Monday, June 28, 2010

Kitty Chain Reaction

I've watched this about twenty times and every time it's funny. My cats do this sort of thing all the time and I guess in the fraidy-cat world, it is better to dart off in all directions than to ask for any details about what just happened.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Do it Again - Steely Dan

The first time I posted this song it didn't work so I had to go back, Jack, and do it again.

The Vuvuzela Goes Hollywood

Ah the soothing sound of Vuvuzela.. for generations, African mothers have been playing sweet lullabies to their babies with dulcet tones of this traditional instrument.  Here are two notable entries from's image challenge. Go to the site and check them all out at

Football Acting Class

I wish players would realize that , in a age of slow-mo replay, this silliness spoils the game for a lot of people.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dancing in the Moonlight

Tonight's a full moon and so I thought I would share this with you. This is such a happy and romantic song.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Silent Snow, Secret Snow

Here is a short film based on a story by Conrad Aiken.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Can Kulduk- A Vestige

As the song goes, a year is a drop in the bucket when you lose somebody you love.
A year has passed since a Turkish friend, Can, died. I wrote about it many months ago in an earlier post, and the most peculiar way I learned about it. I tried my best to convey an image of a person whose passing left me rather heartbroken. During this time, I am sure not a week went by that Can was not on my mind in one way or another. Mostly about how lucky I was to have known him and how sad to know that he has gone.
I have no idea how much longer I will be in this world but I suspect that I will not live long enough to meet another one like Can Kulduk. It had been nice believing that I would leave this world in his safe and confident hands. But it didn't quite turn out that way.
So, it's a strange mix of feelings I have when I think about him, of being blessed and robbed at the same time.

Of course, there comes a time when all grief becomes self-indulgence and extended mourning becomes unhealthy self-pity. (I was not, after all, his brother or even his closest friend.) Still, most people who have mourned the loss of a friend or family member will admit that, although the pain never goes away, the first year is probably the hardest. The first anniversary, therefore, marks a slight falling off of the sadness.

According to the Turkish tradition for mourning, there are timed steps and in some ways this seems helpful. In Anatolia there are certain days in which dead person has been commemorated through religious ceremony and meal. First of all comes the 40th day, 52nd day and anniversary  of dead person. It is a healthy thing because it sets a kind of regularity and order on our emotions. Undoubtedly grief- as well as love- is a potent emotion and it is easy to allow them to overwhelm us, blind and destroy us without some general precepts.

On a Face-book site devoted to Can, his friends had announced that there was to be a ceremony and a memorial swim meet in Can's name. I supposed that's how athletes show their respect to the loss of a team mate and friend and it seems as good a way as any. I know that Can would probably have liked this sort of event, in any case.
Even before this announcement, I had decided to spend the day before, searching out Can's final resting place. I'm not sure why. Maybe I have always felt a lack of privacy- and intimacy- when I was at a funeral -or memorial. It all seemed quite unnatural and showy but the alternative was, of course, to show nothing at all. Equally regrettable choices as far as I was concerned. I just wanted a time alone with my friend.

So, on the day before the actual anniversary, I had gone to the cemetery, arrived disoriented like a tourist right off the plane, and was followed- annoyingly- by a kid who offered to bring water to the grave. (Unless it is a tradition, I assume it is for the plants at the site.) When I turned right, he turned right and when I turned left, he was there too. It immediately became apparent that finding Can amongst such disorganization was going to hopeless. The boy offered to show me to the main offices where they kept the records.

The answer I learned was, "Yok." The most negative of all Turkish responses. Followed by a "tsking" sound and closed eyes and raised eyebrows. Eventually I learned that I was in the wrong cemetery altogether and was directed to another, further out of the city.

I was told to get on the next mini-bus taxi and it would take me there, "ama en son durak." The very last stop. That's fitting, I thought. Had I not been told that, I could easily have decided that I was being kidnapped. Eventually I was the last passenger and the dolmus made a slow circle and stopped. Past the tiny shops for marble tomb makers, I marched down into a treeless forlorn spot in the crook of two large hills. Hot and windy, barren and stony and lonely.

I had been given an "address" by the first cemetery director, which despite the usual Turkish confusion, allowed me to locate the general area where he was buried. And then, just as I was starting to get frustrated, I suddenly found myself looking straight into Can's face. Or at least, the oval ceramic photo that adorned his headstone.  It was typical but sad to see that the crafters of his headstone had clumsily spelled his name incorrectly. Iste Turkiye, as they say with a shrug.

It was like walking into a very dull- impossibly dull- party and suddenly seeing the familiar face of a friend. Of course, this friend was dead.
On the following day, I managed to find the swimming pool in Alsancak, near the center of  Izmir. It had been the pool where Can had regularly trained and competed. He had been well loved by everybody there. He had been their golden child and their legend. However, when I was arrived at the swimming pool, I was rather shocked and disappointed to find that I was alone. I had expected a small crowd of Can's friends to come to pay their respect to his memory, this being the first anniversary of his death. Although I have known to become fairly indignant and self-righteous, I still kept thinking that Can deserved better. I was beginning to doubt whether I was even at the right place until I hesitantly asked one of the staff if there was to be some kind of memorial ceremony.
"Evet," the burly man replied, "Kimsiniz?" Yes, Who are you?
I started to say that I was his teacher but stopped myself and said, "Can'nin Arkadasim Ben." I am Can's friend. It unexpectedly made me quite happy to be able to say that.
The man spoke to another man who had appeared from at a window above and who seemed a bit more involved.
"Alman misin?" Are you German?
"Hayir, Amerikaliyim."
Reverting to English, he waved me on and said, "Come. Come." In a few minutes, I was ushered into through the staff offices. There was Can's father, his face aged and tired. "Do you remember me?" I asked him taking off my sunglasses. He stared at me for a moment. "I was Can's teacher. His English teacher."
He exclaimed,"Joe. Ah, yes, Joe. How are you?" Despite the occasion, he seemed genuinely pleased to see me there. That took my by surprised a little, because I'd honestly thought his father never cared much for me.

I learned that there would be no poolside ceremony at all. I had misunderstood. Outside, on the street there was a white minibus, which would take the small group of Can's friends and family to the cemetery to say a few words at the grave. Altogether there were about eight of us and I had met none of them. All of us were mysteriously connected to this young man in one way or another. We didn't know how and we didn't need to ask.
As we took our places on the bus, I turned and saw Can's father sitting alone in the back. Angry at my own thoughtlessness, I changed places and sat beside him. As we flew down the highway on that hot summer day, he kept repeating, "Off, offf, offf." The immensity of a sadness too large for all the words in the world. All his paternal hopes had been scattered by  winds that blew down from  barren hills.

I know it might sound totally inappropriate- shameful even, but at that moment, I had such a strange feeling of exuberance. It was hard to put into words and it took me a few days even to understand why I should have such a sensation. As a matter of fact, it wasn't one feeling at all, but a flood of them.

It was, I think, a feeling of pride. Pride? No, not exactly. Pride is too self-centered an idea. Honored. Yes, that's the word I want to use. It was an honor to be able to sit there with Can's father, to give what small comfort I could offer. Or even just to shut up and let him know that I shared in a small way beyond the feebleness of words, his loss. There was also the feeling that I was no longer merely an observer of Turkey and the minutiae of its culture but a participant in it. Not just a person who is permitted to observe but as a friend allowed to share.

Higher and higher we traveled up into the hills, passing the village neighborhoods that pass for suburbs in Turkey. It was like traveling in a hot air balloon with the vast city of Izmir becoming smaller and smaller below us. I had often wondered, looking up at the hills from Izmir who lived in the the isolated villages in the Yamanlar mountains.

After we arrived, a few of the visitors planted flowers there and watered them but given the landscape, it seemed kind of hopeless. And then we stood there absolutely motionless, as one of them reading from his phone the traditional Islamic prayers, hands palms up, heads slightly bowed. Not unexpectedly, Can's father broke down in tears and had to be escorted away. It was over now, they told him. It was time to leave now.
And then she sat down very quickly and stared very hard at Hugo's face, trying to remember every expression it had ever had.                                                                                                        A matter of life and sex by Oscar Moore
I recall at my mother's funereal, looking down into the casket and seeing her face and awkwardly hunched body. I wasn't sure how I would react. I had been terrified- for some reason- that I might lose control and break down in front of family and strangers. (Protestants are not known for spontaneous emotional displays.) However, my first thought was when I saw her there was , "That's not her." Although it bore a strong resemblance to my mother , as far as I was concerned , it could very well have been a wax mannequin from Madam Tussaud. Everything that had once made her alive, made her a living, unique entity was gone but most of all the thing that was missing was her expression. Or, in the very real sense of the word, the animation.

I have somewhere among my belongings a cassette I once made of my grandmother and mother speaking. The conversation was trivial and typical. In itself, it was not an important moment. I listened to it once after my mother's death and I will not forget the profound joy and crushing pain it produced. Most of all, there was the distinctive sound of my mother's laughter, startling, heartbreaking and yet so familiar.

Last week, a close friend of Can's uploaded a short video in which Can and a few friends were having fun. There he was again, exactly as I remembered him, before he left for the United States. Innocent and slightly heroic. This is how he looked when he was my student. That is how he acted when I knew him. It was recorded at a time when he was still fresh with his whole life in front of him. Who could have known that, given how brief his life turned out to be, he was already, in fact, past his middle age? And here he was again, animated and smiling and with us again.

At one moment in the recording, he stares directly into the camera and asks, "What?" There was that classic expression, the left eyebrow raised, seemingly irritated but not really. How could I have forgotten that particular expression of his? For a moment or two, he was there, not a photo but the person. I watched it twice before I decided that I couldn't take any more. I'm glad I watched it but I don't want to see it again. It seems like a good time to leave him Can to eternity.
For if the darkness and corruption leave
a vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Two by The Grass Roots

According to Wikipedia, The Grass Roots achieved one platinum album, two gold albums, one gold single and charted singles a total of 21 times. Between 1967 and 1972, The Grass Roots set a record for being on the Billboard charts for 307 straight weeks. They have sold over thirty million records worldwide.

But seriously, taking one look at the members, can you imagine the groupies they must have had?? Wonder how they had time to even think of making music?

Here is their official site and Wikipedia has a lot of information on the group here,

Despotism- The Early Years

Everything's just practically explained in this short film and there's really nothing to refute. (All of my teachers looked like the one in this film too.) 

The question is: Where does your community, state and nation stand on these scales?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Announcement to my Friends....

Because the Turkish government seems intent on limiting its citizen's access to the outside world by banning Internet sites, I have decided to take a break from writing the blog. At the moment, I can see none of the pictures that I have previously uploaded and none of the embedded videos from YouTube can play. Under these conditions, it is very difficult for me to see how I can continue.

After nearly three years of ridiculously loyal blogging, I am saddened all this heavy-handed interference by politicians who have no idea about the "internets."

I'd like to thank my followers and my visitors. Perhaps this intolerable situation will change in the future and I will be able to produce the kind of blog I want. I especially wanted to thank Stranger in Istanbul and Ayak in Mugla.. good friends and wonderful blog writers. (You can find their links in the side bar.)

Bye bye and thanks again, everybody.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Night- Ceyhun Celikten

I am not great fan of Turkish music but I have to say this sounds pretty great to me. Just enough Turkish influence to add class without falling into the category of wedding music. 

If nothing else, this provides a good argument for dismissing the ban on YouTube. Everybody  should be able to listen to this native talent.  The next song can be translated as, "The Pain was Beautiful" but that could be all wrong. (Please feel free to offer a better translation.)

The new TRT-M channel should really concentrate on giving a forum for young performers with talent. There are so many of them in this country who go unrecognized. I suppose it has something to do with so many big egos who refuse to step down once they gone well past their prime… if there ever were  any "prime" years to speak of, anyway.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

With a Girl like You- The Troggs

One question- How cool is this? For more information about The Troggs, check out this site:

"With a Girl Like You" is a hit song by English band The Troggs. The song reached number one in the UK Singles Chart on 4 August 1966, where it remained for two weeks

Breaking News-Google banned in Turkey?


On Friday, June 4, 2010, a website called National Turk  reported this depressing news:

The Telecommunication and communication Ministry (TIB), a government body that can control Internet accessibility in Turkey are attempting to block certain IP’s (Internet Protocol Addresses) belonging to Google due to “legal reason”.

To read the complete article click here.

While Google itself doesn't seem to be banned, certain related Google services have been effectively blocked. Here is a list:

 Google services which are operating slowly or being banned by TIB


TODAY'S ZAMAN has a little information for the justification of the banning.  It is one that has been used time and time again to close websites in Turkey. The insulting of Ataturk, founder of the Turkish, whose vision of making Turkey a modern, secular and progressive nation is honored by the  The Atatürkist Thought Association (ADD). Paradoxically, it appears it was this organization that applied to the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office to ban Google Sites, saying several pages affiliated with the famous search engine insult Atatürk and the concept of Turkishness.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Postcards, Photos and Impressions

Aunt Dot said she must get down to her Turkey book quickly, or she would be forestalled by all these tiresome people. Writers all seemed to get the same idea at the same time. One year they would all be rushing for Spain, next year to some island off Italy, then it would be the Greek islands, then Dalmatia, then Cyprus and the Levant, and now people were all for Turkey.

"How they get the money for it I can't think. Turkey costs about a pound an hour. I suppose they have contacts People are so dishonest in these days. What do you think they are all writing about?"

"The usual things, I suppose. Antiquities and scenery and churches and towns and people and Xenophon and the Ten thousand did near Trebizond and what the Byzantines did, and coarse fishing in the Bosphorus and excavations everywhere and merry village scenes."

The passage above comes from a wonderfully whimsical book called, "The Towers of Trezibond," by Rose Macaulay, which, although it provides many observations about Turkey, is actually more about the strangeness of the people that come and their odd motivations.

The Turkey book. I have often been encouraged to write my own Turkey book but I doubt if I will ever get around to it. My life in Turkey, I'd suppose, is not a particularly "marketable" commodity in the publishing world. As Turkey is both my home and my life, it would probably have to be an autobiography at this point. If nothing else, I can safely say I am only an authority on my life story.

I mean, it's one thing to write an account of your experience while living or traveling in Turkey, but it is, in my opinion, quite another to use that limited experience to become an expert on the country or to write a book. Pretending to be an authority on a country as complex as Turkey is asking for trouble. It can inadvertently become embarrassing when writers pass on in accurate information, or tiresome stereotypes or just plain silliness.

Even after all the time, I have spent in Turkey, I would still say whatever I write about Turkey is simply an accumulation of experience and not much more or less. (In the past, I have written about Bulent Ersoy and Kadir Inanir but that was after a lot of research and advice from the Turks who know.)

I love reading about other people's experiences in Turkey. Even people who have been in Turkey a relatively short time because their impressions are based on experience or observations. Impressions don't have to be based on facts, of course and very often, they defy the facts. This paradox makes them more interesting and more real.

However, it is sad to find visitors to Turkey (occasionally ex pats), many of whom come, see and rush off to see the next thing, suddenly becoming the expert of all things Turkish to their friends back home. It often seems that experience and understanding take a back seat to the power to impress. What a grand life I am living here, and all that. I suppose it comes from a lack of reflection and interpretation. That takes a bit more time and a bit more thought. It is easier to aim and press the button and then regale the glories on Facebook.

A British friend of mine, Ursula, years ago got into the annoying habit of saying, "Been there, done that" to everything anybody else would speak about. It was a marvelous way to dismiss all and sundry. "When I was in Samsun last week, I saw-"

"Been there, done that."

Absolutely nothing you could do could impress her. If you had told her that you were planning to mate with aliens the following night, she would have blown smoke in your face and said her little phrase. And still, if you had asked her to provide one clear and meaningful impression she had of her Turkish experience, she'd only have one or two snappy lines. To me, that doesn't seem particularly cost-effective. "A week on the Black Sea and all I got were these pithy remarks."

turkey-tourismIt is all too easy for traveling to become devoid of meaning and, still worse, end up as merely a way of impressing others. In my parents' day, a tour of Europe was supposed to have the same effect- a two-week rushed tour of all the European capitals is later condensed into 200 slides on the carousel to bore the neighbors with. "Ah, this, my friends, is the five star hotel we stayed in in Roma. Roma, that's what they call Rome, there. Here is the food we ate in Milan. " For middle-aged Americans touring Europe, being there and doing that meant taking a lot of pictures. Because, after all, what's the point of it all if you do not have any proof? On and on, pictures of vast cathedrals, blurry pictures of piles of food, bridges over canals, familiar faces in unfamiliar places. Naturally, the reality was quite different and probably none of the places they saw made any sense to them. Worse, they came and left, unchanged by any of it.

Today, for the American in need of stuffing the credentials of their personal history, Europe is less impressive. Even Turkey, once considered the land of Oriental enchantment and rather mysterious is on the verge of being of being over-publicized, but then it always has been. Even back in 1956, when Rose MacCauley wrote "Towers of Trebizond," her Aunt Dot was declaring Turkey to be spoiled, becoming all soft for the Turkey as it once was.

My problem is the opposite. After spending only a few days in a place with even a limited degree of comfort and charm, I am ready to pack up all my things and permanently relocate. Antalya was like that. I spent two weeks there many years ago and, although I had planned to tour to outlying villages and whatnot, I ended up becoming too lazy to do anything but soak up the atmosphere of the place.

And that is something I especially love about Turkey; if you actually choose to stay in one place and get to know the people who live and work there, ask questions, open up and share things, there is a feeling of belonging that makes all that rushing quite counter-productive and silly.

Not long ago, I was at a restaurant in Izmir and one of the waiters became inordinately friendly and explained that he remembered me. Possible, of course, but a little unnerving. As a teacher, you can meet a lot of people who are apt to remember you better than you remember them. But upon investigation, it turned out that nearly a decade before I had spoken with him for a few hours at an open cafe in Cesme, a sunny resort about an hour out of town. We had talked about our lives a little on that early summer day. Here it was, ten years later, and he even recalled my name and my job. It's the thing I suppose I love most about being in Turkey. That warmth that goes beyond expectation. How could you have that experience if you were all about taking in the most in the least amount of time?

Ursula has lived in Izmir almost as long as I have. About ten years ago, she made a proposition to my Turkish friend and I. The three of us would " go and do" the southeast areas of Turkey. Despite some qualms- a weekend of traveling with the wrong person is endurable but a week and a half is like dental surgery- I agreed.

She loved to play the part of an archaeologist, although, after a few very shallow questions, I decided it all purely on the lowest amateur level. She knew nothing about ancient history, which, at least in my opinion, would seem to be important for archeology- and couldn't tell a Hittite excavation from a hole in the ground. I suppose it was another example of living-abroad-as-character-building exercise. As we moved from city to city, Adana to Antakya to Antep, she would clutch and consult her well-thumbed guide book.

She insisted on going to every museum and every ruin mentioned in the book. My Turkish friend was much harder to impress. Some of the things he liked but most he took a brief look at and shrugged. I became very exasperated and fed up with being towed like a derelict barge from spot to spot and had a tizzy-fit in Urfa- I think- one morning. What was the point of being there if I couldn't focus on anything for more than twenty seconds?

The strangest part of it all was that her opinion on everything she viewed, tasted, smelled or touched was very dependent on this particular source book. For instance, once when we ate at a rather humdrum restaurant mentioned in the book, we found the chicken overcooked and tough. (If I had pulled out the tongue of my shoe and ate it, it would have been easier and more tasty, I think) I watched as she put all her elbow grease into cutting the desiccated poultry leg, but, as we marched out into the street, she turned and said brightly,"That was one of the best meals I had since we left Izmir." Relying on a book to tell you what to think about your experience seems to me the opposite of travelling.

On another occasion, my Turkish friend once played a marvelously wicked- but witty- trick on her. After a weekend in Bergama, he later showed her photographs taken on the trip. She was happy to pass them around and show all her Izmir friends who sat with us, suddenly becoming an expert on this or that. I was slightly confused because I couldn't actually remember some of the places in the photos. Of course, being a philistine, I tend to think one collapsed temple or one toppled pile of columns is the same as any other. So, I really couldn't be sure if any of the places were familiar or not. Later, I learned that, during the trip, my friend had gone into a shop, found some postcards and took photographs of them. Examining the photographs more closely, I noticed in a few of the corners a large blob of a thumb that held the postcard.


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