November 25th, 2006

More fun with sitemeters: reading in Tehran

When I first started my blog one of the main attractions was to click on my sitemeter. It was astounding for me to see that anyone was reading here at all, and to watch the numbers climb was satisfying. There was a time when 100 visitors in a day seemed a richness beyond measure. Viewing the breakdown of countries from which they came was an occasion for more awe: someone in Japan, reading my blog? Australia, India, Kuwait?

Now, of course, I’m somewhat jaded. But never totally so; it still seems a wonderful and almost magical thing that people from all over the world can come to read the words I type (excuse me: keyboard) onto a computer in a little room on the second floor of a house in a moderate-sized town in northern New England. I’m often alone when I write and when I hit that “publish post” button. But I’m never really alone at all.

The other night I took a glance at the country distribution on my sitemeter. I hadn’t done that in a long time. What I found was a typical late-night spread here:

I noticed the one from Iran especially. I’ve found in the past that this sort of visitor is usually–although certainly not always–the result of a Google search.

So, what had brought this particular visitor to my blog? Perhaps, I thought, it was my series on the Iranian revolution, a hefty three-parter? Or my post on Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran?

No, no, a thousand times no. It was a search for discussion of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” which had led to this post of mine.

So, not Lolita in Tehran, but the quintessential New England poet Robert Frost in Tehran. Somehow, that made me very happy. Call me a cultural imperialist if you wish (and I’m sure some of you will wish), but I like to think that people everywhere have the same basic underlying makeup, and the same response to beauty and the truths expressed in great literature.

21 Responses to “More fun with sitemeters: reading in Tehran”

  1. bird dog Says:


    “Cultural imperialism.”? Neo, you lay down the fire foam as you speak! As if anticipating attack!

    Be bold!

    No need to apologize for Robert Frost. The whole world deserves to
    delight in his intelligence and skill.

  2. neoneoconned Says:

    just to be predictable; you are a cultural imperialist, and think it is a good thing.

  3. Senescent Wasp Says:

    Get a life conned. Even a second hand, scruffy one would be better then your obsessional delusions.

  4. Kerko Says:


  5. Kerko Says:

    Why so cruel you are?

  6. Zeno Says:

    Greetings from on of the 3% of “unknown countries” in South America. I like Frost too. “He uses what is rural and ordinary to provide a brief but adequate hint of spiritual realities. He is at the same time tranquil and puzzling.” (Borges on Frost).
    Great literature is universal.”Cultural imperialism” is mostly an excuse for local incompetence.

  7. Jamie Irons Says:


    I wish the US section of the “pie chart” could be broken down in states. How many Californians (besides yours truly) are reading you? How many West Virginians?

    As to Robert Frost, you might do a piece some day on his superb Directive, which begins:

    Back out of all this now too much for us,
    Back in a time made simple by the loss
    Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
    Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather…

    Jamie Irons

  8. Steve Says:

    Only one culture will survive this confrontation, and the radical muslims know it. They’re fighting for their right to rape and honour kill in the name of Allah.

    They only continue to be primitive murderous brutes if we let our culture down. Hold your culture up–doing that may be the only thing that lets your grandchildren live free.

  9. Red Says:

    Iran’s censorship of western books belies its own literary heritage, argues Azar Nafisi

    While western governments are confused and obsessed with the threat of Iran’s WMDs, the Islamic regime is facing up to threats of its own and increasing its repressive measures against workers, women, students, gays, minorities, and now publishers and writers. Western analysts might doubt the subversive influence of books, wondering how William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Sadegh Hedeyat’s The Blind Owl, Iraj Pezeshkzad’s My Uncle Napoleon, Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring or even Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code could influence politics in Iran. But the Iranian regime is well aware of the danger of works of imagination and thought, restricting them in the words of its minister of Islamic guidance and culture, to prevent the publishers from “serving a poisoned dish to the young generation”.

    What is obvious is that this particular “poisoned dish” is not a threat to Iranian youth but to the officials of the theocratic state. After 27 years of the revolution, the Islamic government has failed to convince its citizens, and in fact many within the religious hierarchy, of its victory in the cultural domain. The two groups on whose loyalty the regime had relied – the younger generation, the children of the revolution who were to preserve its values and strengthen its ideological base, and the former ardent revolutionary youth, some of whom had given their lives to guard the revolution – ironically are now using works of imagination and thought to challenge and resist the ideological impositions.
    The young revel in the sensual and erotic poetry of the late feminist poet Forough Farokhzad and the 80-year-old feminist and human rights activist Simin Behbehani, or the novels and poetry of James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins; while former revolutionaries like Akbar Ganji quote Hannah Arendt, Kant and Spinoza alongside Hafez and Rumi to demand an open and secular democracy, or to renounce the current repression in the name of their culture and traditions. Only recently, President Ahmadinejad admitted that the revolution over the past decades has failed to root out the secularism and liberalism dominating Iranian academia, asking students to help purge the already cleansed universities from the influence of secular and liberal elements.

    Officials have claimed that some banned books deliberately give Iranians a sense of inferiority and induce them to become “lackeys of the west”. But this charge is nonsense. Reading western books is not a sign of inferiority but an acceptance of the universality of thought and imagination, a tradition that in Iran can be traced back centuries to when men like Alfarabi translated Plato and Aristotle into Arabic and helped the revival of Greek thought and philosophy in Europe through the spread of Islam.

    It is not a sense of inferiority, but a sense of curiosity and a desire to connect and converse with other

  10. Red Says:

    Here’s the link:,,1956435,00.html

  11. nahncee Says:

    Are all of the 3% “unknown countries” from South America? How can they be unknown? I thought the Big Computer in the Sky could track URL’s from EVERYplace.

    (Why do you suppose someone like Wasp bothers to post such bitter drivel? From a shrinky point of view.)

  12. Ymarsakar Says:

    I never started reading Nnc because of her poem posts, but because of her psychological posts on changing minds. Course, she was talking about how her mind was changed, but I knew it was very useful for how to change other people’s minds as well.

  13. Sally Says:

    Or someone like conned? Or “nahncee”? From a shrinky point of view?

  14. Sergey Says:

    The very notion of “cultural imperialism” is absurd, and it is especially absurd that those who use it negatively call themselves “progressives”. Spreading of culture beyond abode of its origin is the main working mechanism of any progress of humankind. By this mechanism Greek mathematics and philosophy became universal. By this mechanism Christianity civilized half the globe, bringing humanism to barbarians. By this mechanism British common law modernized countries with hundred thousand strong population – to their tremendous advantage. And empires – Roman, Byzantine, British – were vehicles of this progressive transformation.

  15. Ymarsakar Says:

    Conned and folks have too much hate. I wouldn’t change their viewpoints, their hate is too valuable a weapon to wield against my enemies. So I would just manipulate their hate, direct it towards those who I wish to see destroyed, or simply direct it against themselves and watch them combust. No, Neo’s psychological knowledge was invaluable in my pursuit of the propaganda arts rather than at any attempt on my part to alleviate people’s pain.

    While she has always tried to see psychology as a way to alleviate pain and help people, I have always seen psychology as a way to destroy people from the inside out without any need for violence or any evidence for that matter.

    Even when Neo wrote about her interest in hostages and hostage situations, it was from the role of the victim in how to defend against psychological attacks. I am more offensive minded.

    People who are real pacifists, like the Amnish. Can’t really be roused up and used as weapons with propaganda. But those who spew hate and anger? Easy clay.

    I’m not a shrink, I’m not a psychologist. If they have to take the Hippocratic Oath, then well, I’m doubly not one of their member.

  16. justaguy Says:


    the renaissance happened despite christianity, not because of it.

    All you islamophobic neocons should be taken on a guided tour of Spain to give you some reality. Then you should all be kicked out of a plane high above Baghdad (not the green zone) to go and fight your silly war for civilisation instead of sending others to their deaths.

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    The thing is, if we were sending others to their deaths, the first guys I would send is the hate ridden and obssed neoneoconned, confude, and just here. Perfect soldier-automatons and myrmidons in my view. But they aren’t fighting so… what exactly are the soldier senders in Washington doing, you know?

    No wonder the Left wants the draft back. They want to get rid of their weapons.

  18. MissyN Says:

    As to Robert Frost, you might do a piece some day on his superb Directive, which begins:

    Back out of all this now too much for us,
    Back in a time made simple by the loss
    Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
    Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather…

    Jamie, “Directive” is my favorite Frost poem since first encountering it in college. Thanks for reminding me – it’s good to see those opening lines again.

  19. Holmes Says:

    I find Frost too dark and afraid of his own shadow. His poems he considered to be fleeing bits of “form” in the face of the chaos of nature. Much like fleeting security in “stability” in the face of a world history of war.

  20. Sergey Says:

    “the renaissance happened despite christianity, not because of it.”

    There would be no Renaissance without St. Thomas Aquinat, the main exponent of Aristotel, without St. Augustine, the main propagandist of Plato and neo-Platonism, there would be no Renaisance without monastery scriptoria where these manuscripts were re-written for 10 centures or without St. Antony who founded the said monasteries; and, of course, there would be no Renaissance without Crusaders that had thrown out Saracens from Europe, saving its culture from brutal vandalism. Where did you study history, jg? If this was what were taught to you, your teachers should be publicly whipped for such lessons.

  21. cold pizza Says:

    Some say this class will end in “A”s
    Some say in “C”s
    From how I test on other days
    I like to think that I’d make “A”s
    But if it brought me to my knees
    I think I know enough of school
    To say that for may passing
    Are also cool
    And I’d be pleased
    -cp (with apologies to Frost)

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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