Simin Behbahani

Simin Behbahani, Iran's national poet, recites two poems about the current protests in Iran.


I was going to live with my brother in Los Angeles. Now I am not. I guess Sogee and I could still do it, but it doesn't look that way. Sogee wants to be alone. She says things like "We'll be okay if it's just me and you." I don't argue with her. We're pretty good when we're alone. Our only fights are about how we don't have as much freedom as we did in Korea, which basically means we had more money and could do more meaningless shit, like going to the movies and buying bad food that can kill you. Now we just go to the park and walk for an hour and a half everyday. We talk, or don't talk at all, and sit next next to each other a lot.

Sometimes I think that we'll get sick of each other and need to go out and be by ourselves, but that doesn't really happen. I usually just keep sitting there, and she keeps sitting there too. It's only when we go to our computers that we're alone.

We spend a lot of time on our computers. I think, maybe, computers are what we have the best relationships with. I don't talk to my computer. Neither does she. We just surf the Internet sitting next to each other. Then, after a while, we'll look at each other, or someone will sigh.

Yesterday I told Sogee I'd like to write another novel when we get to Los Angeles. She didn't seem to object.

The last time I wrote a couple novels the relationship I was in went to shit. I think that was because we didn't have computers.

It might have also had to do with our incompatibility.

Someone just asked me if I am finding peace on IM. When people say things like that, it makes me really confused for a second, because I don't know if I want to throw up or answer. It's like someone's trying real hard to be spiritual or something with me. I am too much of a nice guy not to answer a person though.

I didn't used to be like that. I was much meaner. I would tell people they were "assholes" or make scenes in public places just to see what would happen.

I thought I was being inventive.

I was just young. I almost said an asshole, but I think that goes without saying.

Now I'm still an asshole. I just get to see those moments more privately.

I wonder if there's anything I am afraid of writing or saying. I often get obsessed with that. I think my mind thinks that if I write out my inner thoughts, they won't matter as much to me anymore.

That happens sometimes for me. It's usually with stories though.

In my last post, I wrote about Michael Jackson. It was a memory told about when I was a kid. Now I'm an adult. I don't really care about Michael Jackson. I think I would like to say things about "celebrity" and how people are consumed by Michael Jackson because of their "egoic connection" with him as a representation of themselves in it's most extreme form, but I don't really care enough about that. Actually, let me rephrase that. I don't feel like changing the tone of this writing.

I read an "Invisible Sign of My Own" by Aimee Bender last week. It was a good book. I contacted her to do an interview. If she responds, I would like to ask her questions about teaching writing.

Now I am reading Haruki Murakami's "Sputnik Baby." It is my first time reading a book of his. It feels like reading other books in translation, like Dostoevsky and Tolstoy.

Sometimes I think I read to find something that doesn't exist.

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

I was in K-Mart. There was a steel bin of tapes in awkward, hard plastic sleeves. Thriller was laid out on its side. At first, I thought it was a mistake. The record couldn't just be out there for anyone to get so easily. I grabbed it out of the bin and brought it close to my eyes to make sure there wasn't some strange duping going on.

"What is that?" my dad asked me, suddenly curious as to my interest in music over the Star Wars toy I had left in the bin for the record in my hands.

"It's good," I told him. "I need it! Please!!"

My dad was suspicious. He eyed it for some time. I could see his eyes rest on the $9.99 sticker. I thought for sure it was over. I had to use every ounce of my persuading skills.

"What kind of music is this?" he asked a bit confused by the cover.

"It's the #1 record! Everyone has it!! Trust me!!! There are no cuss words. It just talks about love and peace and there are lots of people who have it--Zhan has it! Other people have it too! I can learn from this record. It can help me."

"How can this music help you?"

"I will study harder with my math. I can listen to the music and do math."

"You cannot mix dancing with the mosque."

"But Dad! It's really good. Can I please I have it? I promise I will be so good. I will score a goal in soccer. I'll do lots of math. I will get an 'A' in math."

"You have to keep studying. Do not mix."

"I won't mix. I just need to listen to it a couple times."

I don't know if there was any time between listening to the record, getting the red jacket with all the zippers, or learning all the dance moves; but there I was in 1983, practicing the Thriller dance in my living room with all the kids in my neighborhood in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. I was in my socks on the hardwood floor, trying to get the right amount of slide in my zombie wiggle. My mom clapped her hands. All I saw and heard was the rhythm. I had to get it right. Just like I saw in the video over at Zhan's house. If I move my hands here on this note, then I have to raise my elbows--now!

I bought every record after Thriller--even Dangerous! I would listen to the songs and memorize the lyrics. If he came on television, I would wait hours for his spot to appear. When I heard that a Bahai friend had a live tape from Germany when I was well into my teens, I still had to have him pull out the tape to get a chance to see him wow the crowd and myself.

"He is so good," I told my friend.

"Yes," my Bahai friend agreed. "He is a great representative of peace."


"Yes, he is helping to spread peace."

I didn't think Michael was a messenger of peace exactly, but after he said that, it began to make more sense. His songs were really positive. It was like watching everything a human being could be with music--the dancing, the melodies, and that voice! I would spend hours trying to sing like the guy. Later, I would hear lilts of Michael on records I made with different music groups. Each time I heard the King of Pop come through in me I would smile. I would remember what a role model he had been for me, how he was more than an icon for a young Iranian immigrant in America, because he represented the power of music on a world scale, crossed every boundary, and could not be categorized. He was everyone and everything. That type of freedom is something I have not seen any artist rival ever. Michael Jackson is truly a legend beyond words.

Latest in Iran's Protests: Mousavi Wins by 65% Claims Famous Iranian Artist & Director

Marjane Satrapi and Mohsen Makmalbof speak out about Iran's elections, providing proof that Mousavi won by 65% of the vote.

Azar Nafisi also speaks about the current political climate.

Is Azar right? Will this be the beginning of change in Iran? Will the regime crumble?

Iran's story is so complicated. On Sunday, I watched a panel of Ivy League professors argue the possibilities on American television. None had a clear perspective because opinions from individuals outside Iran are going to be half-cocked by the very virtue that they can't know because they aren't there (note: the Johns Hopkins scholar on PBS the other day who was convinced his statistics done in Baltimore reflected the entire country's voting preference), are simply clueless or politically motivated (see article for a journalist who says Iran's totalitarian regime is rather flexible ideologically), or simply have a colored perspective from the five different government overhauls the country has seen in the last hundred years.

I mean, that fact alone is astounding when you think of it--five different shifts in government in a hundred years! Let's look at the trail: 1) The Qajar Dynasty--kings and queens that replaced previous kings and queens of the Zand Dynasty--who were then replaced by an ambitious general, 2) Reza Khan, who made himself dictator/king (1925); and who was then overthrown and replaced by his son, 3) Reza Pahlavi (1941), who was put into power with the assistance of Britain and the U.S.S.R after they found his father's relations with Germany during WWII a bit too kind; and then 4) Mohammad Mossadeq's short-lived stint as prime minister (1951-1953) before he tried to nationalize oil and was quickly replaced in a coup sponsored by the United States; and then the rise of the 5) Ayotallah Khomeni after the Iranian Revolution (1979), which has lead the country to its current state of mullah-ruled-plutocracy and unrest because the Iran-Iraq War wiped out the generations that might have supported an Ahmadinejad in the past.

It sounds more like a soap opera than a historical account. It is also a pattern that will not end until Iranians understand that they are being manipulated with religious and political triggers for the sake of money and power. Once Iran's people can see that each shift has occurred because of the politics of oil--and they can forgive the U.S., Britain, and U.S.S.R. for meddling in their affairs for a piece of that pie--they might have a chance in putting a democratic government into place.

With 65% of the country under 30, it's no wonder Iran's citizens want their MTV, Estee Lauder cosmetics, and any other freedom they see on American Idol. Previous party leaders who were against a progressive democratic government are now changing their tunes with the recognition of this new voting force. As Nafisi says in Iranian Writer... by Kathleen McCaul, "...Mousavi [has] taken up the progressive slogans, which he had previously fought against" in the past campaign. Of course, this might dismay those who would hope for Mousavi to head a possible new government. Some might even say that he is a bandwagon turncoat. Others, like my friend, Khosrow, don't believe things are as they seem at all. As he explained to me by e-mail yesterday: "It takes a specific kind of fox to outwit a governmental organization who kills first and asks questions later. Who knows? You might even have to go deep undercover to uncover the dark clouds that hang over Tehran today."

The In's and Out's of Teaching English at a Korean University

One of my friends asked about teaching at a university in Korea. That's when I realized that I have not put my two cents in on the process yet. So here it is. If you have questions or need advice, you are welcome to contact me.

If you have a Master's in an English related field, getting a university job could be an easy process. All you need to do is visit Dave's ESL Cafe and check out JOBS-->Korean Job Board. You can do a "Find" search with the keyword "university" to help you evade the undesirables.

From what I saw when I checked the other day, my first university in Korea, Duksung Women's University, is hiring. That was a nice entrance into Korea in a quiet area of Seoul (Suyu) and near Hwa Gye Sah, a Zen Buddhist temple.

Working at Yonsei University was a very different experience. At Yonsei, there are less hours (12) and more vacation (4-5 months). If you are looking for the ideal situation, I would advise choosing a school that offers under 12 hours, free housing or stipend, and about 2500-3200 won per month. These jobs are sometimes listed on Dave's ESL, but they will be listed on the individual university websites first.

Here are a few schools in Seoul I would recommend:

A university like Duksung, where you teach close to 30 hours a week (even thought they say 16), can be a bit much. It is also a very campy experience. If you want to just enjoy Korea and have an easy experience with free housing, a place like Duksung may be just what the doctor ordered; however, if you want to make this into a new career, I would suggest taking a TESOL training course to fatten your resume, and try your hand at some of the bigger universities.

If you decide to teach outside of Seoul, or at a school that I have not listed, then be sure to do a Google search, and a quick check on the Job Forums for other people's experiences. Some schools are run as businesses (hogwans), and the treatment of teachers is fairly poor. That is why it is a good idea to see if there is any news on the forums; it could save you the effort of submitting an application.

Another thing to consider is the passport photo with your application. You will need a nice, wholesome image of yourself attached to each e-mail or paper application you send out. If you have something that is several years old, you just might want to get some new shots and extras made in case you need them. I would also get 20 or so copies of your transcripts, FBI background check, local Police background check, extra copies of your diplomas, and a notarized form that gives a lawyer or family member you trust at home "power of attorney" to handle any financial or academic issues while you're away (this can save you a 2k trip home).

If I had to do it over again, I would probably go right back to Yonsei University. It was a nice experience with a great support system. Then again, Duksung was nice as well. Different places, but both what the doctor ordered.

I hope this helps. : )

Fame, Money, and Reality: The New Superbowl Shuffle

I read an article in W Magazine about Persians flourishing in Beverly Hills and it made me confused and depressed. It really is a strange immigrant tale - rich Persians escape the grips of the Islamic Revolution to make more money in Los Angeles. Where is the underdog story in this? That they were called "camel jockey", or that the now grown children of these immigrants get to not where a veil? I don't get it. The story of people being wealthy doesn't illicit any pride in me for my countrymen. I am more proud of the person who works at Wall Mart, has two kids, and spends the weekends doing Darkon. What's the story for these people? I used my father's millions to start three more companies and open a night club, and he serves on the executive board of my company. That's so weird.

What I have in common with Persian immigrants who moved to Beverly Hills is the same that 99% of any ethnicity would have to immigrants who moved to Beverly Hills -- nothing! I have no idea why ethnicity and religion are even mentioned. Does Kevin West, the author of this article, think that escaping the Islamic Revolution gives people some kind of street cred? What about escaping Uganda or Afghanistan? What about escaping the United States?

I think articles that champion money and wealth as the markers of success in the world do more harm than good. Yes, I understand that if these folks did not escape Iran, they would not have these opportunities. I can clearly see that they are funding Presidential campaigns and the American economy. I get that they are making more money for people all over the world and palaces that overlook Los Angeles. I just don't see how any of that matters.

Of course, this same article is the same formula journalists use to champion Brad Pitt or Kim Kardashian. The money is sometimes replaced for beauty or fame, but the affect is the same for me -- antipathy and alienation. I would so much rather read an article of substance. Tell me the story of one of these entrepreneurs who was able to deal with a difficult situation in their business. Take a Brad Pitt story and recycle it for one about a guy in a local band who has played the keys for the last ten years and still gets a kick out of it. Make Kim Cardashian a woman on welfare getting her GED and working at McDonald's and going to night school. Who knows? You might just widen your readership and bring people more in touch with the majority of human beings who coexist with them.

Do we really need articles that list the prices of homes and wardrobes? Would it be strange to list my apartment rent price and gym wardrobe I got from Eastern Mountain Sports for $34.99? Could we even go as far as to ask why the interest in the first place?

Fame doesn't make life any better.

If you are in a band and you got people buying your CDs and fans coming to your show, that's plenty. No one said you had to be on Rolling Stone.

If you're an actor and you got some indie movie role or community theater or Youtube project, that's killer! Rock on! No one said you had to be on Access Hollywood.

If you're a poet and you got a cup of coffee and a couple notebooks to show for it -- without any publications or professorships, that's alright! No one said you had to have those things.

I don't know. I suppose people are often mislead to believe they want things because they see others pine, worry, and claw over objects and identities. I remember I thought I wanted a Cabbage Patch doll because I saw others playing with them in mid 80's. I got one. I played with it for a week. I went back to Star Wars.

If someone made the movie, Mars Bars, and gave me another hero and action figure who I could pretend to be, I suppose I would be him or her...

I guess that might be it -- we need to pretend. We read about others living a certain life and we pretend. We might confuse hard work and passion for a simple day of work on American Idol. We might subtract 10 years of playing the keys for one month on America's Got Talent. Then slowly, bit by bit, we wade ourselves into the mediocrity of fame itself. Suddenly, everyone can have a bit of fame if they get enough hits, make the right viral video on Youtube, or catch the latest police bashing on their mobile phones.

I can now see how Joaquin Phoenix would be disenchanted with his role as a movie star and try and choose another role. I can see why Kurt Cobain would create lyrics that would analogize fame with rape. Once one is a star, it is difficult to change a role. You can't simply move to another country and be "you" -- although Jeremy Irons, Johnny Depp, Daniel Day Lewis, and others, might find it easier if they do so. In the end, they will still be a lion, a pirate, and a Mohican.

That's why being you in what you do without apology, approval, fame, or money, will lead you to a happy life. You don't need to be an immigrant, a Jew, or a Karadashian. You don't need to be Brad Pitt, President Obama, or a perfect son or daughter. You don't need to marry right, go to a cotillion, wear a dress, or put on a crown. You can simply choose to live the life you have without control or inferiority. You can even choose to improve upon a talent and have it lead to money and fame. Anything is possible. Just don't live your world around an endzone. There are other ways to get accolades. Who knows? You might decide to do the Superbowl Shuffle all the way down the field. No one said you couldn't. You might even write a blog post about how you dance naked all the time.

Iran's Protests, Scientology, and Gays in the Military

(Image from Getty Images)

I don't know about all this Iran stuff. From what I understand, the government took away texting, cell phone use, and the Internet, as soon as things got screwy. Then people really took to the streets. Who knows? Maybe, if they take away the Internet more often, they'd have a new government. It definitely takes "I want my MTV" to a new level.

I don't know if I need to say anything about the Church of Scientology...

I am amazed by the comments section on this editorial about Gays in the military...

I watched the documentary, Ask Not, tonight. It makes me want to make a film that deals with this issue. 

Making art is the best way I know to help any issue. Who knows? Maybe, I'll do a comic book about Iran, gays in the military, Scientology, and love. Those sound like real life topics. 

I Want To Go Through the Door

Past Simple 7

I will be the Guest Editor on the next issue of Jim Goar's Past Simple. If you would like to submit poetry, fiction, comics, or films, please do so at

If this goes well, maybe I'll do it again. Who knows? I might even publish someone's book or something. Anything is possible. 

Latest Road Trip Highlights

Sogee and I are still on the road. We are now visiting the Downtown Harvest in Philly.  

So far, our highligts have been eating at Dizzy's in Brooklyn.

Hanging with Noah and John Kennedy at the Royal Oaks in Youngstown, Ohio.

Watching Noah eat a crazy sandwich with almost everything in it.

Hanging at Ray's Diner in Plymouth Meeting.

Youngstown Presentation

I met with Noah Cicero on Thursday. We talked for a bit. Then we headed to the Royal Oaks for our PowerPoint presentation to the Youngstown community about THE HUMAN WAR MOVIE.

I gave a brief overview of the film. Then I talked about the film's progress into a beautiful butterfly. 

Noah said I did a good job. I hope so. I really care about this project. I can totally tell because I keep making trips to Ohio and New York City, and spend all my free time thinking about how I could be a more efficient filmmaker. I guess I'm obsessed.

I guess that's what makes someone an artist. You have to be obsessed enough that you care about something beyond materialistic rewards. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, you even love it. 

I don't know if I love filmmaking. I think I just like making. I like visiting towns and getting to know everyone. I like building friendships and being with other human beings. I don't know why. Maybe, I'm just not opposed to things working. I mean, I can see obstacles before me. I can see that I have to raise more money for the film. I can totally see a hard decision with choosing the right actors. At the same time, I'm not upset about it. There just isn't any reason to be. It'll be what it is. I'll do my best. 

Who knows? maybe, it's just what the doctor ordered. 

The Human War Movie: Scouting Locations in Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN (THW) June 3, 2009

I found a few good places today -- thanks to Laura Phillips (pictured above). I've attached photos at the Flickr link below.

Laura has volunteered her deli as a possible interior kitchen location. She is also planning on helping out with police cruisers and officers (both her and her husband are former officers) free of charge.

For the exterior of the kitchen, I was thinking of using Our Place, Family Restaurant, which has gone bankrupt. According to Laura, we could contact the bank, and potentially...

...use the back as exterior shots for when Mark leaves the restaurant, and for a potential shot where the police officers are inspecting the crimes against Carl and Louis.

As far as the pizzeria, there were several possibilities. I personally liked Inner Circle Pizza and Ianazone's Pizza. Both locations have check cashing stores close by.

Roosevelt Park is a cool place where kids skate. They usually put down the picnic tables and use them to ollie off onto other curbs and benches. Laura says there are gangs of kids who hang out there.

Stomping Grounds is another skate shop located in a strip mall. I will be visiting there tomorrow night, so we'll have to see what that place has to offer. Right now I only have external shots.

We went to two trailer parks today. State Line Mobile Parks was by far the grittier one. We took several pics of vacant homes. According to Laura, we could potentially rent an empty trailer for $100/week.

I will be presenting a bit about THW at the informal community meeting at the Royal Oaks tomorrow with author, Noah Cicero at 8 p.m. I have no idea if people will show up. I'll send pics and an update soon. : )

Seneca Park Zoo

Sogee and I got to be kids again this week. We went to the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester. It was too fun. I forgot just how great zoos can be. We talked to the zoo staff, learned about sea lions, petted a few white tigers, and even found a hammock for Jim Goar. 

I have no idea what this animal is called. Is it a muskrat? 

I do believe dinosaurs are the predecessor to emus.

Jim Goar's hammock and friends.

Sogee wanted to take a bath with the rhino. I had to hold her back. 

I told her that if she was going to fool around with anyone, it'd better be the sea lions.

I tried to get this hyena to come hang out, but I think he was on a KFC diet.

The bald eagle (above) didn't once perch on my shoulder. As all the bystanders watched this majestic bird have its lunch, several folks came up with theories on why the birds were not flying away.

"They must be clipped," a woman to my right said.

"Their wings?" the woman's partner said.

"Yes," the woman agreed.

I have never been this close to a tiger in my life. I could touch this one's ears. It made me feel like Francis Macomber. I wondered if I would be any match for the tiger. 

"I think this tiger is big," I told Sogee. "Look at its paws."

"Yes," she agreed. "It would eat you."

"Yes," I said. "There's no doubt."