A Media Artist's Response To Failing Diplomacy

When BriAnna Olson's pacifist views were confronted by an adamant American couple, she decided to heed their challenge and head to Tehran-- the epicenter of the Axis of Evil nation.

Amongst a landscape of failed diplomacy and media smear campaigns, she and fellow artist Michael Pope found a society far more alive and hospitable than they'd ever been led to believe.

Like jesters of a modern-day Magellan, they've returned with stories and insights to a culture few American's have seen first hand.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gregorian New Year and Christ's Birth

Traveling to a country like Iran is an eye-opening experience for an American or Westerner. For one, American culture and media would have you believe that New Years and Christmas are universal experiences. Indeed, even Jewish children in New York go see Santa. And don't forget that Muslims do believe that Jesus was a prophet of god/allah and often Iranian politicians try to find even ground by invoking his name in formal addresses to Western worlds. But, its very clear to me, after much traveling, that my roots are in a Christian world, and that there is no 'Regular' world. That said, Christmas is my favorite holiday. The last two weeks of mine have been steeped in family, love, and celebration.

I had a great New Year's with friends in New York City, but again, a 'date' worth researching. Irregular lengths of months, days coordinated with the sun, but not weeks. All very strange, IMHO. Check out the Gregorian Calendar Wikipedia page. One point of pride coming from one gallerina I'd met in Tehran, was the organic and seemingly superior calendar system of Iran. Nowruz (there are a bazillion ways to spell it) is the Iranian version of Christmas/New Years (family time and celebrations). This Iranian New Year begins on the spring equinox, the day the sun is directly over the equator. From wikipedia:
"an astronomical solar calendar and one of the longest chronological records in history and is currently used in Iran and Afghanistan as the main official calendar. Beginning each year on the vernal equinox as precisely determined by astronomical observations from Tehran (or the 52.5°E meridian, which also defines IRST), this makes it more accurate than the Gregorian Calendar in being synchronized with the solar year, but harder to work out when a particular date would occur before the New Year preceding that date.

Iran even initiated a calendar reform (a tweak) in 1925! I can't even imagine the Western powers considering this.

So, interestingly enough, in regards to calendars and a sense of date and time, we are two different cultures with two different concepts of timekeeping.


  1. Well, you could argue that their solar calendar is superior, but I can't agree. We widely accept the winter solstice to be on dec 21st. just like we widely accept the summer solstice to be on jun 21st, but that's just in the US. The fact is that the solstices and equinoxes happen at different dates and times every year and different countries have different dates for it, which may or may not even coincide with the actual astrological event. Sure, we know the spring equinox happens sometime between march 20-21 UTC, but it's still all kind of a mess. All measurements of dates and times suck really because of the lack of precision in the period of the earth's movements. The system is so patchwork that we've actually started using leap seconds, which happen at non-deterministic points, just to adjust our retarded time measurements. Point being: dates and times are really really fucking complicated and while it would be nice to get all back into nature and shit and measure time according to the sun and moon and stars, but it just wouldn't be conductive to the finance/banking industry that, whether you like it or not, runs the world as we know it.