January 1st, 2009
And what a year 2008 has been…The fresh 2009 better be better! I don’t remember people looking forward to retire a year (and their president) so eagerly.
The optimist in me hopes for:
“Another fresh new year is here . . .
Another year to live!
To banish worry, doubt, and fear,
To love and laugh and give!
This bright new year is given me
To live each day with zest . . .
To daily grow and try to be
My highest and my best! William Arthur Ward
The realist in me screams back:
“New Year’s Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” James Agate
November 17th, 2008
Southern California fires are pretty democratic, they hit the mansions and trailer parks and everything in between with the same cruelty… The current definition of a Californian is still “did or did not escape the fires?”
“Devil winds, hill-hopping infernos, smoked mansions, torched trailers, barren freeways, and brilliant sunsets lingering in low-hanging canopies of burnt dreams.” That’s how Steve Lopez describes all hell breaking loose in California.
Last year in october I wrote:”wildfires, burning out of control, are continuing to threaten thousands of homes in California. You can’t help but to have this incredible sense of the fragility of everything. As human beings we are wired to think that everything will stay the way it is, safe from sudden and intense changes…” My childhood home burnt down in 1970—my barbie collection got charred along with the rest of the house…
Palm trees help spread fire—I’ve never liked them much—to see an amazing photo essay click here.
It’s amazing how fire spares a house or two in the middle of a whole burnt neighborhood—my friend’s house in Anaheim hills stayed intact when his neighbor’s got completely destroyed; his daughter, Kimiya, has sent me these pictures of their street:
and this one:
The chimneys are the only things standing in most burnt houses.
To watch a powerful clip from BBC, click here.
“Often it takes some calamity to make us live in the present.” Bill Watterson
April 27th, 2008
I fell in love with the above painting when I first got introduced to Verlinde’s work in Paris. We all know hollow people, lacking in real value, sincerity, or substance – we have all met shallow people lacking in depth of thought, or feeling. In Persian we call them “hollow drums”: noisy but empty.
Thanks to the internet we can know of something without really knowing about it. We used to have to read, to see, to hear something in order to be able to talk about it but not anymore folks! everybody’s an expert.
I’ve been wanting to talk about V.S. Naipaul for the longest time. Every time that somebody tries to eat up my life/time, I remember the writer’s fabulous statement reported on BBC: “my life is too short, I can’t listen to banality”.
Staying with the trompe l’oeil of Verlinde and Poirier, take a look at this very clever ad:
You can see the rest of these very funny ads here.
Today is my blog’s first anniversary! If you like what you see, please subscribe.
March 30th, 2008
Sadly many new technologies have contributed to increasing our isolation (TV, iPods, etc.) but it doesn’t have to be that way.
As children, we start the conversation by playing together, as young adults our conversations become intense but something strange happens in midlife: all those ideals sediment in our heads and we get comfortable in our somehow more quiet and prosaic lives – we sink gradually to the bottom of our minds.
Unfortunately for many of us, by the time we get to old age, the conversation has died down completely or has diminished to a competition about who’s more sick and who’s children are more ungrateful – Man dies in solitude and silence…
To fight the loneliness of it all, we compromise our standards/principles and settle with a wide array of less than par exchange of ideas.
Sharing opinions, ideas and images is my motivation for blogging. Ideally a post can be the start of a conversation; the Internet equivalent of sitting down in front of a cup of coffee (make it tea) to relax and shoot the breeze. The conversation is at the root of creativity and it can help change our mindsets.
To make the conversation flow easier, it’s now possible to be notified by e-mail when someone makes a comment on the same post you have. All you have to do is check the little box labeled “Notify me of follow up comments via e-mail”, which appears below your comment.
There have been so many great comments and I can’t mention them all, but here are some of my favorites:
- Ali (he has his own fan club among my readers!) on “Leaf peeping” in L.A.
- Lily Daryabegi on Suicide, a fundamental human right
- Entropy quoting a poem by Tagore
- Melvin Sokolsky on Contagious enthusiasm: Gustavo Dudamel
- Tamas Ungvari on Matters of the heart
- BMZ on Ahmadinejad, Bush and Sarkozy: fatal combination
- Gens Deau on Africa exasperates me
- Anousheh on Southern California is burning – sudden and intense changes…
One of my favorite thinkers, Theodore Zeldin believes that “conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits – it doesn’t just reshuffle the cards it creates new cards.” I agree with him when he says “we are increasingly leading bubble lives in which we insulate ourselves from everyone apart from an ever diminishing circle of friends and acquaintances.”
A good conversation starter would be this very funny NY Times article about the books that end love stories.
March 10th, 2008
Is there anything in the world more effortlessly beautiful than a flower (in this case a cabbage)? We can’t stop marveling at their generous beauty.
This ornamental cabbage was exquisite in the morning sun.
I am not a “nature person”; I need the big cities’ concrete to be happy but it is often the quiet elegance of trees and flowers that reconciles me to the countryside.
These gorgeous carps – Koi Fish – were the best companion for the flora of this morning stroll. They are symbols of love and friendship.
I have decided to go easy on this post – no links, no major earth-shattering opinions, nothing but beautiful images and maybe this poem by e.e.cummings:
“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”
February 3rd, 2008
It seems like I’ve been back to Los Angeles for ages but it’s been only a mere week. Paris faded fast in my memory thanks to a nasty stomach flu I caught after a great dinner of oysters and choucroute at Maison d’ Alsace with my friends; there is a gastro epidemic in Europe and for the second year in a row, I fell victim to it.
There’s been so much to think/talk about – from the chaos in Kenya to the phenomenon of the Kenyan’s son and his new Kennedy friends but I’ve been sick and tired. To look at the African problems in a fresh way I suggest looking for Caroline Elkins’ view about the possible source of these African tribes’ sudden violent behavior towards each other. In general, a lack of vision and rampant corruption is the hallmark of African leadership. Needless to say that after the Super Bowl it’s the Super Tuesday that occupies the mind of America and not Kenya…
January 14th, 2008
I am sitting in this cute café which happens to have wifi! The world is changing and Paris with it.
I’ve been very busy since I am here; three interesting exhibitions in 2 days: Arcimboldo has never been so complete as in this exhibition in the Luxembourg museum.
A way more somber show was Germany, the black years at the Maillol museum. Otto Dix, Beckmann and Grosz were the most impressing but i have to admit that the German propaganda posters with Hitler’s name on them were the most striking/chilling to me.
This one can give you nightmares:
this next one takes me back to all of my dear Professor Ungvari’s battlefields (Somme, etc…)
of course Paris can erase these nightmares with a winter sunshine after the rain.
December 24th, 2007
Christmas is here with all the usual joy and gore! I took some pictures last night from my neck of the woods. Welcome to the winter in the Lala Land.
We are trying so hard to look like New York or Boston in the winter holidays but Los Angeles stays Los Angeles, a comfortable 55 F on Christmas eve.
The Beverly Regent (AKA the pretty woman hotel) looks great in red.
Of course what is all this without music?
And these are some of my favorite store windows – the fabulous Rem Koolhaas‘ Prada flagship is amazing. I’ve always liked his Seattle public library as well.
Red has always been my favorite color.
I have added Blue as another favorite some years ago.
I like them equally now.
By the way, I hate shopping/the crowd/malls – I wished people would stop accumulating extra-everythings (from candles to cars)…We all know people that are hopelessly deluded, bathed in trivia, mesmerized to the point of idiocy by almost any celebrity, amusing themselves to death, self-defeating and absurde at times. I made you read!
December 17th, 2007
I just saw this wonderful film, Starting out in the evening, about an old writer who has outlasted the social order in which his life made sense. How can you go wrong with New York in the fall and tons of books? I can’t believe that the lead actor is the same guy who played in Superman returns.
I am a movie junkie but so much of what’s being produced now is blissfully forgettable; I know I like a film if I keep thinking about it the next day and when I start talking about it to others. These are a couple of them: The lives of others which got an oscar is about the constant question of how a good man acts in circumstances that seem to rule out the very possibility of decent behavior. The actor, Ulrich Muhe, was amazing – unfortunately he passed away in July.
The one movie I will always remember is Into great silence. The film is an eloquent achievement in capturing the slow and delicate rhythm of the Carthusian monks’s daily lives in silence – a great meditation if you are stressed out. “Silence. Repitition. Rhythm. The film is an austere, next to silent meditation on monastic life in a very pure form. No music except the chants in the monastery, no interviews, no commentaries, no extra material.”
I enjoyed Children of Men, a superbly directed political thriller – London has never looked this scary…
My favorite of all action movies was The Bourne Ultimatum. An unusually smart work of industrial entertainment with the great Matt Damon – as good here as he was in the two previous Bourne films. The music is so interesting I had to shell out a buck for Moby’s “Extreme Ways”.
I also hope to be able to find Primo Levi’s journey. (I am insisting that he didn’t commit suicide!)
and…maybe Beowulf for fun.
December 9th, 2007
My eucalyptus tree attempted partial suicide (non-fatal self-destructive act, self-mutilation) a couple of days ago.
The California Eucalyptus are transplanted trees from Australia (ca 1850) – they were brought here in the hopes that they would provide a renewable source of timber for construction and furniture making.
I heard a big swooshing noise and a loud thump; what seemed to be my whole eucalyptus tree landed ten inches from my parked car at my doorsteps killing some poinsettias. I thought I’ve lost the tree but I found out later that “some species of Eucalyptus have a habit of dropping entire branches off as they grow. Eucalyptus forests are littered with dead branches. Many people have been killed as they camped underneath the trees. It is thought that the trees shed very large branches to conserve water during periods of drought.” Mine’s “accident” may have been caused by the wind or the heaviness of the branch.
The whole yard smelled wonderful though – by its very essence, eucalyptus has the scent of freshness and purification. I love trees especially the ones I grew up with – sycamores and poplars. “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.” Bill Vaughan
One whole day of yard work reduced the giant branch to these. Maybe my wood sculptor friend would be interested.
I can’t translate this poem without stripping it of its original beauty:
Dans la forêt sans heures
On abat un grand arbre
Un vide vertical
Tremble en forme de fût
Près du tronc étendu.
Cherchez, cherchez, oiseaux,
La place de vos nids
Dans ce haut souvenir
Tant qu’il murmure encore.
Here is my favorite T-shirt:
- I haven’t seen two poplars to be enemies
- I haven’t seen a willow selling its shade to the ground
- The elm tree freely bestows its branch to the crow
- Wherever there is a leaf my passion blossoms
- من نديدم دو صنوبر را با هم دشمن
- من نديدم بيدي، سايه اش را بفروشد به زمين.
رايگان مي بخشد، نارون شاخه خود را به كلاغ.
هر كجا برگي هست ، شور من مي شكفد
Je n’ai jamais vu la haine de deux peupliers.
Je n’ai jamais vu un saule vendre son ombre à la terre.
Et gratuitement l’orme offre sa branche aux corbeaux.
Partout où frémit une feuille,
S’épanouit aussi le bourgeon de l’ardeur.