Bab Aziz

Like holding a hand-full of sand, the Iranian/French/Tunisian film “Bab Aziz” sifts through my memory of visual and audial delights. It played to a small screen here in San Francisco, and I was fortunate enough to see it. Certain scenes of this “Iranian Cenemapoem” gave me shivers, touched my heart, and gave my soul a layer of the joy of living. My soul knew, absolutely, that when I die, and I will die eventually, heaven or eternity will be similar to this movie. Ever since seeing this movie, the idea of wandering in a desert, telling stories and dancing, meeting poets, musicians, and madmen, all for the eventual discovery of a spiritual music and dance gathering HAS TO BE ETERNITY.

I loved the movie so much, I begged my friend Jeff Stot, an amazing Middle Eastern producer and musician, to come and see it. He enjoyed it and saw it a second time with some Persian musicians he worked with (they were not as enthused as we were about the movie). I rarely see a movie twice, but I had a hunch that “Bab Aziz” would not be for rent any time soon in my local video store (or, more presently online).

I was correct in assuming this. Not knowing Farsi or Arabic, I have tried to purchase this DVD over the years. I went to many many DVD stores in New York City looking for it. I’ve looked online too, but there is not really an English audience for this movie. I frequently go to YouTube to find segments of “Bab Aziz” to share with people who seem to have a mystical or spiritual depth. Doing this a few days ago, I discovered that Middle Eastern people are posting the full-length movie on YouTube. I found one with no subtitles, and another with Turkish subtitles. Then, I found one in 9 parts with English subtitles. The person who posted the videos describes the movie as an  “Iranian Cinemapoem; A poetic glimpse of ‘Sufi-Darvish’ vision and way of life! A philosophical Sufi story.”

Yes to all three. Finally, after years of watching the segments of the movie sift from my memory, I got to watch it again. It was a little bit-mapped, but the tears and shivers came again. And the deep soul-knowing of my connection to music, as natural as walking or breathing, rang true again. Like a meditation bell or a soul clap: we can feel the truth when it comes to us.

Please watch… sharing this movie may help one understand parts of themselves. It is also from a country much maligned in the US media right now. Iranian leaders may call us “satan” but Iranians are humans after all, and some are capable of making great art.

B-Town, Paint Louis and Beyond

The week has flown by. I drove over the Canadian/USA border at Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls almost a week ago. Got to see the falls from the bridge, and I didn’t need to stop to catch any other view. The border guard didn’t flinch at the big bike box in the back. If he had looked, he would’ve found a partial bike made from used parts. The back tire of the bike Martin Heath made for me began to squeak again. It started up after I pushed the coaster break. Martin said the back tire was shot and that I’d have to find another one in San Francisco.

Martin gave me a pass to see the opening of the Short Film Festival up on Bloor St. Then I went to CineCycle, helped pack the bike, and watched some amazing 1960s Serioscope jukebox music reels. They were dated, but extremely interesting to watch. I said final goodbyes to Janet and then Martin and I pushed the bike to my China Town flat on a dolly. Toronto was fun! Can’t wait to post the stencils from there when I get a chance.
Continue reading “B-Town, Paint Louis and Beyond”

First-Hand News fm Iran

CNN is on here at my hotel room in Buffalo, and the main news story is how “citizen journalists” in Iran continue to cover the breaking stories with cell phones, Twitter, and FaceBook. Iranians are risking their lives to submit video footage to network news stations. Over on Huffington Post, Nico Pitney is blogging about Iran, using sources from all over the web, and doing a bit of vetting to discount some fake citizen journalism.

As some of you may know, I have stencil work from Iran over on Stencil Archive. I don’t know the artist’s real names, nor any details about their lives. But I do understand that doing graffiti in Iran comes at a great risk. Larger than the risks that other artists face, since graffiti is considered an evil Western-influenced activity by some fundamentalist Iranians. Since the protests started, I have been concerned about the artists, fearing their safety and hoping that they’re keeping things real in the streets. They’ve gotten in touch and are OK. But extremely excited and concerned about losing their votes in the recent election.  They have reacted by doing what they do best during these amazing times in Persia. They’re keeping art in the streets!

My data mining has dug up some blogs, and Dub Gabriel has started blogging for a friend in Iran who is telling his version of the story. Here’s a photoblog that I have gone to to look at photos. Here is a Flickr stream of some current art in the Iranian streets. Iran is blocking some major web sites (like YouTube), but Flickr seems to be available. And it’s easy to get around the government blocking: Dub Gabriel is easily helping his friend in Iran post information, probably via simple email exchanges. So posting some of these sites is a simple act that I can do to help the thousands of green-clad people in the streets of Iran.

Twenty years ago, Chinese students occupied Tianamen Square, and were eventually brutally crushed by the People’s Army. Last night at my presentation at Hallwalls, I showed some photos of the street art and stencil work in Iran. I made the comment that things might have ended differently in 1989, had the students used cell phones and cameras to let the whole world instantly watch and witness their experience with seeking freedom and democracy. I don’t know if today’s coverage in Iran will bring a huge change with their culture, but I know that our ability to witness it first hand is a sweet experience. CNN is showing international rallies supporting the Iranian democrats, and I am sure that those attending these rallies are snapping pics and taking phone vids of the scene. And they’re MMS’ing them to friends in Persia. And they’re instantly posting them online.

Together, we can witness what is happening half the world away, and thus our compassion expands for those who desire the basic freedoms we all should have. Hopefully, this will drive change in the world and bring lessons of unity and equality that we should’ve learned over and over again. If not, then we will once again have to see similar uprisings happen, and have to relive the painful images of oppression. That being said, don’t forget the recent struggles in Tibet, the ongoing pain in Palestine, and other suffering around the world of people who don’t have the technology to give us the first-hand experience.