Interview with Dr. Peter Keller

Right here in Southern California we have a wonderful museum that has much more to offer than you would think. Bowers Museum, which opened back in 1936 as a museum dedicated to the history of Orange County, throughout the years has become an internationally renowned museum
of world culture of art. You might remember that back in the 80s Bowers closed its doors, transformed and reopened in October 1992 having become six times the size that it orginally was! What has happened since 1992 is truly extraordinary.

In mid July, I was fortunate enough to speak face to face with the president
of the Bowers Museum, Dr. Peter Keller. Peter Keller—a gemologist who
has been in the museum profession for more than 30 years—worked at the Smithsonian Institution, Gemological Institute of America, and Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History before becoming president of Bowers Museum in 1992. Since starting at Bowers, Keller has built amazing
partnerships with The British Museum. The Bowers is the first museum in
the world outside Britain to sign an exclusive long-term agreement to showcase its most famous exhibits.

The most current exhibits at Bowsers include the Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt Treasures from the British Museum which opened in April 17 (to a record 1200 visitors!) and will remain on display until April 2007, and Evita: Up Close and Personal which will be on display until October 16, 2005. I checked out both of these exhibits and I must say I didn’t want to leave the museum! I was mesmerized by the pieces that were in the Mummies exhibit. Now, I am not one who is new to visiting museums, I have been everywhere from The Getty to The Metropolitan in New York, but I was truly impressed!

In years past, the Bowers has exhibited jade pieces from the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1912); objects from China’s Imperial Palace; glasswork from ancient Rome; the House of David Inscription, which left Israel for the first time to
come to the Bowers; fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls; Etruscan artifacts;
and artifacts from Tibet shown for the first time in the Western Hemisphere.

What makes Bowers truly unique is the relationships that have been built. “Peter’s philosophy is that in order to get historical and significant exhibits, you have to meet with people face to face,” said Rick Weinberg, Director of Public Relations. “It’s the personal relationship that gets things done. In the museum world, you have to earn trust.” And that is exactly what Keller has done throughout the years. But he is not alone in this.

Anne Shih, who joined the Bowers Museum’s Board of Governors in 1996,
and was elected to the Executive Committee of the Board, is the Bowers’ leading fundraiser. Her passion for the museum and art is amazing. Together, Shih and Keller have truly elevated the Bowers’ reputation in the museum world.

Currently the Bowers is going through as exciting new transformation. An $18 million project is in the works to open a new 33,000 sq ft wing including 3 new galleries, a 350 seat sloped auditorium and an atrium for galas like weddings, fitting up to 500 people. Don Kennedy, the chairman emeritus, was a key player in this new expansion. “Don has a huge force during the Bowers’ rise as a world-class museum, particularly in the historic agreement we signed with the British Museum and the north wing project,” Keller said.

Partnership, communication, strong relationships – these are all the key points that have led to the success of this rapidly growing museum that happens to be right around the corner for most of us. Plan a family outing on a Sunday and take a trip to Bowers. It truly is “your window to the world’s richest cultures.”

The Persian Wedding

From ancient Persia to present day Iran, the celebration of the uniting of man
and woman is described in this unique book. The visually captivating tradition
is carefully presented as a work of art, with ten paintings by internationally renowned artist Nasser Ovissi as well as many pages of photos of the ceremonial wedding setting and its details and symbolism. This beautiful bilingual book is written in its entirety in English and Farsi.

The author, Bijan Moridani, has researched the available information of the past as well as Iran of today. He presents the antiquity and the persistence of the tradition despite a tumultous history, and finally as he writes in his introduction, “in the end it’s love, love and love…”

Here’s a preview of some of the traditions that are fully explained and defined in this wonderful book!

Khastegari (asking for her)
– On a predetermined date, the young man and his family dress up and go to the young woman’s family’s house. They are greeted warmly… The girl enters the room carrying a tray of teacups and offers it to the guests. This is not an easy task. She is nervous and her hands are probably shaking..

Namzad-bazi (engagement flirtations)
– There is no married person who does not remember the exciting, wonderful memories of the period of time in which they are engaged. In a culture where any contact between a man and a woman is strictly limited, even after namzadi (engagement), this episode, which lasts from the night of the engagement to the actual wedding, is treasured. It usually starts with brief visits, most often in the presence of family members, an exchange of loving looks and occasionally, if they are brave and an opportunity presents itself, stealing a kiss, which is always associated with the feeling of anxiety and excitement…

Shirbaha (the value of milk)
– The literal translation is the value of milk given to the bride as a little baby. It symbolizes the hard work and endless effort spent in preparing a little girl for a grown up life. In many English language writings by non-Persian writers or even Persian ones, I have seen this tradition mistaken with “buying the bride” which shows the culturally limited understanding indicated in these writings…

Jaheeziyeh (preparing for an independent life – the dowry)
– Traditionally, the bride’s family prepares almost everything that the couple will need to start their independent life. Jaheeziyeh may include Persian carpets, a refrigerator, furniture, etc. It also indicated the economic capability of the bride’s family…

Stay tuned for more sneak peeks in next month’s issue about the Sofreh-ye Aghd, which is the traditional ceremonial setting.

STOP-GAP

On May 5th, 2005, the Disneyland in California as well as all other ten Disney theme parks from all around the world began to celebrate the “Happiest Homecoming on Earth.” The “Happiest Homecoming on Earth” is Disney’s first truly global celebration and is centered on the 50th anniversary of Disney’s very first theme park – Disneyland. This celebration is the largest in Disney history, and will operate for an epic eighteen months before it comes to a complete end. Since Disneyland’s grand opening in 1955, more than 500 million people have visited the Magic Kingdom. Disneyland’s homecoming event features an adorned version of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, a new parade and fireworks spectacular, a new ride in Tomorrow Land, and the long awaited reopening of Space Mountain.

The heart of the 50th Anniversary Homecoming event is the renovation of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. The landmark castle, an international symbol of Disney magic, has undergone changes to literally transform itself into the “Crown Jewel” of Disney and Disneyland. Disney Imagineers gowned the castle in richly colored royal banners and decorated the Sleeping Beauty’s Castle with large, sparkling, custom made jewel-like sapphires, diamonds, rubies all trimmed in gold. To top things off, the five most prominent spires of the castle will each be adorned with golden bejeweled tiaras – all 5 tiaras represent iconography of each particular decade of Disneyland history.

The creation of Disneyland is represented by a symbolic pair of famous Mickey “Ears” peeking up over the horizon to see the wonders to come. One crown commemorates the creation of Tomorrowland in 1965, and another honors Disneyland’s beloved Main Street Electrical Parade. One tiara represents the Indiana Jones Adventure and wields the famous “Eye of Mara” guarded by snakes while the last and final tiara celebrates the 50th anniversary of Disneyland represented by fireworks and the one and only Tinker Bell herself.

“Walt Disney’s Parade of Dreams,” the all new nostalgic musical parade was created specifically by Disney Imagineers for Disney’s 50th anniversary event features one of the largest casts of Disney characters and performers ever assembled. The innovative new daytime parade highlights classic Disney stories
and characters that have contributed to the establishment of Disneyland over the past five decades. Imagineers combined our favorite Disney moments and beloved characters with gorgeous floats, classic songs, and energetic performers to bring the Disney inner child out of all of us. The parade features seven floats featuring: Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Beauty and the Beast, Pinocchio, the Little Mermaid, Alice in Wonderland, the Lion King, and a float specifically designed for Disney Princesses and their Princes.

Continuing with the 50th anniversary’s nostalgic tone in celebration well into
the night, Disney technicians, artists, and Imagineers developed an all new nighttime fireworks extravaganza, entitled “Remember… Dreams Come True.” Using the nighttime skies over Disneyland as its canvas, the fireworks spectacular emphasizes the power of wishes and dreams. During the show, Tinker Bell surprises the audience with a truly unprecedented flight sprinkling pixie dust above Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – a scene reminiscent of the opening sequence for The Wonderful World of Disney. “Remember… Dreams Come True,” wonderfully incorporates new state-of-the-art pyrotechnics technology, custom pyrotechnics, over 25 Disney movie tunes, and over 80 pieces of Disneyland attraction music, sound effects, and familiar vocal sound bites for
a breathtaking show.

The new ride unveiled for the 50th Anniversary is Tomorrow Land’s new “Buzz Light Year Astro Blasters.” Inspired by Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story 2, “Buzz Light Year Astro Blasters,” is the first theme park attraction in the world to feature a real-time interactive on-line opponent using webcam technology. This new technology allows guests on the attraction and player’s online at home to play together increasing the score of riders on the attraction by raising the value of the targets along the way.

Also in Tomorrow Land, the long waited return of Space Mountain happens July 15, leading to Disney’s actual 50th anniversary on July 17. The Space Mountain attraction sports brand new special effects, new rocket vehicles, a new custom composed soundtrack, as well as a new finale featuring a longer re-entry tunnel filled with amazing lighting effects.

As a Southern California resident, you have to travel down to Disneyland to take part in its 50th anniversary event. Disneyland’s not called the Happiest Place on Earth for nothing! So what are you waiting for? Let go and let loose for a day – skip your classes or just call in sick for work. Go have some fun at Disneyland!

The Premier of “The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam”

Young Professionals in the Community

John Fuentes Photography
John Fuentes has been a freelance photographer for the past 15 years. He has won several competitive awards for scenic, nature, and special effects photography in Alaska while stationed in Eielson AFB, serving in the United States Air Force.

His passions for artistically capturing time and events have been recognized by his clients and peers.

With a career in the Hospitality Industry, he gained the necessary interpersonal skills to capture his clients at their best. From his charismatic demeanor and caring for each client, he will ensure your comfort to gain the ultimate portrait for you.

John specializes in “Story Telling Photography” or “Candid Photography” that captures children, individuals, couples, and families within their environment or selected location. Also, with the assistance of CYRUS Productions in Laguna Hills, you have the option of a “Traditional Style”, studio controlled portrait. John has also added to his resume Weddings, Engagements, and Personal/Professional Event Photography.

Interview with Kourosh Pirnazar
by: Shaghayegh Farsijani

Tell us a little about what you do?

I do storyboards for Gold Pictures for a new TV project called SIN. I work there as a Production Assistant, so when they go out to shoot documentaries or any other outdoor shoots, such as corporate videos, I will go and do it under their name.

How did you get into Film?

I orginally started to become an animator but the problem there was as an animator you have to be really consistent; by drawing the same thing over and over again with small changes. I could draw both pictures but they just weren’t alike, so I decided to go into “stop motion animation” which is when figures are really there and you just have to shoot them. That was the first time I actually got behind the camera and decided to direct and set up shots. From then on I went into movie making. The movie that encouraged me to go into this field was “Saving Private Ryan”. The way the movie was made just fascinated me, so throughout high school I made short films with my cousins and friends. I went to the film school at Cal State Long Beach for four years and will be graduating this semester. While I was studying I worked on short films and documentaries and that is when I met a lady by the name of Melissa who helped me get this internship.

How did you become familiar with OCPC?

Exactly one year ago my mom brought the magazine home and I started flipping through the pages when I saw Mr. Danosian and I said, “Oh my god! That is my art teacher!” From then on I started reading the magazine every month.

Final thoughts?

It is good to get involved with this magazine or just the Persian community in general because no matter what you are involved with, you are helping the community. As you know, the LA and Orange County area have a huge Persian community so you should do a lot to get involved.

UCR Fundraising Event

Sergeant Jennifer Shawhan
I joined the Army when I was 20 years old. I am a paratrooper and a Motor Transport operator. I worked with the Special Forces Training Group in Ft. Bragg, NC for 4 years on active duty. I then joined the Army Reserves and was stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA for 3 years. I was deployed to Iraq for 15 months as a S.A.W. gunner on the gun truck providing security for convoys. I have been in the Army for 8 years and I majored in Graphic Design. I was born in Wisconsin, my parents were Missionaries and we traveled a lot. I grew up helping others.

Specialist Zohra Azizi from Afghanistan
I am the first in my family to join the United States Military born in Afghanistan. I moved to Iran for 2 years, lived in Pakistan for 3 years and now am living in San Diego. I joined the Army on April 2001. I went to Iraq on Jan 2003 until April 2004. I am married and have one daughter. Everybody in my family lives in the U.S. I really loved my experience in the Army. I hope more women would join the armed forces. I speak Dari & English.

Sergeant Tafiq Rashid
I joined the Army 4 years ago. I have been trained in Transportation & military police. After 9/11, I volunteered 10 months of active duty services and I was shortly activated for Operation: Iraq Freedom. I served in Karballa & Najaf in Iraq. I speak Arabic & English. I am the oldest of five children in my family and we all grew up here in Northern California.

Sergeant David Moezzi
My name is David Moezzi. I was born in San Francisco, CA. My father is from Tehran, Iran, and my mother is from Russia. I have been in the military for 13 years in the U.S. Marine Corp Infantry and 3 years in the Marines. I served in the Army National Guard and as a Military Police Officer. I went to college using tuition assistance and the army’s G.I. Bill. I graduated from the University of Las Vegas with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. I then worked as a correctional officer in Las Vegas, NV. After 9/11, I felt the need to serve in the military to assist in the global war on terror. I speak Farsi, Portuguese, Russian and now studying Arabic.

The Africa Project: The Trip

As explained in last month’s issue, The Africa Project is a grass roots organization made up of community members who feel compelled to do something to address the AIDS orphan crisis in Africa.

Our group took the first of many trips to Nkandla, located in the Kwa Zulu Natal region of South Africa last month. Although, through the course of our travels our group lost a few members as a result of various traveling difficulties, five representatives from our team made it to Nkandla. The purpose of the first visit was to learn more about our village and their needs. The following are highlights from the trip and potential plans to help the village of Nkandla.

During the trip the team stayed with The Nardini Sisters who are a group that already provide a great deal of social and medical services in the community. Upon arrival, they presented a check for $4,903 to support the children in the community. These funds were raised through the help of our Ukuqala Campaign. Again, great thanks to all of our Ukuqala sponsors!

The team’s first day in Nkandla included a site visit to the Nkandla Hospital where they met with hospital staff and visited the wards. The hospital provides the majority of medical services in the region and the staff is committed to serving the needs of the people. They face many challenges and the most pressing needs seems to be a lack of housing for medical staff who would be willing to come to Nkandla to work. The result of this are shortages of doctors willing to attend to the medical needs of the community.

The Nkandla hospital is also a teaching site for future nurses. Their nursing school’s greatest needs also seems to be housing for both students attending the school and staff needed to teach the program.

During the week, they visited several families. A few of these families are the ones featured in The Orphans of Nkandla documentary where producer and narrator Brian Woods tells the story of three families devastated by AIDS in Africa.

In one instance, they visited a family consisting of three young men who are literally alone in the world. The Nardini Sisters are committed to keeping them in school, so they are providing food and other support for the boys on a regular basis. Their housing is inadequate and as a group, we have determined that a portion of the funds we took over would go to building them a concrete home. The new brick house will be modest, yet stable and will last the family for many years to come. It will consist of three rooms and is roughly 300 square feet. The cost to build the modest home will be about $2,000 (which will include paying a local village mason worker to build it – an added plus since he will be able to use his skill to earn money for his family.)

A third family they met is comprised of four young children and their older sister. Their story is particularly upsetting, but the work being done for them is hopeful. Over a year ago, Sister Hedwig was visiting the family on a regular basis. The mother was dying of AIDS and the older sister had dropped out of school to work in the forest to earn money for the family. The nuns were providing food and support to the family each week. One Wednesday, the sisters visited the home and brought food as well as emotional support to the mother. That Friday, the mother passed away in her home. Because the home was situated far out on the other side of the forest, the sisters only visited once a week. When the mother died, the younger children did not know what to do and as a result, they lived with their mother’s body in the house for four days. At one point, the two older children walked (a very long way) to Nkandla to find the sisters who visited them each week. When they arrived at the hospital, they were taken to Sister Hedwig who was able to assist. The mother was properly buried and the children were placed at Sizanani Centre, the orphanage run by the convent. They stayed there for several months and received counseling and enrolled in school. Sister Hedwig later found a suitable home for the girls who now live with their older sister. They all currently attend school, relying on the support of the nuns.

Towards the end of their trip the group visited Velangaye High School, which is one of several schools in Nkandla in desperate need of help. The school serves 505 students each day in grades 8 to 12. The principal, Mr. N.E. Mahaye is an impressive leader and is committed to guarantee that each of his students has an opportunity to reach their highest potential. He and his staff are doing amazing things with very few resources. As a group, we have determined that assisting the high school should be one of our top priorities.

The group learned that when going to school most of the students arrive on an empty stomach with little hope of food even when they return home. In addition to the obvious suffering that these children face everyday is the negative effect poor nutrition has on these children’s ability to process and store information. Providing at least one meal per day at the school would improve their quality of life and help them succeed in school. Renovation of structural facilities of the schools including the buildings and classrooms, electricity, toilets, and water supply are also matters essential to the success of the community.

When talking to the students, the group also learned that more often than not,
the students who are qualified to go on to the University or to a trade school
are often too poor to do so. So setting up a fund for higher/continued education
would be very worthwhile.

Together there are so many lives we can change. With one trip we have already changed the lives of dozens of these children – to think that this is only the beginning is incredible. With your help we can continue to change the lives of the hundreds of AIDS orphans in Nkandla. Please continue to help and support our project. Your involvement and generosity is greatly appreciated and has already made a difference in these children’s lives.

Again, if you haven’t already, please don’t hesitate to get involved. Contact us at
www.theafricaproject.com. There are many different ways to get involved. Even by yourself you can develop and host a fundraiser to support The Africa Project. Host a dinner for friends and have everyone donate a set amount. Host a car wash and accept donations. Even bake sales and lemonade stands are activities that even the youngest of supporters can host.

Fine Art Adel Rakhshani

Creativity occurs in every field of human endeavor, not just in the arts. Whenever people express original ideas, they are being creative. The ability of creative people to accept disorder also extends to their working methods. In order to venture into new ideas, artists must disrupt old ones, creating disorder in the process before achieving a new kind of order.

Adel has reached the point where he has given up the objective representation of his surroundings in order to reach the summit of the true unmasked art and form. This vantage point to view life through is the prism of his pure artistic feeling. Adel follows Expressionism, which was planted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His tendencies such as distortion of form and intensification of color, has surfaced since his earliest works of art.

Adel looked to these artistic precendents to find forms that would express the intensity of feeling that he believes is part of the Iranian cultural tradition. Adel has also created many different masks which he believes are like the hiding of your identity while communicating a frightening ferocity. He believes his masks are magical objects that add a mysterious potency to the work.

In the past, Adel has done many children’s books in Farsi and English. Now in continuation of that he is producing a series of puppet shows that tries to teach young Iranian children the meaning of life. “”Iranian children here in America are losing their heritage and roots. We are responsible for keeping our great culture alive,”” Adel explained.

On the side, Adel is the president of the Iranian – American Artist Society in Los Angeles who meet on a monthly basis. We at OCPC wish Adel much success in all his future endeavors!

Experiencing Iran

It is 1 P.M. and you just got off the plane. Extremely tired, exhausted and drained are the only feelings going through your head. The hot, dry air, the heavy luggage, the noise and the wait is making every moment tougher. Making your way towards the arrival doors you suddenly see a dozen people with big, happy smiles anxiously waiting to welcome you. Then you realize every minute is passing by so fast and you don’t even feel the pain you had minutes ago; all of a sudden all you see is a bunch of people – or should I say 5-6 cars – following you home, making you feel as special as a newlywed bride!

There is no such thing as “material happiness” in Iran. Relationships are very pure and real. People don’t need to know each other to bind. When you’re in the bakery, grocery store, shopping center, or even getting a ride in a taxi, you always see friendly faces chatting with each other. Conversations start when you are least expecting them; exchanging the latest happenings in the city. Taxi drivers are the best source of news because all day long they get to listen to passengers. Closeness and friendship goes beyond what stands out in a city. All in all, in Iran’s version of ‘New York City’, people still bring about the old ways of warmth and kindness… and enjoy every single second they spend together.
What do young people really do for fun? The nightlife in Tehran isn’t made very public but the inside scoop is that the young community enjoys themselves. Hangouts such as coffee shops, restaurants and juice stops get packed with loads of people on Thursday and Friday nights. People stay out late enjoying their time with friends or family at places such as Abmeeveh Tochaal, with their famous “sheer pesteh”, fast food places like Behrouz, Burger Teen and Feri Kasif, as well as places like Darband and Park Jamshidieh. The next stop would be a hookah/teahouse to lay back and relax with what is left of the night. Where do the others go? The rest are at house parties with the best music and some of the best looking guys and girls you could ever find. You don’t have to make plans for your weekend – they are already planned out for you!

Having a good time and going to some parties can turn out to be nothing but trouble. Some young people have to go through a lot and be alert so that nothing goes wrong. Sometimes parties or hang out places are interrupted not just for having loud music and waking up the neighbors, but because of the whole idea of “partying”. Even while grabbing a cup of coffee with your friend you always have to be on top of everything. What is the bright side? Mostly all of them could manage and are smarter than it seems!

Oh! Who could leave out the unforgettable “Jordan” and “Fereshteh”! These two streets are supposedly known as the happening streets where everybody gets to know each other better. Put on one last touch of make-up and don’t forget to fill-up your car with enough gas to have some fun. Why? People circle the streets until they lose count! You pass by different cars and faces and get to have a little giggle or two with your friends!!

It really is a worthwhile vacation to visit Iran and get a taste of how people really have fun and entertain themselves. Aside from the historical and ancient aspect, which may take weeks to explore, the culture is so deep and authentic that it causes you to blend in very smoothly and comfortably. The pleasure of it will truly last you a lifetime…