Monday, August 30, 2010

Dangerous Path

Actually I have had nightmares like this. It is usually the first dream of the night and I wake up with a loud shout.

Curious Obituary

The Gentlemen's Magazine- Volume 145, pg. 92 from the year 1829 January – June, contains this interesting obituary from London and vicinity.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Happiness and Choice

Today I found this interesting lecture by Professor Barry Schwartz, a Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. Professor Schwartz makes a compelling argument that the abundance of choice in modern society, rather than bringing about satisfaction and happiness, has tended to cause greater frustration, confusion and disappointment. The glut of options has created a society based on unrealistic expectation and regret. I invite you to listen to the lecture and leave your comments. I have also included a transcript of the lecture.
What Schwartz talks about is all very much like my experience with cable television. Before cable, we somehow got along perfectly well with only four or five network channels. I am sure young people today would wither and die at the very idea of it but it did force networks to come up with decent programming in the end. Still the notion that we would now be allowed to watch over 200 channels filled us with both wonder and speechless anticipation. It was really beyond the power of my imagination to grasp. However, it wasn't long before I made a disheartening discovery about cable. No matter which program you were currently watching you always felt that you were missing something far more interesting on a different channel. And nine times out of ten, it wasn't true but the feeling was insidious nevertheless. And so began the age of channel zapping.
One of the first things I noted was the limited options in the supermarket. Vast aisles of products, that's true, but all the same brands. One kind of this and one kind of that, stretching halfway down the aisle. Later, European products were offered and this gave consumers a bit more variety but they tended to be the most expensive brands and all very upscale. And the Turkish market was, in fact, a difficult market to break into because the shoppers tended (back then) to be wary of any kind of new products. The attitude was: this is what we know, this is what we are used to and so why experiment?
Similarly, upon my arrival here so many years ago, I was amazed and appalled by the regimentation of the average life in Turkey. It was an insult to my American sense of individualism, that one could pass through life without question, from school to career to marriage to parenthood.. without making any real decision on any of it. As I looked closer and silently compared both societies, I noted that for the most part, Turks seem fairly satisfied with their lack of options. Not all of them to be sure but the majority seemed content. I would smugly say to myself, "Of course, they are happy. They don't know what they are missing." But surely materialism- as tempting as it appears initially- isn't the key to happiness.
But don't misunderstand me. It is not one big la-la land where everybody dances around like Julie Andrews. There is frustration, of course, especially for women. Yet the kind of depression you commonly see in the US, in all of its forms, seems much harder to find. I find a stronger social network here; friendships that last a whole lifetime as opposed to a few years.
Life in affluent societies has become more and more like cable television, so many choices and so little enjoyment. That feeling we are missing something happening not so far away and so we skip from option to option, fearing that we will miss the best one, fearing that we are settling for less. Meanwhile life goes on and the fulfillment that comes from focusing on a single thing, one life goal no matter how small, slips through fingers.
Paradox of Choice

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hard Headed Woman - Cat Stevens

For all My Arachnophobes

When I was a child, my family would regularly visit relatives in Arkansas. The land was still pretty wild then and it hasn't changed all that much today. One night, while coming back from my aunt's home, my parents suddenly pulled the station wagon over to the side of the desolate gravel road.  Under the headlight beams, in the middle of the road was a large tarantula- about the size of the average adult hand. It didn't seem too bothered by the attention, perhaps it was cold and therefore, sluggish. For a tarantula, it had a lot going for it, hairy and black as a lump of coal. Its forelegs stroking the ground like a blind harpist.

My brother was adamant about it almost from the moment he laid eyes on the creature. He HAD TO have it. Nobody, he explained, would believe him without some kind of proof. My parents finally- against their common sense and all notions of family safety - were persuaded.  So, under his direction, we emptied the first aid kit and maneuvered the little beast into the metal box.  Somehow, we drove back to the city with that monster in the same car with us. I really don't see how all of us retained our composure on the six hour journey. One scream and I have no doubt all  of us would have bolted  from that speeding automobile in all directions. 

Finally, we arrived back in our suburban home late that Sunday evening. My older brother would from time to time peer into the box and the very next day, he marched off to school with the metal box under his arm. When he returned home at the end of the day, my mother was somewhat surprised that my brother no longer had the first aid box with him. 
"What did you do with it?"
My brother smiled, mostly to himself and finally said, "I sold it."

To accompany my feeble spider tale, I have this odd link for you to play with.

Fish Story

Take a good hard look at this photograph. What do you see? If you want to know the unbelievable story behind this strange photograph (and trust me, it's worth it)  then click HERE.

Voting "Yes" for a Wife

From Hurriyet Daily News:
Turkish man demands wife in exchange for 'yes' vote in charter poll
With politicians stepping up their efforts to convince voters to either approve or reject the upcoming constitutional reform package, one elderly voter in Çankırı has set his price for delivering a “yes” vote – a wife.
“I will say ‘yes,’ that is easy, but you have to find a woman for me that I can marry,” 96-year-old Ömer Sosyal told Suat Kınıklıoğlu, a deputy with the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, when the politician asked him what his vote would be.  (More) 

Earth from Above

Check out all of the remarkable aerial photographs at

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Pre-Liberation Commercial

Your Chosen Super Power

This week on "This American Life"  the subject of the podcast is "Superpowers."  Click Here to listen.

In Part One, an interviewer conducts a survey, posing these questions: If you could have one of two superpowers- either the ability to fly or the power of invisibility- which would you choose and why?

The collected reactions and replies very intriguing and say a lot the individuals and human nature in general. Although I am not sure if I can agree with all of his conclusions, it was fascinating to learn why some people decided one over the other and their rationale.

What about you? Which would you choose? And why?

So that you won't be swayed too much, my own answers can be found in the comment section.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Zsa Zsa Gabor

I call everyone 'Darling' because I can't remember their names.
Zsa Zsa Gabor

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Many Faces of Lolita


Here is a sample of the many book covers for Vladimir Nabokov's book, Lolita. If this was a hard book to get published, then it must have been even harder to design a cover for.  To see the entire collection of book covers click HERE.

We Have No Secrets - Carly Simon

One of my favorites from Carly Simon. (Another one was "The Carter Family" which I shall be posting at a later date.) Now, although the music is pretty easy to listen to by itself, the lyrics are very interesting. For this reason, I wanted to post them separately.

We Have No Secrets
We have no secrets
We tell each other everything
About the lovers in the past
And why they didn't last
We share a cast of characters from A to Z
We know each others fantasies
And though we know each other better when we explore
Sometimes I wish
Often I wish
That I never knew some of those secrets of yours

The water was cold
The beach was empty but for one
Now you were lying in the sun
Wanting and needing no-one
Then some child came, you never asked for her to come
She drank a pint of your Rum
And later when you told me
You said she was a bore
Sometimes I wish
Often I wish
That I never knew some of those secrets of yours

In the name of honesty, in the name of what is fair
You always answer my questions
But they don't always answer my prayers
And though I know you say that it's me that you adore
Sometimes I wish
Often I wish
That I never, never, never knew
Some of those secrets of yours
Some of those secrets of yours
Some of those secrets of yours
We have no secrets
Telling each other most everything now

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Terror Babies

Just when you thought the Republican politicians couldn't get any more goofy, loud or obnoxious, some new kind of phony issue arises. This week is the "Terror Baby" conspiracy which, asserts Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), is a gaping whole in the defense of the USA. According to the congressman, Al Qaeda may be sending women to the U.S. to birth a contingent of future terrorists credentialed with American passports.  Without any supporting evidence- except for some anonymous ex-FBI agent, Gohmert went on the floor of Congress to call for a revision in the constitution which allows babies born in the US to have automatic citizen rights.  

If you've got the stomach for it, you can watch CNN's Anderson Cooper valiantly attempt to pin the Texas congressman down. It is amusing and pathetic at the same time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Lamentation of Elephants

Ancient historians tell this sad story about the twenty or so elephants used in a Roman spectacle In 55 BC, when Pompey dedicated his theatre.  Animals had been rounded up from all over Africa and brought to Rome for a staged hunt and slaughter.  We unexpectedly find that, despite this unprecedented slaughter and barbarism, it was the doomed elephant's pleas for mercy that moved the Roman people.
Plutarch says that five hundred lions were killed, but there was "above all, an elephant fight, a most terrifying spectacle" (Life of Pompey, LII.4). Cicero, who was present, wrote to a friend that there were two animal hunts a day, which lasted for five days.

"The last day was that of the elephants, and on that day the mob and crowd were greatly impressed, but manifested no pleasure. Indeed the result was a certain compassion and a kind of feeling that that huge beast has a fellowship with the human race"

When the elephants in the exhibition given by Pompeius had lost all hopes of escaping, they implored the compassion of the multitude by attitudes which surpass all description, and with a kind of lamentation bewailed their unhappy fate. So greatly were the people affected by the scene, that, forgetting the general altogether, and the munificence which had been at such pains to do them honor, the whole assembly rose up in tears, and showered curses on Pompeius, of which he soon afterwards became the victim.
Pliny the Elder, "Combats of Elephants," chap. 7 in Nature of Terrestrial Animals Book 8 of The Natural History
"The elephants were pitied by the people when, after being wounded and ceasing to fight, they walked about with their trunks raised toward heaven, lamenting so bitterly as to give rise to the report that they did so not by mere chance, but were crying out against the oaths in which they had trusted when they crossed over from Africa, and were calling upon Heaven to avenge them" (Cassius Dio XXXIX.38).


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