The Last Days of Tehran

As Alfred Hitchcock once told Francois Truffaut, suspense is a far greater device for a movie director than surprise. If a bomb goes off suddenly in a movie, that’s about 30 seconds of surprise in the immediate aftermath. But if you include a shot of the baddie placing the bomb under the dinner table first, then several minutes of otherwise routine conversation among the stars is instantly transformed into suspense, as the audience sits on the edges of their seats awaiting the bomb’s detonation.

Some Hollywood films play out that idea on a grand scale: – The Last Days of Pompeii, and the story of the Titanic are both perennials for filmmakers, because the audience knows the characters are doomed, and thus watching their otherwise everyday quotidian details takes on a whole new dimension, as we await the tragic denouement.

Mad Men does this sort of thing near the end of every season: the first season climaxed with the gang at Sterling Cooper awaiting the election returns in 1960, certain that their presidential candidate, handsome young ex-Navy war hero – Richard Nixon! – had it in the bag. The following year was their take on the Cuban Missile Crisis. And of course, the second to last episode in the just-concluded season began with Don and the boys complaining about their office building’s HVAC system on the fritz, the boss being a jerk again, having to watch the clients’ moronic TV commercials for a living, until suddenly, on one of the TVs in the office was the familiar black & white image of Walter Cronkite in his thick horn-rimmed glasses, broadcasting tragic news from Dallas.

All of which is a long set-up to a blog post found by Steve Green for his Week in Blogs segment on PJTV. It’s from a blog called Page F30, and titled, “Iran in the 1970s before the Islamic Revolution.”

It features numerous color snapshots that could have been taken anywhere in the west in the 1970s: guys in Qiana shirts with collars the size of B-52 wingspans, big lapeled-polyester suits, women with big blonde hair and Liza Minnelli-inspired looks, plenty of makeup, etc. In other words, normal everyday folks not knowing that their lives were about to be completely upended by the end of the decade.

It makes an equally eerie double-feature with this earlier post by Phyllis Chesler featuring photographs of Cairo University’s graduating classes from 1959 until 2004. As Mark Steyn wrote about Phyllis’s post:

Whenever I give a speech on Islam, some or other complacenik always says, “Oh, but they haven’t had time to Westernize. Just you wait and see. Give it another 20 years, and the siren song of Westernization will work its magic.” This argument isn’t merely speculative, it’s already been proved wrong by what’s happened over the last 20 years. Compare the Cairo University class of 1959 with those of the 21st century, and then see if you can recite your inevitablist theories of social evolution with a straight face. The idea that social progress is like the wheel or the internal combustion engine – once invented, it can never be uninvented – is one of the laziest assumptions of the Western Left.

But hey, don’t worry. Our president is totally up for moving the clock forward in the region once again.

(Originally posted at Ed

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