Pars Arts Twitters Irvine: the Iranian-American Writers Association

Pars Arts Twitter screenshot

The Inauguration of the Association of Iranian-American Writers is happening at UC Irvine tomorrow, in a workshop format that will address issues of representation and etc. It’s hosted by UCI’s Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture and its director, Nasrin Rahimieh, as well as writer and professor Persis Karim and journalist Homa Sarshar. Here’s a press release on Payvand News, and here’s the full day’s schedule. It’s free and open to the public, so please come if you can.

The attendees include people like novelists Porochista Khakpour and Anita Amirrezvani. And I’ll be there to talk about the Internet and blogs and self-publishing and social media, on a panel with Jahanshah Javid of Iranian.com. My talk will probably be mostly focused on the benefits for writers in engaging with their readership online.

I may not have wireless access there, but I will be talking to people, taking pictures, possibly shooting some video, and updating microblog site Twitter constantly throughout the day via my cell phone. You can follow that “coverage” at twitter.com/parsarts.

Iranians on Video Site Big Think

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I’ve made no secret of my fandom of Iranian novelist Porochista Khakpour, whom I liked before I even read her book. She’s one of very few people so far that has managed to be Iranian and write a really great book of fiction in the English language, and she also talks honestly about not really feeling the whole “Iranian woman” genre of recent times. That takes balls.

After seeing her in these Big Think videos (27 of them!! Confession: I did not watch them all), I think my fascination with her as an author is slowing being overcome by a fascination with her hair. See bangs, above, and then see previous jaunty blonde streak in an artful, Veronica Lake swoop. PK, how do you do that?!

Big Think, for the Internet-erati that haven’t heard yet, is a video interview site that only talks to important people (er, big thinkers?). They don’t allow embedding, which is dumb from a content-distribution standpoint [Correction: They totally allow embedding. There’s a tiny “Share” button that I missed. Whoops.] And it’s clear they’re going for a very TED-like vibe, calling their videos “ideas.”

Khakpour’s not the only Iranian on the Big Think site, though she is the only person discussing mostly literature. Here are Reza Aslan (still pontificating about rich LA Persians), Vali Nasr (surprisingly handsome! charming accent!), and Azar Nafisi (is allegedly neo-con fabulous the Iranian version of ghetto fabulous?), mostly talking politics and the Middle East.

The common thread, though, is that Big Think serves up Iranian-themed videos with an unintended side of irony: all of these videos have really funny blanks in their transcripts. Basically, nearly all the names of Iranian poets and writers that are discussed by the speakers have been omitted from the transcripts that appear alongside the videos (i.e., Ferdowsi? That’s _______ to you, mister!). That’s probably because their transcriber or transcription software just isn’t up on the Iranian literary canon, but it’s still amusing to see it on a site with this level of intellectual chops.

Which Iranians would you like to see on Big Think, and what “ideas” do you want to hear addressed by them?