Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The impression I get from Turkish public is:

“We vote in general elections every 4 years; the elected pro-Islamic government may do whatever they wish as they see fit during their term; including imprisonment of over 80 journalists without trial. Everything goes as they have mandate from the people.”

Turkish public is on the verge of forgetting about what democracy meant and should mean for a civilised society. In essence popular opinion over the last decade or so reflects wide-scale public ignorance on the necessity of executing democratic rights and responsibilities of individuals between elections, not just during elections. Citizens to a large extent lack democratic consciousness regarding fundamental human rights and individual liberties. 

The current AKP (Justice and Development Party) government exploits what has always been lurking in Turkish population like an epidemic, a reminiscent of Ottoman legacy: “do not challenge authority”. 

I am sitting in a pub, listening to rock music, and having a glass of cold dark beer. I see myself sitting before a laboratory. You have an aquarium in front of you and there is a red button with 1984 printed on it. 

True. What I hear are stories. I may not have journalistic wisdom nor hard evidence. I sometimes don’t have patience. But overall I am not too bad in predicting what is about to come.

I left the country I was born 22 years ago. I knew what was coming. I knew what today was going to look like.

There was a guy whom I worked together in TEK some 30+ years ago (a government office I worked once). He was quite intelligent, an engineer, like me he graduated from the same school that captured top 0.01% of high school graduates. 

He was a devout Muslim who knew Shiatsu massage and who also regularly swallowed books in NY libraries during his Master's programme. As an Atheist generally I consider talking to Muslims on divine matters, a hopeless endeavor.  Nevertheless I found him interesting and pleasant to have conversation with. It still puzzles me why and how on earth a person as intelligent as him became a follower of a religion full of Abrahamic bullshit. Surely it appeared he had great deal of grey material. I remember we had a long discussion about whether good art may emerge from Islam. I questioned him about lack of asymmetry in Islamic Art and esthetical problems associated with it. He seemed to be quite convinced that you would not need to go beyond symmetry. You know, all those boring hypnotising Islamic tile designs, carpet designs and so on. That’s what I was talking about. For me asymmetry is a fundamental cognitive element that makes art interesting and pleasant.  

Anyway, he told us (people in the office) at the time we were all missing the point and Turkey would one day become an Islamic Republic. We went outside for lunch, and later I saw him leaning forward in Namaz position prostrating himself against a God he cannot see nor anyone has seen evidence of on a narrow pavement in a busy street near the office at the back of other prayers stretching from a mock Mosque built inside a small shopping centre.

How naïve I was. I laughed about this. But at the same time I had an eerie feeling about it. There were indications already. The military quo of September 1980 largely favoured the Right; during my military service I was ordered to escort one of my former uni classmates, who was a communist, to prison who was later tortured among others in a civil prison. I heard his story later when I met him during a business conference in 1986.

I am now sitting in Kuğulu Park trying to come around.  There we go; we see evidence of Darwinian Evolution here as well. The pigeons grew in number and adapted to grey surroundings of cityscape thanks to men who sell grains to satisfy people who believe they are feeding animals for the good. Most interestingly these pigeons are shameless. They evolved to ignore my attempts to scare them off. I step firmly on the ground; they don’t seem to bother; they take one or two small steps and come back to pick stuff from the gaps of cobblestones. 30 years ago they used to keep away or fly away farther.

85% of Turkish people think that humans have evolved from Adam and Eve. 

Gray pigeons adapted to favourable conditions grain salesmen and park dwellers created. It is so obvious. People would like to feel good about themselves, perhaps a DNA reminiscent of their gatherer ancestors who cultivated land and breed animals. So they are inclined to feed pigeons that are in reality slightly more dignified than rats and only in appearance. Home Sapiens salesmen appeared in the city to exploit such a weakness. They started to sell grain to park-dwellers.  In the end the most aggressive and shameless pigeons evolved to breed in high numbers and managed to disturb my peace. I now escaped to Gloria Jeans across the road.

It is not easy to understand why a larger proportion of a human population cannot see Darwinian evolution in action. The definition of stupid has always been a puzzling concept for me.  Are these people simply stupid not to see vast evidence for Darwinian Evolution that is taking place, or should we blame the education system or powerful memes of Islamic traditions that deluded them?

Anyway I am too little too less to change this. I elect to remain outside the aquarium. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Neon lights

There is something mysteriously beautiful about neon lights in twilight.

As the night closes in like an owl’s heavy wings, neon lights appear to remind strangers their irresistible solitude.

In those magic moments of twilight we see the sunlight tangoing with neon lights.

We witness a silent carnival in twilight; the most ordinary becomes extraordinary and beautiful.

Then suddenly the full moon rises over the roof of Café Artemis. We hope the night may bring pleasant surprises.

A stranger walks in to a Tobacco shop.

The man behind the cash register gazes at him with tired eyes.

A breeze of slight discomfort fills the air.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chinese restaurant in Bodrum

Sometimes life offers us bizarre opportunities to laugh about.

These days we see accidents like this one more often than before. Thanks to Globalisation, we now have Amazon rainforest tribesmen wearing I Love NY teeshirts.

This photo shows a mosque overlaid by an image of a tiny and hopelessly ugly mini-shopping centre. On the right a Chinese Restaurant. Sacredness and solemnity of the mosque are challenged by an opportunist vision.

A Chinese Restaurant in a holiday town in Turkey would have been a laughable idea until not long ago. I think it is still funny if you consider great majority of tourists pour into Turkey for authentic Turkish food.

click to enlarge

I have to say I hate the modern sun-roof like structure in the middle; at first glance it looks as if it is cut out from a modern Texan skyscraper overnight by an organised mob of Turkish pirate-architects.

But the hideous blue glass thing makes a perfect irony in terms of composition. It shows local merchants' desire to become modernised. These local small businessmen lack sophistication that may only come through centuries-long social refinement. Nevertheless despite my desire to throw up, I salute their bravery to change themselves.

This photo was shot in Turgutreis, the second largest holiday town in Bodrum peninsula, in September 2011.

Many beautiful things

How we organise things reflect our attitude towards life. These photos were shot during my holiday in Bodrum, Turkey in September 2011.  They show my desire to capture life from merchandise organised by simple shopkeepers.  

turkish delights
beautiful charms from ayse and ali
flat bottles

Monday, September 12, 2011

Coffa or cauphe

In 1656 a London barrister, Thomas Blount, published his Glossographia: or a Dictionary, Interpreting all such Hard Words of Whatsoever Language, now used in our refined English Tongue. Blount’s dictionary listed more than eleven thousand words, many of which, he recognised, were new, reaching London in the hurly-burly of trade and commerce1:

coffa or cauphe, a kind of drink among the Turks and Persians, (and of late introduced among us) which is black, thick and bitter, destrained from Berries of that nature, and name, thought good and very wholesom: they say it expels melancholy.

Three and a half century later I am enjoying a well-made cup of Turkish coffee here in Bodrum, Turkey. The aroma and flavour of centuries long oriental tradition leaves a distinguished taste on the palate up to an hour.

The diamond shaped thing on the plate is called süt helvası from Fındıklı, Rize; a rough sugar-like dessert made by cooking equal amounts of sugar and milk for hours until the mixture becomes thick.

This should not make you believe that we Turks are equally good at making Cappuccino, or Latte. In my view the best Italian coffee is served in Roma, Italy or in Sydney, Australia.

You should enjoy local food proven by centuries long scrutiny when you are travelling and avoid global brands in order to make your holiday a memorable one.

1. From The Information, James Gleick

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Recorded self

I had once watched a video from Daniel Kahneman on experiencing self and remembering self. I found the idea that our consciousness is ruled largely by remembering self fascinating.

It seems we are having a perfect day. Early in the morning we look at the mirror and see an image somehow slimmer than usual and the haircut seems at its best. The weather is fantastic, warm, crisp and clear. We go to beach, have a nice walk and swim, and then have lunch at the favourite café with best friends. We feel great. In the evening we go to a Beethoven concert at the Opera House. It seems the famous pianist is having his best day. Everything seems perfect. Then someone’s mobile phone rings.

All we remember from that day would be the dreadful ringtone; despite we had great time otherwise. Statistical average of our experiences is irrelevant.

What we remember is not up to our rational thinking. Remembering self weaves instances, occurrences, sounds and images, in random patterns that we cannot control. Throughout our lifetime we carry a long and heavy fabric of our memory on our shoulders; this is called remembering self. Our identity and behaviour is pretty much formed by it.

Social networking tools like Facebook allow us to record incomplete and discrete experiences. Hence when an outsider looks at them they see precisely that; an incomplete and discrete world depicted by you. Some of your followers may be experiencing these events with you in real time. But these records may  give a shady and often falsified opinion about you or events surrounding you. They may create incomplete reflections in others’ remembering self in surprisingly different ways.

You are not that dreadful photo, or video, or blog post. People will get a different you depending on how much experience they had with real you.

Hence perhaps we may talk about a third self, a recorded self. Recorded self is formed by recording experiences of experiencing self.

Recorded media often form dumb and incomplete images of us. There are gaps; other events and gestures may be missing in between and remain unrecorded; they may be crucial in depicting a more accurate and just picture of what we try to express.

I don’t know which one of them is more unfortunate, distortions by a remembering self, reshaping our consciousness second by second, or distortions by incomplete recordings.

I sense however that we are trained to waive threads of remembering self; no matter how unreal or erroneous our remembering could be; it is still the best approximation making us.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Off-peak holidaying in Bodrum

Finally we made our journey to Yalikavak, a seaside town in Bodrum peninsula. It is the beginning of September. The weather is very pleasant, thirty plus degrees.

Many people have already gone home following ‘bayram’ holiday break as schools are starting. At this time of the year locals, childless couples, and retirees complete the life-scape, and of course those melancholic stray dogs.

If you don’t have young children you should consider holidaying off-peak season. You may have the best holiday of your life in September –or May I am told- in southwest Turkey. It is much less crowded; everybody is more relaxed, the climate is still warm -not boiling hot compared to peak season-. And you have the chance to blend into local population.

There is ‘pazar’ –local markets- in Yalikavak today. We took a ‘dolmus’ –minibus- from Gundogan to Yalikavak. Due to low season, public transportation is less frequent now. Our dolmus is packed with people, 29 in total, twice its capacity.

Semra and Tulin went to stroll in pazar’s endless alleys protected from sunlight by large sails. I am sitting in a local café right now enjoying my cold beer, and typing on my MacBook Air. This is heaven. No not that, I mean seriously what else a middle aged man would want.

Earlier I went to pazar with them and we bought ‘dolma’ from a local seller, a woman whom I may qualify as ‘dolma nazi’. She was proud of her produce and didn’t bother answering our calls for a while as her dolmas were selling fast.

I noticed and Semra too, women in this region are strong in character. Many of them own their own business. Their gestures, the way they talk and behave reflect their pride and strength to a large extent due to perhaps their economic independence. This is in contrast to Anatolian women, who seem trapped inside conservative family structure of Islamic lifestyle.