Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mr. Twain On Turkish Coffee

It appears somebody neglected to mention to poor Mr.  Clemens that when drinking Turkish coffee, one should stop when reaching the "mud." My first cup was exactly the same experience as this:

Of all the unchristian beverages that ever passed my lips, Turkish coffee is the worst. The cup is small, it is smeared with grounds; the coffee is black, thick, unsavory of smell, and execrable in taste. The bottom of the cup has a muddy sediment in it half an inch deep. This goes down your throat, and portions of it lodge by the way, and produce a tickling aggravation that keeps you barking and coughing for an hour.

From "Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain, 1869

Incidentally, April 21, 2010 marks the centennial of Mr. Twain's death. Here's to you, Sam. American's Grandfather figure.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Study of the Covered Bazaar


Artwork by Nomad from unnamed photographer.

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Web Cam Images of New York

Two minutes ago, I snapped these web cam shots of NYC just . Jumping lizards! Another blizzard? And I complain about the rain here. To all the good people there, gecmis olsun from Turkey. Spring really REALLY is around the corner but it has been a long

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Violence on Television

Here is the danger of having excessive violence on television for children. Courtesy of B3ta, from the Imagine challenge "When Baddies Turn Good.. and Vice Versa."


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"The Magus" – A Nomadic Book Review

n493 Years ago, a Turkish friend recommended that I read John Fowles' The Magus. Normally, I am a bit resistant to suggestions about reading material. I suppose, being a bit of a snob, I find it a little insulting to be "sized up" so quickly in terms of what I like to read. I like to think- probably an assumed position- that my taste in books is a more refined than the average reader.

Of course, you can very often find me with my nose buried to crook in some fairly trashy true crime stories as well. (If I have Hollywood Babylon on my shelf, I have absolutely no reason to that snooty.) I have read more than my share of classics, appreciated many of them and detested a few. Most experimental fiction leaves me cold. For example, Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" may make some people's toes curl in delight but for me, I sighed with relief when I turned that final page. And it does me no great favor and wins no kudos to have somebody try to explain, in obvious exasperation, why  I should like something.

So, I probably went into reading this particular book, with a bit of a skeptical mind and I think that is the best way to begin this particular book, strangely enough. It just works better.
Here is the plotline: Young Nicholas Urfe, an Oxford graduate and poet-want to be, takes a position as an English teacher at the Lord Byron School on the Greek island of Phraxos. He has just dissolved, or rather, escaped from, a casual-relationship-turned serious with an Australian girl, Alison, whom he met in London. Settling into the boring routine of the life of a ex pat teacher, Nicholas becomes hopelessly depressed and disillusioned to the point of suicide. That is, until he stumbles upon a villa of a mysterious recluse name Maurice Conchis. Step by step this older man draws Nicholas into his strange world of facade and mind games, of obvious manipulation with unexpected twists. The reasons for Conchis' strange tales and mock hallucinatory enactments, his elaborate inventions are always just out of Urfe's reach of reason. Every time, one mystery seems revealed, the path abruptly turns.

I will stop there because, although it doesn't begin to cover the full scope of this fascinating book, it should be enough to tantalize.
This was Fowles' second book; the first being an equally stunning book called "The Collector," which I may review at another time. According to Wikipedia:
He started writing it in the 1950s, originally entitling it The Godgame. He partly based it on his experiences as an English teacher on the Greek island of Spetses. He wrote and rewrote it for twelve years before its publication in 1966, and despite critical and commercial success, continued to rework it until its revised version, published in 1977.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed about this book is that Fowles never underestimates the reader's intelligence.  His main character, Urfe, thinks the way any of us would if put into his position, suspicious and not so easily misled but nevertheless intrigued.

I am not sure how many times I read and re-read this book, probably about four, if I had to guess. I recall lending the book to a friend, trying my best not to gush, and, at some mid-point, in the book, she said what every book lover yearns to hear, "I have never read a book quite like this. Very interesting."
Have you read this book? What did YOU think? Would you recommend it?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Divine Rewards

JustRewards This is my first attempt at animation- be gentle with me.
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Henry Rollins

It's hard to find a single category to describe Henry Rollins. Singer, actor, stand-up comedian, poet, DJ or activist? You can find his biography on Wikipedia at this LINK.
And I have added a cool site about poetry writing and lessons to learn from Rollins style. Here is one of my favorite poems by Henry Rollins. By the way, Henry, if you're reading this, happy belated birthday.

That Untouchable Feeling

That feeling. That untouchable feeling after you've been through a rough thing with someone else and somehow you've managed to survive and come out in one piece. Whole but harder for it. That untouchable feeling like no one is going to do that to you again and why don't they just try and see how far it gets them. You might go as far as to get yourself into another relationship, and test yourself by seeing how cold and realistic you can be and how far you can go without feeling something. Like a kind of messed up drinking contest where you down a gallon of whiskey and show off the fact that you're not drunk. That you can handle your booze. No sweat. That you can handle your emotions. No sweat. That you can go almost all the way and pull out right before you start to feel. What control you have. So proud of yourself.

You tell yourself that you're really doing it right now that this is good because now you've got a grip on the whole thing and that it was a good thing you grew up before you wrecked yourself on some stupid relationship you laugh at all the old things you used to do a month ago in the old days before you got wise, before you got hip to the fact that the only way to enjoy someone's company is to enjoy yourself on their time to be open about being closed to be honest with yourself about lying to yourself about using someone else's body to masturbate with instead of using your own. to come to the realization that the only way not to get hurt is to hurt someone else and keep it that way And somehow you make it all right you have a better understanding of yourself now.

And you've learned it's okay to feel good even if it's at someone else's expense. It's okay because now you are your own best friend No one loves you like you do, you've got to look out for number one, because that's the only one that matters. You tell yourself that you've been through the wringer and you're smarter, stronger, tougher now because of your trials When really you are meaner, more petty and cruel than you've ever been and it doesn't matter who the next person is in your life they aren't going to get away with what the last one did. Why not? Because you will get away with it first.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Embarrassing Moment-Discussable

For some idiotic reason, English teachers in conversation classes have a habit of asking their students to reveal their "most embarrassing moment." Why a person should want to humiliate themselves-recounting a previous humbling experience- before a crowd of veritable strangers is beyond understanding. So, as an atonement for all the times I have forced my students to bare their souls, I've selected my own most embarrassing moment amongst a lifetime of runner-ups.
Seventeen is a perfect age for humiliation as it comes so easily and with such bite. At that time, my brother, Frank, was going to law school in Oklahoma City and he had invited me down for a week in June, to show me "the sights." During that visit, he had also arranged- probably against his better judgment- for me to meet his fiancée's family. Alison was a student at the same law school and when my brother was around her, he seemed so much more serious than I could ever recall. She was a Sissy-Spacek type without the down-home endearment. Ginger hair, pale eyelashes, a look of irritation coupled with thin tightly drawn lips.
My brother had seemed exceedingly nervous about this meeting, as if he were about to introduce Jerry Lewis to the Queen of England or something. What was he expecting, after all, that I'd start making dirty jokes or begin kicking and screaming and foaming at the mouth between courses? So, as insulted as I was, I was bound and determined, no matter what, not to botch this.
Being classified by my family as a kind of loose cannon, my brother had ordered me to be on my best behavior. On the drive over, there had been a dreadful sermonette on the importance of first impressions. It wasn't scheduled to last long, just a dinner at a "fabulous" country club (it turned out, in fact, to be a very average hangout for upper middle-classed white people). It was expected- or least, it was ardently hoped- that I would not embarrass myself, my brother and the family name. More than anybody else, I preferred to leave a splendid impression naturally but I also acknowledged that I was not very talented at convincing flattery or boyish charm. I told myself that I would simply have to work hard at being charismatic. With fingers crossed.
All this was part of my brother's carefully-calculated plan to marry into wealth. Although he had lately put a lid on such talk, it had once been his motto that it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich girl as a poor one. Alison's father, he'd mentioned, was very well-connected in Oklahoma and as everybody knows, that is the only path to success. Being an innocent- even at seventeen- that phrase about love made little sense to me. After all, wasn't true love something you couldn't control? It was like a sudden impulse that carries you away. So I thought at that age.
So there my brother and I stood at the door step of Alison's parent's home. Not a mansion by any means, but about twice as large as my own family's home. It had a fake green lawn and a newly asphalted driveway. The doorbell had some elaborate ostentatious chime, like Big Ben or a riff of Beethoven.
I was wearing an ill-fitting jacket and I felt like my shoes were the wrong color. Or my trousers were too short. A teardrop of sweat rolled down between my shoulder blades.
We were greeted at the door by Alison's brother, Gerard, robust and healthy, with a beaming smile for my brother. It was automatically clear that here was a young man who had, for most of his life, longed for an older brother.
As we entered the foyer, I saw a huge monster of a dog- a Great Dane maybe- galloping around the corner, followed closely by another smaller yipping poodle/ terrier. The frantic sounds of claw nails on the tile. Clumsy hand-shaking while the dogs sniffed and prodded me with its nose. Suddenly, the massive animal stood and flopped his front legs on my shoulders. My knees nearly buckled from the weight.
"Kato. Down, Kato. " Gerard said, but not very sharply or loudly. Eventually, to my relief, he led the dog out by the collar through the dining room, leaving him on the deck in the back of the house.
During the preliminary cooing of small talk, Alison's parents, Virginia and Hank, appeared from different directions like celebrities at a telethon. They looked like most wealthy Oklahomans past fifty. The desiccated women all have big hard hair, powdery faces, heavy eyeliner and heaps of gold jewelry. The husbands are all wide of hip, beer-bellied, loud and bald dressed in pointless, pointed cowboy boots, rings the size of walnuts and belt buckles the size of license plates. Causal dress meant a polo shirt and permanent press slacks with wide waist-bands.
Hank was a famous (locally) surgeon for a big glistening hospital that specialized in oil barons with clogged arteries and Virginia was a "retired homemaker."
As a loose cluster, we strolled into the living room. The house smelled like all of the homes of the rich- floral with a slight odor of burnt plastic. Expensive, never-touched picture books, as big as tombstones, adorned the glass coffee table. The sofa and chair had the strange look of being slightly dated but new. A movie-set feel about the room.
A predictable assortment of children's photographs dotted the walls; illustrations to a privileged upbringing. A freckled girl on a horse in full English riding gear and a tanned boy next to his sailboat. A professional action shot of a young teen, pony-tailed and hyperventilated, her tennis racket poised in mid-serve. On the mantle of the fireplace an over-done silk flower arrangement below a garish painting of cowboys at a sundown round-up. In the corner, to complete what Virginia would undoubtedly have called "the motif" was a weather beaten wagon wheel.
"So, Frank here tells me this is your first time in Oklahoma City." I nodded my head with a vacant smile. So far, so good.
"And how long will you be staying?" Alison's mother asked. I noticed something about the kind look in her eyes that made me realize that, despite the Nancy Reagan freeze-dried appearance, she had her own type of warmth.
"Well, only a week. But I would like to come back next year. Maybe when it is a little cooler."
They all found this remark suitably amusing. With that minor success, Frank and Hank wandered off on their own conversational path while Virginia asked me about what I had seen in the city.
Hank offered to show my brother some new glory of the garden and they meandered out the sliding doors, discussing something very adult.
At that moment, while I struggled to make sense of Virginia's chat, I turned to my right and saw the mammoth face of Kato. Somehow he had managed to find a way back into the house. I patted him on the head, being a lover of dogs and tried to follow the conversation. Virginia was going on about the Will Roger's Museum and how I really shouldn't miss it.
Kato, with one swift move, plunked his paw on my leg like an angry judge's gavel.
"I think he likes you." She told me. Then she said, "If you'll excuse me, I should find out what's keeping Alison." I was sort of happy to be off-duty and able to take a deep breath again.
As I stood up to pull my trousers down- they had somehow crept halfway up my legs, Kato pounced upon me. I nearly went backward as if I had been tackled by a bear. As much as I struggled, as often as I managed to free myself, Kato was once again all over me. Slow motion wrestling.
And to my horror, I caught a glimpse of Kato's pink excitement. It was difficult to ignore, especially for me at that moment. Of course, dogs being dogs are apt to behave in such a manner; it can be a conservation stopper to find tiny Boomer the Scottish terrier furiously bumping your ankle or Eddie the Pomeranian pumping your sofa pillow. But, given the size of this beast, was a completely different story. Here I was, Being lovingly mauled and about to be raped by my brother's fiancée's dog at her parent's house. I thought about calling out for help. A warbled plea for assistance. However, my brother strict warnings flashed in my head and so, I continued fending off the amorous canine. The dog was clearly winning, however. I could feel this wave of panic beginning to swell up in my stomach.
Then, just as my strength was weakening, Virginia entered the room. With a cursory glance,she noted the situation. "Yes, I think Kato likes you." As if all her guests were routinely molested by this domesticated monster. As if that it was the most natural thing in the world.
Alison marched down the stairs, studied the situation for a second and sighed. "For goodness' sake. Gerard. Gerard! Come and get the damned dog. And hurry up! We don't want to be late again."

How to Hide an Elephant- B3ta Image Challenge

Here are some highlights from the latest image challenge at B3ta- dear sweet B3ta.  Every week, viewers to the site are asked to submit their best illustrations on a particular topic. The subject to ponder in this case was: How to Hide an Elephant. Do yourself a favor and Be sure to check them out at :

Here are some of my favs.elephant hideanelephant pillarphantFab job!

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Whenever I see something like this, I try to convince myself that it was intended as a clever bit of sarcasm. And yet.. the hair, the cheesy moustache, the bandana to hide the receding hairline, the recruiting of children to fill out the political crowd. Well, it all fits a bit too well.  Perhaps- being a bit more optimistic- this photograph simply illustrates the problem of a heavy reliance on spell-check and the growing lack of attention to detail. 

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Monday, February 22, 2010

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Tomorrow, February 23, marks the feast of St. Polycarp of Smyrna,  (present-day Izmir, Turkey) Polycarp was one of the second generation of early Church Fathers, being a disciple of St. John the Apostle, who had converted him around the year 80 AD. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a disciple of Polycarp, writes tenderly of his teacher:
"The memory of that time when as a youth I was with Polycarp in Asia Minor is as fresh in my mind as the present. Even now I could point to the place where he sat and taught, and describe his coming and going, his every action, his outward appearance, and his manner of discourse to the people. It seems as though I still heard him tell of his association with the apostle John and with others who saw the Lord, and as though he were still relating to me their words and what he heard from them about the Lord and His miracles. . . ."
His martyrdom is believed to have occurred on Saturday, February 23, in the pro consulship of Statius Quadratus in 155 A.D. Polycarp was ordered to be burned at the stake for refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor and when called upon by the Roman officials to renounce his religion, the elderly Polycarp replied, ""Eighty and six years I have served him. How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? Bring forth what thou will."
He was a disciple of the holy apostle John, who consecrated him bishop of that city; and there he acted as the primate of all Asia Minor. Later, under Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, he was brought before the tribunal of the proconsul; and when all the people in the amphitheater cried out against him, he was handed over to be burned to death. But since the fire caused him no harm, he was put to death by the sword. Thus he gained the crown of martyrdom. With him, twelve other Christians, who came from Philadelphia, met death by martyrdom in the same city."
The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

The Spy Cam footage of Gordon Brown

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown strenuously denied the validity of claims made by , by Andrew Rawnsley, author of The End of the Party,  that he bullied his staff. Rawnsley, a political commentator  said he based his reports on hundreds of interviews with officials and politicians who witnessed the events described. In an interview, Brown called the charges "malicious" and totally untrue. However, Nomadic View has uncovered spy cam footage from Number 10 Downing Street which seem to back up Rawnsley's claims.

Forbidden Love's Fervent Kissing

The popular Turkish soap opera, “Aşk-ı Memnu” (Forbidden Love), adapted from a novel by renowned author Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil, appears to have come under the scrutiny of The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) for its scenes of graphic extra-marital sex.

Family and Women’s Affairs Minister Selma Aliye Kavaf stated that her objections centered around the show's erotic scenes, which she believes encourages young people to engage in sex at an early age and poses a threat to Turkish family values. RTUK has issued fines and punishments for the series due to its “fervent kissing” scenes and because it presents an extramarital affair as normal, damaging the public values. For the interesting debate on this issue click at the

Today's Zaman article here:

I remember this whole argument when Dallas first appeared so so many years ago.

Now the reruns look as tame as Popeye cartoons. And after all, what would soap operas be without a bit of "fervent" kissing? No smoking, no drinking and now no kissing. ( Maybe a peck on the cheek to Ayse Tezye will slip under the censors' radar.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dance of the Cobra Woman

No gush of verbiage could possibly do justice to this clip of the dance of the Cobra Woman from the film of the same name. Maria Montez is, honestly, not an actress I have had a chance to enjoy although the name was familiar. Born in the Dominican Republic in 1912, Montez never got past a B- star rating and was reduced to playing  "the centerpiece of Universal's Technicolor costume adventures."
This particular  garish spectacle has come to the internet, spliced and diced for YouTube, so feel free to enjoy the entire film if you feel up to it.  The plot.. well, frankly, does it matter? Ok., here goes..
On the eve of her wedding to Ramu (Jon Hall), the beautiful Tollea (Maria Montez) is spirited away from her tranquil South Sea island to the mysterious, forbidden place of her birth, Cobra Island. (Read the rest here.) 
Montez pulls out all stops and one has to hand it to her, she certainly takes the role quite seriously- which is a hallmark of great camp cinema. In 1943, Montez married French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont, and following the end of World War II, left Hollywood to live in France.
There, Maria Montez appeared in several films and a play written by her husband. She also wrote three books, two of which were published, as well as penning a number of poems.
At the early age of 39 , Montez died unexpectedly from a heart attack (in her bath) in 1951.

Hens and Eagles- A Turkish Fable

Here is the third in our series of Turkish fables. I have left off the moral of the fable. In general, the meanings are either clear or open to your own interpretation. All of the fables I have submitted come from an anthology of pre-Republic Ottoman literature collected in a book by Epiphanius Wilson. HERE is a link at Google Books.

The Hens and the Eagles

The hens were at war with the eagles. When the day of HEN-2-chicks-784085 the battle came near, the hens went and asked the foxes to help them.

"We would willingly help you, "replied the foxes, "if we could forget what you are and what the eagles are."

Kinetic Sculpture

The Kinetic Sculpture is a metaphorical translation of the process of form-finding in art and design. 714 metal spheres, hanging from thin steel wires attached to individually-controlled stepper motors and covering the area of six square meters, animate a seven minute long mechatronic narrative. In the beginning, moving chaotically, then evolving to several competing forms that eventually resolve to the finished object, the Kinetic Sculpture creates an artistic visualization of the process of form-finding in different variations.
Technology: 714 metal spheres, individually controllable with millimeter accuracy; cable winches with individual high-precision
motors for each sphere; software for defining animation
paths and controlling motion.
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lady in the Bath

© Saul Steinberg

Are You Listening to Me?


Patricia Goldman, as vice chairperson of the National Transportation Safety Board, used to tell a story about how poorly airline passengers listen. She says that one flight attendant, who was frustrated by passenger inattentiveness during her what-to-do-in-an-emergency talk, changed the wording. This is what she actually said: "When the mask drops down in front of you, place it over your naval and continue to breathe normally." Not a single passenger noticed.

This anecdote doesn't surprise me one bit. Osman, one of my friends who was an English teacher used to test his students. While he was explaining something, he would, using exactly the same tone of dull voice, throw in a random or non sequitur phrase and see anybody was listening. It would sound something like this, "Okay, everybody open your workbooks. Last class, we were talking about past progressive tense. I'm wearing red socks today. Can anybody give me an example of past progressive tense?"

I asked him later, "What did the students say?"

"Nothing, they just kept staring at me," he frowned in disgust. "like cows."

Add chewing gum to most classes and nearly every teacher can appreciate this imagery.

I had this friend, we can all her, Pauline, who had an annoying habit of tuning a person out while they were speaking. She didn't hide or feign attention at all- which is one of the often tiresome precepts of social intercourse. While somebody might be sharing some deep confidence, say the death of a grandparent, she could easily turn to another person and begin speaking about something else. Or, Pauline could get up in the middle of some story and walk away, leaving the person sitting, in the middle of a sentence, open mouthed and confused.

Other times, Pauline would interrupt and take the conversation into a completely different subject. At the best of times, you could see that she was paying absolutely no attention but preparing what she was going to say. Although it was quite amusing to watch this rudeness when it happened to anybody else, I finally became exasperated and pointed her habit out to her.

"Oh, I know I do it. But I don't have to listen. I know what people are going to say."

That isn't so much about paying attention. That is about recognizing certain social conventions and abiding by them. Failing to stay focused, in this case, is probably an excuse for anti-social behavior.

Although I don't believe I am guilty of quite so flagrant violation as that, I have fallen off the wagon as much as any average person. I know my weaknesses. For example, if I am in a public place with a friend, having a heart to heart, I cannot be facing a television. And in Turkey, there are televisions in nearly every public area. It is an impossible situation. I cannot even make convincing eye-contact or at some critical point in the other person's confessional, I can easily be distracted by an fireballed explosion or tantalizing bit of drama.

At one brief period of my life, I had no television. Yeah, imagine that if you can. I somehow survived but there was one very interesting effect. When I would go to my corner bar, I couldn't keep my hungry eyes off the television there in the corner. The colors were so extraordinarily brilliant, Much more than dull, gray reality. It was like taking hallucinogenics. And if, on any particular night at the bar, there had been a stabbing, shooting or violent passionate lovemaking on my table, I would have been a lousy witness. It took every ounce of mental effort merely to keep my mouth completely shut.

Perhaps that is the key to problems with listening and paying attention. In our modern life, with so much hustle and bustle, we are required, at least theoretically, to stay focused more than humans were ever meant to. So, something's got to give.

Additionally, nowadays, there is so much less time for reflection and contemplation. This tiny bit of solitude allows us to carry on a pleasant bit of conversation in our head. To slow down our thoughts to a reasonable and reasoning speed. But in modern days, every second is filled with ideas- much of which is merely noise or advertising- and we are meant to jump from thought to thought at a very unnatural speed. All of this, I suspect, undermines out ability to listen- to stay focused and pay attention. images

Not everything is, of course, worthy of our full attention. Even thirty seconds of it. Perhaps this is why commercials should always be short; by the time we realize that the information being thrust in our ears and eyes is completely unimportant, the advertising is over, having stolen a little of our time with mindless distraction.

And sometimes subjects -or, more precisely, the presentations of certain topics- are just too boring to focus on, especially when we live in a world that is in desperate competition to grab our attention. Like being surrounded by a crowd of shouting, crying, moving, mewing and puking toddlers, we are apt to overlook the obedient, quiet and tender ones.

When I was in university, I had this professor of psychology- a subject that I had loved- and he lectured a class of 250 students in an auditorium. It was, without debate, one of the worst managed classes I have ever encountered. He would show up, (only a few inches tall) at the front of the lecture hall and begin droning on and on, in the same monotone voice about B.F. Skinner and all the other behaviorists. That was the only part I stayed awake in anyway.

Meanwhile, when comparing other professors with my friends after class, I learned that there was actually a professor who had come to class in a mouse costume. A mouse costume? My professor could have been a remote controlled statue for as much as he gestured. By the end of the term, I never wanted to hear the very word "psychology" again. He was an unforgivable anti-educator, as far as I was concerned. Psychology needn't have been boring and any instructor worth his salt should have enough enthusiasm for the material to enliven it, after all. So I suppose, presentation is essential if people are required to pay attention.

Sometimes all of us need help in staying focused. Forcing people to become active listeners is usually the way to go. Isn't that the purpose of rhetorical questions? The ancient speakers understood this, why can't we? WHY? Has advertising hijacked our ability to use rhetorical questions?

Ok, perhaps that is overdoing it a tad, but I did say the "proper"- meaning, careful and judicious use of rhetorical questions. As James Nathan Mille said,"There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation."

Aside from the social aspects of listening, why should it be important to listen? Because buried under all that generally flashy but empty information, there could be a fact, an essential detail, a tidbit of history or a remnant of feeling that could change you way of seeing the world or your own life. There is a Turkish proverb that says "If speaking is silver, then listening is gold."

And here is the best example I can think of. As Amanda Ripley writes in her admirable book, "Thinking the Unthinkable:"

The National Transportation Safety Board has found that passengers who read the safety information card are less likely to get hurt in an emergency. In a plane crash at Pago Pago three years before the Tenerife accident [with 583 fatalities, the crash was the deadliest accident in aviation until September 11, 2001], all but 5 of the 101 passengers died.

All the survivors reported that they has read the safety information and listened to the briefing. They exited over the wing, while other passengers went toward other more dangerous but traditional exits and died.

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Evidence of Bush Collaboration with Aliens

 George Bush with Aliens

It's amazing what some people will believe.

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Bush's Secret Pact with Aliens

This explains so much.
(It amazes me how many people do not understand when their leg is being pulled. Somebody just sent a message to tell me how he STILL wasn't convinced by this photo!!!)

Happy Birthday, Dorothy Janis


Today marks the 100th birthday of silent screen actress, Dorothy Janis. Although she made only five films in her short career- four silents and one talkie, she was best known for starring alongside Ramon Navarro in the film, "The Pagan" in 1929. Incidentally, this film was shot on location in Tahiti, a rare event, in those days.

Born in Dallas, Texas, as Dorothy Penelope Jones, she was discovered at the age of only fifteen, while visiting her cousin who was an extra in Hollywood.  She starred in several Westerns  (Kit Carson, 1928; and The Overland Telegraph, 1929, with Tim McCoy) before landing the romantic lead against Navarro.


She made only one talkie, "Lummox" in 1929- which, due to technical problems, was never released. It was during the planning stages of her next project, "White Captive" that her career took an unfortunate turn. One of the wives of a member of the film crew threatened to sue Janis for "alienation of her husband's affection" as part of a bitter divorce. The case was eventually dropped but Janis left Hollywood and moved to Chicago.

Happily, things took an unexpectedly happy turn when she met bandleader Wayne King, whom she later married. They were together for over 50 years, until King's death in 1985.


Happy birthday to you, Dorothy Janis in Paradise Valley, Arizona. This is what a happy ending looks like.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Waiting and What You Think Of

I wrote this poem many years ago. I hope you like it.
  Waiting And What You Think Of
Somewhere a phone is ringing
Somebody is anxiously knocking at your door
and something is burning
or dripping.
Your kitten is trapped between the wall and bookcase
Your dog is happily chewing on that electrical cord.
You've told him a million times.
Your bird is feverishly picking at the door
of its cage
and stands every chance of tasting dangerous freedom
before you return.
Baby is climbing higher and higher
for that prize.
The stool is rocking.
A clock is ticking
and something tragic is about to happen.
Something is about to go wrong.
There's a letter in your mail-box
marked URGENT
the milk on the counter is turning sour.
Somewhere a phone is ringing,
You have left the iron on
or maybe not.
Coffeemaker on,
or maybe not
The window open.
A thief, arsonist, pillaging vandal
who's been biding his time
patiently waiting
for your departure
is now afoot.
A clock is ticking
and something is about to go wrong.
And then
The telephone is silent
and the bird has flown away.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kennedy and Coal Miners

JFK2 Kennedy speaks to West Virginia coal miners April 25, 1960. courtesy of LIFE magazine 

Kennedy, from boyhood to manhood, had never known hunger. Now, arriving in West Virginia from a brief rest in the sun in the luxury of Montego Bay, he could scarcely bring himself to believe that human beings were forced to eat and live on these cans of dry relief ration, which he fingered like artifacts of another civilization. "Imagine,"he said to one of his assistants one night, "just imagine kids who never drink milk." Of all the emotional experiences of his pre-convention campaign, Kennedy's exposure to the misery of the mining fields probably changed him most as a man; and as he gave tongue to his indignation, one could sense him winning friends.

From the book, The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore H. White

Lucy Goes Mod

That's one cool chick, daddio.

With God On Our Side - Bob Dylan

"With God on Our Side" is a song by Bob Dylan  released as the third track on his 1964 album  The Times They Are A-Changin' . Dylan first performed the song during his debut at The Town Hall  in New York City  on April 12, 1963. Dylan is known to sing the song only rarely in concert.

I think my favorite line of this song- and there are a lot of good lines- is:

You never ask questions when God's  on your side.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What do Tin Tin and Mad Men Have in Common?

tin-tinFrom Hurriyet News:

Turkey’s media regulatory agency is fining television channels across the broadcast spectrum for smoking on screen in series, music videos and cartoons, but stations are fighting back in the courts.

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, fined private channel TV8 50,000 Liras for scenes in the Tin Tin cartoon that depict villains smoking.

RTÜK member Hülya Alp attached an annotation to the decision saying, “All audiences, including children, distinguish the fictional and non-fictional. Here, having the villains smoking not only fits with the villains’ features and facts, but also smoking is being identified as a part of the series of evil acts they are performing.” Alp also said the blurring effect being employed so frequently works against the ban because it increases attention attracted to smoking by disrupting the concentration of viewers.

RTÜK also fined private channel E2 50,000 Turkish Liras for the “Mad Men” series, citing many instances of scenes that show “lighting a cigarette, smoking, blowing smoke into the air, offering [a cigarette] to another, putting out cigarettes and drinking.”

The channel went to court to fight the fine, and the verdict came in the channel’s favor. The court’s decision was based on an expert report that pointed out the series was shot before the smoking ban was enacted. According to related articles of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, removal of the mentioned scenes in works shot before the law would cause negative results.

Hasn't this thing gone a bit far? The whole point of "Mad Men" is to show how those things, like smoking and drinking in the office, like making passes at your secretary or calling her 'honey' or 'sweetie' are passé. The RTUK member makes a perfectly logical point. Doesn't the blurring effect actually create more attention to the smoking?

360 Izmir- Asansor

Izmir Elevator 1 in Izmir

The Asansor, of Elevator, was designed as a more convenient means of travel to the living areas on the bluffs above the city. As you can see the hills offer a wonderful view of the bay but would exhaust all but the most hardy resident. Then add the summer heat or conversely, an icy winter day and you have disaster. The Asansor has been converted into an open-air cafe, a top-notch restaurant and a Genoese tavern.

The Fourth Kind – A Nomadic Review

"Found footage" is a new term used to describe a genre that has been popping up more and more in cinemas, popularized in the horror film, The Blair Witch Project in 1999. We are told, this humble video is all that remains of the hapless story-teller and we apologize for its poor quality, but you need to see this.
It is a kind of faux cinema verite style, which defies all the conventions of film-making. It means to persuade us into belief not by its strengths, but  by its weaknesses: poor lighting, crazy camera angles, dismal sound recording and unrecognizable actors. Anything inexcusable in a normal film would only support the premise of a found footage film. Instead of spending time, analyzing whether the special effects were believable, we can concentrate on the actor's reactions to the effects and, true to cinema at its best, it is the imagination of the film viewer that provides the active ingredient.
Nearly-but not quite- falling into this genre is the film, "The Fourth Kind," written and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi. It is, without question, one of the most dishonest things I have seen in quite a long time. In the opening, actress Milla Janovich introduces herself and explains that the film is a true story, based on real events and real footage has been juxtaposed with real actors reading real dialogue that was transcribed by real people. Get it? It's all real. Really.
It's a freaky tale of a psychologist whose husband was murdered, whose child has been so traumatized that she is now blind. But that isn't the real story. The real story is all about her patients, many of which are reporting the same sleeping disturbances, being visited by a white owl, with an irritating lack of respect for privacy. Eventually it all leads to aliens. Aliens in the bedroom. For some reason, the director decided to film key scenes in split screen- you know, like those old Doris Day- Rock Hudson films. So we have to watch as, on the left side of the screen, we see the actual video tape of the patient under hypnosis and then the dramatization on the right side.
Besides being both annoying and unnecessary, there is another problem. It's all a lie. All of it.
On the DVD blurb, we read:
Structured unlike any film before it, The Fourth Kind is a provocative thriller set in modern day Nome, Alaska where mysteriously since the 1960s a disproportionate number of the population has been reported missing every year. Despite multiple FBI investigations of the region, the truth has never been discovered. Here in this remote region, psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler began videotaping sessions with traumatized patients and unwittingly discovered some of the most disturbing evidence of alien abduction ever documented. Using never before seen archival footage that is integrated into the film, The Fourth Kind exposes the terrified revelations of multiple witnesses. Their accounts of being visited by aliens figures all share disturbingly identical details, the validity of which is investigated throughout the film.
I have no problem with the paranormal as a subject for a film or book. Bring on the witches, the aliens, the ghosts, the trolls under the bridge, and the  pipe-smoking elves sitting on the mushrooms. Bring on the Munsters and the Adaams Family, it's all good as far as I am concerned.
However, it's one thing to walk into a cinema with the expectation of being entertained and it is quite another to expect a depiction of real events. It boils down to the fundamental unwritten contract the story-teller makes with his audience. Give me your trust and I will fool you and you will know you are being fooled but you will love it. I shall not disappoint. The story-teller can use all kinds of tricks to create the illusion of reality and his listeners respect this point.
At the end of the day, suspending my disbelief is a voluntary act. When I went to see The Blair Witch Project, I understood that it was fiction while I enjoyed the film. On the other hand, the maker of documentaries -even one that uses dramatization- says, I have something important to tell you. What I have to say is as true as far as I can determine. A documentary maker is not asking for a suspension of disbelief from his viewers, but for a commitment of trust. Just coming out and lying to your viewers is merely dishonesty, not storytelling. There is an essential difference between being a producer of fiction and a fabricator of lies and misrepresentations.
The reason I found this film so "disturbing" was because experience shows that no matter how obvious a hoax may be to those capable of critical thinking, there will always be many who will accept at face value the film's claim to be based on true events. 
If there is such a thing as alien abductions, then it is an insult to   woman-screaming the people who have had to endure such an event. (As if being levitated and poked and prodded by bullying bug-eyed space people isn't bad enough.) If alien abductions are some kind of unexplained hallucination, then it is even more of an insult to make a silly hoax based on fabricated evidence. I mean, who would ever believe them, no matter how sincere they might be, after this silly film?
And make no mistake, even if the film had been honestly marketed, it would definitely be a silly one. Janovich has never been one of my favorite actors and I can't help thinking she is wasting a fine modeling career. (Actors are paid to emote and models are paid to pose. Somewhere casting agents in Hollywood seem to have got confused on this point.)
By the time things start cooking in the alien abduction department, the film is nearly over. (Which is probably all for the best.) Every time we begin to see something interesting, the aliens erase the footage from the video leaving us to go blind trying to peer through "panty-hose runs". What we can make out looks more like a magic act gone horribly wrong or a comedy exorcism.
Also, the "actual" footage of the psychologist being interviewed is unintentionally disturbing, merely due to the poor quality computer distortions of her face. She ends up looking like ET in a brittle 1960s flip-up wig. (Eventually they had to pixellate her face because it looked so ridiculous)
Add some silly business about the aliens speaking Sumerian,  a home-wrecking cop played by Will Patton- acting his role with a ladle and trowel- and a blond, blind daughter kidnapped by cruel-hearted space creatures, you have a greasy bucket full of stupid.
Have you seen this film? What did YOU think?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Freaky Album Covers – Attack of the Disembodied Legs


The Road- A Nomadic Review

This weekend was an example of winter in Izmir, cold and rainy but not wicked. I can hardly complain while the rest of the country is buried under snow. Being the productive type, I spent those two days in my pajamas watching films. I will be spending the next couple of days this week, reviewing them for all my readers.
It's the end of the world as we knew it, and nobody's fine in the film "The Road." That pretty much sums up the entire plot of this film, directed by John Hillcoat and based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. Starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as father and son, this film depicts what is left of the world following some kind of non-specific cataclysmic disaster (an asteroid maybe?) which has all but ended life on the planet. Cheery, huh? Well, Buddy, you ain't heard the half of it.
There really not much left for any bargain shoppers to pick over, lots of cold concrete covered in beige dust, melted plastic debris scattered about, mucky brown water and a landscape so dim and grim the film might as well have been shot in black and white. Everything is gone, the animals, the crops, the Kardasians. (There's a bright side to any calamity, I suppose.)
Along empty highways and abandoned towns, we follow the father and son as they struggle against hunger, disease and dry cold. While we are thankfully spared zombies, things are bad enough with bands of hunters turned cannibals roaming the land, trying to turn Mortensen in to a morsel and the son as a post-apocalyptic veal steak. Take my word for it, don't check the freezer in the basement unless you are ready to have a fitful night's sleep.
Adding the only bit of glamour (and color) in the film, Charlize Theron, the flashback mother/wife, pops up in dream sequences now and then. As father and son struggle to stay alive, Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce show up as walk-ons (literally) practically unrecognizable in homeless people garb. Dirty Gray is the new Black, by the way.
"The Road" is not for the mildly depressed or anybody discouraged with the present state of humanity. So, you have been warned. It is just like Mad Max, without Max, without cars, without crazy action scenes or the light-hearted antics of men with weird haircuts and spiked leather outfits. Other than that, it is just like it.
"The Road" has already won a whole shopping cart full of awards: BAFTA Film Award for cinematography, the Critic's Choice Award for Best Actor, Best Makeup (think- used motor oil and dust from the bag of a vacuum cleaner) and Young Actor Award. Although I have not read the Pulitzer Prize winning book it is based on, I have heard the adaption is remarkably accurate and nothing annoys Nomad worse than a screenplay that takes unnecessary license with an adaption. (I still grumble about the Indian dance scene in "Vanity Fair.")
It is worth viewing but probably not on a first date. It's certainly an intelligent film but needless to say perhaps, you shouldn't expect to be full of merriment and joy before the last credits roll on.
Have you seen this film? What did you think?
Tomorrow I will review the alien abduction thriller, "The Fourth Kind."

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Fifty Years Ago- Drug Companies under Examination

An article in LIFE magazine from February 15, 1960- exactly fifty years ago- highlights the Senate Subcommittee on Anti-trust and Monopoly hearings on prescription drug prices. Democratic Senator Kefaver from Tennessee, who had investigated organized crime in 1950, now began an examination of possible price fixing by major drug companies. To read the entire article please click HERE.
In 1958, the score of companies which dominated the (pharmaceutical) industry averaged 25% profit on sales before taxes, more than twice as high as the average for industry in general. The reason for such profits has now come into sharp focus. Unlike other major industries, this one has the advantage of selling to captive consumers- sick people who cannot shop around but must buy what the doctor orders.
Additionally the Kefaver committee investigated other questionable practices, such as saturation promotion of new drugs to physicians.
The average doctor is deluged with sales talk, either through direct mail or visit from drug firm representatives known as detail men. In a single day, a doctor may collect $40 worth of free drug samples. To promote a new drug, a company may spend half a million dollars to hit almost every doctor in the land with a barrage of letters, brochures and personal calls.
Kefaver had specific objections to this particular practice.
19604Such saturation promotion not only adds to the cost of a company's prescription drugs. It also persuades many doctors to prescribe- and many patients to want- new drugs simply because they are new, not because they are necessarily better than something old or cheap.
Industry representatives countered that promotion of new drugs was necessary as a means of "post-graduate education" and doctors found the detail men helpful. Other doctors felt that it led to a corruption of professional and medical ethics. In the LIFE article, according to Dr. Louis Lasagna, an Associate Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology at John Hopkins, " (The new products) are introduced because they are profitable, not because they have a medical advantage over the products of preceding years."
This investigation would lead to legislation that would eventually be passed into law in 1962 as the Kefauver-Harris Drug Control Act. This bill, which Kefauver dubbed his "finest achievement" in consumer protection, imposed controls on the pharmaceutical industry that required that drug companies disclose to doctors the side-effects of their products, allow their products to be sold as generic drugs after having held the patent on them for a certain period of time, and be able to prove on demand that their products were, in fact, effective and safe.
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