Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Detours Ahead- Billie Holiday

Years an years ago, I bought a cheap cassette in the bargain bin in Woolworth. It was Billie Holiday's Greatest Hits. I hadn't had a lot of exposure to Holiday but I had heard a lot about her. The quality of the recording was awful but, listening to the songs with headphones on a wintery cross-country bus ride, well, it made a sweet memory. 

All of those "hits" on the cassette were recorded very late in her career when she had lost all the pep and enthusiasm of her earlier recordings. In fact, there is a tired soulful quality about it. (Maybe even drunk?) Since that cassette I have always thought of that style as her best.

One of the harder to find recordings- which was also on that cassette- was this tune, Detours Ahead. In my interpretation of the lyrics, the singer is sharing her doubts about a new love because so many of her lovers in the past have destroyed her faith in love.

Smooth road clear day
But why am I the only one
Traveling' this way
How strange the road you love
Can be so easy
Can there be a detour ahead

Wake up slow down
Before you crash and brake your heart
Gullible clown
You fool, you're heading
In the wrong direction
Can't you see the detour ahead.

The further you travel
The harder to unravel
The way he spins around you
Turn back while there is time
Can't you see the danger sign
Soft shoulders surround you

Smooth road clear night
Oh lucky me that suddenly
I saw the light
I'm turning back away
From all that trouble

Smooth road, smooth road
No detour ahead

I love this tune but this particular version is somewhat spoiled by her choice of conclusions. Holiday tended to be somewhat over-stylized in the middle part of her long career and ended her song in the same way. Ninety percent of the time it worked ok but I don't think it does for this song.

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Screen Cleaner

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Open Questions to My Readers

(courtesy of  http://thoughtquestions.com)

I'd love to hear your answers to this question. My problem is narrowing it down to only person!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Jury is Out

"Not in my country"

Not long ago a Turkish friend and I were watching a classic American film, "Twelve Angry Men." If you haven't seen this 1957 film, it is quite interesting and worth a viewing.

The story is about a court case, but, in fact, we are never actually shown the court room. All of the action takes place in the tiny jury-deliberation room. Initially the case seems clear-cut. The accused, a young man from an unspecified minority, is obviously guilty of murdering his father. The evidence is overwhelming and there are even witnesses. But one of the jurors is unconvinced. As the film continues, we find that one by one the remaining eleven jurors, despite their prejudices and failings, come to re-evaluate the evidence to arrive at justice. (One is left to assume the verdict is not guilty but that scene is not shown.)

All of the performances are superb. The lone dissenter played by Henry Fonda is utterly charismatic and heroic. It's a great film but I hadn't intended this post to be a film review.

My friend enjoyed the film but wasn't particularly impressed by the underlying message. He dismissed the idea of a jury system as a kind of fantasy dreamed up Americans.

"Don't you think a jury system is better?" I asked him.

"Not in my country." he replied without any trace of doubt. "I don't want some uneducated villager deciding important things like court cases."

Frankly my liberal sensibilities were shocked by this attitude but I had heard a lot of similar things in the past. I always wrote them off as being a kind of intellectual snobbishness. Now, however, I am often feel I understand what they mean.

Identity and Values

Every countries has its invisible cultural divides. In the United States, you have the East Coast and the West Coast. The North and the South. And similarly, Turkey has always had two faces, the East, which is, in many ways, heavily influenced by Middle Eastern culture and the West part, which owes a lot to European ideals. When a native of Istanbul hears about honor killings in the east of the country, they don't seem particularly surprised. In their opinion, it's only to be expected. And often you hear a long time resident of the urban areas of the West say things like, "We never had this problem until so many people from the villages came to the city." Mind you, I am not saying it's accurate but it is definitely the perception.

You might conclude that, in some ways, the present political situation in Turkey is actually the values of the eastern parts of Turkey attempting to dominant the more secular and Western (in every sense) regions. A battle for the Turkish identity, you might say.

In a article, Why the Jury System Works, a former trial lawyer, G. Christopher Ritter explains the seven reasons why he believes the jury system is effective.

[One] reason the jury system works is that as much as we deride our jurors, we often have more in common with them than not. Indeed, jurors share with the parties, the witnesses, and the lawyers a level of wisdom and a set of common values that is a reflection of those held by the overall society. ...It is those shared understandings that allow the jurors to work together to come up with their verdicts.

Common values and shared understandings. This seems to be the key to understanding why so many Turks would not accept a jury-based justice system. There is a strong doubt whether the values are commonly held and shared.

The American jury system rests on  basic assumptions about human nature and society. The most important one is, of course, that people actually care about whether justice should prevail; that it is worth our time and effort to search for the truth. That facts are distinguishable from emotions and most important, that personal integrity would triumph over the potential for corruption.

Like a lot of things I observe in Turkey, I start out thinking one way and, after I sort it out as well as I am able, I find myself seeing things- in relation to my home country- in a completely different way than I started. It's one of the best things about being an expat, it is much harder for your long-held beliefs to go unchallenged.

As an American, I used to put a lot of faith in Egalitarianism, that is, that all humans, regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, economic status, social status, and cultural heritage, are equal in fundamental worth or social status. I suppose I still do but not as much as I once did. I used to have a lot of faith in my fellow American not to be ruled by his prejudices and ignorance but allow common sense to decide the final decision.

When I see groups like Westboro Baptist Church holding up inflammatory signs at funerals, I think, where is their common empathy? Which values can I possibly share with these people? When I see people, like some of the members of the Tea Party, demand less taxes and cut nearly all social programs to help the poor, I think, are those really Americans? The overt racism, the ignorance, the absolute faith in a second-hand interpretation of religion, the implied threats of violence to achieve their aims. People whose opinions are based solely on the latest FoxNews broadcast or Glenn Beck radio show.

And, suddenly I find myself in complete sympathy with the Turkish disregard for a jury system. To think that those people might somehow serve on a jury, where the stakes could very well be life and death, it is frightening. How could you trust people like that to make fair decisions?

The Long, Long Trailer

lucy and dezi

The 1953 film, "The Long, Long Trailer" has to be one of my favorite comedies. It must have been quite a gamble to make a film along the same lines as a weekly hit TV show, but that's exactly what Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz decided to do. With the light but loving hand of Director Vincente Minnelli (who also directed another of my favorites, "Meet Me in St. Louis") and screenplay by Albert Hackett, this film was a box-office success.

The plot of "The Long, Long Trailer" is, in fact, extremely simple; the humor, in some ways, more subtle, than the "I Love Lucy" TV show.

When bride-to-be Tacy (Lucille Ball) suggests to her very sensible fiancé the idea of buying a trailer, he thinks she must be joking. But no, think of all the money they'd be saving! Since Nicky's engineering job obliges them to travel around the country, why not take the home with them? Eventually, despite his reservations, she has her own way and so begins a series of hilarious episodes all heading toward a predictable marital disaster.

Here is one of my favorite lines :

Nicky: What? You said turn right!

Tacy: No, I didn't.

Nicky: You said "turn right here."'

Tacy: You didn't let me finish. I was going to say, "Turn right here.. left." 

Ball and Arnaz never looked happier or made a more attractive couple than here in this film. In some ways, compared with their TV show, cinema allowed Lucy and Desi more room to explore the dynamic of their relationship. She is much less of a disobedient child and Desi is much less of a frowning parent.

The cinematography is stunning, especially with the added shock of watching Lucy and Desi in vibrant Technicolor. The script takes them out of the dreary TV apartment set and out them in the wide open spaces of the Great Northwest. (Even the stage sets look glorious.)

The co-stars are wisely used mostly as foils for Lucy and Desi. Kennan Wynn has a brief appearance (with a single line of dialogue) as a perturbed policeman directing traffic. Marjorie Main, of Ma Kettle fame, stars as the overly helpful trailer park neighbor. In the clip below we also see Tacy's Aunt Anastasia played by Madge Blake, who was later to play in many TV shows as side characters. (Most notably she was the mother of Larry Mondello, one of Beaver Cleaver's pals.)

Now, the infamous meeting the relatives scene.

Nicely arranged scene, wasn't it? Most of the film is composed of scenes just like this.  By the way, I love the way Tacy accidentally introduces "poor" Grace, who becomes quite gleeful from the chaos that the trailer has wrought.

Anyway, if you get a chance to see this all but forgotten film, you won't be wasting your time.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Galaxy Song–Eric Idle

One of my all-time favorite Eric Idle songs. In the sketch from The Meaning of Life, Eric Idle plays the mysterious man in pink who emerges unexpectedly from the housewife's fridge. This song is part The Galaxy Songof some cosmic sales pitch to convince the woman to donate her liver to an unsavory fellow sent to her home to collect on demand. The song puts everything into neat perspective and is pure genius.

I have included the lyrics to help appreciate the marvelous lyrics by Eric Idle. I especially enjoyed the conclusion!

Click on the image for an enlarged version.

The Incredible Selective Eye of Josef Koudelka

1 Josef KoudelkaJOSEF KOUDELKA2Josef Koudelka

More about the Photographer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josef_Koudelka

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Emergency Brake

So as I was wandering the wide vista of the Net, I bumped into a young filmmaker named Casey Neistat.  And I was amused.  I had never heard of him- or his brother, Van. They apparently achieved some degree of fame with their own show on HBO which debuted  2010, aptly titled, The Neistat Brothers.
But that was only the crowning glory, the icing on the cake because they've had a large following from the films they posted. Example: Sixteen weeks after Their film "Ipod's Dirty Secret"  was posted to the Net on November 20, 2003,  it had over a million hits. Ok, it was an expose of sorts but I think its popularity had much more to do with the quirky spin that Neistat gives his work.
Let's cut to the chase. Here is a film by Neistat which asks the common sense question: Why have an emergency brake if you are not allowed to use it?
If you'd like to view other short films by Neistat, try this link:
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Pssst… Blogger Problems?

If you are having problems logging in to your blog or leaving comments on a blogspot.com blog, relax. It's not your computer.

Repeat: It's not YOUR computer!

So, you can stop fiddling with your laptop or PC and go for a walk. There's nothing you can do about it. Seriously.

Instead of a navbar along the top of the screen, I only see a blank spot. (Actually it's a thin slice of the login page appearing under my blog.)  If I try to log in, it  just keeps repeating the same login page. Holy loopin' logins!

It started a two days ago and from what I've learned, the problem is not confined to one area or one browser. FireFox allows you to login but you cannot comment. (I haven't tried any others.) I just approved of the comments waiting to be moderated. When I tried to respond to the comments, I went through all kinds of problem, eventually ending up, trying to log on again. ARGGG….

From the general tone at the Google Help Forum, many people are getting fed up with the problems with blogger. Especially coming on the heels of the previous downtime, only two weeks ago.

I think what is most annoying is when none of the people who are supposed to be resolving the problem even bother to keep people informed. I 've found that people will have a lot of patience if they believe that somebody somewhere is working on the problem.  This is the sum total of information released by Google people for the last 24 hours.


The modern help forum, that seems to be just about everywhere online, is a poor excuse for customer service. It's like being locking in a very slow, dimly lit waiting room, surrounded by numerous people all in the same predicament, growing increasingly angry.

Even finding the help forum isn't all that easy. So, being the compassionate type that I am, I can direct you to this address.


t's a nice place to rant up a storm but it really won't solve the problem.

Important Update:

Somehow I found a solution to the problem. This message might help. I had followed the advice given by Google/blogger about deleting the cache and the cookies. However, it is very important to delete the cookies and cache at least 4 weeks in the past. If not, it will have no effect. My Chrome is now much faster, by the way, so one of the cookies was apparently slowing the system down too. Hope this helps you.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Toothpick City Tour

Scott Weaver's amazing piece, made with over 100,000 toothpicks over the course of 35 years, is a depiction of San Francisco, with multiple ball runs that allow you to go on "tours" of different parts of the city. For more information:


Legalizing Polygamy in Turkey

Excerpts from an article in Hurriyet newspaper entitled:

Istanbul family consultant suggests allowing polygamy

A family consultant and life coach who conducts seminars on inter-family communication for Istanbul municipalities has suggested legalizing polygamy, citing both secular and religious arguments in support of her position. 

“A man looks for friendship, sexuality, motherhood and good housekeeping qualities in a woman. Unless you possess these attributes, you ought to be ready for being cheated upon. This is a righteous search for a man,” said 35-year-old Sibel Üresin, who has worked for the largely conservative municipalities of Fatih, Ümraniye, Bahçelievler and Eyüp, among others.

“A healthy woman who analyzes what she will have to go through in the case of a divorce should, in my opinion, consider polygamy as a form of salvation.”

“Rich men with solid careers and lots of sexual power can sometimes choose polygamy. No woman would ever become the second wife of a poor man. Men go after women who are more flirtatious, laugh more and who can satisfy them sexually. If I were a man, I would have been polygamous,” said Üresin, arguing that legalizing polygamy would empower women who are already engaged in polygamous marriages.

So let me get this straight. A polygamous marriage is a form of "salvation" for  a woman because divorce is such a hassle. If you don't make the grade, then wives should expect men to cheat of them. (Shame on YOU, ladies!)

I know what I think of the statements. But what to you think?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Galata Tower

Galata Tower(with a special thanks to photographer Ahmeth on Panaramio for the original inspiration.) For more information about this landmark, including its history, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galata_Tower

Naked Came the Stranger

In 1969, convinced that anything prurient would sell in the era of Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann, Newsday columnist Mike McGrady decided to manufacture his own bestseller. He asked 24 colleagues to write a chapter apiece, following two rules: They had to write badly, and there had to be an “unremitting emphasis on sex”:
In the darkened room, now thirstier than ever, Gillian was suddenly aware of the presence beside her of Mario Vella. He had allowed his left elbow to brush gently against her. In any other surrounding, in any other circumstances, Gillian Blake would have gracefully withdrawn. She didn’t. She held her ground and his elbow became more persistent.
Sadly, McGrady was right. With two sex scenes per chapter, Naked Came the Stranger quickly became a national bestseller, ending the year at number 7 on the fiction charts, five slots behind The Godfather.
“Penelope Ashe’s scorching novel makes Portnoy’s Complaint and Valley of the Dolls read like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm,” wrote the Long Island Press. And the Asheville, N.C., Citizen-Times said it was “witty and written in good taste, and brings out many new angles in man-woman relationships.”
“These are the kind of people,” McGrady told Life, “who are running around setting literary standards.”
I think it would be marvelous fun to set out to write a trashy novel, but I am afraid that my sense of parody give the game away.  I have heard of  wretched novels of the sort outlined in the above post where either of the love makers suddenly is transformed into an amorous octopus, with three or even four hands appearing and caressing the object of their affection.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Room With a Virtual View

This is a fine solution but I do have one question. What happens if more than one person is standing there? Fussy me.
This device will be quite practical when we all have to move underground and live on a 100% mushroom diet.
For more information about Windscape, check out this article by Wired magazine. http://goo.gl/B8hD

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Exotic Indeed

Not Waiting Anxiously

End of the World

The part that scares me most about all this nonsense is that these people are allowed to have children and vote. They may be  your neighbors and your co-workers. Possibly, the people who believe this may drive your school buses and teach  children. They work in positions of responsibility and handle important tasks.  They serve on juries and may work at your neighborhood pharmacy, dispensing medicines. They could sit on your school board. People like Michele Bachmann who are inexplicably elected to power and make all kinds of chaos for intelligent people.

They are among us but we usually never see them.  They will slide back into anonymity come Sunday morning when they find they are still here, un-rapturized. Dates will be revised and a couple of years later, (or next year) the whole nutty cycle will start again.

These people are not making a joke. They are serious. That scares me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

No Man is an Island

(NEWSER) – Some homeowners are putting up a fight against the mighty Mississippi and its tributaries, notes Popular Science. The AP and Getty have remarkable images of homes near Vicksburg shielded by makeshift levees. http://goo.gl/xdTnl

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Great Poem


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Life Imitates Art


Breaking News: Nomad Saves Planet Earth

Super NomadAfter decades of deliberation and consideration, I believed I might have discovered the solution to all of the problems that plague mankind. I was surprised to learn that the answer was quite obvious and the remedy well within our reach. Indeed, my proposal would put an end to the following problems within two decades. three at the most:

  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Traffic
  • Overcrowding and Housing
  • Hunger
  • Clean Water
  • Abortion
  • Crime
  • Teen Pregnancy
  • Pollution
  • Animal extinction
  • Waste Management Issues
  • War
  • Man-Made Global Warming
  • Education
  • Energy Allocation

And I suspect that this list is not complete. In fact the problems I've listed above are merely the symptoms of a single, much more pervasive problem. too many people on a planet with finite resources.

This New York Times article lays the problem out clearly

The population of the world, long expected to stabilize just above 9 billion in the middle of the century, will instead keep growing and may hit 10.1 billion by the year 2100, the United Nations projected in a report..

The implicit, and possibly questionable, assumption behind these numbers is that food and water will be available for the billions yet unborn, and that potential catastrophes including climate change, wars or epidemics will not serve as a brake on population growth.

In search for resources some have proposed that we begin posthaste an exploration outside the planet. However, the time to expand into outer space has probably passed. It is very possible that that window of opportunity has closed forever. From now on, all of our energy and all of our time will be spent attempting to resolve the symptoms of overpopulation. Add the secondary effects- like trying to adjust to the warming climate- and your piggy bank is empty.

Meanwhile, we will be forced to re-enact the Easter Island scenario (writ large), which, as you might recall,  did not have a happy ending. It is a bleak future that involves extreme social unrest, cruelty on an unimaginable scale, a complete breakdown of society and desperate cannibalism.

Science has proved itself to be a fickle ally. Advances in medicine, despite the best of intentions, have only succeeded in adding more members of our species and have actually lengthened the human life span.

Other institutions have only contributed to the problem. Religions in their quest for new recruits have done their bit to add a few hundred millions more and the myopic ego-driven nature of humankind has done the rest. Social programs like, education on birth management, has had a very limited effect of stabilizing the numbers.

So, a crash is coming; it is inevitable, of course. The longer the delay in the crash, the more damage will be done to the planet and all other life on it. But it needn't be all doom and gloom. I come, like Prometheus with a lighter, with a practical solution. (Cue for Fanfare)

Cutting the Gordian Knot

Given the proper funding, any forward-thinking humanitarian with adequate lab facilities should,. without much fuss, be able to whip up the kind of microbe I have in mind; a non-lethal but contagious virus, similar to a cold virus. It would have to pass easily from subject to subject- one sneeze on the back of your neck would be sufficient- and have a very short incubation period. There's really no time to lose.

Now, I want to make it perfectly clear, I am not proposing extermination. Not a single person need die at all from the ensuing infection. Heavens, no. Think of the mess! Don't misunderstand, I am a people person.

So, after the virus is out and about,  the resulting infection would simply destroy the cells that produce semen and the sperm itself. The virus would be specific to humans and the sterilizing effect would be permanent. That's it. It's not science fiction. It's do-able.

The rest of the scenario- dissemination, (or should I say, de-semen nation?)  - I leave to your imagination. Suffice to say, it would be all to easy and epidemiologists are worried about some really deadly virus would be spread naturally by exactly the same means. (Ask any housewife. That's the problem with too many people in a confined space. It's impossible to keep things clean and tidy and germ-free.)

A sniffle, a cough and bit of post-nasal drip followed by a couple of days of well-earned bed-rest and Bob's your uncle. Although you weren't aware of the fact, you, dear sir, have just done your part to save the planet.

Welcome to My World

I know what naysayers will say. Nay! It's so drastic, they'd moan. Or, they'd say, it'll spell the end of our species. But, of course, upon sober reflection, anybody can clearly see that we can't continue on the path that we are currently on without having precisely that result. Besides, desperate times call for desperate measures.

I say, fiddle-dee dee to all that end of the world talk. There are plenty of sperm banks with more than enough of that stuff to ration out to deserving couples. At least, enough to maintain the species indefinitely. A little of it goes a long way, they tell me. Sperm lotteries? No, I think not. It would probably be more like American Idol but, instead of a record contract, the prize would be a 2ml. of high quality semen.

I imagine that society, as we know it, will change a great deal once the effects of my plan become manifest. Instead of having a surplus of children, left to the own devices, every neighborhood would have but a single child. A community child, as it were. (It takes a village, after all.) 

Every child born into my world would be treated as a prize, a precious commodity. People would view a child as the key to the survival of our species and not merely a means of passing one's genetic material around. Every child would be given respect and not merely the unfortunate result of careless sex, or a new addition to a fast-growing religion, a burden to familial resources, a cute doll for adults to dress up, or a tax break, or a justification, or a means to an end, or a ego satisfying copy of one of the parents.

In short, we would actually value our children.

Meanwhile, until scientists come up with a vaccine- which they doubtless will- the planet will have a chance to recover from the onslaught of humankind. The rain forests will begin to expand. less farmland will be needed for food. We are likely to be surprised how quickly Nature reclaims things. As the death rate progresses normally, things will just get better and better.

Best of all, it will not be a vision of the tragic apocalypse or Mad Max. We shall not have lost anything more than the surplus. The world that I propose would be viable, but, of course, it would require some adaptability. Production levels would fall with fewer workers but they could easily be supplemented by robotic equipment.

I suppose the entire project would have to be covert because people tend to react rather badly when you take away the control they've used so irresponsibly. It's a waste of time trying to tell them that you are really doing it for all the right reasons. They are not listening and will continue to ignore the obvious problem. Nevertheless, most of them would be upset if they learned the details, despite the fact it would ensure that life on the planet, including human, would survive.


Timing was never my strong point and this case is no exception. Apparently, the solution for the problem of overpopulation has already been found. According to former civil engineer-turned Christian broadcaster Harold Camping,  this coming Saturday, May 21, 2011, the world shall end. God has dictated it.

Camping has taken the Scripture and added up the numbers, checked the signs and, according to his research,  it's really going to happen this time. (He was mistaken the last time when he said it was Sept. 6, 1994. Whoops.)

So I suppose the sperm-eating virus is a no-go for launch. Needless to say, I am miffed because I have spent a lot of time on this problem- not to mention, I just extended my visa for five more years. All for naught, as it appears.

Also, I was planning on heading over to the beach on Sunday.. if it wasn't too crowded.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Think of the Children

I found this interesting quote from Zaman newspaper regarding the Turkish government's decision to institute Internet filters.

Some NGOs say Internet filters may reduce cyber crime

….According to some critics, the regulation will mark the “death of the Internet” in Turkey. Some others, on the other hand, say that it will help fight and reduce cyber crimes. Yasemin Çoban, a board member of the Association for the Protection and Support of Family (AKODER), said the BTK regulation will not introduce a mechanism of censorship on the use of the Internet. Rather, it is aimed at protecting children and families.

I met over 30,000 people in the past six years [who complain about the harm of unsupervised use of the Internet.] None of them told me that they would like their children to have access to any website they wish. We need to end freedoms at a point when they threaten our children or family values. If the BTK does not do this [for the Internet,] how will we protect our children as parents?” Çoban asked.

Think of the CHILDREN!

This is a running gag on The Simpsons. One of the characters, Helen Lovejoy, the minister's wife, usually exclaims this whenever there is a crisis, whatever the relevance.

This type of justification is discussed in this Wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children's_interests . It isn't the first time it has been used to rationalize censorship. 

Internet censorship and content-control software of offensive material is often justified as being done "for the children". One of the most large-scale examples was Green Dam Youth Escort, which was a failed attempt by the People's Republic of China to mandate internet content-control for all children in the country (it had numerous failures and controversies).

The thing I've never understood about this rationalization is why anybody on earth would want the government taking over the duties of parenting? Why do people think the government would make better decisions about raising their children than they themselves. In terms of making intelligent decisions, most governments'  track records, generally speaking, aren't all that great. Politicians routinely get caught lying and stealing or in some sexual embarrassment but some people are still eager to allow these very same people to decide what is morally permissible.

I am of the belief that the most important trait that parents can instill in their child is to develop his or her own conscience. To know right from wrong without being told by the clergy or the government.

And as Samuel Butler tells us,

The first duty of a conscientious person is to have his or her conscience absolutely under his or her own control.

So, leaving the parenting to the government simply seems a abrogation of the responsibility.  

Here's what unsupervised children do.  There ought to be a law against this!
Ban Crayons and Magic Markers NOW.

The only thing the government needs to do is to encourage parents to take a more pro-active role and to support education about the Internet. how to use it properly, how parents can manage it effectively and how to shield their children from harmful sites. No need for making everybody into a criminal.

Viewing this on a less philosophical level, this problem does not require such a blanket imposition at all.  It can be handled sufficiently individually. With a little bit of education by ISPs and  by parent's taking a more active interest, suitable internet filters can be arranged at home. It is not that hard.  Internet Service Providers should be doing more to educate parents on how to install controls on their home computers.

Internet cafes may be another story and may require some minor legislation  (or actual enforcement of the laws already on the books)  but then, it does beg the question why parents, if they are so concerned about this, allow their children so much unsupervised time on the net?

Go to any Internet and you can see children spending hours and hours there. Who is at fault in that case? The government? And, to conclude my rant, most of those children are NOT perusing porn sites. They are feverishly hunting down virtual enemies and graphically exploding their heads with assault rifles and AK-47s. But, for some reason, we don't hear so much talk about that aspect.

(I know, I am being naïve. It isn't about that. It's really about making and enforcing  a standard morality of all citizens. One size fits all, yani.)

Update: There's an interesting article in Zaman newspaper about the expat reaction to the bans. "Big Brother" by ASHLEY PERKS

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Clever Prank

I love this prank. It leaves its victims so thunderstruck by the switch they cannot even speak. It took me awhile- doh- to understand why they used such an old fashioned camera but then I realized that it was the only way they could really "clinch" the prank. I would love for them to have interviewed the people afterwards too.
Hope it brought a smile to your faces in any case.

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The Ugly Couch Contest Winners

At the risk of being virtually pelted with rotten tomatoes by proud Turkish readers, I have to say I have seen some really ugly furniture in Turkish showrooms. They are generally quite functional and in fact, they all seemed designed to act rather like a  second horizontal closet and a bed, in the likely event,  a busload of relatives shows up at the door. I guess, for me,  most of the "yick" factor comes with the choice of upholstery and all the very sharp edge to some of the designs.

Yet, nothing I've seen in Turkey can compare to some of the things I saw on a site called "The Ugliest Couch in the World Contest"


Here is the winner entry for 2010. Not only unattractive in the extreme, it also looks uncomfortable. Just imagine the noises your tush would make on that at the slightest movement. Who would have buy such a thing? Those high backs look as though the designer couldn't decide whether it was going to be a chair or a sofa. Is it cover in plastic or is that vinyl? The floral print adds a feminine touch but the polished gleam of the arms, seating and trim suggest hot rods and motorcycles.

In any case, it's safe to say, I think, the title of ugliest couch is well-deserved. It was a close race because take a look at this entry.

That's a runner up. It looks like a pastry that collapsed in the oven. Definitely for the basement rumpus room- (with all new wood paneling!). I think it would go well with those globe swag lamps you saw at Craigslist.  I mean, like this.

Add lime green shag carpeting and the trestle coffee table (with cigarette burns) and you got Home Décor 1973. 

Going back to some of the other entries from years back, check out this sunrise-flame orange glory. 

It just screams pre-Manson California  doesn't it? It's held up well through the ravages of time. The cushions are a bit flattened out from all those pool-boy shenanigans. But it calls to mind a bygone era. Shelly Winters in leopard prints, Valley of the Dolls, platinum Gabor wigs, sheer loungewear from Fredericks and Polynesian cocktails in the afternoon.

Turning to another entry from the past, we have this comedy pair. It sort of looks like it was made for a family of rodeo clowns. This is the kind of furniture that movers loathe. It must require a crane to lift and move around. 


If you see anything truly awe-inspiringly atrocious, be sure to discreetly snap a photo or two and send  to the site. Who knows you could be a winner.

Here are the entry rules (read by the Marvelous Talking Sofa, Johnny Awful.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

News about the Turkish Internet Ban Protests

Here is a quick roundup of about yesterday's protests about the proposed filtering system of the Internet.  (For more about the ban and how it came about click HERE. )

From the New York Times

ISTANBUL — Thousands of people in more than 30 cities around Turkey took to the streets on Sunday to protest a new system of filtering the Internet that opponents consider censorship.

The Information and Communications Technologies Authority, known by its Turkish initials as B.T.K., is going to require Internet service providers to offer consumers four choices for filtering the Internet that would limit access to many sites, beginning in August.

From The Wall Street Journal

“These filters would turn the Internet into a state-controlled area,” said Serkan Dogan, 29, an Istanbul software programmer who said he was taking part in his first political demonstration. “You’d enter a channel leading you to the server of the state, which distributes the Internet to millions of users. The system enables the control of citizens…like telephone tapping.”

Protesters also have been upset by a BTK announcement that it will ban a list of words from use in domain names. According to press reports, those banned words would include things as common as “blonde” and “sister-in-law.”

Earlier this month, BTK head Tayfun Acarer told reporters that the accusations of censorship were baseless, as use of the four proposed state filters — children’s profile, family profile, domestic or standard profile — would be voluntary. However, Mr. Acarer gave few details of how the system would work.

From CNN:

The new filtering rules will be enforced beginning August 22, the government said.

A "Enemies of the Internet" report issued this month by Reporters Without Borders included Turkey on its 2011 list of "countries under surveillance."

The BTK was "not fooling anyone when it claims to be rendering a service to Internet users by giving them a choice between a lot of restrictions and fewer restrictions," the report said.

Turkey already blocks more than 7,000 websites, "in most cases without reference to any court," the report said.

From The People's Daily in China:

Other Internet websites also include calls for their users to join the marches, including sansurekarsi.com, yasaklamakyasaktir. com, eksisozluk.com, sansuresansur.blogspot.com and others.

Protesters march simultaneously in 35 Turkish provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Antalya and Trabzon.

It's really stupendous when China comments on your Internet policies. Here's another related op-ed piece by Claire Berlinski, which explores the background of the protests.

I think to fully understand the passion behind this, you have to grasp the degree to which this culture polices itself by means of shame, family pressure, and neighborhood gossip. Everyone is in everyone's business, all the time. The authoritarianism of the state is only one component of a wider authoritarian culture; young people here have the sense, and it is quite justified, that everyone is telling them what to do--their families, especially. There's no way to escape the rigid social rules.

That's quite a blanket statement but, from what I've seen, it's not inaccurate. It seems that  "all and all, we're just another brick in the wall" is the general feeling amongst the young people here. That's  a pity, too, because the Turkish youth represent such an undiscovered vitality and  an unused opportunity for the whole nation, I think.

It's also important to note that many of the newspapers and television new reports stress the  asserted negative social effects of the Internet, such as, destroyed marriages and the rise of porn and general decadence of the Turkish society. (Perhaps it is because those are the two sectors most threatened by the Internet.)

People who may be deeply suspicious of this Internet thing, people whose index fingers have never once touched an "Enter" button, read such things and vote accordingly. (They are conservative in the old meaning of the word, before it was corrupted to mean just about anything.) I suspect there is a great deal of fear in some quarters and that has led to supporting these imposed restrictions on the Internet.

The same things they once said about television. Corrupting our youth! It will lead to a breakdown of society! 

Of course, regulation of television broadcasting in Turkey is hardly a good model. Years ago, a single slipup, a crass remark by a guest or a poor judgment by a show producer, could get an entire station a one- or two-day ban. While that sort of heavy-handedness doesn't happen so much nowadays, the manner in which things are conducted now is really odd and, frankly, nonsensical. For example, even on cable television, showing smoking is banned (replaced by a blurred circle) but violence- including violence toward women- is freely shown. So if the policy toward Internet seems haphazard and arbitrary, it doesn't especially surprise me.

I'd agree for the most part with Berlinski's assessment but I'd also add that  the concerns and the dissatisfaction and aspirations of Turkish young people are, by and large, ignored by the major parties. It is definitely an untapped voter demographic when you consider the average age here is much younger than, say, Europe. 

I was struck the other day by an interview with Robert Fisk, writer and  Middle East correspondent for The Independent. He was discussing the causes for the unrest of late that we have seen in the Arab nations. He noted that, in all of these countries, the leaders tended to treat their people like children and, without consent or consultation, they would arbitrary decide what was "good" for them. For that type of leadership, there was no need to waste time in deliberation or debate about the subjects. (America under George Bush had the same problem, by the way.) The "infantilization" of the nation gradually- but inevitably- became oppression as the nation, in effect, grew up.  Perhaps, on a smaller scale, we are seeing the same thing here.

Turkey is growing up under the noses of its leaders. Isn't that remarkable? But then, remarkable things are always happening here, and  that's what I really truly love about Turkey and the Turks.

UPDATE: According to an informative website,  Kamil Pasha  (thanks to Bulent) gives more details about how these bans have come down.

The recent bans have not even had the fig leaf of a court decision, but have come in the form of notices (sometimes emailed) from the government’s Internet Office (TİB, İnternet Daire Başkanlığı) to the hosting companies, ordering them to close down the specified sites (or sites with certain words in their domain names, see my post below) and threatening unspecified punishment if they don’t comply. Is this even legal? Closing down an $18 million company without a court order, just by the flick of a pen or a pixel?

Also it appears that I spoke much too early about the bad old days of television censorship heavy-handedness. The attitude has been given a new life

TV and radio are also being hyper-regulated, with a recently passed broadcasting law giving the prime minister the authority to temporarily halt broadcasting. It bans “racy” images from the screen and gives the government’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) the right to define the professional and ethical rules that employees must follow…. The new law allows up to 50 percent of a company’s shares to be owned by a foreign company.

Racy images and too much darn kissing! ( http://goo.gl/aLBgS )

By the way, the comment section for the Kamil Pasha site is also interesting! Here's a short clip of the protest in Istanbul.

Taksim Istanbul Walking Against Internet Censorship - May 15, 2011

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Vivian Maier Monday - 5

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Mountain

Photographer Terje Sorgjerd 's notes:

This was filmed between 4th and 11th April 2011. I had the pleasure of visiting El Teide.
Spain´s highest mountain @(3718m) is one of the best places in the world to photograph the stars and is also the location of Teide Observatories, considered to be one of the world´s best observatories.
The goal was to capture the beautiful Milky Way galaxy along with one of the most amazing mountains I know El Teide. I have to say this was one of the most exhausting trips I have done. There was a lot of hiking at high altitudes and probably less than 10 hours of sleep in total for the whole week. Having been here 10-11 times before I had a long list of must-see locations I wanted to capture for this movie, but I am still not 100% used to carrying around so much gear required for time-lapse movies.
A large sandstorm hit the Sahara Desert on the 9th April (bit.ly/​g3tsDW) and at approx 3am in the night the sandstorm hit me, making it nearly impossible to see the sky with my own eyes.
Interestingly enough my camera was set for a 5 hour sequence of the milky way during this time and I was sure my whole scene was ruined. To my surprise, my camera had managed to capture the sandstorm which was backlit by Grand Canary Island making it look like golden clouds. The Milky Way was shining through the clouds, making the stars sparkle in an interesting way. So if you ever wondered how the Milky Way would look through a Sahara sandstorm, look at 00:32.

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Press/licensing/projects contact: terjes@gmail.com
Music by my friend: Ludovico Einaudi - "Nuvole bianche" with permission.
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I Remember - Devendra Banhart

A wonderful song by a new singer,  Devendra Banhart. The lyrics are so evocative.

And I remember no place for me to hide
Before you came home at night
I remember you turning out the lights
All I ever saw was the red in your eyes
No big surprise
Happened nearly every night
Your own flesh and blood
I did wonder why

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Trolling the Pets

When ever my dog would beg, I used to do this as a child (and little bit older)  Actually I would just smack my lips and moan in ecstasy as I ate my food. He would give me an unmistakable look of seething anger. Unlike a human, though, Charlie's memory was pretty short about such things and he never harbored any long term bitterness.

I love that about dogs.

Gone to America

Reuters, Dec 4, 2002

MILAN, ITALY — An Italian man who packed his bags 44 years ago and told friends he was leaving for America was found dead inside one of the walls of his home.

An American woman who recently bought the house near Lucca in northern Tuscany discovered the body Tuesday as she was carrying out renovations, police said.

Inside a thick wall in the cellar the woman found human remains, two packed suitcases, a trowel and other equipment to make a wall, a rusted rifle and a bottle with a suicide note.

The note, on paper headed with the name Nemo Cianelli, explained that the man had discovered he had an incurable disease and had decided to kill himself. He said he had invented the tale of going to America to avoid upsetting his family.

Local newspapers reported in 1958 that Cianelli was missing, and speculated that he might have gone to America, but after a period of rumor and mystery, the story was forgotten.

Police said it appeared Cianelli had packed his suitcases, written the suicide note, built a wall up around himself and then shot himself.

Copyright © Reuters, Dec 4, 2002


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