the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Iran

Letter from Iran


Today is Passover.   It’s one of my favorite holidays, because of the food and the re-telling of the dramatic story of the Israelites leaving Egypt.   Who cares how true it is!  I perfectly understand weaving a tale filled with half-truths and exaggerations.  Maybe the Israelites just crossed a little river, but who’s going to see that movie OR join that religion?  Let’s make it the entire RED SEA!  And let’s give it some action, with the Pharoah and the Egyptians at their heels, racing to capture them.

Sadly, the Middle East is still a place of conflict and hatred.   Arabs hate Israelis.   Sunnis hate Shiites.   Our troops are fighting in Iraq.   Iran is creating nuclear weapons. 

I hate to sound Pollyannish, but I think we’re all basically the same at heart.  If you’re a man — I don’t care if you are from Toledo or Timbuktu — you have the same SEVEN BASIC worries as every other man.

1)  Can I get a date to the prom?

2)  Will my wife still look good in twenty-five years or will she look like her mother?

3)  Is there any safe way to make my penis even bigger?

4)  Is this the clitoris and should I ask her to make sure?

5)  Why do I make such a small salary?

6)  Why do the assholes from college always become the most successful ones?

7)  Boxers of briefs?

We think we are different culturally, mostly out of pride or nationalism, but it isn’t true.  We are all the same.  And every once in a while there is a brave hero who acknowledges that.

One of these heroes is Hedieh.    Hedieh lives in Iran.  He wrote me this email from Iran.  Af first I thought it was spam, but it is actually from Iran —

I have no idea how inconvenient this might be to write you an e-mail, but I thought it might be interesting for you to know that someone reads your blog from IRAN.
I was once browsing through weblogs trying to find one who talks about life, women, family, tough times, a bit of politics,…. And I came across your blog.  I started reading, and before I know it, I had been scrolling down for hours. Anyhow, just wanted to let you know that I truly enjoy your writing, your ideas and your style.
Oh, and you are funny, really.

Cheers to you Hedieh.   I knew it!  Deep down in their hearts, all men enjoy corny sex jokes!   In fact, wasn’t it the great Persian love poets of the Safavid era who combined both mysticism and erotic passion? 

Can blogging create world peace?  Hedieh, please tell you friends about some of the other blogs on my blogroll.  Read them carefully.    A bunch or weirdos, right?   Neurotic.  Horny.  Confused.  But dangerous?  War-monging?   Nah.   The just want to eat hummus, have orgasms, and watch sports on big-screen TVs, just like you do!   Why can’t we all get along?

May peace come about through blogging!  Happy Passover!

(update — this post makes less sense now that I learned that Hedieh is a woman!)

Thanks for the mention about “The Secret,” Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St.Paul.   I love Minneapolis, home to such wonderful people as Voix de Michele, Not Faint Hearted, and Mary Tyler Moore.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Double Entendres and Croissants

The Art Gallery


With Sophia in New York, I figured rather than pouting, I’d put on some of my best clothes and go out on the town. I heard about this new exhibit, so I figured I’d go and check out the scene.

“Why not?” I asked myself. “I’m always hearing that you can meet classy chicks at an art gallery.”

So, I got into my car and drove to this gallery in downtown Tehran. I had heard a lot about this exhibit: it was sponsored by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri and contained the best international entries of cartoons mocking the Holocaust. The exhibit was packed, as it was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself who called for the cartoons as a response to last year’s caricature of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper.

It had been a long time since I’d been out alone, so I was a little nervous approaching any of the available woman. But as I enjoyed some of the complimentary cheese and tahini, I saw her, like a vision from the Arabian Nights. Her eyes were like sensuous burning coals. Well, actually, all I saw were her eyes, since she was wearing a burkah.

I introduced myself. You could hear the nervousness in my voice.

“Hi, I’m Neil,” I said.

“I’m Sarvenaz.”

“So, how do like the exhibit?”

“This exhibit is important as it will finally expose the Holocaust myth that the Zionist entity has foisted on the world.”

She obviously was very bright. But since I hate to get into politics on a “first date,” I decided to change the subject.

“The tahini here is excellent. Have you ever tried the tahini from Trader Joe’s?”

Sarvenaz started laughing. At first I thought she found me amusing, but then I realized she was laughing at one of the satirical cartoons hanging on the wall.

“I like this cartoon where American students are being dragging in chains to go to a “Holocaust” Museum and forced to learn the untruths about the so-called concentration camps.

“I get it.” I said as I nodded. “The Holocaust Museum is being presented like a concentration camp itself — and the students are the prisoners. A weird concept, but clever.”

“We received entries from all over the world. The truth is slowly getting out. Knock on wood and spit on the Israeli flag.”

Although Sarvenaz seemed a little neurotic, I guess I’m always falling for the “passionate” type. She was opinionated, but I like a woman who has a mind of her own. There was something very intriguing about Sarvenaz and I definitely wanted to know her better.

“So, which piece of art do you like the best?” I asked, trying to sound “bohemian.”

“I like the work that most tests the filthy pagan West’s commitment to freedom of speech,” she replied.

“You mean like this one of Hitler and Anne Frank in bed together, having just had sex?”

“Oh, the West and Anne Frank!” she protested. “The Holy Anne Frank. You can mock our Prophet, but if we caricature the holy Anne Frank, you Westerners consider it an outrage. You laughed at us when we went on rampages across the world after the Prophet was insulted. Now we’ll see the real outrage as Western hypocrites take to the street burning down mosques while waving their precious copies of Anne Frank.”

It was at this point that I decided to change the mood into something a little more romantic.

“Uh, so, have you had dinner yet?” I asked.

“I will not eat again until Israel is wiped off the face of the Earth!”

“Not even a little snack?”

But Sarvenaz was totally fixated on the art show.

“This next cartoon is excellent. I am sure it win a medal of honor.”

“Hmmm… I’m not sure I get it… ” I said, trying to weigh my words carefully, so as not to look like I didn’t understand art. “Why is the Statue of Liberty holding a book on the Holocaust in its left hand and giving a Nazi-style salute with the other. Is this supposed to be Dada?

“You’re obviously not familiar with the artist. He is brilliant in the way he expresses his vision so succinctly. Let’s see who’s rioting now after this cartoon is seen by the American public?!

I sighed, clearly uncomfortable with my knowledge of art history. Sarvenaz laughed at me, mocking my values.

“So, obviously your Western sensibilites are disturbed by the satiric nature of these Holocaust cartoons. You are nothing more than a worthless Zionist swine who manipulated the Danish media into mocking the Prophet’s name against their better judgement!”

“I’m sorry.” I said, apologetically. “I’m a little distracted today. Maybe I’m just feeling a little lonely. You see Sophia went to New York and I’m left by myself for the next seven weeks without my Sofotchka or a blog editor.”

For the first time, Sarvenaz’ eyes showed warmth and compassion. She turned away from the Holocaust revisionist cartoons and focused on me.

“Oh, look at you. That sad face. You look like a sad little puppy dog. Why do I suddenly feel so much compassion for you — you greedy dishonest Zionist-American fool?”

“You know, my car is right outside. And it is a Prius, so I don’t waste too much Middle Eastern oil. Would you like to come home with me tonight?”

“Do you have HBO?” she asked.


For the first time in my life, I praised Time-Warner.

And so it was written, so it was done. We went back to my place. I got my mind off of Sophia. Sarvenaz watched a little HBO. This morning, as we made love for the third time, I wondered if our relationship could be a building block to the start of a lasting Middle Eastern peace plan.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: A Wimpy Post About Friendship

Letter to Paris


Sometimes I read personally bloggers lamenting the fact that they only write about the mundane events of their lives rather than getting involved into the big discussions of the day:  politics, war, etc.  They almost feel unworthy to be writing on the blogosphere next to their more serious brethren.

I don’t feel this way.

I’m not a big fan of political blogs, despite their popularity.  The readers are usually people of the same political persuasion patting each other on the back until some outsider breaks in to write something controversial.  Then, all hell breaks loose as insults fly.

I believe that personal bloggers are way more important than political bloggers.  It is the personal that will eventually bring people together.  Despite differences, most people everywhere want the same things:  love, shelter, sex, and good food.  I might want a corned beef sandwich and you might want a shish-kebab, but when it comes down to, it is the same basic  want.  I wish there was more cross-cultural blog reading going on.  I love to read about a Muslim woman’s life in Mauritius (Fitena).  I learn so much from her.  And hopefully, she’s learning something about American Jews like me (I just hope she doesn’t think that all Jewish men have an unhealthy relationship with a talkative penis — that’s even worse that Jews having horns!)

Personal bloggers tend to be more open to civilized discussion.  

For example, Tara Bradford is an American journalist living in Paris.   She writes a blog titled Paris Parfait, which she describes as a muses about a “parfait sundae” of art, antiques, culture, poetry and politics.  In the last few weeks, she’s been very upset about what is going on in Lebanon and has written some excellent posts about the conflict there.   Although they are written very passionately, I’ve complained about the one-sidedness of her arguments because she seemed to blame the situation more on Israel than on Hezbollah and Iran.  She could have just dismissed me, but instead, she invited me to write a post on her site, expressing my differing views.  (link here)

Now, that is a definition of a mensch.

Personal bloggers rule!


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  Bad News Neilochka

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