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Saturday, 31 March 2012

My Favorite April's Fools Day Hoaxes...

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest:

On April 1st 1957, the respected BBC news announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best." 

Nixon for President
The April 1992 broadcast of National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation revealed that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was, "I didn't do anything wrong, and I won't do it again." Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded to the announcement by flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon's voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.

The Sydney Iceberg:
Dick Smith, a prominent businessman of Sydney had promised the locals to tow an iceberg from Antarctica. His intention was to carve the gigantic yet fresh iceberg in small cubes which he would sell to the public. Eventually, on the April Fool’s Day of 1978, entire city along with media community arrived at the Sydney Harbor to take a glimpse of the huge iceberg. Then it started raining and entire populace witnessed the wash away process of shaving cream and firefighting foam from which the iceberg was really made of.

Gas prices in United States... Where to buy American Gasoline

WASHINGTON | Tue Mar 27, 2012 6:14pm EDT
(Reuters) - More than two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way President Barack Obama is handling high gasoline prices, although most do not blame him for them, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online poll released on Tuesday.

Sixty-eight percent disapprove and 24 percent approve of how Obama is responding to price increases that have become one of the biggest issues in the 2012 presidential campaign.

In the past month, U.S. fuel prices have jumped about $0.30 per gallon to about $3.90 and the Republicans seeking to replace the Democrat in the November 6 election have seized upon the issue to attack his energy policies.

The disapproval reaches across party lines, potentially spelling trouble for Obama in the election, although the online survey showed voters hold oil companies or foreign countries more accountable than politicians for the price spike.

"Obama is getting heat for it but people aren't necessarily blaming him for it," said Chris Jackson, research director for Ipsos public affairs.
Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents all disapprove of the president's handling of gas prices, according to the online poll of 606 Americans conducted March 26-27.
Republicans have hit Obama particularly hard for his decision to block TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL Canada-to-Texas pipeline as a sign that his energy priorities are hurting America.
Hoping to placate car-loving Americans, Obama toured U.S. oil country last week to tout his "all of the above" energy strategy that includes room for oil and gas development in addition to support for renewable fuels.
In Oklahoma, he pledged to accelerate approval of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans immediately dismissed the campaign-style stop as a stunt, saying Obama does not have the authority to really jump start the project.
Jackson said Obama has little to fear, at least according to historic trends, from gas prices alone if the U.S. economy continues to recover from deep recession.
Previous spikes in fuel prices have not affected U.S. presidential election results. But economists warn that higher gas prices could slow the overall economy, which would toughen Obama's chances of winning re-election.


Gas rationing in the 70s worked even though we grumbled about it.  It might  even have been  good for us! 

Are you aware that the Saudis are boycotting American products?  In addition, they are gouging  us on oil prices. 

Shouldn't we return the favor? 

Can't  we take control of our own destiny and let these giant oil importers know who REALLY generates  their profits, their livings?  How about leaving American Dollars in America and  reduce  the import/export deficit? An appealing remedy might be to boycott their GAS.  Every time you fill up your car you can avoid  putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia .  Just purchase gas from companies that don't import their oil from the Saudis. 

The following gas companies import Middle Eastern oil:  

Shell......................................           205,742,000 barrels  
Chevron/Texaco.....................         144,332,000 barrels 
Exxon  /Mobil........................         130,082,000 barrels  
Marathon/Speedway.............          117,740,000 barrels  
Amoco.................................           62,231,000 barrels 

And CITGO oil is imported from Venezuela  who's Dictator HUGO CHAVEZ hates America and  openly  avows our economic destruction!  (We pay Chavez's regime nearly  $ 10 Billion per year in  oil revenues!)   

The U.S. Currently imports  5,517,000 barrels of crude oil per day from OPEC.  If you do the math at $100 per barrel, that's over $550 million PER DAY ($200  BILLION per year!) handed over to OPEC, many of whose members are our confirmed "enemies"!!!!!!!!  It won't stop here - oil prices could go to $200 a barrel or higher if we keep buying their product.   

Here are some large  companies to support that DO NOT import Middle Eastern oil:  
**Sunoco..........................0 barrels  
**Conoco.........................0 barrels  
**Sinclair.........................0 barrels  
**BP/Phillips...................0 barrels  
**Hess.............................0 barrels  
**ARC0..........................0 barrels  
**Maverick.....................0 barrels 
**Flying  J......................0 barrels  
**Valero.........................0 barrels

  CAMurphy  Oil USA  **.............0 barrels  
*Sold at Wal-Mart.... , gas is from South Arkansas and fully   USA owned and  produced.    
*Not only that but they give  scholarships to all children in their town who finish  high  school and are legal US citizens.  
All of  this information is available from the U.S. Department of Energy and each company is required to state where they get their oil and how much they are importing. 

But to have a real impact, we need to reach  literally millions of gas buyers.  With the help  of the  Internet, it's really simple to do.  Now, don't wimp out at this point.... And if you want to do more, just cut and paste the last part of this page to your email and forward it to a few of your friends and ask them to do so.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Benefits of Banana....


Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber. A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. 
Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes. 
But energy isn't the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier. 
PMS: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood. 
Anemia : High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of hemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anemia. 
Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it perfect to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

Brain Power: 200 students at a Twickenham (Middlesex) school ( England ) were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break, and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert. 
Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives. 
Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey.. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system. 
Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body, so if you suffer from heartburn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness. 
Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation. 
Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

Overweight and at work? Studies at the Institute ofPsychology in Austria found pressure at work leads to gorging on comfort food like chocolate and chips.. Looking at 5,000 hospital patients, researchers found the most obese were more likely to be in high-pressure jobs. The report concluded that, to avoid panic-induced food cravings, we need to control our blood sugar levels by snacking on high carbohydrate foods every two hours to keep levels steady. 
Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronicler cases. It also neutralizes over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach. 
Temperature control: Many other cultures see bananas as a 'cooling' fruit that can lower both the physical and emotional temperature of expectant mothers. InThailand , for example, pregnant women eat bananas to ensure their baby is born with a cool temperature.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood Enhancer tryptophan. 
Smoking &Tobacco Use: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking. The B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal. 
Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalize the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be rebalanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack. 
Strokes: According to research in The New England Journal of Medicine, eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%! 
Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

So, a banana really is a natural remedy for many ills. When you compare it to an apple, it has four times the protein, twice the carbohydrate, three times the phosphorus, five times the vitamin A and iron, and twice the other vitamins and minerals. It is also rich in potassium and is one of the best value foods around So maybe it's time to change that well-known phrase so that we say, 'A banana a day keeps the doctor away!' 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Michelle Obama to Letterman: This isn't "Oprah!" Where are the laughs?

from Cutline (March 19) by Dylan Stableford

Michelle Obama made her first appearance on the "Late Show With David Letterman" on Monday. And during a discussion about the importance of family, the first lady told Letterman about her father.
"My father had multiple sclerosis," she said. "I never knew him to be able to walk, but my dad worked so hard and he loved us so much, and I think from him I learned just absolute, complete unconditional love, the notion that kids really don't need anything but to know that their parents adore them."
She continued: "We had rules, we had boundaries, but there wasn't anything my dad wouldn't do for us, and, uh--don't make me cry.  This isn't 'Oprah'!  It's supposed to be 'Letterman.' What's up?  Where are the laughs?"
"Did somebody tell you this was 'Oprah'?" Letterman joked. "Is that why you're here?  Oh my, someone misled the first lady."
Earlier in the show, Letterman tried to wrangle some presidential gossip out of her, but the first lady did not take the bait.
"Hypothetically speaking, at the end of the day, has your husband ever come home and said to you, 'Oh, that John Boehner, what an idiot'?" Letterman asked.
"It has never happened, never, never," she replied. "He is always upbeat, particularly about Congress."
While it was her first "Late Show" appearance, the first lady is no stranger to late-night talk shows. In January, Michelle appeared on "The Tonight Show," telling Jay Leno that the president likes to sing to her at home in the White House.
"He does have a beautiful voice, and he sings to me all the time," Mrs. Obama told Leno. "He doesn't hesitate to show off his lungs to his wife."

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A commentary by Dan Evans... Bullying, depression and suicide...

Last month, I posted on my blog a story about 15-year-old Drew Ferraro who jumped to his death of a third story roof at La Crescenta Highschool.  The following is a commentary about his death by Dan Evans the chief editor of our local newspaper, the Newspress.  What he says is very close to my thoughts and I want to share with my readers.   

by Dan Evans (Sunday March 11)

Our communities have been rocked in the last few weeks with a spate of suicides: Two teenage boys have killed themselves and a 13-year-old girl tried to do so.

What is going on?
In the case of 15-year-old Drew Ferraro, the specter of bullying has been raised by fellow students and his parents. Drew jumped to his death from a three-story building on the Crescenta Valley High School campus during lunch period in early February.

But school and public safety officials have steadfastly denied bullying was the cause, pointing to a series of suicide notes stating a different reason. That reason has yet to be made public. Perhaps it never will be.

The Crescenta Valley community reacted immediately in a way that both warmed my heart and frustrated me. The outpouring of friends and neighbors, all rallying to the side of the Ferraro family, was an amazing, beautiful thing. Leo's All-Star Sports Bar & Grill put on a car show and fundraising event called “Drew's Voice.” People laughed, they cried, they got through it; they got through it together. That's the point of community.

But where was Drew's voice? Was it his? I was troubled and frustrated about the lack of reflection. It is telling that people — egged on by other media outlets — latched onto the bullying boogeyman, an external evil, rather than Drew's internal strife, the depression he is said to have suffered from.

It's easy to see why, frankly. People can have rallies, hold fundraisers and eat pancakes in support of the anti-bullying cause. If the root cause of Drew's suicide was depression, we, as a community, are essentially powerless. But perhaps we are.

Despite the good intentions, I am wary that ignoring these inconvenient facts will lead to additional harm. I hope to God it hasn't already happened.

On Tuesday night, Matthew Smyser, 17, a football player at Burbank High, killed himself at his home in Shadow Hills. Matthew's mother had been diagnosed with cancer, perhaps leading to his decision.
Early Wednesday morning, a Glendale middle school student jumped from a bridge near Jackson Street and Monterey Road into the Verdugo Wash. The 13-year-old girl, who sustained non-life threatening injuries, was carrying a suicide note, upset about not being able to go on a school trip.

Did Drew's very public suicide and the ensuing media coverage inspire those who followed? I don't know, but I do know it's important we put a lot of thought into how, and how much, we write.
We do not want to be seen as glorifying these suicides. But we must cover them; it's our job. These stories have exposed the deep hurt within our cities and neighborhoods, pulling back the cover of our perfect little suburban lives.

But to tell it true, let's not forget the overwhelming reason why people, and teenagers in particular, kill themselves: mental illness. A quick survey of our newsroom revealed nearly every person had been bullied at some point in their teen years. I certainly was. No one tried to kill themselves.

This in no way makes bullying OK, nor does it make pointless the community and school efforts to minimize its harm. But it does make putting bullying on the marquee a red herring, fixing a problem that may not actually be related.

So, parents: Listen to your children. If they are depressed, get them help. Teens: Try to get over your embarrassment and talk to someone if you are down. It's worth it, and it does get better.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Many Faces of Noma Bar...

Here is another caricaturist from Middle East.  last week I published caricatures by a young Iranian deaf artist and today I want to post the minimalist caricatures of Noma Bar, born in Israel, 1973.

 Albert Einstein
Commissioned by The Economist for a cover story about 100 years of Einstein. Though the illustration was never printed, Bar considers this a perfect example of combining two icons, which results in something that is 'almost like a logo.' Einstein's famously unkempt hair and the atomic symbol, with the molecules as eyes, for this famous face.
Harry Potter
We've all been exposed to the Harry Potter hype. The success of this image is how it speaks directly to the fictional Harry Potter story, as well as the reality of this multi-million dollar industry. The centerpiece of the illustration is the wand, which evokes fanciful magic, as well as the almighty dollar.
Woody Allen
This illustration was done for an article about Woody Allen's Film Match Point, which was shot in London . Bar's use of London architectural landmarks for the legend's already iconic face is a unique and effective touch. Nicknamed the gherkin, for its resemblance to a pickle, this noticeable Norman Foster building replaces Allen's nose, the Tate Modern forms an eyebrow over one of the skyline's newest structural icons, the London Eye.
John Travolta + Samuel L. Jackson
Two faces may not be better than one, but they are harder to draw. Illustrating a duo like these two Pulp Fiction characters is a challenge for Barr because he still needs to render them as a single connected unit. Clearly, in this example, Bar conjoins the two with the gun. Travolta's mouth, Jackson 's eyebrow and nose.

William Shakespeare
The first face Bar ever published, a full page for Time Out London related to a feature article about a BBC program called 'The Search for Shakespeare.'
['The Search for Shakespeare'] revolved around new biographical discoveries and all the questions these raised. I received this commission about 5 hours before a flight to Italy . All of a sudden the question mark idea linked the theme of the program to one of the most significant philosophical questions of all time: To be or not to be? I chose ‘to be’ and sent the final portrait off about two hours after receiving the assignment.” ~ Noma Bar

Charlie Chaplin
When Bar works with black and white, he relies on negative space to 'create forms that allow elements to float.' Here, Bar uses one of Charlie Chaplin's most famous on-screen moments to define his face, though there are few actual lines . Inspired by Chaplin's shoe-eating scene in The Gold Rush, Bar turns a shoelace sum spaghetti strand into Chaplin's eye and nose; the shoe works double duty as both moustache and mouth.

Adolf Hitler
This portrait of Hitler accompanied James Delingpole's article 'Mein Kash: Milking the Third Reich,' written for Esquire UK . The piece examined the publishing trend to release books about Hitler (which number close to 1,000 on Amazon). For such an article, Bar's choice to convert the moustache into a barcode was spot-on.

Joseph Stalin
The hammer and sickle get rearranged into Joseph Stalin's nose and mouth. That these two icons can be taken out of context, but remain in context in that they possess such associative power that the viewer will know who this feature face is, bolsters the effectiveness of Bar's approach to illustration.

Nelson Mandela
Many of Bar's subjects become his subjects because of dubious behavior. Nelson Mandela's anti-apartheid activism, however, i s a story of incredible strength in the ace of imprisonment and injustice that concluded with triumph. Mandela was South Africa 's first president to be voted into office in a representative democratic election. Mandela figuratively broke the shackles that imprisoned him for 27 years, and it is this strength that Bar celebrates with this illustration.

Michael Jackson
Over the years, Michael Jackson has made headlines for an array of reasons, from number one hits to run-ins with the law. Here, Bar riffs on Jackson 's purported pedophilic tendencies, by placing an image of a young child in the pop star's face. Jackson has never been found guilty of these accusations in a court of law, though the media frenzy that surrounded the case seems to have made the eccentric icon that much more reclusive.

Bob Dylan
A true cultural icon, Bob Dylan is no stranger to being interpreted. Bar keeps this one simple, using three of Dylan's tools of the trade: musical notations, guitar, harmonica. That Bar can invest such age and mystery into a face that is primarily white negative space is yet another example of his ability to see subjects as more than just people -- they are their careers.

Last but not Least....

David Beckham
These days, the dollar sign would be just as appropriate for David Beckham's face as the British pound symbol. The soccer star and money -making machine that is Beckham now spans across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to Los Angeles . We'll see if one man can make Americans soccer fans, but even if he can't, he'll still be rich.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Heartbeats and Hoofprints – My Life With Horses...

Big Sky Montana

February was a busy month; I had 17 posts on my blog.  Today is March 13 and I realized that up until now I have posted only two entries. So, I should hurry to catch up.  I don't know about you, but month of March brings to my mind visions of outdoors. And since Persian New Year begins on the first day of Spring on March 21, it makes the month of March more special to me.

Speaking of outdoors... I've invited a guest blogger for this month – Gayle Lawrence.  She will tell us about outdoors and her love of horses.  Gayle began her Journey of Discovery surrounded by horses. Having a deep connection with nature and animals, made her to become a travel business owner and an entrepreneur. 

In the following story you will hear about her love of horses and how she came up with the idea of conducting a special tour to Montana, for a week of outdoor adventures.

Heartbeats and Hoofprints – My Life With Horses
Gayle Lawrence

I know that my Soul has had many past-lives with horses as I've loved them from the moment I took my first breath in this lifetime! Just ask my  mother and she'll confirm this, from the moment I could barley walk and talk...I wanted horses....even wooden ones!

As I got a little older and blossomed into my "Cowgirl" personality I was ready for the real thing and Patches entered my life! I was crazed for any TV show with horses, Black Beauty, National Velvet, My Friend Flicka, Fury, Roy Rodgers and Trigger, Gene Autry and Champion, The Lone Ranger and Silver, Tonto and Scout. I loved them all and felt a personal connection. 

Being on the back of my horse King, taking flight and soaring over a jump, feeling all of that power beneath me set my Soul free!

I started competing in horse shows as a youth exhibitor in lots of different events. In my mid-teens I was into the Speed events and had a great barrel racing horse named Smokey Joe.

I loved racing around those barrels, my long hair flying in the wind trying to beat the best time on the clock! Getting that ribbon felt like an Academy Award!

After college, working as a Dental Hygienist, I continued to train and show my own horses but my "fantasy" was to train and show horses professionally. Never losing sight of that vision, I "manifested" that dream into reality. I had enough experience to land a job with a wealthy banker in Iowa as his resident trainer and soon was traveling to the big shows with his horses. 

I was now rubbing shoulders with all the top Quarterhorse trainers in the show horse world and within a couple of years I was married to one of them! My child-hood fantasy was now truly a reality, married and living on a beautiful show-horse facility, traveling to the big circuits from California to New YorkCanada to Florida, coaching talented youth and amateur riders and winning the BIG PRIZES!

Then as so often happens, life threw me a curve-ball and this ideal life crumbled around me. I found myself divorced, my Spirit broken, my Soul devastated, cast out with my suitcase, 2 horses, Katie my Jack Russel Terrier and 2 cats Sylvester and Miss Kitty and had no clue what to do next. Some dear friends took me and my animals under their wing as I tried to make sense of what had gone wrong. This horrible event many years ago was the beginning of my "Spiritual Awakening with Horses" as they were truly my teachers who helped me move forward and heal my life.

During this painful process of putting my life back together my horses taught me so much  about courage, trust and  not getting stuck in painful emotions. Horses force you to "be in the moment" as they don't live in the past or worry about the future. They are big and powerful so you must learn how to set healthy boundaries with them and be a leader. Horses are herd animals and their existence depends on being in relationships, this was one of my major lessons from them, how to move back into healthy relationships with others. They are extremely sensitive and completely forgiving and were more compassionate friends than many of the people I knew. Horses literally saved my life, for without them, I'm not sure I would have survived the trauma of my divorce.

There were many ups and downs during those years but my horses continued to teach me so many things about myself that helped me grow spiritually and kept me moving forward. Years ago my wounded Soul could never have imagined that today I'd have my own travel  business that has taken me to so many magical and mystical places in the world! 

Horses are still a part of the magic in my life whether it's riding Arabian horses around the pyramids in Egypt or Paso Fino horses in Peru. But I've never ridden horses in Big Sky Country Montana so that's my next adventure. 

This July 7 – 14, 2012 I’ll be escorting a group on a trip to The Blacktail Ranch in Wolf Creek, Montana for a week of outdoor adventure and personal retreat. As The Blacktail is a working cattle ranch, that means lots of horses and this prompted me to sit and reflect about all of my years working with horses. 

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

'Shahs of Sunset' stirs concerns among Iranian Americans

On Sunday March 11, Bravo Channel will air a new controversial reality show produced by Ryan Seacrest.  Here is  a review of the show by Martha Groves, an LA Times columnist.

Golnesa Gharachedaghi talks like a real soon-to-be housewife of Beverly Hills.

The 30-year-old self-proclaimed Persian princess, who doesn't shy away from confrontation or dropping expletives, explains her simple tastes. "There are two things I don't like. I don't like ants, and I don't like ugly people."

Another time, the young woman who says she is eager to settle down offers a guiding principle of her active night life: "Looking good, and not repeating outfits, is imperative."

At a time when U.S. and Iran are heading for a showdown over a suspected nuclear weapons program, Bravo and Ryan Seacrest are introducing America to a Southern Californian slice of Persian culture in its "Shahs of Sunset," which begins a six-episode run Sunday. Set in "Tehrangeles," as the Westside enclave of Persian Americans is known, the reality show is centered on Gharachedaghi and five other Persian Americans who are shown tottering on red-soled Louboutins, wheeling Chihuahuas in a baby stroller to a doggie day-care spa and sweeping through Beverly Hills finest boutiques with abandon and delight.

These days there may be nothing more American than starring in a reality program, where outrageous and eccentric behaviors are played up for maximum ratings potential. But some Persian Americans are worried the program may promote an unwelcome image at a particularly tense historical moment.

"My reaction?" said Firoozeh Dumas, author of "Funny in Farsi." "Dear God, Noooo! I never thought Iranian Americans could get any press worse than what is on the news every night. But now, Americans have a chance to see a slice of materialistic, shallow and downright embarrassing Iranian culture. I just want to shout, 'We are not all like that!'"

With previews available on Bravo's website, the series is already being called the West Coast version of "Jersey Shore," MTV's ribald hit reality series about a group of hard-partying young Italian Americans that drew complaints from the ethnic community. There are an estimated 463,000 Persian Americans in the United States, just under half of whom live in California, and many of whom still have deep ties to their mother country.

Some Persian Americans, like Jimmy Delshad, who twice served as mayor of Beverly Hills, fear "Shahs of Sunset" will give a poor first impression of his community, which has worked hard to build a professional class of doctors, lawyers and business executives in America. The technology entrepreneur said he received death threats when he first ran for Beverly Hills City Council in 2003.

Delshad added he's "afraid this program will … take us back and make us look like undesirable people."

If the reality show is poorly received, it could be a step backward culturally just as wider recognition in the United States was finally being achieved by the community. Last month, the acclaimed Iranian film "A Separation" won an Academy Award for foreign-language film. On its surface, the drama is about a divorcing couple, but many saw it as an allegory for Iranian politics and society.

But Seacrest, the producer of the blockbuster Kardashian family reality-show franchise, and executives at Bravo, which airs "The Real Housewives" series, contend such fears are grossly overblown. One of Hollywood's busier personalities, the morning radio and TV host of "American Idol" dismissed the notion the series would cast the community in a bad light.

"This is meant to be entertaining and fun," said Seacrest. "It's escapism."

Reza Aslan, the Iranian-born author of "No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam," agreed: "It's a silly reality show.... Only the most moronic viewers would watch 'Shahs of Sunset' and extract an opinion about Iranians and Iran."

The first episode introduces the cast, most of whom went to Beverly Hills High School, and their flashy cars, trendy wardrobes and oversize Gucci, Prada and Tom Ford sunglasses. Four sell real estate; one is an artist-musician. Two have been best buddies for years.

"I gave her her first Chanel bag," Reza Farahan said of his friend Mercedes "MJ" Javid.

The six cast members include Muslims and Jews, some practicing, some not. As with other reality shows, the tone is decidedly over the top, with abundant brashness and bling, vulgarity and vanity.

"We don't work in buildings," said Mike Shouhed, a chiseled commercial real estate agent who returned to L.A. after losing his shirt in Las Vegas. "We own them."

All say they value friends and family, especially parents and grandparents who in many cases sacrificed everything to come to America. Typically, their family or individual wealth comes from retailing or real estate.

On a recent real-world shopping excursion in West Hollywood, cast members revealed a more reflective side. They say they appreciate America's tolerance and diversity.

"I'm Muslim by the laws," said Gharachedaghi who was raised by a Muslim family but attended Jewish day care, Catholic preschool and Loyola Marymount University. "But my religion is life."

Farahan's Jewish father and Muslim mother "had to cross mountains to marry," he said. When he told his mother that he was gay, he said, "for two minutes she was hysterical." Then she said she would stand beside him until the day she died.

"My mom offered me 500 grand to get married," added Tehran-born Farahan, one of the Persian community's few openly gay men. Back in the "old country," as he calls Iran, the government is thought to have executed many homosexuals.

He proudly described his ensemble: new Gucci loafers, pink Ralph Lauren socks, Gucci belt and Zegna pants and pink shirt, along with gold Rolex watch, Allah necklace and Cartier gold-and-diamond ring — and he professed to be "in heaven" while checking out the dazzling gems at Neil Lane Jewelry on La Cienega Boulevard.

Frances Berwick, president of Bravo and Style Media, said the cast members represent what Bravo deems "affluencers" — 30-something, upscale, highly educated and influential. "They lead a very aspirational lifestyle," she said. "They are high achievers, with layers that are complex and interesting, and we love the dynamics with their families."

Being overly concerned with the reaction of the Persian American community to the program may miss a larger point, said Mitra Ahouraian, an entertainment attorney who knows some of the cast.

"I have very mixed feelings about the show," she said. "On the one hand, the trailer is scary. On the other, you know you've arrived as a minority community when there's a reality show about you. We're now recognized enough to be made fun of."

Thursday, 1 March 2012

About Tabriz – A city in northwestern region of Iran.

Tabriz,  a city from where my mom comes.
Shah-Goli Promenade area
Tabriz stands along important crossroads of ancient cultures.  Since its first mention in history – back in the 7th century BC –  Tabriz has experienced many cycles of decay and rebirth. At times it has been the capital of Persia, and at other times a major city in the landscape of history.      

David Rohl, in his book Legend: The Genesis of Civilisation, indicates that Tabriz stands where the Garden of Eden was situated. He also mentions that during the 3rd century, Tabriz, then called Tauris, was the capital of Armenia.   

My mother and her family were from Tabriz. In 1930s, during the years my mother was growing up, there were around 30,000 Armenians living there.  Most of these Armenians were descendants of skilled artisans and their families uprooted in the early 1600s from their homes in Armenia and relocated to Isfahan, a city in the South of Iran, by King Shah-Abbas.  

From the early 19th century to the early 20th Century, Tabriz was a destination city to experience Western lifestyle, avant-garde trends, and the latest in arts from music to literature. My mother tells me that Tabriz had retail stores stocked with imported luxury items from fine fabrics to china and toys. 

The wealthy Armenians of Tabriz managed their community. They underwrote the costs for operating the schools and churches.  No child was left behind for lack of money.  I have heard stories about poor kids who could not afford school supplies and had holes in their shoes, but still attended an Armenian school.  

According to Webster, microcosm means "universe in miniature."  In the early 20th Century, the Tabriz my mother knew and where she was growing up was truly a "universe in miniature."  The many ethnic and religious minorities in the city created a rich and diverse culture. In 1934, Germans built the imposing City Hall with a middle turret, very similar to American city halls built in that same era.  American missionaries had built the Memorial school and a hospital.  French-Catholics had their own church and school, where students were exposed to the French language.

Armenians have been a big part of Tabriz’s modernization effort.  The reason is obvious.  Armenians were Christians, thus their lifestyle was closer to Europeans and especially to Russians.  Well-to-do families sent their kids to Europe or Russia to learn a trade or just get educated.  In Iran, Armenians were esteemed highly by Persians.  

Tabriz had two Armenian neighborhoods -- Ghaala and Leelava.  Each neighborhood had its own Armenian elementary school. There was only one Armenian high school for both neighborhoods: Temakan High School. Some Armenian students also attended the American Memorial school.

Ghaala, which was a more prestigious (wealthy) neighborhood, boasted an old Armenian school built in 1836.  The name of the school was Aramyan.  In 1936, when my grandfather was its headmaster, the school celebrated its centennial. To me, the fact that 70 years ago, an Armenian school in Iran celebrated its centennial is very intriguing. It shows how Armenians made huge strides both socially and culturally in Iran. The Aramyan school was famous for two more reasons: one, it had a woman teacher, even before my grandparents' time, and two, its concert hall, with stalls very similar to a mini opera house. 

I have learned most of these facts about Tabriz from stories my mother has told me.  In 1963, we took a family trip to Tabriz and had the opportunity to visit many places mom had mentioned.  We went to Glolestan gardens, and to the historic Ark which is an impressive remainder of a huge citadel built in the early 14th century. We also visited Shah-Goli, which features a promenade around a huge man-made lake and a restaurant in the middle of the lake.

On March 10, "Jan Tavriz," a nonprofit organization, has put together a banquet where you can witness the history of the city through the display of pictures that the committee has gathered from different sources. The group strives to preserve Armenian heritage in Tabriz and in the Northwestern region of Iran known as the province of Azerbaijan. This will be their 7th annual dinner and banquet.

A historical landmark in Tabriz: Arke-Tabriz is a remainder of a citadel built in 14th century.