Friday, December 31, 2010

Spellchecker

It is true that your word-processor's spellchecker does not and cannot improve your English as you'll never learn if you don't make and not humiliated by your mistakes.

But at the same time new technology gives courage to write. Ordinary people would have terrified if they were stuck with an old typewriter.


What technology did remarkably well was to empower people and encourage them to focus on the content and expression by relieving them from checking ruthless grammar and spelling errors (not completely but nearly). And I think this is a good thing. Technology democratised writing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Great deal of my generation’s adolescence was spent watching spaghetti westerns. My all time favorite was Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


I watched this film in 70’s, who knows how many times. The duel scene in the end was one of the most memorable scenes I’ve always adored, almost engraved into my mind, the infinite graveyard landscape, the heat, the tension between Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleeff, and Eli Vallach, sublime photography and of course Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score.

At the time every boy in our neighborhood walked like Client Eastwood, talked like him, sometimes with a piece of fake cigar sticking out our mouth.. It was the coolest thing.

Almost forty years later I found a DVD in a local supermarket, thrown into a big basket. I became an eleven year old again. I bought it, rushed home and watched in excitement .




I was curious and wondered how much I would remember. I found that I don’t recall certain scenes accurately, the faces and plot didn’t fit exactly. For instance I didn’t remember war scenes at all.

Our remembering self plays a game with experiencing self. Throughout our life we experience much more than we can remember. Predominantly remembering self defines who we are.

We are what we remember. In the end the scenes chosen by the remembering self survive and give way to other thoughts, memes and ideas. Dead ends and dull become dead, truly.

I am glad that the ending of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is what I was given by my remembering self. Good choice.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Orhan Pamuk and his oriental melancholia

Turkish author Orhan Pamuk wrote an article in the New York Review of Books named The Fading Dream of Europe.

This is what I posted in response:

Historical events should be evaluated in their circumstantial context in order to understand their true nature and intent, only then we might be able to make a fair judgement about their implications. Pamuk’s article unfortunately lacks that, it is a one-sided, narrow, cynical and grossly melancholic interpretation of history partly influenced by his Orientalist views we are familiar to see in his novels and partly his resentment towards the backlash of an alleged Nationalist plot against his political views.

I don’t agree that Turkish people were called upon to embrace and even imitate a rosy-pink European dream just for the purpose of legitimizing Atatürk’s reforms. Such a limited view demands us to believe that these reforms were hallow imitations, lacking substance and vigor, however nothing can be further than the truth.

Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 on the wrecks of Ottoman Empire and Atatürk’s reforms were derived from the newly born state’s secular constitution. At the centre of these reforms we see Secularism as its core value and a desire to establish an egalitarian society in which women and men have equal rights including the right to vote and the right for being elected as representatives of the state.

It didn't matter whether the Secularism was born in Europe or elsewhere. Whereas the circumstances in which it was born and its context mattered for Atatürk.

Secularism is a product of the Age of Enlightenment in which reason was advocated as the primary source of legitimacy and authority. At its core was a critical questioning of traditional institutions, customs, and morals, and a strong reliance in rationality and science.

Enlightenment had been a natural movement evolved in the dialectical context of European history, it didn’t drop from the sky like a meteoroid. You can not point to a single historical event as its sole source. French Revolution happened to be its most dramatic and well know realization.

The central issue Pamuk is circumventing is the clash of Islam and Secularism we see today. Islam contradicts Enlightenment values by proposing a political, social and judicial ideology of its own relying solely on divine authority as opposed to reason.

To a large extent Muslim migrant populations in Europe while enjoying and taking advantage of freedom and tolerance European democracies provide, don’t show similar levels of tolerance or respect to the values of greater society they live in.

In the name of multiculturalism most Muslims continue to live within enclosed ghettos. Their recognition of truth is determined by Imams who teach them intolerance towards views who oppose or don’t share their absolute divine rhetoric written in the Koran.

And such rhetoric dictates men abuse their power to suppress women and undermine their role they could otherwise play in the society. Such injustice had been exactly one of the key points of Atatürk’s reforms to confront.

Atatürk and liberated women of the secular Turkish Republic

Unfortunately the irony of Liberty has been letting intolerance to breed despite clearly not endorsing it. This is the puzzle the West has to solve without undermining core values of Enlightenment.

For the past eight years the Turkish Republic is governed by a pro-Islamic populist political party (AKP) who concealed their true intent behind a ‘Moderate Islam’ mask, slowly but surely marching towards their ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic presidential state. There are strong indications that this is the case. The AKP Government now controls judiciary system, put intellectuals, journalist, and politicians who oppose them in prison for three years without sufficient evidence to prosecute them.

Unfortunately what Pamuk is saying here is not so different to populist and anti-secular rhetoric of AKP.

I advise Mr. Pamuk to return to what he does best, writing beautiful novels.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Contact Opening Scene Under the Knife

I am reading "Selected Stories of H.G Wells", edited and with an introduction by Ursula K. Le Guin.



The protagonist in the short story "Under the Knife" undergoes a surgery. During the operation he sees himself as being elevated and detached from his body. He then leaves the room, rising up, watching London in bird's eye view, then rapidly flying up over the British Isles, Europe, and so on. He eventually leaves the Earth, crosses the solar system even briefly going through the rings of Saturn as brilliantly depicted by Wells:

":..and then I saw that a bright spot of light, that shone a little to one side of my path, was growing very rapidly larger, and perceived that it was the planet Saturn rushing towards me. Larger and larger it grew, swallowing up the heavens behind it, and hiding every moment a fresh multitude of stars. I perceived its flattened, whirling body, its disc-lite belt, and seven of its satellites. It grew, and grew, till it towered enormous; and then I plunged amid a streaming multitude of clashing stones and dancing dust-particles and gas-eddies, and saw for a moment the mighty triple belt like three concentric arches of moonlight above me, its shadow black on the boiling tumult below.."

When I finished reading the story I couldn't help but think that Wells perhaps became an inspiration to 1997 movie Contact's opening scene (from Carl Sagan's novel of the same name):

Just watch this and make your own mind up:


No wonder they call him, H.G Wells, "The Father of Science Fiction".

Thursday, December 9, 2010

GetUp's Statement

From here:

Dear President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder:

We, as Australians, condemn calls for violence, including assassination, against Australian citizen and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, or for him to be labeled a terrorist, enemy combatant or be treated outside the ordinary course of justice in any way.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "information is the currency of democracy." Publishing leaked information in collaboration with major news outlets, as Wikileaks and Mr. Assange have done, is not a terrorist act.

Australia and the United States are the strongest of allies. Our soldiers serve side by side and we’ve experienced, and condemned, the consequences of terrorism together. To label Wikileaks a terrorist organisation is an insult to those Australians and Americans who have lost their lives to acts of terrorism and to terrorist forces.

If Wikileaks or their staff have broken international or national laws, let that case be heard in a just and fair court of law. At the moment, no such charges have been brought.

We are writing as Australians to say what our Government should have: all Australian citizens deserve to be free from persecution, threats of violence and detention without charge, especially from our friend and ally, the United States.

We call upon you to stand up for our shared democratic principles of the presumption of innocence and freedom of information.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Back to basics

In his blog post "Wikileaks and the Long Haul" Clay Shirky wrote:

"Human systems can’t stand pure transparency. For negotiation to work, people’s stated positions have to change, but change is seen, almost universally, as weakness."

Well maybe this is what precisely the problem is. Perhaps we should go back to the drawing board of Democracy and like ancient Athenians we should demand transparency and scrutiny of public at all times.

 
Only then people may gradually learn opinion change not as a sign of weakness but as a sign of healthy debate. Perhaps people should have the right to know when opinions change and why.

WikiLeaks thins out the line between what governments want to hide and what people want to know, is that necessarily a bad thing?