my veil. Vanity, and dignity are the source of every unity. Upon your hands I deliver the mist. Sip.

There is no secret, no mystery, no pleas or pity, no wisdom or misery. There is no error, no eternity, no magic ties, no invisible understanding, and no white water rafting. There is you and your words that make everyone else's seem insignificant. Nothing is glorified after reading yours, no cry is worth the knowledge once yours comes to tender the heart. The truth fills without force. You don't repeat, you don't revise, and you don't recite. You carry me without sinking. I am your listener, the reader, the lover, and the receiver. Draw me closer to the shore. Comment

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SELF
The only age
Sheema Kalbasi
January 9, 2007

I had an incident yesterday. I was a pulse away but I pass through these senses without strangeness. I like familiarity. Having a bite from a green apple, a cup that I have bought in Musée olympique de Lausanne for limiting the pen and pencils on my desk, or a plant that was my mother's. To have a cold shower, a conditioner to smoothen out the hair, or when you touch my hair to smell it unpredictably. To hear your voice, the laughter, and my heart each time recognizing its weakness. The pleasure is worth a life view.

The answer to everything is not always clear. It is us who can make it into a discovery of self. Sometimes I think life is a stage that is overpowered by learning how to stamp a letter before mailing but I love this writing to you. It is the only age that has remained the most real to me without changes interrupting.

I am told what I write here are literary masterpieces. What they mean is, you are the masterpiece.

What reality is, if not our autobiography, a window to the inner self, and to surrender. An aphorism I once read defines it by saying: "to understand life one should be a woman."

I have accepted my continuing human presence at birth. Comment

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SADDAM
Common fallacy
Sara Z.
January 8, 2007

I, like many, followed Saddam's execution closely. Glued to the TV waiting and for the big announcement I was going through the same mixture of emotions others have experienced: feeling bad about being excited about an execution while feeling guilty about feeling bad. Perhaps for the first time in history the execution of an ex-president was reported and celebrated or mourned so closely. The aftermath of course included many point of views from all across the political spectrum. A common conclusion was that this is how dictators end and rulers should learn a lesson. The lesson being that if you are a dictator you would end in similar circumstances.

I hate to be the one to stop the show but let's quit wishful thinking. The truth is this is not how dictators end, not at least in the last few centuries and certainly not in the Middle East. The majority of dictators have died in peace. More than often they have died in bed with enough care and medicine provided so they have a painless departure. Dictators have had access to the best medical facilities provided by western governments and have had enough financial resources to but any expensive service. In fact, all things considered more than often, this is the ending for democrat and non-dictator leaders ruling in Middle East. I can't think of a single democrat leader in Middle East who has had a happy life.

So what is the lesson here? I believe Saddam was not executed because he was a dictator. He was executed because he tried to be an independent dictator. He was supported by the west earlier in his tenure and particularly when he was fighting Iran. Sometime later, however, he became perhaps too comfortable and naively confident. This grand illusion convinced him that he can have his way both domestically and internationally. Maybe it was oil; maybe it was lack of any serious opposition or may be he was counting on his old western partnerships. Whatever it was, it did not serve its end.

The lesson here for all rulers in the Middle East is this: If you are going to rule with an iron feast make sure that you do so while bending over to the foreigners. If you are too proud to act as a poppet then watch how you behave with your fellow country men. Pick your choice: either pride or prejudice and certainly not both! Comment

NUCLEAR
Media deception and the coming nuclear holocaust
Daniel M Pourkesali
January 7, 2007

Forty five years ago in October 1962, people watched in horror as the superpowers went to the brink of a global nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis when the Soviets attempted to place nuclear missiles in Cuba, to match U.S. deployments in Europe near the Soviet border. What followed next was nearly 30 years of constant fear of a nuclear holocaust. But 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union the threat of a new nuclear disaster still remains.

The recent report by the Sunday Times that 'Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons' may have come as little surprise to those closely following these reports first hint of which surfaced during an MSNBC Interview with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in January 2005 when he literally gave U.S. approval of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran:

"One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked ... Given that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards"

Missing in the rhetoric and media reports since are the actual consequences of such an attack and the fact that a nuclear assault on Iran will usher in the very disastrous scenario the world managed to avoid for over half a century during the cold war and that the ensuing mess will not be so easy to clean.

The high risk neo-con strategy for gaining unchallenged U.S.-Israeli dominance in the region has already burdened the American people with one enormous catastrophe in the Iraqi debacle and if left to make good on bringing about a nuclear attack on Iran, the rest of the world will share and experience the very calamity they've so far managed to evade.

Even a conventional attack on Iran could have a catastrophic impact on global economy as Iran produces nearly 4 million barrels a day and can cause havoc for or impede delivery of nearly 25% of total oil passing through the Straights of Hormuz on its way to the world markets.

But a U.S. and Israeli plan for "surgical tactical nuclear strikes" hold far more serious consequences which are ironically packaged and presented by an acquiescent media as means of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Missing, is any debate on the undesirable outcomes of the resulting nuclear holocaust which will adversely affect the lives of millions of people in the region for months, years, or perhaps decades to come.

Once again the unsuspecting public is being primed to accept such an illegal act of aggression as a necessary 'peace-keeping operation' but the world must wise up to such deceptive tactics and realize that no peace can be achieved through violence. What is urgently needed is a sustained, and growing nonviolent opposition to the chain of preparations that will lead to the very kind of disaster we managed to avoid in October of 1962. Now is the time to take decisive and direct action against the warmongers in defense of human life everywhere on this fragile planet. Comment

VELAYATE FAGHIH
The face of moderation?
Shahriar Azadmanesh
January 7, 2007

Saadi, in his tale of the merchant and his servant, elaborates that a merchant and his servant boarded a ship to sail to other lands, for sale and purchase of merchandize. As soon as they were on board, the servant started screaming and crying hysterically because he was afraid of being on water. The merchant ordered him thrown overboard. The befuddled sailors complied and the servant was thrown overboard. The servant struggled and paddled his way to the side of the ship and climbed up the side and sat on the ledge, letting out a sigh of relief. The merchant said, to all present, you see, he was screaming and yelling when he was standing safely in the middle of the ship and now he is so precarious that he finds the ledge, safe to sit on.

Over the years, the attitude of some Iranians in exile has undergone a transformation, much like that of this proverbial servant's. Many have become captivated with this cat and mouse game of "conservative" vs "moderate" mullahism and completely oblivious to the fact that the whole system of government in Iran revolves around the concept of the Velayate Faghih and how the sensibilities of the so called Marjae Taghlid governs not only politics but every aspect of life in Iran. Both "conservative" and "moderate" presidents can be dismissed by the decree of this Velayate Faghih.

Now that the UN Scurity Counsel has unanimously passed resolution 1737 to sanction Iran, the "moderate" sect of the IRI is becoming prominent again and talking about defusing tensions by putting on hold, Uranium enrichment. This crafty game of cat and mouse has deceived the world previously and will undoubtedly manage to win more longevity for the Islamic Republic. But in the end, as long as the governing body is under the dictates and mandates of one man with the dogma and the religious mindset of a medieval tyrant, then any rejoicing in the so called elections, or the moderate appearance of the serving body, is the false and compromising feeling of safety that the proverbial servant felt, sitting on the ledge. Comment

RESOLUTIONS
All set for 2007
Jeesh Daram
January 7, 2007

Recall the nostalgia of homeland, when Christmas was only an Armenian celebration and the rest of us were just distant admirers of the glittering decorations on the shop windows in downtown Tehran?

On the other hand on this side of the world the celebration has been brought down to one massive competition and challenge of going to stores and buying all kinds of junk for one another and put it on credit cards so that we sell another year of our life to the sadistic "employer" and the "corporation" and hope to pay off those credit cards someday, wishful thinking.

All things considered I like the way the communists give each other New Year gifts -- everyone gives a roll of toilet tissue and receives one. They, however, express their emotions by the choice of color, some give white, some blue and some with flowers printed on the roll. Simple and utilitarian, nobody has to get up and go to the mall to return some of the stupid gifts hoping to get some cash in exchange.

As for the returning items, I think Costco will eventually discontinue the leniency on their return policy, because most Iranians think that Costco is only there so that they buy items and return in six months with their innocent look saying "Eye espeek wery wery leetle Ingeeleesh!" while I know for fact that most of them hold at least a doctorate degree in something. I mean look at the ads in Persian newspapers: majority of Iranian real estate agents are doctors -- no kidding take a look for yourself. I assume some were banned to practice medicine for one fraud or another and changed careers?

This year I am planning to add one more "O" to the word "LOL" when I am communicating through the Internet. Don't you miss those days when we used to actually visit people and go to their houses and have tea, laugh with our "face" and not with our "fingers" and occasionally solicit sex and return the favor at some other occasion? Now millions sit by their computer and use their fingers and "LOL" each other until their eyeballs bulge out of their sockets.

Last year I used "LOOL" but this year I am adding an extra "O" because the Democrats won and there is a reason to be a bit more cheerful, although I did not vote because it was windy outside and I asked myself "who gives a shit about my vote?" In my limited vision of the American electoral process only two things separate the Democrats from the Republicans, "abortion and gay rights" -- and both are sex related matters, as if there are no other issues in this world. And I, being a former convicted vegetarian (currently an omnivore on parole), shun away from open sex discussions except in the internet (LOOOL); did you notice the extra "O"?

I also made another New Year pledge: to never again carry "chelokabab koobeedeh" in my car. Every time I have done that, for weeks people made hints that the car smells like "Port-a-Putty" and were wondering if I had bowel movement inside the car! So, no more transport of this Persian dish in my car. I am doing a research now to find out if there is any scientific correlation between the above bad smell and the unhappy shop employees.

I once met a man while waiting to be seated in one of the Persian restaurants in LA. He gave me valuable advise: "if the owner is not here in person, the staff will shit all over the place!" (or in Persian "meereenan to ghaza!"). Since then, before I am seated in any Persian restaurant I always ask if the owner -- or at least the majority shareholder -- is personally present on that day. If the answer is negative I am out of there.

Well, I think I am all set to face 2007 in full force. Comment

CHEF
I need an endless hour
Sheema Kalbasi
January 6, 2007

There should, I think, be an endless hour for me to write about cooking stew, and literature at the same time. It is a heroic struggle. Rushing toward you without knowing what are the richest colors you have ever had on or what you think of the products of the educational system at your work place. I don't like this presence of silence on your part. My words are your guide. I know you have a great deal to tell me. I know you have a complex nature. I know you know we share the same frequency for environment as well as human lives. I know you think of the central beauty, daring, changing, boundless energy, and are aware of the periods in your life, of appreciating grace, gaining or danger of losing. I believe every once in generations someone like you emerge in literature. You are irresistible. What can justify this missing page from your life?

This comradeship from behind this old desk trying to discover your world through your words yet you don't allow me to join your ring, to sit next to you in the garden and be a repeated sign on your notebook. I am a little down today. Don't assume this piece is a flaw in the recipe. My food always is discovered through my faith and constant companionship with the cook. My hands are the cook's, only new dimensions have enabled the woman to play her ideal game of intuitive knowledge about what you want, need, ask, desire without that magnifying glass called question.

Expand in the bowl. Comment

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DIVE
The present
Sheema Kalbasi
January 4, 2007

People ask if you are one of my past loves. I wonder if there is such a thing as past. Everything is a present, even a boundaryless woman to this world, a green jeweled four-leaf clover, or a heart wrapped in silver silk.

I have been tired. Life has an essential degree of cold where noon comes after morning and night follows plumless. This doesn't mean I am not busy. Ah! I am so busy that I want to dive into an eternal safety, a place I cease to know beyond limits. I take one breath and I think of you. I take the next and I count you as an outsider who cares not to know me. Like a hair plucked out of the eyebrow, a smile half tranquil, a lover across the sea, or a figure half sketched and left in a basement.

Did I say I am tired with a house on the market for seven months now? Why do you tiptoe around me? You know that my lips are sealed like a mad nature that primes the surface before a paintbrush. Somehow we will not happen. I will not be the watch on your wrist, or the words on your notebook. Somehow life will happen without my forehead resting against the window and my lips whispering hello or goodbye. Comment

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POPULARITY
If death is too high of a price
Rana Rabei
January 4, 2007

So polar bears are now on the endangered species list. Suddenly the idea of The Donald vs. Rosie O'Donnell court case doesn't sound so ridiculous anymore. Wait till you watch Johnnie Cochrane's ghost philosophically challenging cross examination of global warming!

I personally hope the gloves evaporate. I'm sorry, but I'm not ready to give up liquid water just yet. I like ice and all, but if I have to go a day without hot tea, I might get my taste buds back ... and that's just not economically advantageous for a college student.

Between me and you, I'm still counting on winning the 50 thousand cash prize of Fear Factor. Because let's face it, I can't even spell Jeopardy (until now I thought it was Jeoparty), and I haven't come from a developing country to "survive" on a remote island with a bunch of hillbillies. Plus, I think I stand a pretty good chance in winning on Fear Factor, since all those disgusting foods being served to the contestants are basically just raw kalepache ...

So occasionally they're so raw that they're alive ... But armed with a flawed understanding of quantum mechanics attained from watching What The Bleep Do We Know About Universe, and a little belief in the almightily Spaghetti Monster, I think I can transform hissing cockroaches into little fruit cakes if I tap into the infinite potentials of my brain. I mean, if people all over the world are aiming to bring peace on earth with synchronized orgasms, why can't I transform a freaking cockroach? It seems only fair.

You see, I'm not afraid of seeming out-there, because if there's anything I've learned about life, is that every idiotic action of yours suddenly acquires a positive spin once you're dead. Think of James Brown "He wore suits everywhere and demanded that everyone calls him 'Sir'." If he was alive, I would say "what an uptight A-hole." But now that he's dead the words "revolutionary" and "remarkable" come to mind, "way ahead of his time" you might even say. But standing in a line for a day to look at someone's casket who has golfed his presidency away is defiinitely cutting it. To be honest I much rather wait in line for playstation 3 and sell it on eBay. On the topic of busy presidents, imagine what it would be like if Clinton came out with his own brand of cars. I bet they'd all come with automatic wife holders.

If death is too high of a price for you to pay for uninterrupted popularity; try becoming a skilled Iranian surgeon. It seems every antisocial and oblivious behavior exhibited by a doctor is immediately dubbed as ingenious. "Oh Dr. Ahamadi wouldn't look at me after he washed himself to go pray, no matter how many times I screamed his name," said my gherty aunt with relentless admiration. It seems being rude is not only acceptable but seemingly righteous, as long as you can successfully perform a set amounts of laser eye surgeries a day.

Furthermore, it's nice to be a stupid foreigner [being tall and fake-blond helps]. Lately, I keep hearing about how great my Polish cousin is from my relatives in Iran. Apparently she visited the country for the first time last summer, and brought home bag-full of numbers passed out to her by the bikaar street boys. "How cute, she didn't even understand the boys were hitting on her!" Really!? I feel like if Neanderthals reappeared and encountered the typical Persian man, they would immediately hit their head to a rock, frustrated at their inability to communicate "sleaze-ball". Don't judge, you try hacking a sleaze-ball on the walls of a cave.

So we learned so far that global warming is killing polar bears and the only way to ensure you're spoken of fondly is to be friends of Al Sharpton, a fake-blond Polish Iranian, an Iranian eye surgeon or simply dead. Comment

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The Poems of Hafez
202 ghazals in English
Translated by Reza Ordoubadian

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