June 3, 1925 – September 29, 2010
Leaving one's motherland for a new home abroad takes a great deal of courage, stamina and the ability to adapt. It's not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure. So, what kind of person would pick up and move to an unfamiliar distant land, leaving behind friends and family, to start again?
For Greek-American Valantis Stamelos coming to Izmir was, in some ways, much like coming home. Up until the Turkish War of Independence in 1922, his family on his mother's side had lived in this area for centuries. Val grew up hearing many stories of what life was like in Turkey in the past from his relatives, nostalgia from a time before the rift between the Greeks and Turks.
Back in 2005, Stamelos, a former producer for MTV Networks and Nickelodeon, teamed up with his long- time friend from Syracuse University, Paras H. Chaudhari, to create their own production company, Crescent Street films. As co-writer and co-director of the award winning independent short film, Astoria Park, (as well as many other production projects) Val was already well on his way towards making a name for himself and his company in the New York film industry.
Then, however, his life took a turn. Following a short visit to Turkey in 2008, Val made up his mind to pursue his lifetime dream of living and working abroad. Naturally making a new life abroad has its appeal as well as challenges. "The most challenging aspect to living in Turkey," Val explains, "is getting a straight answer. Whether it's related to work, establishing residency, or directions to a place, it's become apparent that no one agrees on an answer, to which it can become a situation of the blind leading the blind. Not to sound negative, but it does take up unnecessary time from my day and my work."
And yet, "Having to learn the cultures and language of Turkey, while at the same time, share my background and perspective is really a life-giving experience. It gives you a genuine opportunity to build a bridge with people with an open heart and mind, that I wish more people would strive towards."
Not everybody was overjoyed with his decision. "Most of the reactions have been negative, which I can understand. But explaining my decision is like trying to convert someone to another religion. The best thing I can do is assure them of a plan that I have put together, and hopefully over the course of time, show the fruits of my labor."
And it doesn't help that there are plenty of stereotypes and misconceptions about Turkey and Turks. "The unfortunate thing is that most of the people I've argued with stake their claims about Turkey and Near Eastern culture based upon a talking box in their living room."
It's his dream to work collaboratively with local production companies and perhaps eventually work on his own projects here in Turkey. "My immediate goal is to establish freelance production work right away, say within the first 6-10 months. So far, it is happening. I have been able to produce for a few companies based in the UK, as well as work some smaller productions in Izmir." His long term goals are ambitious. "My long term goals are to establish quality production here in Izmir, Istanbul, and the Aegean region. Thus, I aim to raise the bar of production standards and produce not only for Turkish audiences, but more so for international audiences, in an effort to take production seriously here in the region."
In addition to moving to Turkey, Val also made another major life decision by marrying his Turkish fiancée last spring. In the past I have posted about his wedding party which included families from both sides of the Aegean. (see the Link) Val thinks finding love and making a new life go hand in hand. "The most rewarding aspect I would say has been experiencing a life with loved ones. Being with my wife and her family is truly a beautiful, evolving experience, that has helped my heart grow in a completely different way. "
His blog: From New York to the Mediterranean documents the challenges of starting anew of establishing himself and his business in Turkey, as well as his day to day observations about his new home. A recent blog post, The Greeks of Istanbul, describes the wanderings through the old city where once Greeks and Turks lived side by side, and the remnants of the lost Hellenic culture that still exist . Surprisingly he still find reasons for hope. "It seems that a wave of Greeks are coming back, as they love the city and feel a strong connection with it."
Being of Greek descent must provide a different perspective from the average expat. "When I see a rundown Orthodox church or Ancient Greek ruins in Turkey, I can't help but feel connected to them, and in a way, very sad. Not because I believe it is inherently "Greek", which is most common among ethnocentric-minded people, but because my forefathers lived amongst other diverse communities, only to be driven out by war. If it wasn't for war, they would still be calling those same churches home, and their Turkish neighbors brothers"
And, reflecting on his own journey, he adds, "My personal pursuit in living here is to give meaning back to those ruins. So, being a Greek-American living in Izmir symbolizes the importance of my connection to this land, as it is the start of a new beginning based on mutual understanding and respect, not affected by negativity of the past, but by the positive hopes of the future."
Courtesy of Crescent Street Films, here is a video clip produced by Valantis recently.
Here are two interesting news stories, from Hurriyet- Turkish Daily News, regarding Internet, censorship and the laws in Turkey.
This first article relates the response to a journalist's proposal for the establishment of a oversight governmental agency to monitor the activities of print and online media. Over the weekend, Yigit Bulut, a columnist for daily Habertürk and a TV executive, broached this idea to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at a breakfast gathering with journalists Saturday. The prime minister said such a thing would be out of the question. For all the details to this story follow this LINK.
Few things shock me anymore in Turkey but the idea that a journalist would not only submit to that kind of situation but would actually make the suggestion staggers the imagination. It would certainly make his job so much easier, of course.
The second story highlights the opinions of a legal scholar, Yaman Akdeniz, a professor at Bilgi University regarding the implementation of the current Internet laws, better known as the "Children's law." In Turkey, under the present laws, which were supposed to be an effort to protect children and families, access to Internet sites can be blocked by court order. According to Wikipedia, "besides YouTube, more than 6000 minor and major websites are currently banned in Turkey.." Read more about this subject on the Hurriyet online newspaper at this LINK.
Akdeniz's arguments against the ban are so obvious and a model of common sense. But I really wonder if anybody is listening?
The Carter family
(Carly Simon/Jacob Brackman)
The Carter family lived next door for almost 14 years
With Gwen and I inseparable from rag dolls through brassieres
Then Gwen began to bore me with her giggles and her fears
The day the Carters moved away, I had to fake my tears
I told new friends Gwen Carter had become a silly pest
And then I found I missed her more than I'd ever have guessed
Grandma used to nag at me to straighten up my spine
To act respectful and read good books
To take care of what was mine
I hated being criticized and asking her permission
So what if her advise was wise, It always hurt to listen
I didn't cry when Granny died, she made me so depressed
And then I found I missed her more than I'd ever have guessed
You used to make me moan in bed, but that can't be enough
My friends complained your jokes were crude,
Your manners were too rough
Don't know just what I wanted, but I know I wanted more
Someone smooth, presentable, to blend with my decor
And now at night I think of how you grinned when you undressed
And I find I miss you more than I'd ever have guessed.
This is the kind of thing you expect to see in a Laurel and Hardy film.
Okay.. you have good reason to doubt the veracity of this news story. Write your own phony baloney news clipping at: http://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp
Saw this cartoon on B3ta made by http://amoebaboy.blogspot.com/ There are some really creative people who hang out at B3ta so make sure to check out the latest creations. http://www.b3ta.com/ Warning: If you are easily offended, you may wish to avoid the link.
There's nothing like a ferry crossing to put you in a meditative mood. The fluttering sound of the wind and the light shimmering off the sea. The gentle sway of the boat and the details of the opposite shore growing more and more detailed. All and all, it was a glorious autumn day in Izmir. The sky was intensely blue with streaks of high clouds. They say it will probably rain tomorrow but at least, today was nearly perfect. The crossing of the bay was a particularly nice moment and it made me feel lucky to be alive.
Poor Lindsay! Looks like Lohan will have to go back to jail, following a judge's decision to revoke her probation. Apparently she failed two court ordered drug tests, violations to the terms of her release.
Her father, Michael Lohan, issued a statement through his attorney, saying, ""The judge will probably incarcerate her again, which is sad. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world because we throw our own citizens in jail for being addicts, even when they don't hurt anyone but themselves."
Except, of course, when they drive.
After a surprise win in the GOP primary for Delaware by Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell, a videotape from 1999 surfaced in which O'Donnell tells the audience she once "dabbled into" witchcraft. According to her televised statement, she was shown an altar. "One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar, and I didn't know it. I mean, there's little blood there and stuff like that," she said. "We went to a movie and then had a little midnight picnic on a satanic altar."
Picnic? Is THAT what they are calling it nowadays. Back in my warlock days, we were more upfront about it. A virgin sacrifice followed by a Satanic lovefest.
Amazing footage from Antalya, Turkey. With all the snide remarks I have made about Turkish drivers, they seemed peculiarly non-plussed by seeing a toddler in the middle of their lane. (But you'd think one of them might have stopped long enough to snatch the baby off the road. )
An illustration of the problem of babies having babies, perhaps. The mother- a street beggar, I'd guess- has decided to make the grassy shaded highway median her rest stop (as well as a nursery). According to reports, the mother was later arrested. I hope she appreciates how lucky she was.
Stow Wengenroth (1906-1978) was an American artist and lithographer, born in 1906 in Brooklyn, New York. Wengenroth was once called "America's greatest living artist working in black and white" by the American realist painter Andrew Wyeth, and he is generally considered to be one of the finest American lithographers of the twentieth century.
To view other works by this artist, http://www.keithsheridan.com/wengenroth.html
Great song and great video. In case you are wondering how uncomfortable the filming must have been….
"While the actors wore underwear during the shoot, Lead Flame Artist James "Krispy" Cornwell used his visual magic to make the clothing disappear by giving it the texture and color of skin." http://adland.tv/commercials/valley-lodge-all-my-loving
For more information about this band, http://valleylodgeband.com/about/index.html
Here is a skit from The Dean Martin show, circa 1971, I guess. The drunk is portrayed by the late Foster Brooks. This was the last time in American television history when being intoxicated was seen as something to laugh at. Martin usually performed with little in the way of preparation and this clip shows him paying the price for it.
For my Turkish readers who are not able watch Youtube video due to the government banning, try:
When I was in NYC a couple of years back I was amazed that when I talked to New Yorkers that I could clearly see- for all their bravado about being big city tough- how much this attack is seen on very personal terms. For many people who were there on that day, witnessing the events first hand, it is still a wound that will probably never heal. Of course, New Yorkers are really a different species and unbelievably robust and dynamic.
I took classes not far from Ground Zero- although that term is, by no means, a small nor well-defined area. I would meander my way through the streets, stumble across something peculiar and suddenly be reminded of the event. A huge empty area in a crowded city, for example. A cross-beam left over from the wreckage now serves as a kind of symbolic survivor and gathering spot where people may stop and stare and pay their respects. Some people took pictures although I never did. The feeling you got standing there- of an injury remembered- wasn't something I thought could be photographed.
Three die in Turkey from the mosquito-borne West Nile virus
By The Associated Press (CP)
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish authorities say three people have died and two others have been hospitalized after becoming infected with the West Nile virus. Turkey's NTV television quotes Health Ministry official Mustafa Ertek as saying the cases occurred in cities in western Turkey, including Izmir, Aydin, Manisa, Isparta and Sakarya.
Anatolia news agency carried a similar report Wednesday. West Nile is transmitted by mosquitoes that have bitten infected birds. In a small number of cases, infection can result in encephalitis or meningitis, which can lead to paralysis, coma and possibly death. http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5gAoyNAvh_u5d6touRr1Sxav-tQOw
I thought more people had already died from this outbreak here. Maybe these are confirmed cases? Here is a news story from Wednesday, 25 August 2010:
Mystery Manisa virus may be West Nile, Turkey says
A virus that has killed six people in the past two weeks may be the same strain of the West Nile virus that was also observed in the north of Greece, doctors say, as most of the symptoms resemble those presented in patients with the West Nile virus.
The Turkish Health Ministry announced that six out of the 16 patients who have come to the Manisa State Hospital since Aug. 12 complaining of fever, thrombocytopenia (lack of blood clotting cells), altered states of consciousness and skin eruptions have died.
The statement also announced that a scientific committee was rapidly set up following reports from the Manisa State Hospital's infectious diseases experts. The committee is composed of experts from the Health Ministry's Fundamental Health Services General Directorate, the Refik Saydam National Public Agency (RSHM), which deals with bacteria and viral disease prevention, and academics from relevant medical backgrounds. (More)
As a public service to all my readers living in Turkey or Greece, I have included two bits of information- which is after all the best way to prevent over-reaction.
How To Protect Yourself From West Nile Virus on Howcast
And here are some basic FAQs about the West Nile virus. http://www.westnilefever.com/west_nile_virus_symptoms.htm
Here's to your health.
I was shopping for cat food the other day and this innocuous looking box on the pet store shelf caught my attention. (It reads: Cat Eliminating Flea Collar.) I read it again and again and it never sounded quite right to me.
Maybe it was the mood I was in but the English made a large red question mark appear over my head. I wondered how many collars a box that size would hold and how on earth you would get the flea to put one on. Appeal to its vanity perhaps? And those poor eliminated cats.
Everybody has a right to their opinions but a voting citizen also has a duty to inform themselves of the issues. It is scary how strongly these people feel about things they seem to know nothing whatsoever about. Fascinating to watch, amusing to listen to, but quite depressing if you consider the future of the United States. Thanks, Chase, for being there and asking the questions.
The Arizona Department of Education recently began telling school districts that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English. (source)
Gov. Jan Brewer stumbled and stammered through her opening statement during a televised debate Wednesday night, suffering through an embarrassing, cringe-eliciting pause that lasted more than 10 seconds. With her hands clasped in front of her, she looked at the camera, then down, possibly at notes, and back up at the camera. She smiled, let out a loud exhale, then resumed her statement with a pronouncement of her record as governor.
"We have, uh, did what was right for Arizona," Brewer said… (Source)