People & Places: A Tree In A Forest


“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it fall, does it actually make a sound?” asks the old adage. Does sound exists without the tool which interprets it? By the same token, what is art without the audience to appreciate it as such? Like the tree and the artist, a writer is in the same position. Words are only words without the reader who sees them and attaches meaning to them.

The title of this column, People and Places, refers to the variety of people and the places that make up our Armenian community. The Diaspora is made up of many geographic locations with a myriad combination of people. The idea, conceived by my good friend Paul and fine tuned over a pasta dinner, is to highlight members of our community that we may not necessarily know. Our neighbors, the people we pass on the street or stand behind in line at the bank all have a private life of which we know nothing: the war veteran now limousine driver who spends some weekends babysitting sixteen year olds on their way to drunken parties or the tree climbing centenarian who reads every daily newspaper from cover to cover or the six year old with a broken arm waging a battle with the waves crashing at the beach, his own version of Don Quixote’s windmills. All of these people enrich the communities in which we live. They affect and are affected by the issues, events and occurrences that concern the Diaspora.

Occasionally an interesting topic will cross my path and, instead of profiling specific people, the purpose becomes the exploration of issues. The running themes this year were love, relationships, the Armenian-Turkish protocols, racism and ethnic identity. In the short of amount of space and limited number of words of this column, each subject is explored in small snippets; enough to make us think, perhaps question our current beliefs or prompt us to dig deeper into the subject to find an answer that that makes sense to each of us. Subjects such as “The Power of Media,” “Who Is An Armenian?” “The Incident” and “Where Are The Men?” explore the issues facing us both as individuals and as members of the greater Diasporan community. As such, they have elicited the most response – sometimes longer than the original column they are commenting on. I welcome the comments and read every one of them. Regardless whether the commentator agrees with the conclusion or the subject, each comment is an opportunity to create dialogue. And we’ve definitely had dialogue. Lots of it. From Pat’s lengthy response towards what he believes is the shallowness in today’s women, to Haro’s ongoing discussion with various other commentators about the nature of Armenian identity.

Then there are others who comment outside of the official channels. The letter from the prison inmate so moved by the ideas he reads that he is prompted to write a letter to the editor or the professor who is surprised and happy that anyone would actually acknowledge that one could be Armenian without being Christian since he himself is Bahai and “probably one of, if not the first, Armenian to be naturalized as a Japanese citizen.”  Then there is Alexandre, who fervently believes that we must protect our image projected in mass media and was inspired to start a Facebook page for the positive portrayal of television characters and has written a letter to the networks encouraging them to do more. And let’s not forget Hovnathan, an Armenian version of his German name, is the son of German parents who, growing up embedded amidst a community of Armenians, wholeheartedly believes in his now adopted Armenian heritage and actively became a member of the Tashnag party to prove it, probably the only non-Armenian person to do so.

These and many other stories are archived on this paper’s website ( and available to be read and reread.

I thank each interview subject who opened their heart so we can learn a bit of who they are, each commentator who opened his or her mind to express his thoughts, and each reader who allocated the time to read the column to the end.

Without each of these elements People and Places would amount to nothing but a collection of words echoing in a vacuum without a sound.


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  1. Haro Mherian, Ph.D. Mathematics, UCLA said:

    Thanks Tamar, finally you have responded to comments about your articles. Believe me, your articles will make more sense, when you guard your babies (i.e. articles).
    And now, another interesting metaphysical call. The classical Kent problem of the “Sound of the falling tree”. Yes, it does make sound. It exists. And that’s the definition of “REALITY”.
    Perhaps, if your next subject is about Armenian Spell Checker, and how Diaspora must speak and write Armenian (including myself), I promise I can help on the topic, because the software is ready to be released soon at the site.

  2. Frank said:

    Hi Haro  & Tamar !
    We do need subjects to lighten our mood. We cant have politics all the time.
    I have read somewhere that many languages will disappear because of the internet.
    When people stop using their own language then those people are at the risk of loosing their identity and will disappear as a civilization .
    I personally can speak Armenian read Armenian  and write Armenian.
    Look at us now we are using English because we feel more comfortable with it and it is easier to write and read in English.
    Reading Armenian is something we do more than writing.
    Witting in Armenian becomes a big challenge for me.
    When people are not obligated to do something than they dont do it.
    How can we make it so that people must speak Armenian.
    If I am not wrong never in the history of Armenia has there ever been Armenian being spoken by most of the Armenian people as now, so that is good news.
    Yes this is a subject that needs lot of attention.

  3. Baron's Life said:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Tamar….thanks for all the articles you wrote…the Armenian Nation is grateful to you
    Shornoravor Nor Dari yev Pari Dzenundts to you and your family

  4. Haro Mherian, Ph.D. Mathematics, UCLA said:

    Thanks Frank, that’s exactly my point. It is time that I will release my Armenian Spell Checker software called HySpell, and at I will address many such questions and how to spread Armenian (with fun). Asbarez is no longer the place that such issues must be resolved. Actually, Historically Asbarez was the place for language issues, but not any more. The old ARF intellects have passed away, while the new ones hardly write Armenian.

  5. Patricia Constantinian said:

    Haro, what wonderful news about your Armenian Spell Checker.  Will it be based on the Western system of orthography or the Eastern?

  6. Frank said:

    Hi Haro
    I am looking forward to seeing that software Hyspell.
    You said the key word
     spread Armenian (with fun).
    Also I noticed google translation and some of the other translation web sites and none have Armenian.
    It would be nice if we Armenians had a web site like that.

  7. Haro Mherian, Ph.D. Mathematics, UCLA said:

    Thanks Patricia and Frank, the HySpell Armenian Spell Checker is ready and is in Beta-test process, it is based on Mesrobian Orthography (i.e. classical orthography) and contains both Western and Eastern dialect lexicons (i.e. spell checks both dialects in classical orthography). It is tightly integrated inside Microsoft Office Word 2007 (or above). Subsequent versions will also be integrated in Outlook and the rest of the Microsoft Office products (Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). The current version will contain only the Spell Checker, while subsequent versions will contain Armenian-Armenian Thesaurus, and Armenian-English Dictionary. The first version will be released in this month (Jan 2010) at official website. I will most probably have an interview with Asbarez (and other Armenian news media)  after its first release.

    My aim is to advance the usage of the Armenian language via modern technology, be it software, media or professional good quality movies.

  8. Frank said:

    Hi Tamar
    Sorry for hijacking your coloum
     Haro Mherian
    Just to give you an idea how complicated things can get when a person wants to write something in Armenian.
    I found these 3 files norkb17,norkb18,norkl20
    I tried to install 1 of them in my computer and I couldnt
    Also once I install these fonts I dont know which English letter corospents to which Armenian letter
    There must be a web site for this.
    I know that you are going to introduce  a software for this
    It is an enormous job and I can understand why its taking time

    • Haro Mherian, Ph.D. Mathematics, UCLA said:

      HySpell Armenian Mesrobian Orthographic spell checker for Microsoft Office 2007 Word is ready. We will post it at in the next few days. Part of our efforts was to address such installation problems, making the installation a click-once operation.
      Please be reminded that downloading fonts from most FREE websites is not a good idea unless you are sure that they are authorized by their original font designers (i.e. they are either old, or illegally distributed). HySpell package will also include the standardized Extended Armenian TypeWriter keyboard (the first of its kind), as well as newly designed fonts. I personally will post some introductory video clips, in which I will go over how to do everything including basics on creating Armenian documents, books, as well as emails (some of these videos will also be professional new documentary movies).
      My aim is multifold, first to renaissance back the Armenian language utilization in this global Internet era, and then advance the Armenian literacy to a new level (i.e. նոր զարթօնք). In the next few weeks, I will also post an entire series of free video clips making Armenian usage fun and simple to everyone. Eventually, my goal is also to bring to life all the Armenian dialects via videos (before they are wiped out by this new Internet era).

      • ArmenAryatsi said:

        How about an Armenian spell checker for Mac word processing software? I hate Windoze and I’m a Mac user.

  9. Frank said:

    Hi Haro
    Thanks for all that effort.
    I hope this way more people will use Armenian when writting on the internet

  10. Haro Mherian, Ph.D. Mathematics, UCLA said:

    Sorry Tamar for going off the subject of the article… Anyways, maybe you should write an article about Armenian Spell Checkers (I’m willing to send the information that you will need, i.e. research is done for you).
    Concerning ArmenAryatsi’s question, unfortunately, Apple’s Mac OSs are not so much open platform for software developers. We have do go into three times more pain to develop any software for Mac. I know your feelings, I hate Windows too, but I don’t like Mac either (both OSs have a lot of problems). For now, my advise would be, if you can afford it, buy a PC and put Office 2007 Word on it to be used for Armenian documents (with HySpell).
    We’ll see in the near future. If HySpell is successful, I’ll adress the Mac platform as well. Anyways, I already have plans to develop Armenian Keyboard/Font for iPhone devices.
    There is also plans to develop an online limited version of HySpell, which will be web-based and therefore, multiplatform.