Category Archives: culture

My Top 3 Photos of the Turkish Protest

I’ve seen a lot of news here, and have seen countless photographs.  Pictures from the very start, controversial pictures, ones highlighting what is happening in my city here, and I’ve come across some pictures of my university students getting hosed by the police.

If I may, I would like to share my top three.  I believe they speak for themselves.




The Need to be Known…


Why do you think people are obsessed with fame? What does that say about our culture?
Tony Hale (Buster Bluth): I do think that, honestly it is grounded in the fact that everybody desperately wants to be known, and they think that fame is kind of the ultimate of being known. ‘If that many people know me, if that many people know who I am, then its going to satisfy that.’ The thing is, if you get to that place you are only going to find true satisfaction if you are known in an eternal, spiritual sense by somebody greater than yourself.”

Author Donald Miller interviews Tony Hale, known as Buster Bluth in the fabulous TV show “Arrested Development.  I love that guy, and one of my favorite shows.

Holy War

This is something i meant to post a while ago.

Here is a brief summarized quote from an absolutely beautiful novel I’m reading, called “Birds Without Wings” by Louis DeBerniers.  The context is a man named Rustem Bey, who is considering joining the military.  The date is 1914, and the Ottoman Empire is calling upon and enlisting all the able bodied Muslims available.  Not all in this town where the novel takes place are Muslim, there are Jews and Christians, such as was common in the empire.


“Another thing,” continued Rustem Bey, “I have seen battlefields strewn with the bodies of young men, and old ones too.  I have smelled the corpses when there wasn’t enough time to bury them before they began to rot.  I’ve seen what happens to the women and the children.  The Sultan Padishah has declared it a holy war.”

Rustem Bey paused and Leyla [his wife] wondered what it signified.  “A holy war?”

“Yes a holy war.  The sultam Padishah has never been on a burial party when the corpses have been left too long.  I will say this to you, my tulip, but I would not say it to anyone else because of what it would do to my reputation….do you promise never to repeat this?”

“Repeat what?”

“What I’m about to say.”

“But what is it that I am not to repeat?  And I promise I won’t repeat it to them or even to Pamuk.”

“I have an opinion about holy war, which in general I must keep to myself.  I have no wish to be known as a heretic.  It is….that if a war can be holy, then God cannot.  At best a war can only be necessary.”

A soldiers bravery

If I could quote this entire book, I would.  I’ve loved it so much!  An old man is reminiscing about his time as a soldier in the war as a Turk against the “Franks”.

But I will tell you a secret, which is that almost no soldier believes he will be killed. This is because it is impossible for the human being to imagine that he is dead, and this is because he is always alive and present in the act of imagining. He sees his comrades die, but he thinks himself immune, and this fatal lack in his nature makes him a good fighter. Even a man who has decided to die on purpose and become a martyr does not really believe in his own death.

Birds Without Wings, by Louis Bernieres

Top 5 New Year Resolutions for Realists

Your guide to making the perfect “New Years Realist’s Resolution” list.

Lists are stupid, just improv!  Think of all the coolest people you know.  Really, do it!  Now picture them in front of a microphone on TV.  Are you picturing them?  Do they have a list in front of them?  No, they don’t, because they’re cool, and they don’t need them.  But they prepared notes ahead of time, you might say.  “Prepared” belongs in the category of other “pre-“ words like prefix, nerdy, predecessor, also nerdy, or premeditated, murder!  Just wing it…wing it all.  You’ll look cool!

Put down the pen, pick up the Oreos.  We live in a hedonistic society, therefore you are a hedonistic boy, or girl.  Face it, this is the age of self-gratification, so do what makes you “feel” good.  Ultimately it will make you happier, right?  Stop causing yourself needless pain by thinking about the gym, or jotting other “helpful” resolutions down, and just go for the classic; Oreos.

You owe it to yourself to be honest with everyone.  That’s right, be honest….brutally honest.  Want to know why you keep shrinking from the world in your apartment or your parents basement every year, you haven’t cracked your shell yet.  You’re scared of what people will think of you, so go ahead and say it, “You look fat, Mom…sorry!”, or “go ahead, keep gawking at that girl you jerk, you know what, actually go MARRY her, it’s not like you didn’t just think about it,” kind of stuff, and when they give you that “look”, just think “water off a ducks back”.

Hop on the bandwagon, for the ride.  Let’s be honest here, bandwagons are just one thing…trendy.  People hop on bandwagons to be trendy.  When two trendy people meet in the street, they almost always have a “yeah, I see you, do you see me?  Yeah, were trendy, let’s keep walking past each other coolly but trendily,” kind of moment.  Though I don’t recommend partaking in any of the hipster trends, the movement has one redeeming trend; their gaudy framed eyeglasses.  Nothing says, “I’m trying something different,” than those thickly framed glasses (black ones are the best).  The tree-hugging bandwagon is kind of fun, but with those people remember that a bandwagon experience should be short-lived.  They’re oh so welcoming, but that’s not a cigarette they’re offering you.  Also, if you’re stressed, why not try some stress-relieving shouting at some political rally, or better yet, join a “human rights” group and partake in some demonstrations.  The key in all of this, the more participatory you are, the more you yell, the more you act like those crazy Arab Spring people, the more fulfilled you’ll feel (this point ties back to number 2, being hedonistic).

Finally, remember you are a realist.  Nobody can take that from you, ever.  You see past all the commercialization of everything, you see past peoples flatteries, you are a no fluff person.  Meat and potatoes!  So this next year, just be yourself.  Do what is you!

Christmas in Turkey; a story

The truth was I wanted to hug her for putting out the tree, but was scared.  You see, my directors assistant is an interesting woman.  She has been the subject of many conversations between my wife and me.  We just can’t seem to figure her out.  One morning she can seem warm and friendly, and that evening come across as, well, not precisely as cold as ice, but maybe melted ice.  She has a reputation among the student body.  If our students become unruly we send them to her for a verbal beating.  Her conversations are seldom adorned with niceties; she is straight-forward.  I have yet to see any color but black and white fashion her middle-aged short and skinny body.  She does her job well though; a well calculated administrator.

Rewind a month ago to a dinner Emily and I were having, over which we were discussing our plans for the holidays.  The general tone of the conversation was one of slight discouragement, because we learned that the extent of our Christmas break would simply be Saturday and Sunday, the days we usually get off for the weekend; so nothing celebratory, no time set aside to enjoy family, nothing….Christmasy!  We started to talk about how we remembered in the states how Christmas songs started playing the first clock tick into the day after Thanksgiving, and how people just began to talk and gossip about their holiday plans, favorite eggnog recipes, and what family they were going to see.  It amazes me now just how consumed with Christmas America becomes.  From the commercials, to church programs, to decorated city squares and streets greeting father Christmas on a sleigh in a parade.  It is only now, being extracted from the Yule craziness, that I realize that it’s mostly the stimulation from my environment that makes me realize its Christmas, rather than the answer to the question of why there is a holiday called Christmas.

Needless to say, we were missing Christmas.  Adjusting to Turkish culture had been quite an adjustment; tough, emotionally draining, but rewarding having finally been able to build cultural bridges to these wonderful people here.  Being our first Christmas away from a Christmas saturated culture, I was not prepared to feel so disappointed.  I can’t explain it exactly, but I just wanted everything to feel “Christmasy!”  Just throw some red and green on stuff, I don’t care what, just make it “feel” Christmasy!  We were aching to feel like we were in the spirit.

Anyways back to our lady!  Black and white!  Straight with corners!  I don’t want you to read a Scrooge character into her, but rather a Scrooge moment perhaps.  One morning, like usual, Emily and I got off the bus to school, and walked our usual route to our offices on campus.  It was a typical southern Turkey day in December; cool morning around 50 degrees, with wet pavement as it rains here and there.  Everything is still green.  Green grass, green palm trees, green foliage.  Simply by appearance you would say it looked rather like summer than winter, let alone like Christmas.

Emily and I rounded the corner towards our office and as we entered the main lobby my eyes were met with such a delightful sight!!  One that caused an unsuppressible feeling from inside me to erupt!  Flashing colors of red and green bouncing festively off shiny round objects caused a smile to bubble up that morning.  She had put up a Christmas tree!  For us!!  Well, for the foreigners I suppose, since Turkey is Muslim and don’t “officially” celebrate Christmas time.

In my joy and my surprise I walked up to the tree and its decorator, our Mrs. Administrator.  She was just finishing up her touches of tree decorations.  There was tinsel, gold and silver ornaments, and flashing lights wrapped around a 3 foot miniature pine tree, placed on a small table.  I said to her, “It’s beautiful!  You put up a Christmas tree!  It’s wonderful!”  Here was this calculated, black and white, administrator being all creative and pretty with a tree.  It first and foremost surprised me that it was her doing this.  When I complimented the tree, she looked at me with one of the biggest colorful smiles, and in the cutest Turkish accent she said, “Reeelly?  I’m glad you like it.”  That smile, that woman, that tree really put some spirit in my Christmas this year.