Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cosmopolitan Cobra

Apparently, this adventurous cobra has been found chilling in a corner of the Reptile House in the Bronx Zoo. But, by the tweets that the BronxZoosCobra posted on its Twitter, it sounds like the snake had a good time out on the town.

Some of the BronxZoosCobra's highlights are as followsss:
Does anyone know if the Whole Foods in Columbus Circle sells organic mice?

"Indiana Jones, why did it have to be Indiana Jones?"

"Give me your tired, your poor/Your coiled masses yearning to breathe free" Powerful words at the Statue of Liberty. #snakeonthetown

Getting my morning coffee at the Mudtruck. Don't even talk to me until I've had my morning coffee. Seriously, don't. I'm venomous.

City may not sleep, but I'm ready to. Ooh a chimney! I bet you bragged to your friends about having a working fireplace in NYC. Hi roomie.

Not a fan of G.I. Joe.

Anyone know of a good vegan restaurant near Union Square? #snakeonthetown
This was totally worth an entire blogpost.

Noruz and Early Spring in the District

In the weeks since I last wrote, lots has been happening. On the work side, we were extremely busy with nationwide community service projects and hosting large conference featuring some pretty influential speakers. We are now gearing up for more events, and I am busy as ever writing articles, figuring out placement for the summer, as well as housing for the summer and fall. Through friends, I started taking a small, conversation-based Farsi class. It is really good to be practicing speaking again, as I haven't had much of an opportunity since graduating in December. The class moves quickly, and it's pretty impressive how good some of the American students are with the language.

Noruz, Persian New Year celebrated on the vernal equinox annually, was on March 20th this year. It is now the year 1390. Part of Noruz traditions involves gathering with family to celebrate, but this year, since I am on the coast, my family was fortunate enough to visit me. We spent the time going to several DC attractions including the Air & Space Museum, American Indian Museum, Botanical Gardens, Library of Congress, and the Vietnam, World War II and Lincoln memorials. We
also visited the Shahnameh exhibit at the Sackler Gallery, Moby Dick House of Kabob, and Maz Jobrani’s comedy show, to add a Persian flare to the DC experience. The Sackler also had a Noruz special for the community where I had the chance to play some backgammon.
Listen to Maz Jobrani on NPR:
For Noruz, we went back to Kabob Bazaar in Arlington for their special buffet of traditional foods and all the rice one could ever eat. It was amazing, to say the least. After dropping my family off at the airport, I spent the rest of that day walking around Georgetown.
Since everything closes early in DC, if I am looking for something cheap to do afterward, I usually head over to the local Barnes and Noble bookstore. I finished To Kill a Mockingbird, a book that I had always wanted to read but had not yet done so until now. I have moved onto a book called The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. After only the first chapter, I am hooked.
The weather has started to get warmer and cherry blossoms and magnolia trees are flowering everywhere. The Cherry Blossom Festival will begin in April, and I have some friends coming into DC just to see it. The waterfront area of the southwest side is also very pleasant to walk around, and I wandered there this past weekend. In exploring the area along the river, I saw a random sign for a Titanic memorial. After following the sidewalk along the marina, I found it. It's nice to know that Washington, DC decided to immortalize Leonardo DiCaprio in a monument somewhere. And I think I found the place to throw my sabzi into the river on Sizdah Bedar...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book List

I have been keeping lists of books to read and to buy in so many different places, that I figured I ought to consolidate all such lists here. As you can see, I keep finding interesting books faster than I can read. If you have any recommendations that I should add to my list, please post them in the comments section below!

Books to Buy
  1. ANYTHING ever written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  2. ANYTHING ever written by Richard Wright
  3. The Little Prince in every language that I can read (so I just need it in Farsi now)
  4. Shahnameh by Ferdosi (in English, Farsi, and Comic Book)
  5. Orientalism by Edward Said
  6. Imperial Eyes: Studies in Travel Writing and Transculturation by Mary Louise Pratt
  7. Power Plays Power Works by John Fiske
  8. Out of Place: a Memoir by Edward Said
  9. Power, Politics, and Culture by Edward Said
  10. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson
  11. Of Cigarettes, High Heels, and Other Interesting Things by Marcel Danesi
  12. Modern Iranian Political Thought by Nikki Keddi
  13. The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  14. Iran's Intellectual Revolution by Mehran Kamrava

Books to Read
  1. The Sonderberg Case by Elie Wiesel
  2. The False Friend by Myla Goldberg
  3. The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
  4. The Califs of Baghdad, Georgia by Mary Helen Stefaniar
  5. Saving Max by Antionette van Heugten
  6. Luka and the Fire of Life ­by Salman Rushdie
  7. The Hawk and the Dove by Nicholas Thompson
  8. Offside by Manuel Vazquez Montalban
  9. In the Land of Ayatollahs, Tupac Shakur is King by Shahzad Aziz
  10. Knock ‘em Stiff by Donald Ray Pollock
  11. Crooked Little View by Warren Ellis
  12. Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
  13. Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward
  14. The Wackness by Dale C. Phillips
  15. Lowboy by John Wray
  16. Lottery by Patricia Wood
  17. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
  18. The Dictator's Seduction: Politics and Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo by Lauren Derby
  19. The Caliphs of Baghdad, Georgia – Mary Helen Stefaniak
  20. Vonnegut Novels and Short Stories 1953-1971 – Kurt Vonnegut
  21. Destiny Disrupted – Tamim Ansary
  22. Decent into Chaos – Ahmen Rashid
  23. I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced – Nujood Ali
  24. Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger
  25. What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures – Malcolm Gladwell
  26. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People – Farahad Zama
  27. Conversation in the Cathedral – Mario Vargas Llosa
  28. Drown – Junot Diaz
  29. Manhunt the 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer – James L. Swanson
  30. Trickster: Native American Tales, a Graphic Collection
  31. A Woman Among Warlords – Malalai Joya
  32. A People’s History of American Empire – Howard Zinn
  33. Footnotes in Gaza – Joe Sacco
  34. Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports – Dave Zirin
  35. Rap The Anthology – edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew DuBois
  36. Hip Hop Underground – Anthony Harrison
  37. How the Irish Saved Civilization – Thomas Cahill
  38. Soccernomics – Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski
  39. The Black Swan – Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  40. 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (and Other Useful Guides)
  41. The Song of Kahunsha – Anosh Irani
  42. Cinemas of the Other: a personal journey with film-makers from the Middle East and Central Asia – Gonul Donmez-Colin
  43. The Mitsitam Café Cookbook – Richard Hetzler
  44. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
  45. The Line – Olga Grushin
  46. The Angel’s Game – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  47. Unaccustomed Earth – Jhumpa Lahiri
  48. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
  49. Netherland – Joseph O’Neill
  50. Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde
  51. The Drinker – Hans Fallada
  52. Little Man, What Now? – Hans Fallada
  53. Every Man Dies Alone – Hans Fallada
  54. Wolf Among Wolves – Hans Fallada
  55. Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, & Lebanon – Claudia Roden
  56. Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen – Jose Andres with Richard Wolffe
  57. A Quiet Revolution: the Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America – Leila Ahmed
  58. What is the What – Dave Eggers
  59. In Other Rooms, Other Wonders – Daniyal Mueenuddin
  60. The Elephant’s Journey – Jose Saramago
  61. Shah of Shahs - Ryszard Kapuscinski
  62. A Single Roll of the Dice - Trita Parsi
  63. Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia - Robert Lacey
  64. Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future - Stephen Kinzer
  65. Open City - Teju Cole
  66. The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics - Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Film Festival Finales

Last week was the end of two film festivals in DC that I have been attending and blogging about. On Thursday, February 24, the North African Film Festival series came to an end and saved its best (and most timely film) for the night: Rachid Bouchareb’s masterpiece Outside the Law. In French and Arabic, it is a fantastically done film about three [fictional] Algerian brothers and their involvement in the Algerian independence movement both in Algeria and in France. A good film by any standard, it was nominated for the Acadamy Award for Best Foreign Language film this year. Although the discussion following the film was not as good as previous events, the film was one of the best that I have seen recently, and I would highly recommend it.
On Sunday, the Sackler-Freer galleries concluded their 2011 Iranian film festival with three documentaries played consecutively. The first, All Restrictions End, is an unconventional examination of the intersections between fashion and history. Although well done and examining history dating back to the Qajar dynasty, I felt as though the viewer needed a more advanced understanding of Persian literary construction and cultural base that I just didn’t have to really appreciate the film. The second film was We are Half of Iran’s Population, a film featuring several Iranian women’s rights activists filming their questions to the 2009 Iranian presidential candidates and then having three of the candidates watch and respond to them. The film was interesting, as were the reactions of the candidates present. The final film, Pearls on the Ocean Floor, is directed by an American and features Iranian female artists both in Iran and in the global diaspora. Each artist had a unique perspective on what it means to be an Iranian woman, especially one’s placement in the diaspora and connection to Iran.

After viewing all three documentaries, I joined family and friends at a Mexican-Cuban restaurant in the Eastern Market neighborhood called Banana Café. The food was excellent and the portions were large. Dinner also included unlimited tortilla chips and salsa, so no complaints there. It’s not too far from where I currently live so I will definitely have to return.
March will be a busy month, both at work and with all of the local DC events. I can’t believe I am already entering my second month in the city. Between projects at work, community service events, and Noruz (Persian New Year) festivities, the month is sure to pass quickly.

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