Archive for the ‘Tehran matters’ Category

And the beat goes on

December 1, 2008

Tehran Bureau | blog watch

A scroll through feels like a stroll through the capital. Thankfully the virtual tourist is spared the usual traps: the all too prevalent collection of Persian iconography found on most Iranian-themed websites.

Monthly photo installments offer a fresh perspective of living there. Though snapped on a cellphone, the juxtaposition of photographs heighten the aesthetic experience. Rolling as if off a reel, the photo stream hint at the creator’s cinematic roots. As in a serious flick, the lens don’t shy away from the “it’s so ugly it’s beautiful” theme running throughout: Tehran has many eyesores.

LGOIT.COM fulfills several other functions, effortlessly.

It provides political commentary, such as in a caption to a barely standing Chevy Jeep Cherokee, “a left-over of the days when Iran was USA’s biggest ally in the region and American cars were being mass-produced. Their beat-up appearance well represent Iranian-U.S. relations as it stands today.”

Commenting on a photo of a familiar-looking store fridge, filled to the brim with the most American of soft drinks, he is “amazed at how much business both Coke and Pepsi manage to do in Iran through all wars and political sanctions. They’re more powerful than the U.N.”
(Perhaps Coke is a humanitarian necessity, as are exports of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices.)

LGOIT.COM shatters stereotypes. One entry has the blogger sharing a taxi with a veiled young woman listening to American gansta rapper 50 Cent on her mobile phone; the taxi driver is tuned into state radio. “Bitches and hoes and boring Islamic programming don’t mix well!” he laments. Or, “The most stubborn film student I have ever met in my life is also a mullah. He managed to get interviews with most all foreign guests for his thesis film. I expect him to go far in the Iranian film industry.”

The narrator is certainly speaking from a position of privilege. He seems to take a step back from that time to time to put it all in perspective. At a fast-food restaurant, the average meal may cost $6, but “is too much when you factor in the average income.” On a trip to a neighborhood in south Tehran, where his father grew up, “we met this grocery store salesman who was there when my dad was a kid. He said he had never been to Pasdaran, which is our neighborhood in northern Tehran.” North and south rarely mix in Tehran.

After about a year and half in Iran, our hero packs his cellphone and heads back to Los Angeles. He quickly gets himself to an IN-N-OUT Burger for lunch (and dinner), and later stops at a branch of Washington Mutual Bank “to remove the ‘Presidential Ordered Block’ from my account. My bank account was frozen because I had checked my balance on the WaMu website in Iran. I am sure keeping me from paying my student loans is an integral part of fighting terrorism! Can we end Bush’s term already?!”

The L.A. sojourn does not last long. After four months, “I am ready to go back to Iran. As nice and comfortable life in LA can be, it is not yet for me. I need to be where there is more conflict. Conflict in everyday scenarios can and will inspire me. The few emails from visitors who have said, ‘I liked your blog better when you were in Tehran,’ is a testament to that end.”

Tehran matters

November 21, 2008

| Alef Magazine

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Transit Tehran: Young Iran and Its Inspirations
Edited by Malu Halasa and Maziar Bahari

Two thirds of Iran’s population is under thirty years old. The Islamic Revolution, meanwhile, is not yet thirty. This intelligently edited anthology of essays, short stories, photographs and illustrations explores youth culture in Iran’s megalopolis.

There are many Tehrans. We are given martyrs-in-training, a beloved, charismatic imam with his followers, post-Revolutionary spatial politics, interviews with survivors of the Shah’s regime, a glimpse into the indignities of traffic court and much more. A group of female football fans struggles to gain admittance to all-male stadiums; we visit a school for women clerics; there are startling photos of female police cadets like chador-clad action heroines; and a gentle portrait of a transsexual truck driver.

The city’s mean streets, rife with hard crime and drugs, are covered compassionately and unflinchingly in two essays. Contemporary artists like Nicky Nodjumi and Khosrow Hassanzadeh are showcased. Iranian hip hop, grim morality police, dreamy narrators groping for meaning: they’re all here. Too few in the West or East have enquired enough into what makes Iran, a vast and diverse country, tick. Tehran is a good place to start. This is the right book for the right times.Olivia Snaije