Category Archives: culture

where the hell is matt?

A testament to humankind, kindness and compassion.  This is what life is all about. With best wishes to all of you for the new year:

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walking through the streets of cambridge

I spent a week in the UK and returned a few days ago.  I got to travel around a bit and see London, Cambridge, and Oxford.  It was a lovely trip and I had a wonderful time, ignoring the incredibly high cost of everything in Europe.  London is a crowded city which reminded me of some areas of New York City but much older.  It was nice to see so many old structures throughout the country and not fear what would happen to them in the case of an earthquake.  Earthquakes are not a big threat to England and you can see many old (as old as about 600-800 years) structures everywhere. 

 

The architecture was breathtaking in many areas.  I can say confidently that Cambridge is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.  While walking in narrow streets with old buildings, restaurants, and coffee shops you might see a door open to something that looks like a regular building. But once you look through the opened door, you see a beautiful garden behind the wall and a huge castle-like structure far away, all hidden when you walk through these lovely streets. Another amazing part of this trip was the opportunity to dine at one of the colleges in Cambridge with the department of engineering.  Harry Potter is real in Cambridge and Oxford.  They have kept most of the traditions alive, dining in gowns, a drum to start, words in Latin by the master to start the feast, professors sitting higher than the students, it’s all real.

Cambridge, UK — Photo courtesy of bugbog.com

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happy wednesday

Eid ul-Fitr mubarak to those of you who observe Ramadan. Happy Rosh Hashanah to those starting the Jewish New Year today. Happy Navratri to those of you who are Hindu. And a blessed and happy Wednesday to everyone. Please take today to observe the common threads that runs through us all.

 

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tale of “change”!

My aunt sent me this letter to share with our blog readers.  It is about hope and change and has a strong message for all of us, whether you are from New York City, Tehran, Tokyo, Cairo, London, or Los Angeles, even though the topic is on the existing situation in the United States.  Enjoy reading it and send us your own thoughts and experiences:

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On the 28th of June 2008 I made all the possible arrangements to attend a party in Berkeley for Obama. I wanted to participate in that party to unite with the community I felt a part of. Being with the people who are seeking change; who are promoting dignity for mankind irrespective of their race and ethnic back ground. The thought of this understanding coming from American people really excited me for the wonderful world my children and their generation are going to have ahead of them. This all had come at the time when they had lost hope for the future. People of this country were about to have compassion for themselves and for the people of the world. How incredible.
The people at the party were obviously mostly the elite group from Berkeley, fit, outspoken, and open minded of all ages. The refreshments were generously presented along with very efficient display of stickers, pamphlets, T-shirts, etc.

It was a wonderful feeling to be sitting with this group under the same roof. The speakers informed us of all that was happening and all that is needed to be done in the few months to come (just a few months). The questions and answers followed the introduction and it gave way to comments about international affairs.

As one of the speakers started commenting and joking about Iran, I found myself feeling very confused. What is going on here? As the jokes about my country continued, I felt as if the walls of the room were closing in on me. I felt even dizzier when I looked around and saw these well intentioned people, or so they seemed in the beginning, as the same prejudiced people they are trying to oppose.

My confusion continued to the point of absolute disappointment not because I was being insulted as an Iranian and not because once more I was witnessing a great civilization like Iran was being mocked by ignorance, but mostly because I was loosing hope.

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kuoban

A friend sent me this clip from a performance by Kuoban ensemble (formerly 40-daf) in Tehran.  It is a combination of Kurdish and Luri music. We recently had a trip to Sanandaj in Kurdestan.  The nature, people, music, and costumes are breath-taking and fascinating.  Delightful yet traditional, proud, and strong. Enjoy:

 

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ignorance!

On the way to a conference last week, I was faced with a more or less challenging situation: an intense dialogue among a few colleagues about the significance of different cultures in world history and development.  This is a complex topic and it’s hard to make simple conclusions on the matter.  I want to write about this experience though, not because I am after advertising or defending a particular nation or want to offend others.  This is simply my way of alleviating pain after hearing highly ignorant and uneducated remarks by supposedly educated individuals in the United States.

 

I was faced with the question of “who contributed the most to our history” or “whose work we should look for when studying the history of art, philosophy, poetry, architecture, literature, and so on.”

I have often noticed that Europe stands out in the American version of history in many different fields.  For example, I happened to take introductory courses to political philosophy and architecture history at Cornell University as an undergraduate student.  I can confidently say that the majority of topics covered were related to Rome and Greece and some times Great Britain. I, like many other students, left our class thinking that these concepts were first introduced by these nations only and others were mostly followers.  Plato’s Republic was introduced to us as a book that marked the beginning of philosophy and political dialogue and such ideas seemed to begin in a society where thinking and logic were encouraged for the first time. Democracy was shown to be the most mesmerizing concept in a world of chaos. We were introduced to every famous architectural piece in Europe and briefly reviewed a few others (i.e. Ancient Egypt, Japan, and India) in the last couple weeks of the class.  Even specialized courses tend to be biased and negative towards eastern nations, following the language used in ancient Greek historical records.  

 

I was faced with the same dilemma in the car last week. 

 

Cyrus’ Cylinder: Considered as History’s First Declaration of Human Rights
in Ancient Times is today displayed at the British Museum.
©British Museum, London

 

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Filed under Africa, America, art, culture, development, India, Iran, lessons, literature, poetry, popular culture, sociology, traditions, War

baby with 2 faces

I was speechless when I read the news.  I only hope this baby’s parents will allow doctors to check her internal organs and make sure surgery is not needed for her health.  It is interesting how different communities look at an event/outcome from different angles based on old beliefs/traditions and that an extremely negative situation in one society may be viewed as a blessing in another society. 

 

12:24 PM CDT, April 8, 2008

 

SAINI SUNPURA, India – A baby with two faces was born in a northern Indian village, where she is doing well and is being worshipped as the reincarnation of a Hindu goddess, her father said Tuesday.The baby, Lali, apparently has an extremely rare condition known as craniofacial duplication, where a single head has two faces. All of Lali’s facial features are duplicated except for her ears–she has two. Otherwise, she has two noses, two pairs of lips and two pairs of eyes.

“My daughter is fine–like any other child,” said Vinod Singh, 23, a poor farm worker.
Lali has caused a sensation in the dusty village of Saini Sunpura, 25 miles east of New Delhi. When she left the hospital, eight hours after a normal delivery on March 11, she was swarmed by villagers, said Sabir Ali, the director of Saifi Hospital.

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