Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Resolutions...

...yes, I make them each year over and over again. It's fun.
For me this year:
1) less time behind Internet, more clearly: less blogging and other social media tools, but more time writing articles and working at my book. The latter must be finished by the end of the summer 2008.
2) shall I stop smoking? I have to!
3) moving to another country? Big chance! On the top of the list: Dubai, Italy, Greece, Canada and France. Only for the first I need a work permit, the rest not. So, we will see.
Wish you all a pleasant evening and for tomorrow: wake up healthy..))

Day Opening - December 31

Sunday, December 30, 2007

When the Turkish flag becomes a cross!

An interesting article by Orhan Kemal CENGIZ

Flags are everywhere. On balconies, in shop windows, on taxis, some of them in huge sizes hanging from huge flagpoles and seen from everywhere. What is this symbolism all about? It is not a celebration, it is not a gesture of joy; there are some elements in it involving protest against terror, we can understand that. However, terror and the armed uprising have been routine parts of our lives for quite some time. This “flag love” is a very new phenomenon though. It was not like that before. The Turkish flag has become a symbol like the cross; every Turkish person should have and put it on a visible place in which they reside or where they work. It is the Turkish cross that will be put forward against evil forces! But who are they? Against whom did we take out our crosses? Is this country under invasion? Is this a protest against the “invaders?” Who are they? It is like in protest against an occupation people are showing their patriotism and their determination to resist!

Then our camera captures another scene in a completely different environment. A coffee house in the bus terminal in Samsun. Ogun Samast, the murderer of Hrant Dink, is in the tiny police station in the bus terminal, he is about to be transferred somewhere else. There is hectic activity in the police station. Gendarmerie and police officers are in a queue, they are in competition, and they want to get a good pose with Samast, who holds a Turkish flag in his outstretched hand! Later on we learnt that the flag he was holding was in his pocket when he fired in the neck of Dink from behind and it was given to him by one of the conspirators. Anyway, police and gendarmerie officers are satisfied because they were able to take a photo with Samast, the killer of the “Armenian.”
Continue reading here.


A restaurant in the German state of Lower Saxony has come up with a novel way around a recently introduced ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.

Day Opening - December 30

Saranda, Albania

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Day Opening - December 29

Red Light district Amsterdam, famous for its churches and: see below..))

The person who made this picture had to run for his life since the prostitutes and their pimps don't like to be photographed...
95% of the 'clients' are foreigners.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Differences in Christmas and New Year's Eve

The Ten Differences Of Christmas (Between the North and the South of this Earth)

I was in in New York, some years ago, walking up a snowbound Fifth Avenue and watching the holiday season in the USA in full bloom - the neck-twistingly tall tree in Rockefeller Center adorned with enough lights to replace the stars; the Toys R Us in Times Square so huge that it contains a three-story tall Ferris wheel inside; presents at Bloomingdale's and Saks that can fit in your pocket and still cost more than the price of all four cars that I have owned in my life - combined. It was all truly a grand sight.

Now I am in Turkey where the holiday season is a good deal more humble. I thought that you might enjoy this little summary of how the holidays are different here and other parts of the world, for example Turkey - The ten differences of Christmas and New year's Eve here and there.

These are:

1. The Heat

If Santa is smart, then the moment he finishes up his gift deliveries in the north he pauses for a change of wardrobe (perhaps some nice red shorts and a matching tank top and a wooden coat), because here in our part of the world it is high winter and Christmas can be brutal cold. As a transplant from the north (even the Netherlands, which is still not Antarctica this time of year) it is one weird experience to bring home a Christmas tree in weather that seems more like July than December, I am talking about Rio now. Its all about perception..

Baby Jesus is Way Bigger Than Santa

In the north, there are so many images of Santa, and actual Santas about, that as parents we start telling our kids that his elves disguise themselves as Santa because there are just too many shopping malls for him to be in at one time. But for example in Turkey, Santa's face is visible here and there and I have even spotted a live one or two, but Christmas in Chritmas is really about New Year' Eve. Nativity scenes have sprouted everywhere, in nearly every home you enter, on street corners and store windows.

3. Angels That Glow in the Dark

Some ancient readers may recall a Christmas article that I wrote years ago, about the surreptitious arrival of a nativity scene into my home. This led to a family battle over my suggestion that we should at least paint Baby Jesus so that he glowed in the dark (I lost). Turns out that when I was in Italy, last year, they sell lots of small angel figures that actually DO glow in the dark. We have one watching iridescently over a non-glowing Baby Jesus in the manger.

4. New Years Eve Over Christmas?

The big event here in Istanbul is Old Year's Eve (are you getting confused already), not Christmas day. Extended families (which, with cousins, ants and uncles can almost be large enough for statehood here) gather together at midnight on the 31th for a large, traditional dinner. Mainly in hotels. How boring! Hotels are there to sleep, or otherwise: a scenery for pimps and hookers. I don't tell you more...

5. Fireworks A Midnight

One of the spectacular things here about New Year is that at exactly midnight Istanbul area explodes into a popping blare of home-launched fireworks. Thousands of families simultaneously set off every imaginable kind of pyrotechnic -giant 4th of July style explosions of sparks, roman candles, and miniature sticks of dynamite known affectionately here as "Mata Suegras", Spanish for 'Kill Your Mother In-Law', please don't take this to seriously, it are only lost feelings...

As the sparkles and flashes light up the midnight sky, it is truly clear that something special is happening and that all the people of Istanbul are marking it together.

6. The Thirtheenth Paycheck

It is a matter of Dutch labor law that, just before Christmas, formal employees receive a thirteenth monthly paycheck called an "Aginaldo" in Spanish. Families depend on this to buy whatever gifts they will for their families and whatever food they will put on their Christmas Eve or New Year's eve table. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Dutch expiats actually have this kind of formal employment.

7. The Christmas Basket

The other traditional Christmas offering, from employers to their employees (this one not required by law but expected by custom) is the Christmas basket. This is composed of a straw basket filled with bags of flour, rice and sugar, a bottle of cooking oil, one chicken and a bottle of cheap alcoholic cider. We give one every year to Kubalya, the man who cuts our lawn, but since he doesn't drink we substitute Coke.

8. Real Sheep In Christmas Pagents

One of the things that my wife and I do here, as volunteers, is help run an 80-child orphanage. We've been involved there since 2003. Every year the children of the orphanage put on a Christmas pageant and tell the story of Jesus and Mary looking for room at the inn. The first year we did this we thought it would be cool to use a live baby lamb in the manger. Everything went very well until midway through, when one of the little boys lifted up the lamb's tail and little black pellets started to fire out. The little girl who would become our adopted daughter a few weeks later screamed with glee, "It is making poop!" and the Christmas pageant ended in toddler pandemonium even before Joseph and Mary got turned down for a room.

9. Buring Lama Fetuses

Last Friday, December 21st, was the solstice, the longest day of the year in the south and longest night in the north. And we were in Dubai. But at Christmas time, when material wealth and poverty splits these two worlds so clearly in two, that the two halves of the earth should also have their most exaggerated differences with respect to the sun. On these occasions our friend Mert, an indigenous medicine man (Sjaman) hosts elaborate rituals, which mark them in the traditional Sjaman manner. With not my favorite smell.

10. A Five Dollar Bill is a Fortune

It is a truism. What there seems like pocket change is here a treasure, but at no time it this clearer than at the holidays. The humble toys that in the north would be mere stocking stuffers or an afterthought, here would be a toy so grand that many children could not imagine it. The five-dollar bill that many in the north will spend on parking or for a Starbucks coffee drink, for many here would be a fortune. The streets of some parts of Istanbul are lined with indigenous families from small villages that come to the city at Christmas and Bayram in hopes of some small handout from people whose hearts might soften, if just a bit, this time of year. Five dollars is what many workers here earn for a hard day of labor. Some of the families on the street could easily feed themselves with it for days. I don't profess to be a Christian but, nevertheless, it does seem to me odd that the birth of a man who was poor all his life and who preached affinity for the poor, would have his birthday celebrated with a frenzy of material exchange and acquisition, while so many in the world have nothing. A thank you to everyone who is remembering the less fortunate as well in your holiday plans.
Happy Holidays to All!

Day Opening - December 28


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hybrid regimes

Some Turkish people think that the world turns around Turkey. That it is in the spotlight each and every day. I have to disappoint them: you can find small articles about Turkey and the PKK so now and then in European newspapers. That's all.
But it would be wise as the Turkish government spent some more money for the education of their kids. Like what the Europeans are doing by the agreement of Lisbon in 2000. Prfmairly focussed on education (each EU citizen has to learn English and a second European language by choice).

Amsterdam made an example: with its world famous International institute for Social History, its world famous Art schools and two well noted Universities, among 48 colleges, on a population of 750.000 people, it shows that the Dutch takes education serious. There are people from 172 nations living in Amsterdam!
In other parts of the Netherlands the University of Utrecht ranks world wide no. 40. (like all the Dutch Universities they are in the top 200 world wide).
The think tanks like Clingendael, the educational food industry, TNO for scientific work, shows why the Netherlands is country no. 1 for investments, even for Turkey with a total FDI of 3 billion: the Netherlands ranks one.

But back to Turkey as the centre of the world: I am sorry, but no news about Turkey and especially Turkey-EU relations. Not the European elite signed the Treaty of Lisbon, it was and are their voters who pursued them to do so.

And the USA?

As the USA produce daily thousands newspapers, for sure you will find some news about Turkey somewhere. Or protesting a Turkish consul a news outlet. Or another group of Turks are insulted.

The tragic story of Turkey continues to be one of corrupt regimes using religious extremists and external support to keep the secular democratic forces at bay; and when these forces do assert themselves, to tie them down in legal constraints that are designed to ensure their failure.
It is the story of a society that has been going round in circles for the last 80 years.

Not Ataturk dream I guess.

And that is all the result of being a hybrid regime.

Breaking News/Benazir Butto has been assasinated

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has been murdered in a gun and bomb attack after a rally in the city of Rawalpindi. Police said a suicide bomber fired shots at Bhutto as she was leaving the rally venue in a park before blowing himself up. for more:

Shock blogs

There is a new trend on the web, which concerns me: shock blogs. With one goal: How to create a web blog which provides maximum shock value such as "psychological warfare" or inciting hate. In the last weeks there was such a warfare going on between Kurdish and Turkish nationalists in Germany. Or can we say: between PKK supporters and Gray Wolves members. Mainly on YouTube, but new radical blogs are made every day.
The Turkish press are willing to show one side of this dangerous game: the PKK are terrorists and no word about the Gray Wolves which are pur sang fascists.
Maybe of greater concern are the huge flock of 'followers' of the weblogs that engage in the slandering, insulting and otherwise non-constructive postings. As long the 'shock' and the 'reaction' is there the blogger is satisfied. Maybe we can say: the Net is Dead. Even Social media sites such as facebook, turns out to be a place where like minded idiotry are assembled in special groups.

Some blogs are created for the ego of the blogger. Not for social interaction anymore. You can bring news by telling 50% of the truth. But as an old Jewish expression says: part of the truth is one big lye. Most of these blogs are the the same old linkdumping, insulting or negative posting blogs which wants to shock. The Top-Ten is here. But personal, I can mention some (mainly political ones) here. Later!

Day Opening - December 27

The moon.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A familiar feeling?

A peculiar yet familiar feeling came upon me today when I walked downstairs to retrieve my (snail) mail ... I actually got very excited about it!
I was feeling the same exhilariting high I used to get when I would sign on-line and have e-mail. I must admit though, I felt somewhat ashamed that I had almost lost touch with the off-line world out there.

E-mail can never beat the heartfelt thoughts and well wishes that go into a handwritten note from a dear friend. I can't remember ever receiving a letter from someone special where I could possibly misinterpret EXACTLY what was hand written!
I've had plenty of opportunity to go back and forth with various e-pals because I didn't quite understand the inflection in their typewritten notes to me or misconstrued the meaning behind their/my grins, "!" and "just kidding" remarks. Many times I have continued on in jest only to find out later that they were never kidding, or I found out that my remarks were "believed" and someone missed the "just kidding" from me!
I hope we all never get so net-involved that we lose touch with our ability to make someone's day by writing a few special words on paper and dropping it into the mail. In spite of postage increases, mail is still cheap!
Can you imagine a life without ever receiving a greeting card in the mail?
I actually e-mailed a few "dads" I knew on Father's Day and wished them a special day. In hindsight, I can only imagine the joy they might have felt had I taken the time to select that special card among thousands and mailed a card to them.

There are cyber-flower services out there on the world wide web! Personally, I'd hate to imagine the day I no longer receive REAL flowers ... one's that I can actually enjoy the aroma ... one's that I must lovingly water to preserve the thought another day. Can you?

I think I'll spend some time tonight writing something special to those forgotten few who have not yet experienced the wonderful and sometimes impersonal cyber-world out there.
How about you?

Day Opening - December 26

Vaticann City, the Holy See

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Days in Dubai

It was a nice trip to Dubai. And a country with a history. Maybe the buildings are new, the UAE has a rich history and full of traditions.
Yes, It is nowadays full with new build buildings. But it is a country of wealth, respect and almost no crime! The skyline of Dubai is amazing. And they are still building, with the speed of a Dutch extend its road: fast.
The first full day we met with Derya. An organized and sweet person. Since I forgot to take my medicines with me, she arranged a quick and effectual trip to the Iranian Hospital. Which scared me first, but those people know what they are doing. Thank you Derya.
We went to another 6 star hotel for a tea. And later that evening we had diner in 'the Ottoman' where her brother is the GM. Champagne and white wine.
There are so many shopping malls: you can even do ice skating there. The temperature in the summer is 45 Celsius, but in winter 25, and at night around 15.

The dress code in the UAE is much the same as it would be in your home country. But a healthy respect for the local customs should be maintained, as I recommend. You will see plenty of people wearing shorts, T-shirts, skirts, etc… Clothing doesn't have to cover arms and legs, but should be somewhat modest as a sign of respect for the local sensibilities.
You see the only 7 star hotel in world: the Jubla.

Personally, the women are extremely beautiful. And 'covered'. But on a traditional way. Like men are covered too...

The West can learn a lesson about this way of life, which is not perfect, but I rather see a person who takes care about themselve than someone who is obysieswith a dogmatic religion.

Thanks Derya for the nice time!

Cirque de Soleil 2

Cirque de Soleil.
A must see performance,
The best show on earth.

Day opening Christmas 2007 - December 25



The UK

Monday, December 24, 2007


We had some lovely days in Dubai, the capital of the UAE.
We left last Wednesday and came back early this morning.

While writing this, Turkish television is broadcasting some propaganda, in the same 'body language' as Goebbels did for the Third Reich: the same style, the same voice, the same features: by Halk Television.
People can inspire a nation, like Mandela, Gandhi, Kennedy, but none of them were subject of blind adoration, with military bombards as Ataturk is seen in Turkey.
What does this means:
a) a nation can not act on its own without a strong leader or
b) a nation doesn't want to learn from its past.

Christmas is not a Christian holiday as Frank White explains. Its the day of light and self reflection. Thousands of Christmas trees will not change anything in the streets of Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara etc.

The propogandists are still out there. We? We can only wait. Wait that one day they can not enslave our thoughts again.

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

Over the weekend I read The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak. I posted a review on my litblog, but because that is hosted by Wordpress (which is still blocked in Turkey), I repost the entire review here.

The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

"What will that innocent lamb tell her friends when she grows up? My father is Barsam Tchakhmakhchian, my great-uncle is Dikran Stamboulian, his father is Varvant Istanboulian, my name is Armanoush Tchakhmakhchian, all my family tree has been Something Somethingian, and I am the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives at the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915, but I myself have been brainwashed to deny the genocide because I was raised by some Turk named Mustafa! What kind of a joke is that!"

This passage, shouted out by one of the characters in The Bastard of Istanbul, is what got Elif Shafak in court for "insulting Turkishness", another case based on the by now infamous Article 301. The case against Shafak was eventually dropped, but she became well-known as one of the very few Turkish authors, together with for example Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, who was not afraid to tackle the issue of the Armenian genocide in a way that was not well appreciated (to put it mildly) by the Turkish authorities.

Armanoush is the child of an Armenian father and an American mother who remarried with a Turkish man. She divides her time between her mother in Arizona and her father's family in San Fransisco. When she feels something in her identity is missing, she sets off on a trip to Istanbul, to stay with her stepfather's family and find out more about her past. In Istanbul, she becomes fast friends with Asya, the youngest member of her stepfather's family.

The Armenian genocide is a major theme in the story, but eventually it is one of the ways the bigger theme of dealing with the past is worked out. All of the major characters have something in their past they have to deal with, either by accepting it or denying it or, even before acceptation or denial, by trying to find out what their past actually is.

The first chapter was hard to finish - I didn't like the writing style, very "flowering" with long sentences and many adjectives. I regularly had to reread a sentence to actually get the meaning. Fortunately, that was only the first chapter, after that I either got used to the language or the style changed (I guess it was a bit of both). Anyway, I got hooked and, having started the book on Saturday afternoon, had finished it Sunday before dinner.

It is a beautifully told story with an interesting plot, if somewhat constructed at times. I felt as if the author wanted to represent all the different opinions on the Armenian genocide in the book. There is the staunch Turkish nationalist who is absolutely convinced that there was no genocide and that, on the contrary, the Armenians killed the Turks en masse. There is the Turk who acknowledges that the Turks did horrible things to the Armenians during World War I, but that that was in the past and that the current generation is not responsible for it. There is also the Armenian who thinks that Armenians still living in Turkey are being repressed and who is convinced that they'd be better off emigrating. There is the somewhat skeptical Armenian who thinks that striving for recognition of the genocide is the only thing that still binds the Diaspora and that once recognition by Turkey has been achieved, the Diaspora will fall apart. Finally there is the Armenian who was born and raised in Istanbul, feels Istanbulite first and foremost and doesn't want to live anywhere else. This urge to represent all those opinions led to superfluous scenes and even characters in my opinion. I ended up quickly reading the superfluous parts and then diving back into the rest of the book.

There were already so many characters, major and minor, that at times, especially when the perspective changed for example from San Fransisco to Istanbul or from present to past or back, I had to try to remember who was who and what the relation's were between them. On the other hand, this extensive set of characters was also part of why I loved the book. I especially loved Asya's family with all their quirky characters. Armanoush initially started out as an interesting character as well, but soon I started finding her a bit bland, colorless, especially compared to colorful Asya and her equally colorful family.

I am not sure the book is among my favorite reads of this year, but I did enjoy it very much and am certainly interested in reading more by Elif Shafak.

This review is crossposted at The Armenian Odar Reads.

Day Opening - December 24

Turku, Finland

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Day Opening - 23 December

Burj Arab and Palm Island, Dubai,UAE

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Happy Bayram!
And Happy Christmas.
Peace upon everybody.
Greetings from Dubai.

Christmas and New Year Decorations

I wanted to share some photos from here in Dubai; most of the Shopping malls are decorated for Christmas and New Year. I guess we do have more decorations than anywhere in the World:) All for tourists and 60% expats who lives here.

Day Opening - December 22

Jerusalem, Israel.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A big mystery (from wikipedia)

Dr. Fuat Deniz (24 July 1967 – 13 December 2007) was a Swedish sociologist and writer of Assyrian descent.
He worked as a lecturer in sociology at the Department of Social and Political Sciences at Örebro University.
Deniz was born as the oldest son into a Christian Assyrian family in the village of Kerburan in the Tur Abdin region of south east Turkey. He came to Sweden with his parents as an eight-year old and grew up in Örebro.[1]
In his youth he was active in the Assyrian Youth Federation in Sweden, which he also co-founded, and was also a diligent writer for the Swedish National Assyrian Federation's magazine Hujådå.[2] He finished his doctoral thesis in sociology at Uppsala University in 1999.
In his thesis, titled En minoritets odyssé ("The Odyssey of a Minority"), he discussed the experiences of Assyrians coming to Sweden in the 1970s.
Deniz was a well known figure among the Assyrian community in Sweden and was also internationally known for his research on the Assyrian Genocide.

On 11 December 2007, at approximately 15.30 CET, Deniz was stabbed on campus at Örebro University by an unidentified perpetrator.[3] He later died from his injuries at Örebro University Hospital.[4] The Swedish police are investigating several leads and have also been in contact with the Swedish Security Service, due to a possible political motive behind the murder.[5] Several of Deniz' academic colleagues in Sweden have been threatened due to their work relating to the Assyrian Genocide and Armenian genocide, which is a controversial issue especially among Turkish nationalists.[6]

Day Opening - December 19

Croatia, the Mediterranean.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cartoon crisis in the Netherlands?

Last week the Dutch retailer Dixons distributed its new special Christmas magazine.
But some Christian clubs complained at the Dutch Advertisement Code and Ethics commission.
For them several cartoons about the birth of Jesus are blasphemy.
On one of the cartoons you see the Three Wise men of the East looking for Jesus with a TomTom (GPS system). Another one shows Jesus laying down and listening with his iPod to 'Dreaming of a White Christmas'.
I think they have a slight chance to stop the distribution of these magazines.
It's now waiting on the first threats...))

Day Opening - December 18

Edinburgh castle, Scotland.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day Opening - December 17

Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
No other religions than Islam allowed....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How brain dead you can be...

Here is our friend, Ali Kulebi. Again with an article for which he would be prosecuted under several international laws for inciting hate, giving false information and providing fake statements to provoke war. But the guy seems to be a hero for some Turks. And for sure, he hates everything which is not 'Turkic':

Today the primary and the particular threat for Turkey is not the Middle Eastern or Near Eastern countries where our brothers live but it is Greece, which aims to weaken us by every means and supports the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and which overcharges us at every international platform, and makes alliances with our neighboring countries against us. It is absolutely clear that if Greece believes that it has reached our military power at one day, it would certainly attack Turkey without any question.

That he can write this statements freely in Turkish Daily News, shows how mature this newspaper is. But at the same time, how immature he is.

My dear friend Erkan wrote on his blog that I am biased against Turkey-EU. Yep, I became since Turkey is biased about everything which has to do with the EU, USA, in fact the whole world...'Give up your arms' and 'Make Peace not War'...would be an proper strategy for Turkish foreign policy.

Here Ali his points.

Smoking in Turkey

For people who came to Istanbul, these kind of taxi's is familiar for them: the Tufas.Lined up here at a taxi place.
They were (and are) still cheap. But several things changed dramatically.
First, there is a legal ban of smoking in taxi's, both for the driver's as the passengers as well. And second, the Tufas is not there anymore. Most taxi's are now Fiat's, Honda's and even VW's etc.
And about smoking in taxis', just asked the driver if you can light up a cigarette, he will do it as well, as he will be relieved by the words: 'Can I smoke'. Most of the time he will offer you a cigarette and show a hidden ashtray..))

Day Opening - December 16

The Amalfi coast is maybe the most beautiful areas in the world I've travelled to and through.

Its extraordinary coastline, mixed with the beautiful Mediterranean sea, and its extra ordinary views, makes this part of Italy a 'go-go' place.

The Amalfi coast is often used in famous movies...we can mention some big names..))
Its' fun to drive there, but be sure that you drive on the right side of of the road. Some British tourist are sometimes so confused because of all the beauty...they take the wrong lane..

One of the most beautiful points.

Can you live here?
I have amazing pictures of the Greece Islands. But too bad, not that many of the Turkish touristic areas, which are polluted, spoiled, and desolated by their owners.