Forever Under Construction

Le Turban Et La Rose

Posted in Books, Iran by homeyra on May 22, 2008

That’s what I am reading now. I can’t but observe the observer:
François Nicoullaud, the former French Ambassador in Tehran, combines originality, humor and erudition.

More on this book later.

François Nicoullaud blogs at à contre-courants


The Shape of The Beast

Posted in Books by homeyra on April 27, 2008

Arundhati Roy has released a new book. Read more
Here is a review and a link to an interview with the author, and another interesting review at Small Talk.

From Confronting empire: Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Previous post: Small Things

Connected, Always

Posted in Books, Iran, Literature, Poetry by homeyra on February 11, 2008

I used to have a record of Shamloo reading a selection of Rumi ‘s poetry including the following. The Persian text is mesmerizing. I hope someone will put it on the web.

I am tired of my feeble companions.
The lion of God, the heroic Rustam, is what I desire.

Bankrupt as I am, I still won’t accept cheap flowers.
A mine of precious stones is what I desire.

Weary of these weary people, I am weeping.
The shouting and jumping of drunkards is what I desire.

Pharaoh in his tyranny fatigues my soul.
The light of Moses of Imran is what I desire.

“We have searched,” they said.” It cannot be found.”
That which cannot be found is what I desire.

All things come from Him, yet He remains hidden.
The hidden whose works are manifest is what I desire.

From Richard Jeffrey Newman‘s blog:


A Bird In The Garden Of Angels is out!

If you’re a fan of Rumi, this new anthology, on the poetry sections of which I collaborated with primary author John Moyne, is one you will want to get. A Bird In The Garden Of Angels is also a wonderful introduction to Rumi for those new to his work, or those who may know of him but don’t know much about him.” … read more

Sample poems

Previous post: It is all connected


Posted in Books, WWII by homeyra on January 27, 2008

Not So Rare Americans

Posted in Americans, Books, Iran, USA by homeyra on January 25, 2008

Brian H. Appleton, aka Rasool Aryadust, was kind enough to drop by and to let me in on his new website about his forthcoming book: The Tales from the Zirzameen“.

He says that it is “guaranteed to make you feel good about being Persian“! Thanks Brian 🙂

You can pre-order the book here
Brian’s letter and a brief chapter outline

Previous post: Old Times


See also

Professor Richard Nelson Frye has asked in his will to be buried in Iran

Rare American in Iran recalls her 50 years there
International Herald Tribune

An “Honorary Iranian“: Helen Rastovac in Berkely
thanks Bijan 🙂

Planet of Slums

Posted in Architecture, Books, Society, Urbanism by homeyra on November 18, 2007

Planet of Slums
Mike Davis

Excerpt from The Guardian, Shantytown Apocalypse:

“[…] The majority of the world’s population live in poverty, oppressed, dispossessed and starving. But you knew that already. The great interest – indeed the morbid fascination – of Davis’s book is that it seeks to identify exactly how and why the majority of the world’s population is currently living in poverty, oppressed, dispossessed and starving; the poor may always be with us, but times change. […]

“For the first time the urban population of the earth will outnumber the rural”; there will soon be more people living in cities than in the country.

And this is bad news, because the cities that Davis examines and describes are not the rich, vibrant cultural centres beloved of Sunday-supplement dandies and middle-class flâneurs, but vast “peri-urban” developments, horizontal spreads of unplanned squats and shantytowns, unsightly dumps of humans and waste, where child labour is the norm, child prostitution is commonplace, gangs and paramilitaries rule and there is no access to clean water or sanitation, let alone to education or democratic institutions. […] He estimates that there are already some 200,000 such slums worldwide and argues that the slum is becoming the blueprint for cities of the future, which, “rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood.”

According to Davis, this is largely due to the “neoliberal restructuring of Third World urban economies that has occurred since the late 1970s” – which is to say it’s the fault of the World Bank and IMF, and also “middle-class hegemony”, “petty landlordism”, “soft imperialism”, “elite homeowners” and NGOs which, he claims, are “captive to the agenda of the international donors, and grassroots groups similarly dependent upon the international NGOs”.

[…] Davis is the author of a number of strange and brilliant books about cities and their discontents, most notably a great, surging trilogy of books about Los Angeles – City of Quartz (1990), Ecology of Fear (1998) and Magical Urbanism (2001) […]” Read the article


Eurozine has published a series of very interesting articles named The city as stage for social upheaval. Highly recommended


Posted in Books, Scooter, Travel by homeyra on November 12, 2007


In 1956 Michael Marriott and his wife Nita rode a scooter from the UK to outback Australia. The story of their adventure was captured in the book “Two Up” By Scooter to Australia, published in 1969.

Michael Marriott is posting the original text in a blog: “Two Up” By Scooter to Australia.

Presently at chapter six: Tabriz, Tehran, you can read about Michael’s experience and impressions in these two cities during the 50’s.

Relevant post: Cuts & pastes

Honourable East India Company

Posted in Books, History, India by homeyra on October 26, 2007

Corporatism, private army, drugs … does it sound familiar?


The corporation that changed the world
How the East India Company shaped the Modern multinational
Nick Robins

It all started with a walk. Back in 2000, […] I decided one lunch-break to walk to the site of the East India Company’s headquarters. I was in for a surprise. When I reached the corner of Leadenhall and Lime Street where East India House had stood for over 200 years, there was nothing – no sign, no plaque, nothing to mark the fact that this was the location where the world’s most powerful corporation had once been based. In a country that is drenched in the culture of heritage, this absence puzzled me: why had this historic company been so completely erased from the face of London?… read more in “In My Own Words: The global legacy of the East India Company“, Nick Robins


East India House, in the early 19th century

Excerpt from The world’s first multinational, Nick Robins, New Statesman:

[…] Nehru described the effect of the East India Company on the country he would shortly rule. “The corruption, venality, nepotism, violence and greed of money of these early generations of British rule in India,is something which passes comprehension.” It was, he added, “significant that one of the Hindustani words which has become part of the English language is ‘loot'”.

[…] the onset of globalisation has revived interest in a company that could be seen as a pioneering force for world trade. […] Its founders are now hailed as swashbuckling adventurers, its operations praised for pioneering the birth of modern consumerism […]

Yet the East India Company, romantic as it may seem, has more profound and disturbing lessons to teach us. Abuse of market power; corporate greed; judicial impunity; the “irrational exuberance” of the financial markets; and the destruction of traditional economies […]


In The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith used the East India Company as a case study to show how monopoly capitalism undermines both liberty and justice, and how the management of shareholder-controlled corporations invariably ends in “negligence, profusion and malversation“. Yet nothing of Smith‘s scepticism […] enters the speeches of today’s free-market advocates.

Smith‘s vision of free trade entailed firm controls on corporate power. And, as did his own times, subsequent history shows how right he was. If it is to contribute to economic progress, the corporation’s market power has to be limited to allow real choice, and to prevent suppliers being squeezed and consumers gouged. Its political power also needs to be constrained, if it is not to rig the rules of regulation so that it enjoys unjustified public subsidy or protection. Internal and external checks and balances must curb the tendency of executives to become corporate emperors. And clear and enforceable systems of justice are necessary to hold the corporation to account for any damage to society and the environment. […]

Today, we can see the East India Company as the first “imperial corporation”, the very design of which drove it to market domination, speculative excess and the evasion of justice. Like the modern multinational, it was eager to avoid the mere interplay of supply and demand. […] it also wanted to control the sources of supply by breaking the power of local rulers in India and eliminating competition so that it could force down its purchase prices.

By controlling both ends of the chain, the company could buy cheap and sell dear. This meant organising coups against local rulers and placing puppets on the throne. […] Combining economic muscle with extensive bribery and the deployment of its small but effective private army, the company engineered a series of “revolutions” that gave it territorial as well as economic control.

[…] in 1757, the company literally looted Bengal’s treasury. It loaded the country’s gold and silver on to a fleet of more than a hundred boats and sent it downriver to Calcutta. […]

It was the unrivalled quality and cheapness of textiles that had lured the East India Company to Bengal, and it would be Bengal’s weavers who felt the full force of the company’s new-found market power. Never rich, the weavers nevertheless had a better standard of living than their counterparts in 18th-century England. […] the East India Company eliminated the weavers’ freedom to sell to other merchants, and so crushed their limited but important market autonomy. […]

[…] the East India Company also engineered its own stock-market boom, ending in a share-price slump that rocked the world. […]

Yet the human tragedy was just beginning. In Bengal, the annual monsoon rains had failed. But what turned a manageable natural disaster into a catastrophe was the manipulation of local grain markets by East India speculators […]. Estimates vary, but up to ten million people may have died of starvation. When the full story became known in Britain, there was fury at the firm’s negligence. […] “We have murdered, deposed, plundered, usurped – nay, what think you of the famine in Bengal, in which millions perished, being caused by a monopoly of provisions by the servants of the East Indies.”

[…] “Every rupee of profit made by an Englishman is lost for ever to India,” (Edmund Burke ) a judgement that would probably be echoed today by millions of people working at the wrong end of the multinational bargain.

All the tools with which we are now familiar were deployed to tame the firm: codes of conduct for company executives, rules on shareholder abuse, government regulation, and ultimately, as with so many failed firms, nationalisation.

Government intervention over a hundred years transformed the company from a purely commercial institution to an agent of the British state. […] Direct control of the company’s territories passed to the crown, and the British Raj was born.

Yet in spite of all the parliamentary inquiries and waves of regulation, few of the company’s executives were ever brought to book. […] the parliament then turned its attention to Warren Hastings, governor-general of Bengal, voting twice to recall him for mismanagement. Both times this was rebuffed by the company’s shareholders and, as a last resort, and at Burke’s instigation, the medieval practice of impeachment was revived and used against him. Among the charges was that Hastings had introduced a company monopoly over the production of opium […] Hastings was also the first to seek deliberately to break China’s ban on the importation of opium. […]

[…] Hastings was acquitted of all charges […]

[…] In 1774, a group of Armenian merchants launched a civil case for damages against Hastings‘s predecessor, Harry Verelst. […] the merchants alleged that Verelst had arbitrarily locked them up in Bengal six years earlier, confiscating their property and removing their freedom to trade. […] in December 1774, the Lord Chief Justice decided in favour of the Armenians, judging that Verelst had been guilty of “oppression, false imprisonment and singular depredations”. […]

Many in business regard the current upsurge of global litigation against corporations such as Talisman, Unocal and Shell as somehow new and unjustified. Yet Verelst‘s case provides a powerful precedent, demonstrating that more than 200 years ago, a senior executive of the world’s first multinational was tried and found guilty of what we would now consider human rights abuses.

clove.jpg[…] (today) Robert Clive‘s (statue stands outside the Foreign Office in Whitehall). That such a rogue still has pride of place at the heart of government suggests that Britain has not yet confronted the connections between its corporate and imperial pasts. This is not mere forgetfulness, but the mark of a continued belief that the unrestrained pursuit of market power and personal reward is to be praised at the highest levels. In India, the East India Company‘s mismanagement remains part of the national consciousness; here, knowledge of the company’s corruption and abuse is almost entirely lacking. We still do not recognise the “imperial gene” that remains at the heart of modern corporate design.

Perhaps Nehru can help us. In The Discovery of India, he examined the consequences of England’s long domination of India in terms of karma, the spiritual law of cause and effect. “Entangled in its meshes,” he wrote, “we have thus struggled in vain to rid ourselves of this past inheritance and start afresh on a different basis.” Independence was a necessary starting point for India, wrote Nehru, but Britain, too, needed to “start afresh“. […] we do not need further glorification of the East India Company‘s contribution to consumerism or of the celebrity of its executives. We need an honest reckoning with the human costs of its quest for market domination. Read the article

Nick Robins’ articles in Open Democracy and New Statesman
Book review by Satya Sagar
Book review, The Hindu Business Line
Lesson of Empire: India 60 years after independence, Nick Robins and Patrap Chatterjee
Opium in global mercantilism

Hard Rain

Posted in Books, Environment, Music by homeyra on October 25, 2007

… our headlong collision with nature

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein, quotes


Mark Edwards & Lloyd Timberlake

“July, 1969. Mark Edwards, lost on the edge of the Sahara, is rescued by a Tuareg nomad, who takes him to his people, makes a fire and produces a cassette player. Bob Dylan sings “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. As Dylan piles image upon image, the idea comes to Edwards of illustrating each line of the song. In the years that follow, he travels to over 150 countries to photograph our headlong collision with nature. Hard Rain is the result …” read more
Sample pages

Link via Rob Edwards
Review at Sunday Herald

From the Slave Trade to “Free” Trade

Posted in Africa, Books, Free trade by homeyra on October 22, 2007


By Patrick Burnett & Firoze Manji
buy or download

“Can trade in the era of globalisation be ‘fair’ or ‘just’?

Drawing on lessons from the slave trade and studies of the international finance institutions, these essays provide insights into how free trade policies have a profoundly negative impact on the rights of communities, environmental sustainability and the development of democracy in Africa.”

More in this review by Philio Ngujiri

Patrick Burnett is a contributing editor of Pambazuka News and runs Fahamu’s Cape Town office.

Firoze Manji is the director of Fahamu and editor of Pambazuka News. He has more than 30 years of experience in international development, health and human rights. He is a member of the editorial board of Development in Practice.

The Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics

Update: The Myth of Free Trade


Posted in Books, Cinema, Iran, News, Theatre by homeyra on October 8, 2007

Life goes on in Tehran: a Photoblog, link via AA

The unapolegetic Mexican: Let’s take a walk through Iran

Vivien Feyer and Jeffrey Ritterman: Children of Iran, thanks Ann

Benedictus: An international collaboration among artists from Iran, Israel and the United States, San Francisco, till October 21st

Life and So Much More: Kiarostami at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Oct 12 to 27

Cinema’s twin orphans: Kiarostami and Victor Erice at Centre Pompidou, Paris

Chicago’s 18th Annual Festival of is currenctly screening 14 recent Iranian films.

Night Bus by Kiumars Purahmad is nominated in the Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Modern and contemporary art in Iran

Super East-West woman: Living on the Axis, Fighting Evil Everywhere: Aphrodite Desiree Navab at Rhonda Schaller Studio, NY, Oct 20 Nov 17. About the exhibition

Exhibition in Abu Dhabi: A walk into Islamic history, the private collection of Dr. Abdul Latif Kanoo

Iran discovery

Linux advocacy: Persian Linux


The man who stands between US and new warthanks Ann

Leading Americans Ask U.S. Military to Refuse Orders to Attack Iran: Text of Petition

Spinning the threat of a nuclear war in the ME: Haaretz

Conversation with history: An interview with John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt authors of the Israel lobby and US foreign policy, see also first paper in The London Review of Books

Another World …

Posted in Books, Society, World by homeyra on September 4, 2007

Thanks to Throw Away Your Telescreen here is the Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein addressing the American Sociological Association, in a meeting themed “Is Another World Possible” … an informed and inspiring talk (~36mins) … video here, script and audio here

Do we lack ideas or resources? Are we short of cash or political will? Or do we lack the strength of our convictions? (“Do you want to tackle climat change as much as Dick Cheney wants Kazakestan’s oil, do you?” …) When do elites make justice? Why this idea of our intellectual failure?

Very interesting answers from Klein, the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Desaster Capitalism, a book described by John le Carre as: Impassioned, hugely informative, wonderfully controversial, and scary as hell.

… breaking the charity models … the bold evolution of the market logic and much more.

Watch it here: Is Another World Possible?


Books reviews

and advance praise by Arundhati Roy, Seymour Hersh, Howard Zinn etc.

Naomi Klein’s website

Update: The Shock Doctrine, The Fanonite
Must-read book: The Shock Doctrine, ePluribus Media


It Is All Connected …

Posted in Books, Iran, Literature, Middle East, Persian literature, Poetry by homeyra on July 25, 2007

Selections from Saadi‘s Bustan
Introduction and sample poems

Translated by poet and essayist Richard Jeffrey Newman


Selections from Saadi‘s Gulistan
Introduction and sample poems

Whether you call the literature Iranian or Persian, it deserves and should command your attention, not only because the current political situation between the US and its allies and Iran makes it imperative that people throughout the world (though perhaps especially in the US) understand Iran and Iranians as much as possible, but because it is a worthy literature in its own right, confronting in important and complex ways, from at least the 10th century onward, the questions of identity and meaning that we all wrestle with, no matter what language we speak, where we live now or where we were born.” It Is All Connected



“Gathered together under the title “The Revolution Is What Made This Issue Possible”, the poems, stories and essays in this issue include works written – from outside Iran, inside Iran and the Academy – from the 10th through the 21st centuries …” more

Relevant links:
Richard Jeffrey Newman website and blog
ArteEast: Works of artists from the Middle East and its diaspora
The Translation Project: contemporary Persian literature
Persian Arts Festival, New York City