Sunday, May 28, 2006

LA Times Story

Hi all, Salaam!

Many of you found this site through the recent LA Times story--thanks for stopping in.

For other friends and family, the story is linked here:,1,2465412,full.story

Not bad overall, though there are a few minor points of error, mostly personal/date facts, but really just fine points that can't always come out in a single article. But we hope it gives Americans a bit more insight into the reality of life in Iran, its people, and culture.

Some of those things...

It wasn't quite so much a notion of religious calling that took me to Iran. Yes, that was there, but the real reason was for my studies. Even were I to become a non-Muslim, I would still return to Iran over the years for my work--it's that important. My own journey was there too, and was significant, but was not the primary reason I came.

I don't have a beard anymore! :)

I consider myself really a convert to Islam, rather than to Shii Islam specifically. I think those designations and divisions are really not important, and don't matter much after a specific stage of understanding. Though in general I like the way the Shii law and methodology has developed better and I am more persuaded by the view of history, succession of the Prophet, etc. as presented by Shiis (though much of these views were also held and advocated by the great Sunni scholars--see Mottahadeh's book on how 3 of the 4 founders of the still-extant Sunni legal schools were all supporters of Ali's political claims, at least).

My time in the LA punk scene was more early to mid 1980's, not late 1980's. By the time Eazy E, NWA, Ice T, BDP, and Public Enemy were releasing music, I was already into the rap scene. And "pre-Eminem" meant, white suburban kids in low riders and bass before Em was making music. I don't remember saying "rebellion for rebellion's sake", especially since the punk scene was especially crucial in shaping my ethical and moral attitudes, but maybe I meant cruising, drinking lots of alcohol, and not caring about school was some sort of wayward, futile rebellion.

An Arabic linguist mostly fixing hummers in Camp LeJeune? Sadly, that's true! Not the best use of all those hours of study...

Yes, I used some GI Bill $$ to fund my pricey private university, but it was nowhere near enough and the good old U of R basically reduced my other grants when they found out I got the GI Bill (and wouldn't promise to restore them if I saved my GI Bill for later) and that's a grudge I still carry today. Hope that explains why I never send alumni contributions!

Though Johnston was the best place to get an undergraduate and life education and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Yes, my wife is chatty, though we're not quite sure what secular means in this sense. But Borzou is incisive, so he was probably on to something there!

My parents don't quite live/work where it says they do, but it's close enough.

Our BBC Prime doesn't work any more. But that's ok, Eastenders is no fun without Sara here anyway.

Sara taught Ayatollah Ardebeli's family more than Ayat. Sistani's, but because they're interrelated and because most people reading that article don't know Ardebeli but do know Sistani, it got reported that way. She also taught a family member of Mujtaba Lari, the famous contemporary Shii author. A lot of folks in these power circles know one another.

The blog post where Sara said to the shopkeeper that it's the American government that's bad was just her literal translation of the simple Persian sentence she was able to construct. We both love America, our Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc. But like around 60% of our fellow Americans, we are not huge fans of our current government. But hey, that's democracy!

I'm not really that turned off with the government's mixing of politics and religion--that is in some way the people here have agreed to conduct their affairs and that's their right. Again, there is a spectrum here of ideas about politics and religion in Iran and I prefer to observe that rather than give any prescriptions about it.

However, I was annoyed that the government would use a religious site that is the property of all Muslims to promote it's own, national agenda. We had a worse experience praying at Imam Reza's shrine in Mashhad, where after the prayer, the young man led (some) of the people through a standardized semi-religious, semi-political "prayer" including some political statements that don't apply to non-Iranian Muslims. Quite annoying.

And the thing about materialism meant, as I said in the last post's comments, that the question is attached to the assumption that since we are Americans, we have lots of money. Of course, we have so much school debt that I blush to mention it here. Suffice it to say, we are accepting donations...

I think that covers it.

We're happy to take any more questions and comments--post away!


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sad, Bittersweet, Sweet

Hi All,

There's a bit of all of the above to go around. Sara and I are back from our trip around Iran, after much hassle, never-ending visa problems (ok, it finally ended), and other assorted pains in the neck. But really, I'm the only one back in Qom, as my lovely wife has already left for much greener pastures as she gets ready to start her pre-medical, post-baccalaurate program in just a few days. But I'm not Paki-less! My friend and fellow PhD student from UVa, Rizwan, is in Qom for the summer, trying to learn some Persian and setting things up for his anticipated dissertation research here in a year or so.

Since Sara always gets on the blog and blabbers about her family, I thought I'd do a little bit myself...

First, the sad. My cousin Anthony passed away much too young. You can take a look at the great web site his brothers Chris and Jeff made here:

Next, the bittersweet. My "uncle" (great-uncle) Bill Taylor also passed away recently. He and Aunt Peg always sent me birthday cards when I was a kid, even though I always thought "who are these people again?" As time went on, I got to spend more time with them as they left Montana for California to visit family more often--or perhaps I was just around more often? You can read his death notice here:

Finally, the sweet. Watch the Goldstein/Sims clan (Uncle Alan and cousins Karyn and Ben) of Santa Cruz get medieval with a Crossfit "Workout of the Day": . Better them than me.