وزارد او دا وستساد
American blog of Iranian dissent

Giving Tanks

Being a Good Sumerian

We live in a DIY or DIE kind of world these days, and being an independent child of the 'alternative' 90s I wholeheartedly embrace that fact.  I was that kid putting out Zines and shooting Public Access shows. Today, with all the self-publishing and -producing tools at your fingertips it would be a crime to not take advantage of that landscape right now.

I guess that's what Nasim Pedrad's cousin Bo Mirosseni was also thinking when he made an "unofficial" music video for a band he likes, Sleigh Bells. It wasn't authorized by anyone, so he presumably funded it himself. Teaming up with his choreographer Ramin Shakibaei, they took a chance and scored by the video going viral. He went rogue in that MIA sorta way.

Maya [Explicit]To quote Mirosseni from his Twitter feed: "If you love the internets the internets will love you." Just trying to be a Good Sumerian, I mean Samaritan, and help promote a fellow Iranian-American director's work I went ahead and showed some love since he was retweeting acknowledgment left and right. Networking is the name of the game, too.

Instead I got caught in a web of deceit, plagiarized by a wicked spambot that stole and republished my tweet in its entirety without attribution, landing the content on their unauthorized domain -- which they're trying to bribe Nasim Pedrad's management into buying.  And what does Bo Mirosseni do? He unknowingly RT's the spambot's tweet.

I did a bit of research and track down the goon behind the spambot and the leeching website. I emailed this fellow, a Canadian living in Ontario named Josh Grobar -- who unknowingly and idiotically made his name and contact info public in the WHOIS directory -- who replied with a blackmailing email that I don't see fit publishing here.

I should take a chill pill, and perhaps take some time learning about the copyrights and wrongs of our new media marketplace. Whatever that means.

NBCee Rock

The Entreprenoors

In this digital age, it's the revenge of the nerds who are status-updating all the way the way to the bank. Now the millenial generation steeped in iThis and myThat has gotten the Hollywood treatment with 'The Social Network' about Facebook entrepreneur-turned-emperor Mark Zuckerberg.

The flick about virtual reality is virtually devoid of Asian geeks, who've played a significant role as architects of Web 2.0 and 'Social Media'. Iranians, Indians and Orientals (can we still say that?) have been a big part of the new Silicon Valley, from execs to engineers.

At Facebook headquarters in the heart of Palo Alto -- where soc.culture.iranian was launched -- there's plenty of Persian making things happen. Like Niloofar Nafici and her husband Navid Mansourian, two twentysomethings who harnessed the power of Social Media activism during the #IranElection wave last year. Then earlier this year they organized a Norouz feast at Facebook HQs. I've corralled several of these tech-heads on a Twitter List.

The only racial/ethnic minority character in the film is played a white dude of Italian heritage, as this WSJ article referenced by Roger Ebert points out. Some of those same South Asians are complaining about the forthcoming Freddie Mercury project in the works that cast Sascha Baron Cohen for the role of the Queen frontman. SBC has Persian roots, thus has Mercury inside him. So we won't touch that one.

Manucher United

Earlier this year, I got a Facebook friend request from a long lost uncle Manucher. It was one of a slew of such advances from relatives on Facebook that made my presence on that infringing social networking service feel even more awkward.

As an adult I've never hung out with this amoo, having briefly chatted with once by accident over the phone earlier this year. It was your typical overly-polite, underwhelming conversation I have with older Persians that think I'm not worth their time. A lof of haal-ahvaal. To try and break the ice I found some common ground with an old standby: "So, football-o mibeeni? Who do you think is gonna win the Vorld Kup this summer?"

It works every time. As a fubol supporter myself I know the ins and outs, how to weave it into a conversation like Didier Drogba splits a defense with a delicate pass forward. But Manuchehr would be a challenge. He's spent the last two decades "serving" as a religious missionary on a small scenic island out in the middle of the Pacific, raising not one but two families after a messy divorce and remarriage and running a small computer business on the archipelago. Believe it or not, he's the second uncle I know to go this route. Maybe I'll talk about the other one next time.

I never thought he'd be a fan of any sports, or many forms of entertainment.  I found this out first hand during the first time I met him, back in 1991. He was stopping over on his trans-atlantic flight and spent a couple of days at our house. I was your typical thirteen year old boy with posters of athletes on my bedroom wall. Manuchehr was given the upstairs tour by my mother, and I began to feel the discomfort that comes when you know a mustached Iranian man is about to judge you.


Another No-Show

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in AmericaEarlier this afternoon ABC announced leaked its fall lineup of new shows, and 'Funny in Farsi' was not among them. It's not a big shock, but it feels like a big letdown after all the anticipated buildup on its Facebook page, where Firoozeh Dumas herself was giving updates and interacting directly with the nearly 12,000 supporters in charming ways.

Adding insult to injury, tonight Disney -- ABC's parent company -- held the Los Angeles premiere of 'Prince of Persia', its 300-pound gorilla of guerilla warfare in desert. TENKS GOD they didn't roll the red carpet at Mann's in Vestvood Village, like they usually do, and held it at Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood instead.

photo © NBC
The pilot of 'Funny in Farsi' was already an underdog going into the annual Upfronts, the flashy draft-like announcement process of America's television networks. To me, Upfronts are exactly what's wrong about old-school media in this country. Broadcast TV is no longer simply supported by advertisers, but now exists primarily for advertisers. With all the focus groups and testing, the politically-correct win over anything that might rub someone the wrong way. Tenks god for YouTube, as well as for Sarah Silverman and her then-boyfriend.

It's not all bad news for Persians at this year's Upfronts. Nasim Pedrad was one of NBC's featured players, which means she's primed for picking in the future. Perhaps a sitcom, perhaps a dotcom -- I'll keep climbing the latter.

The Fear of Godzallah

photo © 20th Century Fox
There's a standout scene in Gurinder Chandha's movie 'Bend it like Beckham' where the Sikh parents are startled when their daughter isn't obedient to all the frames on the wall.

I remember seeing that in a theatre, and realizing that the time has come for First Gen ethnic kids to take on taboo subjects. It's our coming of age. It also exacerbated my torture at the time because I was without any outlets to write or produce anything. Hence I turned to the blogoshere to dabble with the billions of ideas in my head, hoping something comes to fruition when I finally get access to resources -- human or material.

There were a lot of turbaned men dotting the walls of the homes I grew up in. There were also a ton of pictures of spaceship-looking things called Houses of Worship. They were always shadowing, and intimidating for a kid when you mix in some premature deaths, tumultuous sociopolitical times,. My Bahai relatives couldn't fathom how I didn't have my eyes well up with tears or my heart gasping when hearing religious stories like they did. That resulted in the proverbial question of whether there's something 'wrong' with me. And sometimes, when I felt really alienated, I'd think there maybe was something fun-damentally disturbing about me.

With all that said, I wasn't sure what all the fuss was about when I heard South Park was censored by Comedy Central for trying to de-pict Muhammad in one of their sketches. Of course it's a touchy subject in recent years, with some Muslim fanatics wanting to get their hands around the neck of cartoonists.
The Holy Pictures

These doodling provocateurs, like South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone, are always white, always male, always very mono-cultured. And they're trying the old shock-and-awe tactics with little respect for their subjects. To me, if they had the balls they'd have an episode of burning an American flag or another symbol of American Idol-atry.

It's pure (er, Pák) speculation, but the attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad (thanks for desecrating that name idiot) parked his car outside of Comedy Central's parent company Viacom's headquarters. Perhaps he wanted to send a message to those South Park dorks. I've spent some time in that building, which is interesting because my father would always call me "corrupt" for watching MTV (when it was still relevant and interesting -- ie, the 90s).

Religious fundamentalists causing the uproars, no matter what the faith, seem to have no problem mocking religions that aren't theirs. Like the ancient Buddha statues. That's an extreme case, but I know many mainstream Muslims in America who think of themselves as progressives and speak out against being stereotyped, but then are silent when it goes the other way. You can't have it both ways. That hypocrisy ticked me off when so many of them were quiet during the #iranelection.

Now while indigenous Eastern cultures are still too rigid in what they deem sacred, American society is disturbing on the opposite end of the spectrum. It has a dreadfully unique ability to render anything completely and utterly meaningless. To take something, commodify it, stomp on it, and mindlessly turn it into an empty product or catchphrase. A Jesus Christ bobblehead, or a horny puppet.

In today's era where everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, with media everywhere, over-exposure is an inevitability. When everything is exposed, all the mystique is gone. The element of intrigue dead and buried.