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Sumbat Der Kiureghian

I love this family. Eccentric, Armenian, artistic.

In December 1952, Sumbat Der Kiureghian (1913-1999), a brilliant Armenina watercolor artist from Iran, painted the first in a series of creations that became the family Christmas cards. His first painting depicted  the family riding a horse-driven carriage on a snowy road near a river with a bridge and a mosque showing in the distance – a typical Isfahan scene.

The faces were cut outs from a family photograph and seamlessly blended into a watercolor background, collage/decoupage style. The image was photographed and made into the family Christmas card, beginning a tradition that lasted 22 years. Some of the paintings depict traditional scenes, carpet weaving, bread making, cobbling, others are set in the snow, at picnics, in play. My personal favorites are the family musing souvenirs in 1970, playing in the Sumbat Band in 1961, visiting with reindeer in 1963 and turning the mirror round and posing Sumbat as their artistic model in 1962.

The members of the family are: Sumbat’s wife, Arax (born 1921), first daughter Siroush (born 1945), son Armen (born 1947), second daughter Tagoush (born 1959) and, of course, Bobee the dog. I love the way their characters develop through the years. Armen looks like such a poetic dude, his sisters are lovely and the whole simple silliness and love of art thing makes me smile.
























Preserving Lemons

Carlotta arrived with a bag of lemons bigger than her suitcase.

“There’s a lot you can do with that,” we said.

“We wash them, we cut them, we squeeze them and pack them with salt and lemon juice. Then we let them sit in a dark quiet place till they’re ready.”

“Then we make the lemon chicken tagine….”

“I’ll be fine then,” Carlotta said.

“Yes you will. Squeeze.”


Armenian Power Arrested Development


After a five week trial, four defendants have been convicted for their roles in one of the largest bank fraud and identity theft schemes in California history, one that left dozens of victims across four states and millions of dollars in losses.

Arman Sharopetrosian, (aka”Horse” or “Dzi”) a key member of Armenian Power, and three associates, Karen Markosian, (aka “Kar” and “Garen”), Artush Margaryan and Kristine Ogandzhanyan were convicted of conspiring to commit bank fraud, attempted bank fraud and various counts of aggravated identity theft. Sharopetrosian, Markosian and Ogandzhanyan waived their right to a trial by jury, and consented to trial by the judge. The fourth defendant, Margaryan, was tried by jury.


Sharopetrosian apparently masterminded the large scale fraud scheme from behind bars at Avenal State Prison. Along with codefendant Angus Brown he ran the op via cellphone. The group was able to obtain confidential information about individuals and, with names, social security numbers and dates of birth on hand, impersonated their victims when calling banks, transferring money between accounts and ordering checks. They would then use the victim’s signatures found on public documents to forge the checks. The group usually targeted high-value bank accounts. Over six years, the group stole more than $10 million from victims in Southern California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

“These defendants, including two individuals who were operating from a prison cell, perpetrated a massive fraudulent scheme on behalf of a dangerous criminal enterprise,” said Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General. He added that “We are doing everything possible to shut down dangerous gangs like ArmenianPower.”

Formed in East Hollywood in the 1980s, Armenian Power members are mostly Armenians and immigrants from former Soviet-bloc countries. The gang formed in response to other ethnic street gangs in the area. From early on, Armenian Power was involved in murders, attempted murders, kidnappings, robberies, extortions, witness intimidation, drug trafficking and fraud, prosecutors say.

Today, Armenian Power is believed to have over 200 documented members and hundreds of associates across Los Angeles County. A younger generation of Eastern European gangster who speaks Russian and Armenian and maintains ties to his parents’ homeland brings a new level of sophistication to their criminal enterprises.



“The younger generation has helped to advance the organization’s technological abilities to commit fraud and to facilitate Internet crimes,” according to a report by the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, comprising local, state and federal officers in Southern California. “This technical savvy, coupled with their language capabilities and ability to interface with their countries of origin, makes them difficult to detect.”

The gang’s impact on youth in the area seems to have faded. Years ago, Armenian youths emulated Hispanic gangsters with shaved heads, tattoos, muscle shirts, and khaki pants. L.A. gang interventionists say they haven’t seen much activity by Armenian Power, a big change from years ago when police officers, teachers and school counselors would brace for fights that used to break out between Hispanic gangs and Armenian Power in and around some Glendale and Los Angeles schools, said William “Blinky” Rodriguez, the executive director of Communities in Schools, a gang intervention and prevention program. “AP has been pretty quiet for some time now.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Opferman, who leads the Los Angeles County Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force that combats health care fraud in Southern California, also noted a downtick in activity by Armenian Power.

“They’re not as highly visible. They’ve established themselves. They’ve gone a bit more underground.” Not surprising really as credit and debit card fraud and identity theft are now among their most lucrative schemes.

The four defendants just sentenced are among 20 people charged with running the bank fraud and identity theft scam. The indictments were unsealed on Feb. 16, 2011.

Sharopetrosian, Margaryan, Markosian and Ogandzhanyan  face sentences of up to 30 years for each count of bank fraud, 30 years for each count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, as well as an additional mandatory two year sentences for each count of aggravated identity theft. Their sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 6, 2012.



Bunnicula Memoria.

One day a rabbit appeared at a house. It didn’t want to sleep indoors. It didn’t want a cage. It dug a burrow and sat in the garden. When the rabbit twitched her ears people laughed. When she chased the cats they shouted out “YouTube!” She made no noise, just sat amongst the flowers and smiled. She napped  with  house  guests under their high antique bed. Three hundred and sixty five days later she allowed herself to be picked up so she could cross over to the large carrot in the sky embraced in human warmth. She left a garden, still peaceful, filled with birds cats and squirrels. Only now the humans have learnt  that to sit in silence and be is all powerful.

Bunnicula 03 22 2012


Borrowed illustration by a wonderful artist I admire, Elsa Mora.



The problem with meeting MS Crown is that when she walks in the room you immediately go “OK, the model’s here. Where’s the designer?” And then you realize that the stunning Amazonian standing in front of you clutching a dozen silk dresses is Ms.Crown herself AKA Stephania Ayiotou, the designer. I meet Steffi for breakfast to discuss her new collection and her recent stint at the VIP gift suite at the Luxe Rodeo for the Golden Globe nominees. We grab cappuccino’s and eggs while we talk.

“Let’s address your genes first. Where do you get your stunning looks and do you have any sisters?”Steffi laughs. Great teeth. Lots of cascading hair. “Yes, I do have sisters. Eighteen year old twins. My father is Greek Cypriot with a suspicious dash of Sicilian and my mother is Colombian. I spent my childhood between Colombia and Cyprus. Both of my parents are free spirits and I had a very unconventional upbringing. I went to eight different schools by the time I was sixteen.”So did you leave school knowing what you wanted to do or not?””Yes, I really wanted to act but my father thought it was bull. He was totally against it.  I started off with a bachelor of social sciences at Goldsmiths in London and left after a year.

“Why did you leave?”

“I got accepted at Lee Strasberg where I had secretly auditioned and moved to NY despite my dad’s  wishes. He cut me off for two years after that.”

“He cut you off? So how did you survive as a struggling drama student in NY?”

“My  Greek Auntie Bia in Astoria! She’s awesome, she’s so tough. She fed me gemista and taught me to bake kourabiedes.”

“Ok, you survived and then what?”

“I did two years at Lee Strasberg and then went on to act in my first film….. shot in Montreal. After that I went back to Cyprus to spend time with family and while I was there my good friend Donatella Felice called and said that if I wanted to see her I had two days to write a script so her management team would let her come to Cyprus. So we made a job of it. I had a friend with a camera, my cast of talented friends and a van. We made the movie, edited it, composed the music and it got accepted as a short that year (2011) in  Cannes.”

“So up to now you’ve been pretty successful at following your dream, despite your father. How did that segue into designing dresses for the Hollywood A list?”

“Dimitris. My ex boyfriend. He broke my heart and I got sick so I sat in my bed in Nicosia and recuperated by drawing sketches. I found myself repeatedly drawing beautiful dresses. When I felt better I got up and had one made. I wore it to a party and Panayiotis Neocleous, the owner of Ammos, a bar/restaurant by the sea in Larnaca saw me in it. Basically he loved the dress and asked me to design a summer collection for a fashion show  at Ammos in May.”

“Just like that, he said , “do me a collection.””

“Yes, more or less. I had no idea if I could pull it off. To be honest, at the start I was a little lost. I went all over Cyprus looking at fabrics and was uninspired by what I found. It was my mother who urged me to contact Angela Hooker, a textile print designer I knew in London. I sat up one night and collected all my inspirational material and sent it to Angela. Lava fields and deep ocean creatures. I was interested in the juxtaposition between earth and ocean surfaces. When Angela sent me her ides I really got excited because we had an immediate artistic connection and it suddenly became an creative collaboration, like an art piece. I had the fabrics and i could see how to make them move and the rest was easy.”

“So the first collection was launched in May 2011. What brought you to the VIP lounge for the Golden Globes less than a year later?”

“After the first collection premiered I took my short film to Cannes and it was there that I met Natalie Dubois Sissoko, the founder of the DPA Celebrity Gifting Lounge which invites the stars to sample luxury goods from around the world. So I ended up bringing my second collection.”

“Who came by the lounge and got to sample your designs?”


“Oh, Missy Pyle, Berenice Bejo, Sebastian Roches, CCH Pounder, Elizabeth McGovern, Mary Mouser, Rotini Akinosho, Sarah Burns and many others. It was a whirlwind. Lindsay Bronson, Nadia Bronson’s daughter wore my Gothic Princess dress to the Globe Parties and I met her in my Reptilian Cave Dress.”So what’s next?””A short fashion film showcasing my latest gown. I am looking for some amazing landscape to shoot against which to shoot the Black Lava Reaper Gown. Watch this space!”http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=t.100002336364688&type=1


Hollywood Headless Homicide

A severed head belonging to an Armenian male (sic) was discovered by two women walking their dogs under the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles on Tuesday Jan 17th. The head was in a plastic bag and the dogs started playing with it until the women realized what it was. They alerted a ranger, he called LAPD and a crime scene was set up. The next day cops discovered two hands – not in a plastic bag and later on, two feet just before they packed up for the day.No shoes, socks or jewelry. They are currently looking for other body parts.

The grisly discovery was  found near Bronson Park, a popular children’s playground. I remember watching a man bury a bag under a log in the bushes, about a decade ago, while I stood pushing my son on the swing. I was curious, but resisted the temptation to check out his stash. Probably wise.

The dismembered head was lolling in the bushes along a trail busy with hikers. Presumably (the head was fresh) it had been dumped fairly recently, perhaps by that man in a jogging suit you passed at the gate. Maybe the three girls with too much make up  on and great abs.

Search for body parts

So here’s the question. Who done in the bloke with salt and pepper hair? Where is the rest of him? Is this mob related or has someone been watching too much of the Shield? And how come the cops identified him as Armenian and suddenly went silent.  And what else lurks in the bushes along the sunny trail that leads up to the sign? Little Armenia is only down the road…




I Am Poem by Arum Butler-Sloss 11

I am dark and joyful
I wonder about paradoxical portals and space-time rips.
I hear pandemonium.
I see Chaos Vision.
I want to be the embodiment of entropy.
I am dark and joyful.

I pretend to be a Paradox Inducer.
I feel chaos.
I touch randomness.
I worry about order.
I cry about Trinculo.
I am dark and joyful.

I understand confusion.
I say, “Let people have freedom!”
I dream about shape-shifters.
I try to be orderly in my nature.
I hope the world will never fall in order.
I am dark and joyful.

International Day of Peace

A while ago I started getting links to a Youtube page in which an articulate young filmmaker, Jeremy Gilley, speaks about the International Day of Peace. Google him and you will discover he started thinking about this over a decade ago in 1998, when he wanted to make a film about peace;

“The millennium was coming, this big moment that everyone was talking about, so I wanted to record something about the world and why we’re not living peacefully. I was thinking about whether the United Nations could really unite the world and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there was no international day of peace.”

“My goal became to make a film that would try and establish the first ever day of peace on this planet with a fixed calendar date, voted by every head of state in the world.”

He succeeded. In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new resolution 55/282 declaring 21st September of each year as the International Day of Peace.
The resolution: “Declares that the International Day of Peace shall henceforth be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day.”

So what happens on peace day? Whatever you want. It is not just symbolic, as Gilley says, it is a day to make a commitment. A day to spend with your family, to have a picnic, to organize an immunization, to say sorry. It is a day to talk about peace with your neighbours, to spread the word.

And so, I have a simple request for the approaching day. This September 21st we should visit our enemies, take them by the hand and say, “I don’t care.”
“I don’t care that you are Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Cypriot, Muslim, Jewish, Maronite, Protestant, Catholic, Druze, Shiaa, Kurd. I don’t care what you are because you are the neighbour that fed our cat while we were away and lent my son your bicycle and taught him tennis and I don’t want to be your enemy because actually, I like you.”

If you look at the human aspect of it, Turks, Armenians and Greeks have lived together for centuries without a problem. Look for the Armenian quarter and it is always slap-bang next to the Turks. We may be scared to admit it, but we get on with each other. We wear the same clothes, shop in the same stores and eat the same food. So why are we enemies? Because our governments tell us we are. One day something happens, the next we are at war and then we become addicted to enmity. We are fed it at school, through religious intolerance, through racial stereotyping, through politics.

How many Turks in the Ottoman Empire do you think were horrified by what happened to their neighbours between 1895 and 1922? How many abhorred watching their friends stripped of their belongings and marched off into the desert to die? And how many do you think are confused today by acts of violence against writers and thinkers who speak out against what happened years ago?

And how many kids went back to school after the 1974 invasion in Cyprus to find that their favourite teacher was gone? That their classmates had disappeared? That, not only were their homes and favourite beaches inaccessible, but they could no longer pick up a phone and call their neighbour at the end of the street because of an arbitrary border?

And how do we ever expect to get answers to these questions if we don’t greet our enemies as friends and ask them?
If we want to move from a culture of war to a culture of peace we must unite. We cannot wait for governments to make a difference- they’re too busy politicking, creating more borders and perpetuating enmity. It is down to us- you and me- to take our neighbours by the hand and say,
“I don’t care. I don’t care who you are or whatever happened to us in the past, right here, right now, you are my friend.”

Let us celebrate Peace.

Changing Past to Past, and Focus on Present ( the grass is greener). A song by Arum Butler-Sloss aged ten…

Lost in folds of misery and despair,

My heart aches with loneliness that  I bear

Holding this burden for all to see,

I shall never see the moon, the stars, or the sea

Trapped in my mind with no way out,

I break free from my standhold, try a different route

I open my eyes and see I’m not blind,

My heart and sould have completed their bind

My ears shed their cloak, turning a new leaf

I see now, I hear now,

The grass may be greener, or rotten with leaves

Having to let go of the past

Falling through the present fast

Getting dizzy, getting confused,

I change and say I’m amused

And though I missed the greener grass,

It now could be rotten and with broken glass