Monday, June 30, 2003

June 29, 2003

Counterfeit culture

“A lot of the music you hear is a copy of music made elsewhere,” F says. “Sometimes it is the words that are copied, sometimes it is the tune.”

“I am not surprised,” I say. “It is true of everything else.” Copies of everything are here. There may be no Crest, but there is Crend with a similar logo. There are bad copies of the Coca Cola logo on bottles of homegrown soda that tastes pretty damn good. The Nike swoosh is a little too fat here. Things are “’maed’ in USA.” Children’s T-shirts have slogans on them like:

“Have a happy how heavy is a duckling.”


“Barbie is beauty fine and miss”

We watch movies on CD that are imprinted with: “Property of Miramax for prescreening purposes only.”

The lyrics of Metallica have all been translated into Persian and are published in a book that is very popular with teenagers.

A blue Mickey Mouse graced a wall in the restaurant we ate at last night.

CDs with music videos taken from Iranian television in America are everywhere. My favorite featured two men singing about their mother. One was wearing a yellow suit and the other a white suit. The set was filled from top to bottom with flowers. It was hard for me to imagine that these men live in America and still manage to dress themselves in such incredibly tacky suits.

People with satellite tv watch Iranian-American programs. Imagine: community television with a huge, huge, audience. (Note to my friend in Africa: your idea for doing a sit com for community television about a Nigerian family in America could be huge if that station gets broadcast on satellite.)

“We are not a rich country, so we have to learn to hack and crack,” A tells me. He is talking about software, but it is true of many other things as well.

Get Busy

“Shake that thing…”

It seems that everywhere I go, people are listening to “Get Busy” by Sean Paul. In New York it was on walkmen everywhere. You could see people irresistibly moving to the rhythm when it played over their headphones. In Amsterdam, it was playing in the park and on people’s stereos. In Iran, it is playing on people’s television sets.

“My mother loves this song,” K’s 18-year-old nephew, E, tells us when the video comes on.

“Look, look,” E’s mother says of the video. “That little boy is some dancer!”

Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” video has everything: great music, fun, friends, and family. Like the Iran that we are experiencing, different generations are present and participating in the event. A man we assume is Sean Paul’s father plays cards with a friend in the kitchen while his basement fills with gorgeous 20-somethings dancing to Get Busy. A small child in his pjs sneaks in and joins the dance.

In a way the video presents a life that Iranians could have. People just seem bursting to have fun. Fun is power. Fun is what will ultimately bring down this regime.

Speaking of fun, you are not allowed to dance outside. People are always stopping me from dancing. On my way out the door tonight, Es was singing: “…It’s all good girl, turn me on…” and I was dancing. All of a sudden I felt like I was in some cheesy film about a small, uptight town saved from itself by a few daring dancers.

“Do you think most women would wear a manteau and scarf if they did not have to,” I asked E and N?

“No way.”

“Then why do they? Who makes them?”

“The police.”

“But I saw a car accident yesterday. The people involved waited for 6 hours for the police to show up.”

“Yes,” N laughed, “but they always have time to bother people on the streets.”

Expect something from K soon

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