Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

What is a most scary trick for Halloween?

Minerva signs off
Minerva Novoa,
Web team coordinator

I get unsolicited emails all the time.  I thought I should share this one from Consumers Union with my readers.  Isn't that cute?

Dear Catherine,
Know what’s really scary? When your bank charges you a $5 monthly fee just so you can spend your own money.
Bank of America is sticking customers who use their debit cards with this new fee, and other banks are closely watching consumer reaction to see what they can get away with. That's one rotten trick.

The Obamas, not keeping up with the Kardashians... (Read the story)

President Obama on 'Tonight Show'

Why is Obama laughing whole heartedly? (Read the story)

I read in the news that a 41-year-old Colorado woman, Cyndy Snider, started an online petition asking the TV network E! to drop the reality show "Keeping Up with The Kardashians." This stirred my emotions. The Kardashians' reality show is a controversial issue for me and maybe for most Armenians. On one hand, I like the exposure the show gives to Armenians. On the other hand, I agree that it is mindless, and emphasizes vanity and maybe even vulgarity.  But then aren't most of today's shows mindless? 

Today Kim Kardashian is one of the most popular celebrities and the very best known Armenian in the United States or maybe in the whole world. I personally love the fact that Kim and her sisters flaunt their Armenian heritage. We Armenians, whom William Saroyan once called "a group of unimportant people," get a lot of free press through the Kardashians. As the saying goes: "There's no such thing as bad publicity." 

Didn't Marilyn Monroe make a name for herself just as Kim Kardashian is doing now?  Hasn't Monroe's legacy lasted until today? In Chicago, they just erected a 26-foot giant sculpture of her in the famous pose from "The Seven Year Itch." 

A month ago when President Obama was a guest of Jay Leno on NBC's The Tonight Show, the Kardashians were one topic of their conversation.  It was very amusing to see that the President dodged Jay Leno's question about whether the President's daughters watched "Keeping Up with The Kardashians." Finally he admitted that he'd never seen it, but the girls may have watched it without his knowledge.  It was one of the cutest conversations I remember seeing on Leno's show.  

THE LOVE RIDE and Jay Leno's inappropriate comment...

Love Ride 28

This morning when I opened our local newspaper, the Glendale News Press, there was a picture of Comedian Jay Leno on the front page, leading the pack of bikers in the "Love Ride" that benefits the autism research.  The Love Ride is an event that puts Glendale on the map and brings National attention to our hometown. The benefit ride started 28 years ago by Oliver Shokou, the owner of Harley Davidson dealership in Glendale.  Every year Jay Leno has been the Grand Marshal and usually before the start of the ride he cracks a few joke.

I was bummed when I noticed the title of the article read, "Leno joke preceded fatal collision." The article continued: “Moments before two Love Ride participants were killed Sunday in a freeway traffic collision, the event’s grand marshal, “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, told a crowd of bikers that he wanted to see “somebody go down.” My heart melted.

After Johnny Carson passed the baton to Jay Leno for "The Tonight Show," I've been a loyal fan of Jay and watching the program has been the only pastime I get on TV. I regard Jay Leno as a tactful person and enjoy watching his show. But his offensive remarks asking the ride participants to drive recklessly and that he wanted to see "somebody go down," made me very unhappy. It is ironical that over the years, during the ride, no accident had happened and just an hour after Leno made his remarks for the opening of the Love Ride a rider and his passenger got killed.  Here is what Leno said:

"Every year, they say, ‘Drive safe’. I’m gonna say, ‘Don’t drive safe’. I wanna see somebody go down. So it’ll be fun. I want it to be in front or behind me and see a whole row of bikes go down. Get drunk, fall off the road. We’ve all become too damn polite… We haven’t had one incident." I just cannot figure out why he made such an inappropriate comment. Don't know what Leno was thinking. Actually, he must NOT have been thinking.  

Friday, 21 October 2011

A Tribute to Mayor Larry Zarian

The following reflection will be published in Asbarez newspaper.

A week after the passing away of Larry Zarian, from an aggressive blood cancer, I am still in shock. I cannot imagine Glendale without him. He had so much energy and a bright attitude towards life, one would've thought that he would live forever. 

I would joke and say, "Larry, I'm not sure that I'll be around, but you're going to celebrate your 100th birthday."  He was a staunch Republican and I am a Democrat, and we joked about that too.
Larry Zarian was a pivotal figure in my life. I can't remember exactly when I first learned about Zarian, but I do remember the first time I met him in the early 1980s. I was at a grocery store buying fruit from the produce section and he was doing the same.  I approached him, introduced myself and we started a conversation.  I told him how proud I was that we had an Armenian in our city's politics. He appreciated my cajoling and told me that we Armenians should work together and be involved in our community.  From that moment on, he kindled the fire inside me to become an active member in our community.
In 2001, I ran for the School Board, he offered great support and assistance to my campaign. I learned a lot about politics through him.  He was an admirable member of Glendale's Armenian-American community.  In his 16 years on Glendale's city council, he advocated his time for many causes and served on many boards within our city and throughout the state. I always wondered how he could make time to be on the board of so many organizations.  According to City of Glendale, his public service was recognized by presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and governors: George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Years ago at a time when there were no cellphones and no computers, when our only mode of communication was landline phones, he would answer his messages timely and not leave any message unanswered. He was known for that.  He seemed to have such great skills for time management.  I always looked up to him and and wanted to be like him.  
We remained in touch throughout the years; he was a good listener, always encouraging, and exuded a lot of energy.  I admired him for these wonderful qualities and the many others that shaped his character.  In recent years I didn't see him as much, but it happened that I saw him in July of this year and I had the opportunity to catch up with him.  We met at the 12th Annual Awards Luncheon for Women in Business at the Castaway Banquet Hall in Burbank.

The personable person he was, he mentioned that he hadn't seen any letters written by me in the opinion page of the Glendale News Press lately.  I thought to myself how rewarding it was to know that he had actually taken the time to read my past submissions and even he recalled them.

He also mentioned that lately he had noticed in the Glendale News Press an Armenian woman writing a column about Armenians.  He was not happy about the fact that she was pointing out to the negative elements of Armenian life in Glendale and in the homeland. Now that I'm thinking back I am so much more impressed that he took the time and effort while he was sick to read the newspaper.  

From my first conversation I had with him at the grocery store in the early 80s to the last one when I spoke with him at the Castaway's luncheon a few months ago, he had this incredible zest for life.  His death definitely will created a void in our city especially in the Armenian community, but his legacy will live on forever.  His tireless efforts set an exemplary  precedent for our new Armenian-American generation to become active in the city's politics. His love for Glendale and the Armenian causes was evident in the actions he took. He was nicknamed "The People's Mayor," and indeed he was. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Social Security to Hand Out First Raises Since '09

The following news by Associated Press was on the AOL home page today:

Social Security to hand out first raise since 2009

WASHINGTON - Some 55 million Social Security recipients will get a 3.6 percent increase in benefits next year, their first raise since 2009, the government announced Wednesday.
The increase, which starts in January, is tied to a measure of inflation released Wednesday morning.

About 8 million people who receive Supplemental Security Income will also receive the 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, meaning the announcement will affect about one in five U.S. residents.

There was no COLA in 2010 or 2011 because inflation was too low. Those were the first two years without a COLA since automatic increases were adopted in 1975. However, Social Security recipients did receive a one-time $250 payment from the economic stimulus package passed in 2009.

Monthly Social Security payments average $1,082, or about $13,000 a year. A 3.6 percent increase will amount to about $39 a month, or just over $467 a year, on average. Advocates for seniors said the raise will provide a much-needed boost to the millions of retirees and disabled people who have seen retirement accounts dwindle and home values drop during the economic downturn. Economists say the increase should provide a modest boost to consumer spending, which should help the economy.

Still, many seniors feel like they have been falling behind.
Nancy Altman, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, said she is pleased Social Security recipients will get a raise next year. But, she added, "The COLA is still not enough to keep up with health care costs."

"Despite the absence of a Social Security COLA, over the last two years out-of-pocket health care costs rose 14.1 percent for seniors and people with disabilities, effectively reducing the value of Social Security benefits," Altman said.

Most retirees rely on Social Security for a majority of their income, according to the Social Security Administration. Many rely on it for more than 90 percent of their income.
"For many of our seniors, the creeping costs of medical care, food and housing have forced them to stretch their limited incomes to the breaking point," said Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, the top Democrat on the House Social Security subcommittee. "And after two years without any cost-of-living increases, our seniors are getting some much-needed relief."
Some of the increase in January will be lost to higher Medicare premiums, which are deducted from Social Security payments. Medicare Part B premiums for 2012 are expected to be announced next week, and the trustees who oversee the program are projecting an increase.

The amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes will also go up next year. This year, the first $106,800 in wages is subject to Social Security payroll taxes. Next year, the limit will increase to $110,100, the Social Security Administration said.
Of the 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes next year, about 10 million will get a tax increase from the change, the agency said.

Workers pay a 6.2 percent Social Security tax on wages, which is matched by employers. For 2011, the tax rate for workers was reduced to 4.2 percent. The tax cut is scheduled to expire at the end of the year, though President Barack Obama wants to expand it and extend it for another year.
Several economists said the Social Security increase should provide a modest boost in consumer spending next year. However, David Wyss, former chief economist at Standard & Poor's, noted that most analysts have already factored the COLA into their growth estimates for next year.

"The COLA will help the economy a bit," Wyss said. "At least, it is moving in the right direction. But it is not a game-changer."

See full article from DailyFinance:

Monday, 17 October 2011

Warren Buffet: Ending the deficit...

A friend after reading my post on Warren Buffet, forwarded me the following:  

Warren Buffet, in a recent interview with CNBC, offers one of the best quotes about the debt ceiling: "I could end the deficit in 5 minutes," he told CNBC. "You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election.

The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds) took only 3 months & 8 days  to be ratified! Why? Simple! The people demanded it. That was in 1971... before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc. Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took 1 year or less to become the law of the land...all because of public pressure.

Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise. In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is what he suggests:

*Congressional Reform Act of 2011*
1.     No Tenure / No Pension.  A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no
pay when they are out of office.

2.     Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security. All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3.     Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4.     Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5.     Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6.     Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7.     All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work. If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.


If you agree with the above, pass it on.  You may copy and paste to your email list.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Astonishing figures – Ratifying the 13th Amendment...

Following my last post on the celebration of the centennial of women's gaining the right to  vote in California, my dear friend Ron Vazzano forwarded me the following astonishing figures:

These states did not ratify—that is to say… did not give formal approval to the passed 19th Amendment— until the years indicated:
• Maryland - 1941
• Virginia - 1952
• Alabama - 1953
• Florida - 1969
• South Carolina - 1969
• Georgia - 1970
• Louisiana - 1970
• North Carolina - 1971
• Mississippi - 1984
1984? Yes, 1984. It boggles the mind.

I can’t help but think of all of this now, when we consider some of the debates in our “modern day,” about human rights issues. We hear those in opposition proclaiming that “it’s never been done this way… and there must be a reason for that” or… “it isn’t the natural order of things.” Forgetting of course, that at one time, those very objections were made against a woman’s right to vote. And worse, to keep human beings enslaved
– Ron Vazzano

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Because The Past is the Present, and the Future too...

This Columbus Day weekend, California will celebrate the centennial of women gaining the right to vote.  On October 10, 1911, California passed a state constitutional referendum giving women the right to vote, nine years before passage of the U.S. constitution's 19th amendment. The California state referendum passed by only 2 percentage points. I have read about the amount of effort that women put to pass the measure.  I was trying to find that story, about women getting up early on October 10, 1911 to go to neighboring small towns to encourage everyone to vote, but I couldn't find it on Internet. Below is my reflections on women's right to vote. The brutal treatment of suffragettes in the Occoquan prison in November of 1917 moved me to write the following essay:

Because the past is the present, and the future too…
            "They hurled D-L into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, A-C, thought D-L was dead and suffered a heart attack.  Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.  And by the end of the night, they were barely alive.  Forty prison guards wielding clubs... went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of 'obstructing sidewalk traffic.' They beat L-B, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.”

Reading this chilling passage, one would think it describes an episode from a violent movie, taking place in a remote part of the world. But this is not a scene from a Third World country under paramilitary rule, or the treatment of terrorist suspects.  This is Washington, D.C., and the women being beaten so savagely are Dora Lewis and her colleagues who were arrested for picketing in front of the White House on November 15, 1917.  These brutal beatings and mistreatment, recorded in the annals of history, took place at the Occoquan Workhouse (prison) in Virginia, where it was reported that the warden ordered his guards to teach the women a lesson for demonstrating their right to vote during president Woodrow Wilson's term in office.  

Do a quick Internet search for "November 15, l917," and you will find many reports about this "Night of Terror,” which resulted in the deaths of several influential suffragettes".  It boggles the mind that such inhumane treatment towards women occurred in the history of the world's greatest democracy: the United States. After the "Night of Terror," Alice Paul, the architect of the Suffragists movement, embarked on a hunger strike to protest the grotesque conditions of the Occoquan prison. She was moved to the psychiatric ward and raw eggs were force-fed down her throat through a plastic tube. How painful! How disgusting!  She was tortured like this for weeks until word got out to the press. (The movie "Iron Jawed Angels" is a remarkable tale chronicling the struggles of the Suffragists. It Portraits Hillary Swank as Alice Paul, who put her life on the line to fight for American Women's Right to vote. Do a favor to yourself and watch the movie.  It's impeccable)
 * * * * * *
Whereas in America women’s right to vote had to be fought for – in Iran it was given to the people, by the Shah, as one of the measures aimed at modernizing the country. It was in 1963 when the Shah of Iran extended the Right to Vote to Iranian women through a series of reforms known as "The White Revolution." Why was this important mandate – bestowing on women the right to vote – not publicized enough and why was the Shah, instead, widely criticized throughout the Western world for being a despotic ruler?

I remember when I was in the 8th grade, our Armenian teacher asked us to write a letter to an imaginary friend and tell her about the way we lived in Iran.  My best friend, Shakeh who has no memory of it, wrote about the newly passed White Revolution.  When she was reading the letter out loud to the class, I thought to myself, "how smart and intelligent she is to think of writing on that subject!"  Everybody else, including myself, had written about our day-to-day lives.  

But when she finished reading her letter in class, to my amazement, the teacher scolded her for writing about an irrelevant subject.  To this day, it puzzles me.  Why did she scold her?  Was it because she had anti-Shah sentiments or maybe she really thought it was irrelevant to the assignment?  In Iran most Armenians were pro-Shah.  A small number belonged to the Tudeh party, which was an underground group of activists, leaning toward Communistic ideals.  Now, thinking back, maybe she belonged to the Tudeh party. Who knows at this late date?  

But why touch on events that happened so long ago and why reminisce on how America brought the Shah down by criticizing his regime?  Because history repeats itself… America prides itself in being the world’s “moral compass,” forgetting its own “dirty laundry.” Perhaps if Alice Paul didn't have her mouth full she could have told us a little bit about the ethics she learned at Occoquan prison.

Somebody told me, "Americans don't warm up when they hear an immigrant, like me, talking about the mistakes of the government." But Now that I have the plume (pen) in my hand, I would like to write about America's mistakes and how the CIA - America's Central Intelligence Agency - brought about the Shah's so-called "Crime Machine" Yes, CIA created the Shah's "crime machine" by using the same techniques used in disciplining Alice Paul.
 * * * * * * 
Here is the story: Kermit Roosevelt Jr., the grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, a CIA agent, in 1953, masterminded Operation Ajax, which was a covert operation to create a coup d'état in Iran against Prime Minister Mossadegh, who had taken the power in his hand and had forced the young Shah to flee the country.  Operation Ajax, aimed at re-installing of the Shah back on the throne, was funded by CIA and British intelligence, because they feared that Iran being neighbors with USSR, could very well be in the verge of becoming Communist if Prime minister Mossadegh, known to be a left-of-center liberal, was at the helm.

(NOTE: – comments by Ken Fermoyle –I don't recall that he was accused of being a Communist. And I always thought that his move to nationalize the oil industry was the prime cause of his being deposed, just as oil played a part in the later revolution – and was the key hidden factor in the invasion of Iraq. [It is significant that Rumsfeld played a big role in both cases] Am I wrong in this? – K.Fermoyle)

It is said that the Shah after regaining his throne, had told Roosevelt, "I owe my throne to God, my people, my army - and to you (meaning Kermit Roosevelt)." Growing up, I always heard the expression that the Shah was a "Puppet" of the United States, which at a young age I couldn't understand the meaning of it.  Now, I know what it means. 

CIA, by operation Ajax, re-installed the young Shah as a ruler of Iran and prevented the country slipping into communist regime and in turn the Shah promised his allegiance to America by cooperating with CIA to eliminate any remaining groups that were towards the left.  Thus CIA started an intelligence service in Iran called SAVAK Sazeman-e Ettela'at va Amniyat-e Keshvar , meaning National Intelligence and Security Organization.  So, SAVAK, the notorious “crime-machine” of the Shah, was funded by CIA.   Soon, Iranians were trained as secret agents and were taught on how to capture dissidents of the government and how to interrogate and penalize them.  Operation Ajax remains as one of the greatest successes of United States’ foreign policy.  CIA had allocated One million dollar for the operation from which only $100,000 was spent. I clearly remember hearing this statement by my own ears in 1979 when we were in the United States and watching on TV the re-runs of archival documentaries about the 1953 coup d'état of Dr. Mossadeq in Iran.

(NOTE: – comments, by Ken Fermoyle – I have to say that I'm not sure Iran would have “slipped into communism” under Mossadegh. Yes, he socialized the oil industry but I believe it was because Iran for years had received too little income for its own oil. I think that British oil interests (later backed up by the U.S. When Eisenhower became president) were more concerned about losing their grip on Iran's oil & the huge profits it brought them than Iran going communist. But then, that was during the Cold War when some Americans saw a communist under every bed. I read one account that talked about “Mosaddegh's open disgust with socialism...” I agree that the Shah did many good things. But I don't think Mosaddegh was a communist villain “moving toward communism,” as Winston Churchill claimed. K.F.)

 * * * * * * 
Ironically, America who had installed the Shah back to the throne in 1953, 25 years later in 1978, helped the opposition to bring him down. The excuse, under then President Carter was the despotic rule of the Shah and the inhumane treatment of his people.

That was the excuse, but the real issue was the “oil.”  I read an article in LA Times (10/17/08), about America’s role in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  The report, based on Andrew Scott Cooper’s research of declassified documents, reveals that contrary to historians and analysts who attributed the fall of the Shah to President Carter, the plan to destabilize Iran was hatched by Donald Rumsfeld, an aid to President Gerald Ford in early 1970’s.

Today I see an eerie resemblance of the war in Iraq and the Islamic revolution of Iran.  The insurgence of Iraq by Americans is like a rerun of Iranian Islamic Revolution by different cast of characters.  

* * * * * * 
With a little research on Internet I came upon a picture taken in 1983 which showed Mr. Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.  The caption says “Is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld an evildoer? If not, then what is he doing shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.” Ms. Joyce Battle, an analyst for Middle Eastern affairs and the director of publications at the National Security Archive reveals the secret.

According to Ms. Battle, in 1982 United States and Iraq renewed their relations and the State Department removed Iraq from the list of countries that supported terrorism.  The reason was that in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988).  Iraq invaded Iran on September 1980 and by June of 1982 it was clear that Iran was on the offensive. The United States, which had broken off relations with Iran due to the hostage crisis, disliked the idea of Iran winning the war. It began supporting Iraq by furnishing weapons. Twenty years later, President Bush invades Iraq saying that Iraq is a threat to the security of America. One can only be awe-stricken at seeing the exact same scenario as played out earlier in American politics.
 * * * * * *
My kids often ask me, “Mom, why do you get so emotional when remembering the Shah, and his family?”  I hope this can serve as an answer.  Recently, I received an email with old pictures of the Shah and his family, I forward it to a friend and I got this line back. “I think Farrah is so elegant, so beautiful and so calm and poised – a real queen. I thought the Shah was very handsome too.  He died homeless - very sad.”  Yes it is sad to see how a great chapter came to a close

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Warren Buffet Smiling? Why is he smiling?

The famed Billionaire investor, Warren Buffet.  Why is he so happy?  I guess he's happy because he pays less tax than his secretary.  Hear what he says: “I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone – not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 – shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.”

Yes that's true.  Warren Buffett, a billionaire, pays a lower tax rate than his secretary.

Think that's unfair? So does Warren Buffett.

Right now, millionaires and billionaires have nearly the lowest tax rates they've had in 50 years, while middle class families picks up the tab.

So President Obama is asking Congress to pass a commonsense bill, known as the Buffett Rule, to fix the tax code and make sure that millionaires and billionaires pay at least the same share of their income in taxes as middle-class families.

The Buffett Rule would reduce the deficit while helping to pay for investments in education, clean energy, jobs, and other programs that will help our economy grow. 

Hear what Senator Barbara Boxer says: "Billionaire Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary -- and I thank him for speaking out and drawing attention to this incredible imbalance.

But imagine that! In America today, billionaires can pay a lower effective tax rate than secretaries, firefighters, and nurses. And imagine that those of us, including our president, who support a commonsense solution that asks everyone to pay their fair share are being accused of waging "class warfare" by Republicans -- even while they launch attack after attack on the hard-working American middle class.
Since Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives, they've blocked countless Democratic proposals to create jobs, grinding economic growth to a halt. Republican presidential front-runners like Rick Perry are calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme," and House Republicans are trying to end Medicare as we know it and defund Planned Parenthood."
Maybe you have a better answer.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Look Who's Turning 50?

'Dick Van Dyke Show'

YES! You're right! It's the "The Dick Van Dyke Show"

I caught the news on AOL that the Dick Van Dyke show premiered on Oct. 3, 1961. When we were growing up in Tehran, we knew Dick Van Dyke as the dancing, singing chimney sweeper who alongside of Mary Poppins entertained the Banks children at a London Park.  What a delightful and adorable movie was it.  In Tehran we had two T.V. channels.  One was in Farsi and the other one in English.  Not everybody could get the English Channel, I guess, because they needed a special antenna or maybe it was the TV set.  You could watch the Dick Van Dyke show on the English channel, but at our home we didn't have reception.  I watched the show when we moved to the States and it is one of the shows that I enjoy watching it over and over just like the Lucy Ball. 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

2011 ARPA FILM FESTIVAL (October 22-24/ Hollywood California)

Today is the First Day of October.  Here in Glendale it is still summer. Last week I attended the ARPA FILM FESTIVAL in Hollywood.  Here is my impression of the festival.

I enjoy the gratification that comes from watching movies at film festivals.  They open up new windows and allow us to see new perspectives. This proved true again last week (Sep. 22-24) at the 14th annual Arpa International Film Festival at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.  Each year I attend the festival and try to watch as many films as possible.  And each year, there are at least one or two standout films.

Last year, as a retrospective, Arpa screened the newly restored version of "Namus," a film produced in 1926 by the iconic filmmaker Hamo Beknazarian.  "Namus" is an adaptation from a play with the same title written by the Armenian playwright Alexander Shirvanzadeh.  I remember hearing about "Namus" and "Pepo" while growing up - two films by the same filmmaker, but I had never had an opportunity to see the films.  Thanks to Arpa film festival I finally had the opportunity to watch the film which left an indelible mark on me just as it had dazzled my mother when she first saw it 80 years ago as a young girl in Tabriz.  I was marveled by the cinematography techniques used during those early years of filmmaking and I enjoyed watching the lifestyle of the era. I loved the scene that showed a couple getting married at night in a church followed by a procession from the church to the restaurant by lit torches. And of course the dancing scenes in the restaurant just melted my heart.

Besides "Namus," the films that I've often enjoyed have been documentaries or short films.  This year, however, there was an exception once again.  Among my favorites was a feature film "Three Veils" written and directed by the Arab American filmmaker, Rolla Selbak.  The film was very well executed and portrayed the inner struggles of three Middle Eastern women living in the U.S.  It won the Best Feature Film Award at the Festival.

Among other films that impacted me last week at the festival were three documentaries, the first one was: The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia.  The title says it all.  This documentary is about two of the most celebrated master tightrope acrobats, that in their heydays were treated like kings, but today they don't even have enough money to put gasoline in their car.  They used archived film strips from the past and followed their lives in more recent years. It was a phenomenal movie. It depicted the sad reality of our homeland.  I watched it with wet eyes.  

Children of War: The title of this documentary also says what the movie is all about. It depicts war-torn Uganda, where boys are abducted from their homes and their schools and are forced to become soldiers and fight. The documentary follows a group of former child soldiers that have escaped and have returned to their homes, only to fight with the demons of their memories.  It is a powerful movie.  Following the film screening I asked Bryan Single, the producer and the director, about the years and money he had put into this extraordinary documentary.  Single, in his late 30's, had dedicated 6 years to bring this movie to life. I was in awe, inspired by the whole process of making the film, and how a young man could put so much heart into a project with a minimal source of income. The film won the Armin T. Wegner Humanitarian Award at the Festival.

The last of my favorites was "MARION STODDART: THE WORK OF 1000," a documentary about an American woman, Marion Stoddart, who in 1965 headed a group from her hometown to clean up the Nashua river in Massachusetts. It is a tale of an extraordinary woman who dedicated her life by transforming herself from a housewife into a staunch advocate for the environment. The movie chronicles her work, her life and her family by using archived interviews with government officials, combining the point of view of her children and her husband into one perspective. It was another extraordinary and inspirational film. It won the Arpa/AT&T Award for Environmental Conservation and Stewardship.

I salute the organizers of Arpa International Film Festival who strive to enhance our community's cultural values and bridge gaps between different cultures.  Year after year, they give us the opportunity to witness new horizons and point of views. We need to support this important endeavor.