Monthly Archives: November 2009

This is what courageous looks like: Mahmoud Vahidnia from Iran

I was very impressed by this story and this student shown above. Apparently this student recently challenged the supreme leader in Iran by asking him, Why Can’t Anyone Criticize You? According to a number of blogs, including “Persian2English”,

Supreme leader Khamenei usually holds conferences with top students who are pre-selected to speak. These students usually go on stage and praise Khamenei. Then Khamenei usually speaks and talks about how much he values their ideas.

But this Wednesday October 28th, the conference was different. After the students spoke, Khamenei asked if anybody had any questions. Mahmoud Vahidnia, a math student from Sharif university who is also winner of the International Math Olympics, stood up and said courageously:

“Yes, I have some words with you.”

Here is a summary translation of what the students said to Khamenei:

“Why can’t anyone criticize you in this country, isn’t that ignorant? Do you think that you make no mistakes? Why have they made an idol out of you that is so unreachable and that nobody can challenge? I have never read an article about your performance in any newspaper because you have shut down all the media that is against you in the country. Why does national TV show all the events untruthfully? For example all the events after the election. Why do you support them [national TV shows], when everyone knows they are lying? Since the president of national TV is directly selected by you, then you are responsible for all this.”

Khamenei evades answering the student and calls his words not truthful. He claims that people criticize him everyday and he listens to them and then fixes his errors.

Everybody knows that this is just another lie. Rumors say that the student has been arrested.

I hope he is ok, though I am not optimistic.

(Found via Andrew Sullivan).

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The Last Days of Gourmet Magazine

Kevin DeMaria has created a wonderful/sad photoessay blog illustrating the Last Days of Gourmet magazine. It is a story that has played out at many offices recently, though Gourmet magazine’s offices were ones that created many a great publication that influenced and inspired many people. Regardless how you feel about Gourmet, it is a really good photoessay. Go see.

People who are anti-vaccine need to read this New Scientist article

There’s two arguments — at least two — that sum up the arguments why one should not get the H1N1 flu shot. 1) The vaccine is worthless or worse than the flu itself. 2) It is a racket set up by the drug companies to make money.  This article, Fighting the anti-vaccine brigade – with science – Short Sharp Science in New Scientist, is well written, well reasoned, and very clear.  Anyone who argues #1 should read this. As for #2, I think it is questionable. And even if it is true, it should not convince you to not get the shot. Especially if you are in the high risk group.

I can understand people’s skepticism about the flu vaccine. People should be skeptical. But to me, the price of being skeptical is that you should be aware of the arguments against you and you should have your own good arguments. Anything else is simply ignorant, superstitious and lazy. So read the New Scientist article.

Likewise, scientists need to get their heads out of the clouds, be less arrogant, and be more accountable to people’s concerns. This is as much about politics as it is about science. They need to approach this politically, not just: trust us, we know what we are doing.

Stay well.

Good late late Saturday Night Music

Erykah Badu – Orange Moon (Live)

Roy DeCarava – great American photographer

Though both Letter to Jane and Time’s Looking Around, I’ve learned that a great American photographer died this week: Roy DeCarava. These three sites can give you a better appreciation of why he is a great photographer. Looking at his work, I love his mastery of shadow as in this photo:

Indeed, a lack of light is a major element of this work, be it from the darkness of the room or the opaqueness of the window. I find my eye working harder to draw what little light there is in this photograph. The lack of light is one of the things that engages me when I see this image. (It’s a great composition, generally, with the parallel angles formed by the clothes lines and pot handle, the parallels again of the water tower and the pot, the way the stove “connects” on an angle with the middle line of the window, giving the photo depth, and the tryptch quality that comes from the three “panels” formed by the window on the left and middle and the wall on the right.)

One of the things I love about Manet’s paintings is how well he is able to use the colour black in his work. Not just as one more colour, but as a major element of the composition that changes the way you look at the work. DeCarava does that well too. And so much more.

Great works of photography. Go (re)visit.