i was 13, going on 14 when i decided i knew all that is needed to be known and possessed all the wisdom of the world.   it wasn’t until my late 20s when i realized i was wrong.  i was so full of shit during that decade and a half that it ain’t even funny anymore.  i am sure i pissed off a lot of people during that time.  i still do.  but not as obnoxiously as i did then.

when i was 14, i thought i solved all the great mysteries of the world.  i thought i was a post-communist, post-politics, post-religion, post-everything sage.  i liked engaging my religion teachers (we had to take religion classes in those days, in turkey) in heated and provocative arguments, thinking i could challenge and shake their beliefs.  i would name drop, would fancy myself a philosopher, would come up with a half-assed and half-baked theories every five minutes or so, and argue, argue, argue.

and i would try to write.  in complicated sentences that would go for pages, using new found words i was not yet comfortable with.

and, my first serious piece was on leonard cohen.  can’t really make sense of what i wrote those days, but, i think i wrote something to the effect that “leonard cohen should be listened late at night, when your parents (or whoever is in the house) are asleep, in a barely audible volume, to give him the respect he deserves”.   the piece was about 800 words of pretense and bullshit, and, that was the gist of it.  i think.

then i wrote another piece on why i hated lennon’s “imagine” so much, and, why i thought it was a dystopia, not a utopia.   another 800 words of pretense and bullshit that was widely hated, but, i still think i was on to something there.  but, that is another story for another time.

those days, i was wearing out my copy-of-a-copy “songs from a room” album in an old 46 cassette.  god knows how many times i repaired that tape.

my journey to the “songs from a room” was a rapid one, accomplished through sheer luck.  and, to being in the right place at the right time.

i came of age right after the 1980 coup in turkey.  it was a terrible time, on hindsight, but, when you’re in the thick of it, you don’t realize how fucked up it was.

our apartment was right next to a villa in ankara, turkey, that was once the residence of an executed turkish prime minister.  when i was growing up, it was the indonesian embassy.

the late 70s in turkey were bloody years.  the left and the right fought viciously.  every night the one (and only) tv channel would report on the deaths, executions, bombings, so on and so forth.

and, every once in a while, usually a couple of times a month, one left faction or another, and, occasionally a right faction or another, would leave a banner with a little package attached to it on the embassy wall or fence.

my sister is 10 months and 25 days younger than me.  we could have been irish twins if i was born in january instead of june.

she and i knew a lot about those banners and those little packages.  because we saw tons of them.  we knew which ones only made a deafening noise, and, which ones would really hurt you.

the banners were usually left at the crack of dawn.  and, once they were spotted, our little corner of ankara, so called the embassy row, would become a fairground in no time flat:  first the neighborhood lookers, then the lookers from the surrounding neighborhoods, then the meatball sellers with their portable charcoal grills, then the journalists, and, finally the police.  the festivities would conclude until the police take the banner and disarm the package, or, let it explode if it was only a “noise bomb”.

there really was something called a “ses bombası”, or, a “noise bomb”.  not sure what it is these days.    but, those days, i knew what they were and what they looked like and what they could do.

in the summer of ’79, palestinian terrorists raided the egyptian embassy down the street from us, and took hostages.  we first heard the gunshots and the grenades.  and, then the hostage crises lasted about 2 days.  our neighborhood was again like a big country fair.  street vendors in every corner, people hanging out, watching, waiting for something to happen.  including the child me.

seems so surreal now.  as if all that was in an alternate universe.  sometimes, when i recount those days to new friends, i feel as if i am talking about somebody else’s experience, not mine.  but, that was the world i lived on those days.  and, unfortunately it is still the word millions of children still live in.

then the military coup put an end to all the left-right fighting in september 1980.  the military junta brought in a new kind of terror– persecutions, tortures, summary executions.  most of the left was persecuted, if they were lucky; or killed, if they were not, the academia was almost annihilated, most freedoms were suspended, and a very dark period began.

a few short months after the coup, in december, i was watching the news on our black and white tv with my parents.  after the list of the arrests, the names of the people who jumped out of third story windows while in gentle police custody, etc, the news of a british singer who was killed in new york city came up.  there was a memorial service.  there were thousands of people with shock and sadness in their faces, many crying.  i will never forget that footage.  it really moved something in me.

there wasn’t much music in our home.  both my parents loved music before we were born.  but, once we came around, with their work, with us, with everything, i guess there was no time left for music.  the only music in our house was the songs we sang, the music on tv, and, the music on our old transistor radio that my grandmother listened to during the day.  she preferred the radio plays, but, in between them, there would be music.

so, i had no idea whatsoever who that murdered singer was.  what he meant.  but, seeing the faces of his mourners, i felt that he meant a lot.  and i wanted to learn about him.  my parents told me that he had a band called the beatles, but that was that.  there was no place i could find more information.

so, i started to search the radio to find out more, hoping i would hear his music.  in those days, on turkish radio, there were 4 FM channels– three official channels of the government, TRT 1-3, and a fourth, local to ankara, of the turkish police.

ironically, the police channel, known as the “police radio”, in ankara, was the only one that regularly played western popular music.  it broadcasted after 6 pm till midnight, and, played a lot of rock’n’roll.  thursday nights, at 10 pm, they had the concert hour– they would play a live album cover to cover.  but, the signal in our apartment wasn’t strong, and i couldn’t get it at home (until my parents bought me a better stereo radio/ cassette player a few years later).

so, my only option was TRT 3, which, most of the time only played classical music, occasionally jazz, but, once a week, saturday mornings between 11 and noon, popular western music.   a one hour program named “stüdyo FM” by yavuz aydar and şebnem savaşçı.

saturday and sunday mornings were quiet in our home.  both mom and dad worked hard, and, we didn’t start the day early in the weekends.  so, every saturday morning, i would wake up before 11, go to the quietest corner with the best FM reception in our apartment, and, set up our transistor radio and the old tape recorder and its mono microphone, and, wait for stüdyo FM to begin at 11 am sharp.

i would record the entire show, flipping the 60 minute tape as fast as i could so i won’t lose much.  and then i would listen to that tape over and over again the coming week, until the next saturday morning, when that week’s tape will be recorded over.

i wore that cassette so much, repaired it with scotch tape so many times, until it finally was beyond repair.  that is when my parents bought me a new one.  and, i continued recording and listening.

one saturday morning, for whatever reason, i woke up late.  i wasn’t feeling well.  rushed to my corner, set up the radio, found the frequency, and started setting up the tape recorder.  i had to rewind the tape.  and, while i was rewinding it, this simple, but, to my 12-13 year old ears beautiful and sad, song was playing and i was cursing myself for not being able to record it.  the song ended, yavuz aydar said the name of the song and who was singing it, and, the name he gave sounded so much like “the beatles”.

i was excited and extremely sad at the same time– i had begun these recording sessions to find out about john lennon and the beatles, and, after numerous recording sessions, they finally played a beatles song, and, stupid me has missed out and not managed to record it.

i told my parents, and, my ever thoughtful mom bought me a beatles tape.  it was a compilation.  the beatles 1962-66.  i loved every song.  listened to it a million times.  then she bought me the 1966-70.  cassette tapes were very expensive those days.  not the blank ones– but, the official turkish releases with their cover arts.

those two tapes were my treasures.  i memorized every song in them.  but, the song i heard that morning on the radio was not in them.

those days, free access to western popular music, other than the aforementioned limited radio programming, was difficult, if not impossible at best.  the only exception was the small record stores, mostly down on tunalı street, in my neighborhood, and, some in kızılay, a world away for me in those days.

i slowly discovered three record stores in tunalı street.  i was curious, i was nosy, and i liked talking to people.  so i started spending lots of time after school in those record stores.

most people those days couldn’t afford many records.  especially original prints.  there were tons of turkish prints, but, they too were expensive.

so, the record stores made most of their money from compilation tapes or copies.  their windows were covered with handwritten lists of their hundreds of compilation tapes.  they added new tapes almost daily.  and, if you wanted, they would copy the albums to tapes as well.  one album on a 46 minute tape, a compilation usually on a 60 minute tape, and, two albums or one double album on a 90 minute tape.  and then there was the elusive 120 minute tape– but, i haven’t seen one those days– the record store owners would always say the tape in those long cassettes is so thin that it won’t hold proper recordings and would wear off and go to pieces very quickly.  they would either sell you the tape if you didn’t have one (and, there were cassette tapes for every budget), or, you could bring your own tape and they would copy whatever you wanted on it.  copying was reasonable– with my allowance, i could afford one tape a week.

inside a micro shopping mall called the “tunalı pasajı”, there were two record stores next to each other– jazz, ran by a man named deha, who we simply called deha abi, and, another one called “arşiv”.   arşiv was more balls out rock, where, deha abi was into more eclectic and intricate stuff.

first i made a nuisance of myself in the record stores.  loitering, bothering people.  asking stupid questions.

then, slowly, a few of the clerks and owners started accepting me as a fixture after school.  and, they started schooling me, including deha abi.

they were there in that record store all day, listening to music.  their’s was my dream job those days.  mind you, these were small stores in little shopping centers.  usually about 100 square feet, or less, crammed with records and cassettes wall to wall, with a few posters, a few music magazines,  one or two turntables, an amp, and a pair of speakers.  thus, my music education began.

first i went through the entire beatles catalogue.  i would sit there for hours, and they would spin me record after record, telling me tales of the beatles and the evolution of their music.  then, they would play me the artists that inspired the beatles.  and then the artists inspired by the beatles.  it was pure bliss.

[i never found that song that i listened to that saturday morning though- a few years later, i heard it somewhere else and realized, embarrassedly, that it was actually the “new york mining disaster 1941 by the bee gees.  i never liked the bee gees that much, and, when i found out that the song that turned me to the beatles was actually the bee gees, i hid the fact like it was a nasty VD.  oh, well…]

in our neighborhood, there was also an “american library”, ran by the now defunct United States Information Service (USIS).  i got my membership card when i was 13.  there, in tandem with my aural education at the record stores, i delved into the rolling stone magazine and rock’n’roll encyclopedias.   i started learning back stories, musical connections and heritages, etc.  i would read and read and read, and then run to the record stores, and beg my teachers until they let me listen to what i just read on paper.

it was a wonderful time.  like i said, i was lucky- i was in the right place in the right time and met the right people.

i escalated from the beatles to the kinks and then to pink floyd.  i don’t know how it happened but my first pink floyd album was “the final cut”.  i memorized the entire album.  in our english lit classes in junior high, i would recite the lyrics.  then came the rest of the floyd, then hard rock, and then, a thankfully brief period with prog rock (the archetypical ankara record store owners/ clerks loved prog rock– i tried, but never did).

music, that once drizzled in once a week on saturday mornings, started flooding my life.  it was sheer bliss.

one day, i walked into one of my record stores, and, they had a customer i had never seen before, and, he was listening to a really soft, acoustic record.   the singer had a baritone voice, and, was singing about a girl named nancy.  that was really not my style those days– i was listening to “the piper at the gates of dawn” that week, but, the song moved me a lot.  the grown ups in the store told me that the singers name was leonard cohen, and, the song was about a girl named nancy who committed suicide.  i bought a copy of the tape there and then.

that night, and for nights and nights, i listened to “seems so long ago, nancy” and the rest of the “songs from a room” over and over again.   trying to understand and transcribe the lyrics.  that was another one of my past times, transcribing the lyrics as best i could.  when i failed, i would run to the record store, and, copy the lyrics by hand from the album liner notes.

i realized these were not ordinary lyrics.  i did not understand most of the symbolism and the references.  so, when i saw that customer who was listening to cohen when i first heard him again, i started pestering him.  he told me everything that he understood, with the references, and, then i ran back to the american library to read and to read and to read.  that’s when i read the old and the new testaments.  that’s when i started reading poetry and about poetry.

i was a ferocious reader.  my hunger for books were as insatiable as my hunger for music.  and i loved to write.  in 7th grade, in our literature class, my teacher, having taught me at 6th grade as well, assigned me remarque’s “all quiet on the western front” in fall semester for my book report.   apparently he liked (or, most likely humored), all the excited bullshit i came up with in the report, he assigned me marquez’s “one hundred years of solitude” for the spring semester, warning me that it was probably to immature to assign me that book.  to this day i am grateful to him for that assignment.  i went back to “one hundred years of solitude” many times again since then, and, in each reading, i found something new to laugh or cry at, or, something new about me or my life that did not really resonate with me in earlier reading.  but, again, this is a different story for a different time.

so, the third time i saw the guy he turned me into cohen, i was better equipped, had listened to more of his albums, and was full of half-assed theories after half-assed opinions.  the man, like my literature teacher, humored me.  he ran an almost no budget music zine and asked me if i would like to write something about cohen.  would i?  does a fat baby fart?   so came forth the monstrosity i started this tale with.  about listening to leonard cohen in low volume after your parents go to sleep.

[then he asked me if i wanted to write something else, and, i wrote the abovementioned article on why i hated lennon’s “imagine”, and, that was that.  he never asked me again.  like i said, the article was hated by all of the perhaps 30 people who read it.  but, i still think i was on to something there]

leonard cohen’s poetry resonated deeply with me.  first, the raw emotions.  then his paradoxes, his symbolism, his references.  and, finally, his humor.

that’s around the time when i decided that i knew all that is needed to be known and possessed all the wisdom of the world.  i knew my lyrics.  remember, i was the guy who memorized the entire lyrics of “the final cut”.

i knew my dylan by heart.  i thought dylan was the pinnacle of lyric writing (and, he really is as good as it gets), but, leonard cohen was different and much, much better.  

first “nancy”.  how he described her.  how he described how he used her. how he made you feel her solitude, her facade.

then the “famous blue raincoat”.  a letter to a friend/ foe.  love and hate and gratefulness together.  “thanks for the trouble you took from her eyes/ i thought it was there for good/ so i never tried”.  signed “sincerely, l. cohen”.  how could someone write so well?  how could someone feel such conflicting emotions at the same time?

that’s when i had an epiphany–  an epiphany that changed my human interactions, the way i felt about myself completely:  we all feel conflicting emotions at the same time.  and, i was not the only one mixed emotions.  trust me, that kind of epiphany means a lot to a teenager.

but, most songs, till cohen, were too two-dimensional.  they were black and white.  cohen was grey.

that changed a lot since then.  cohen inspired many songwriters.   you will hear cohen tones and motifs in U2’s best album (in my opinion) “achtung baby”– such conflicting emotions.  and, when you read up on the making of the album, you will find cohen right in the middle.  you will hear cohen in nick cave, tom waits, elliott smith, radiohead, nirvana, you name it.  he (more so than dylan), took song lyrics from one or two dimensional to three, and, to the grey.

dylan liked surreal and avant garde symbolism and references.   cohen went biblical and visceral.  both had the same self-deprecating humor.  cohen was more sincere and humble.

i breathed in everything they did, but, cohen always resonated with me more frequently.  there is some dylan i cannot live without.  but, i cannot live without all cohen.

then the ’90s rolled around.  i betrayed cohen with first the screaming trees, then solo lanegan, nirvana, etc.  first i wanted loud, then i wanted more cheerful, then i wanted more complex.  people always say cohen is dark.  he is.  but, he is also light.  with his humor and hope.  but, i wanted pure cheer.

the beatles, floyd, stones, kinks, clash, radiohead, hendrix, purple, zeppelin, television, talking heads, waits, dylan, simone, zappa, beefheart, lanegan, screaming trees, nirvana, james carr, junior kimbrough, otis, cash, and everything in between.   i listened and listened and listened throughout the 90s.

but, don’t know why, didn’t go back to cohen.   every once in a blue moon i would hear cohen somewhere and smile.  but that was that.

then, one night, i was watching a nick nolte film called “the good thief”.  and this beautiful song started playing in the soundtrack.  and i immediately recognized that voice.  here was cohen, with a new song, singing about how the ponies ran, how the odds were stacked, how he was turning tricks, and how deep a thousand kisses were.

i fell in love all over again.  got the new album, got the live albums i didn’t have.  and never neglected him since.

i am 46 now.  the traditional length of a one single album.  and i still read ferociously and listen to tons of music, new and old.  i assume, or even impose, the teaching method of my record store owner/ clerk friends, playing song after song, mostly without finishing them in their entirety, to my friends.  i still read whatever i can find about music.  still search after the back-story of what i am listening.

i am not as obnoxious as i used to be, but, still manage to piss of people on a daily basis.  but, now, it is a little more intentional, and lots more fun.  i am still arrogant, but, have a little more to back my arrogance.  at least now i am aware that i don’t know all that is needed to be known and possess all the wisdom of the world.  i don’t write in long sentences any more.  i try to use words that i am comfortable with.  don’t name drop or pollute my immediate environment with half-assed half-baked ideas and theories any more either.  i bake them behind closed doors before unleashing them on unsuspecting victims.

but, i still prefer to listen to cohen late at night.  when there is no one around.  when i can have his music all to myself.  or, on headphones, as personal as it gets.  that never changed.

despite all my pretentious writing when i was 14, i guess i had one valid point– cohen’s music is very personal.  it is a form of meditation, a form of reflection. and not in a soaked in tofu new age bullshit way.   i learned his music that way, and, through his songs, i learned a lot about myself, my limitations, my emotions, humility, humor, and life.  he makes you think, dream, and ponder more than any other musician i know.

yesterday he passed.  as it goes, we are all born to die, and live to die.  you live however you want to (or can) live, and then you die.  when your time is up, your time is up.  and his time was up.

he finished his journey gracefully, like bowie did less than a year before him.    he said and sang that he was ready.  listen to his farewell album, “you want it darker”, or, read this wonderful new yorker article/ interview that was printed a few months before he passed if you don’t believe me.

he was 82 and his time was up.  that’s is unavoidable.  when your time is up, your time is up.  i hate cliches, but, i can’t avoid this either: what he left behind is immortal.  what he left behind is such a magical ouevre that it has the almost mystical ability to resonate differently with each listener.  a magical public body of work that is as personal as they come.

rest in peace mr. cohen.  and forgive my transgressions against you when i was young and foolish.  i betrayed your genius and elegance with my convoluted and pretentious prose.

but, i never stopped loving you.  you are in me. like you are in millions upon a millions.  and, i became who i am partially because of you.

and, for everything you have given me, and for everything that you will continue to give me, thank you very much.


a. beskardes

ps. i know “hallelujah” is over played. so is “dance me to the end of love”. or “everybody knows”.  still, listen to them.  and, it is impossible for me to say what my favorite cohen song is.  but, if you haven’t heard them yet (which is unlikely if you bothered to read this), here is a list, in no particular order, of what i would have played you if i had a record store today, and you stumbled in, asking about leonard cohen:

to all the haters, or the uninitiated, or those who never really listened to mr. zimmerman’s songs with the attention they deserve. and, especially to ms. anna north, whoever she may be, who sparked a minor controversy by penning a poor op-ed piece in the new york times captioned “why bob dylan shouldn’t have gotten a nobel”, and then proceeded to list names de jour who should have been honored instead of dylan– names who will never stand the test of time, and, are only relevant for their political stance, personal histories, or some other gimmick. which, unfortunately, sums up the fashionable literature of 2016. ms. north was moronic enough to write:

“The committee probably did not mean to slight fiction or poetry with its choice. By honoring a musical icon, the committee members may have wanted to bring new cultural currency to the prize and make it feel relevant to a younger generation.”

really? awarding the nobel literature prize to dylan, who is over 70, will “make it feel relevant to a younger generation”? if bieber, with his mesmerizing poetic lyrics was awarded the nobel, yes, maybe she would have had a point (also, such a travesty would have meant, explicitly, “human evolution is complete. now let’s all hold hands together and jump from the grand canyon like lemmings”). come on ms. north, get back to 2016, from wherever la-la land you’re at.

dylan always saw himself as a poet. he even got his name from dylan thomas, arguably the most important welsh poet. his poetry started symbolic (rimbaud, verlaine) with a touch of the beats (ginsberg was a regular companion for the longest time), and, slowly evolved into his own brand of mayhem.

and, his poetry, aka song lyrics, are analyzed and studied like poetry. don’t take my word for it– ask any grad english lit student or look at modern poetry anthologies.

and, his poetry transcended generations and decades, and, always caught the zeitgeist. his poetry not only moves, but also revolts. he is not afraid to take chances and shed his own skin, change his style, world view, philosophy, and everything in between. i can’t say that for any modern poet today– most just preach to the choir of critiques, and, are only relevant for their political stance, personal histories, or some other gimmick..

yeah, he is known foremost as a musician– but, if dylan was only a musician, and not a poet, he wouldn’t be dylan. he would have been yet another musician. i know tons of people who can’t stand his voice but listen to him for hours and hours because of his poetry.

dylan is not a singer/ songwriter (a term i despise)- he is a troubadour (and also a raconteur, but that’s another essay for another time). a troubadour is a singing poet. writes poetry, and sings it. with its roots from andalusian arabs, in its latest reincarnation, the style actually goes back to the ancient greeks. it is a form of poetry.

with dylan, i always think music is actually incidental to the poetry. music is a medium to relay and sugarcoat the poetry. when the poetry changes, the music evolves with it– from simple folk to rock to experimental. in the true troubadour way. just like leonard cohen (who i believe writes better poetry, but was not as influential and diverse as dylan- attributes the swedish academy goes gaga over), or like tom waits.

very few still read poetry. since the late 19th century, poetry lost its allure, relevance and resonation with the masses. but, troubadours like dylan, cohen and waits sugarcoat poetry with music and enrich the masses. even that, by itself, in my opinion justifies the nobel prize for literature.

and, coming back to you ms. north, whoever you may be– if the younger generation would really listen to dylan, hell, it would probably be the only true poetry they will encounter in their lives, other than what was shoved down their throats in high school. face it, no one really reads poetry anymore.

at any rate, before complaining, one should pay attention to the man’s poetry. my favorite dylan album of the last few decades is “time out of mind”. take a listen to “not dark yet”, linked below. but, really, really listen to it– the word plays, the allegories, the visualization, the mood and the atmosphere— you will see a poet at the top of his game. and then, if you have the time, compare it with keats’ “ode to a nightingale” (which it is often compared to). then come up with your own verdict whether or not the man is a poet…

it’s the 4th day of the purge.  the turkish purge of 2016, in its fourth day, finally surpassed the installments of the purge series, and, is far, far more bloodier and terrifying: as of today, the body count hit 49,321.  let’s round it up to 50,000.  50,000 people lost their jobs, were forced to resign, etc, and are about to get persecuted.  i am not saying all were innocent– i am sure there were some bad apples in the basket, but 50,000?  imagine the US government purging 50,000 government employees overnight?  the number is mind boggling.

the 50,000 allegedly has links to the gulen movement– a movement designated as a terrorist group by the turkish government.  now, purging 50,000 potential “terrorists” is a good soundbyte and makes sense in first blush.  but, when you look at who was purged, it is not only the suspected gulen followers, but, anyone and everyone who doesn’t support the erdogan government.  from religious minorities (not talking about the jews– they were purged long ago), but, different sects of islam, ethnic minorities, anyone with dissenting voices or anyone affiliated with them.

let’s look at the ramifications of this humongous purge:  at least 15,200 of the purged were in education, including 1,500 university deans.  15,200 teachers (including private school teachers who had their teaching licenses yanked), deans, professors, administrators, and everyone in between.  as with all the other purges in the AKP and erdogan regime, those 15,200 will be replaced with their “people”.  then the 2,000 judges and prosecutors that were purged over the weekend.  the list goes on and on.  after this last purge wave, the entire turkish government and education, will be one huge and happy erdogan cadre.

moreover, until the vacancies are filled, and the new appointments gain sufficient experience (presuming that they have the minimum qualifications– after all, how can you fill up a 50,000 vacancy overnight with qualified candidates?), the infrastructure may crumble, the economy could tank, and, the country’s security is susceptible at best.

but, mr. erdogan and AKP are confident.  they know what they want and they are getting it.  as mr. erdogan said immediately after the coup attempt, the revolt “was a great gift from allah” to him and his followers”.

and the purge is nothing but another solid step towards a totalitarian islamic state (slight oxymoron here) after the first official flirtations with mr. erdogan’s new and emerging revolutionary guard.

democracies work with checks and balances– with checks and balances, dictatorships, capricious administrations, corruption, favoritism, discrimination, persecutions of minorities may be prohibited or at least minimized.

the most traditional way of checks and balances stem from the separation of powers– judiciary, legislative and executive bodies should work independently and check each other’s actions.

if one person or persons take control of all three powers, ie. judiciary, legislation and the executive branch, then, there can be no democracy, no due process of the law, no equality, no liberty, no pursuit of happiness or no justice for all, except a select few.

and, this is precisely the threat of these purges.  as well as their perceived raison d’etre.

the question begs itself:  how did 50,000 gulen followers (actually probably the double or triple of that, given the past and future purges) were placed in the turkish government, under the micromanaging nose of mr. erdogan and his executives?

first of all, we should discount this number a little– with the presumed gulen followers, all the other undesirables, ie. those who refused to drink mr. erdogan’s kool-aid, those with “undesirable” ethnicities, religions, etc., those who had the courage to express opinions against the erdogan administration, those who were photographed with other undesirables and had those photos posted on facebook, etc. were also purged.   as if someone had a wish-list of “undesirables” and they were folded in with the rest…

discounting the “undesirable” that still leaves a huge chunk of “how on hell did they get into the government in such big numbers under erdogan’s nose?”.

the answer is obvious and not pleasant:  mr. erdogan placed them there.  or, at the very least, he was complacent and conspiring in their placement.

you see, mr. erdogan and mr. gulen used to be allies.  until they fell apart in 2013.  up to that point, their interests were aligned, and, the gulen movement was mr. erdogan’s lifeline.   the largest turkish civic and military purges of recent history, before the purge of 2016, ergenekon and the sledgehammer (balyoz) operations were the illegitimate love children of mr. gulen and mr. erdogan, with the premise of purging “dissidents” and placing them with gulen and erdogan followers.  mostly the gulen followers benefited.

but, don’t take my word for it– according to the 600 page criminal complaint filed by mr. erdogan’s prosecutors in turkey, “Harp okullarından en çok öğrenci 2007-2013 yılı aralığında atılmıştır. Bu tarih aralığı FETÖ’nün TSK’nin içerisine en fazla öğrenci yerleştirdiği dönem olmuştur” which translates to: “2007-2013 marks the years when highest number of students were expelled from military academies.  during that period FETÖ (the gulen movement) placed the highest numbers of replacement cadets”.

2007 to 2013 also happens to be the strongest AKP administration in history (their votes and parliamentary power decreased consistently since 2013).   hence, the fact that AKP and mr. erdogan were complacent, if not outright responsible, for placing the gulen followers in the military, according to the AKP prosecutors themselves.  and, they would have stayed there happily after if not for the nasty divorce between mr. gulen and mr. erdogan.

but, like all love relationships between two alpha males, they fell apart- the details are still murky as to how, and even murkier as to the why.

but, forget the why and the how, the split was internecine.  both sides suffered immensely.  the scandal of december 17 for erdogan, and the ensuing purges and the persecution of the gulen movement were vicious.

after the divorce, mr. erdogan played the part of the betrayed partner, the strong and democratic world leader, who will clean up his country no matter what (without mentioning cleaning it up from the “monster” he helped create), and, mr. gulen assumed the part of the misunderstood peace loving borderline hippy religious leader, with peace and freedom awards to show for it.   but, behind the scenes, their infighting grew more vicious and internecine.

now, 4 days after the coup attempt, allegedly by a handful of military officers under the control of mr. gulen, mr. erdogan is inches away from convincing his followers that this 50,000 gulenists infiltrated the ranks of the government, military, judiciary, and education without his knowledge, and, he, the hero is swiftly dealing with them.  kudos to mr. erdogan for selling such myth and fiction.  and i am serious in my congratulations– never thought someone would sell such a hoax.  and i am equally awed by mr. erdogan’s followers– never thought the turkish people would be this gullible.  but, nevertheless,  to give credit to my people, given that it is a time of crises and desperation, perhaps blind faith may be excused and understood.  as they say, the bigger the lie…

in the meantime, both the US, EU, and NATO are warning mr. erdogan for his undemocratic measures, purges, and his calls for executions (and, the prerequisite calls for the resurrection of the death penalty in turkey), and implying, very explicitly that turkey may lose its NATO membership and any and all hopes of joining the EU if he proceeds in this trajectory.

and, finally, reporting from the trenches of the turkish social media, his emerging “revolutionary guard” is on a rampage under the hashtag #turkiyemeydanlarda, meaning, turkey (or turkish people) in the plazas, with all forms of calls of violence and mayhem:  twitter and facebook are full of “good riddances”, “we’ll kill ’em alls”, “we will burn thems”, etc. from his emerging revolutionary guard to the rest of the turkish people, who beg to differ with mr. erdogan, and are living in fear.

to be continued (unfortunately) in this vein..

so, what happened in the last 24 hours?  well, only the violent, predictable, and depressing inevitable.

for some context, please read the first part of this series.  

the inevitable purge began.  almost immediately.  thousands of military personnel, allegedly belonging to the faction of the military that launched the coup attempt were arrested.  well, that may be understandable.  but, 2,745 judges and prosecutors were also arrested in a matter of hours for their involvement with the coup attempt.  2, 475.  wait, i should repeat it again: 2,475.  two immediate questions come to mind:

  1. who will they replace the 2,475 judges and prosecutors with?  does the turkish government have a secret stash of 2,475 qualified judges and prosecutors in a cold storage somewhere?
  2. how did they find 2,475 judges and prosecutors linked to the coup attempt in a matter of hours, while they couldn’t even name who was leading the coup and what was happening within the first 12 hours of the revolt?  the fighting allegedly ended in the morning, and, within a few hours comes the arrest of the 2,475.  military personnel– perhaps i can understand– the coup attempt was the work of a faction of the military they say, for what it is worth, so it may be a little bit easier to find who belong to the faction.  but judges and prosecutors?  how can you diligently investigate, review, and decide which 2,475 to arrest in a matter of hours whilst in a state of crises?  feels like the wish list of 2,475 was made long before the coup attempt.

mr. erdogan, almost immediately, re-requested, actually demanded, the extradition of fethullah gulen.  which was also inevitable as i wrote yesterday.  as a matter of fact, many denizens of the turkish social media think that one of the major reasons behind the attempted coup, which they call “theatrics”, was the extradition of mr. gulen.  mr. gulen, of course, denied any involvement with the coup attempt whatsoever.  now, i am no fan of mr. gulen andthe jury is still out on that one.

mr. erdogan’s revolutionary guard finally emerged en masse.  as i wrote yesterday, in the first public statement he made during the coup attempt, mr. erdogan called his “followers” to the streets, despite a curfew imposed by the government— it was a call for battle.  and the followers heeded.  turkish media (and social media) is full of videos and photos of these fine gentlemen armed to the teeth, with their jihadist beards and battle cries, executing soldiers on bridges, beating up people, raiding stores, screaming jihadist mantras, and firing their guns indiscriminately.  there were reports of them raiding cafes where alcohol is served, bothering people at parks, and other assorted tehran behavior.

mr. erdogan’s revolutionary guards’ demeanors, outfits, facial hair, and speech, if you can photoshop out the istanbul background and turkish license plates (for that matter anything turkish) from the photos and the videos, are straight out ISIS jihadists photos.  which should not be all that surprising given turkey’s notorious history with ISIS militant recruitment.

one really fears this will be the revolutionary guard of the caliphate of turkey; albeit with a very ironic use of the word “revolutionary”– someone tried to start a revolution (that’s what successful coups are generally called), and, the jihadist who stopped it could perceivably become the revolutionary guard.

there are already calls from the government controlled media (as if there was any other form of major media in turkey) for pardoning all the “crimes” of these patriotic heroes during the coup attempt.  which, basically, translates to legitimizing this jihadist militia.

the death toll is still up in the air.  the numbers are very, very minimized according to anecdotal reports.  but, that’s the way it always is in turkey.

the FAA  put a ban on flights between turkey and the united states almost around the same time the turkish airlines, whose slogan, ironically, is “widen your world”, put out the strangest press release i have ever read from an airline, boldly stating that “with the unflinching will of the people, turkey has waken to a new day with a much stronger sense of democracy and freedom”, while citizens were summarily executing fellow citizens in the streets.  then, the press release claimed, “upon the call of our president his excellency recep tayyip erdoğan our operations at istanbul atatürk airport is now back to normal and flights have begun”, while all the flights to their top international market, the US, were grounded.

thy basin duyurusu

mr. erdogan quickly started expanding his powers as permitted (and perhaps even as not permitted) by the turkish constitution.  which was also inevitable as i wrote yesterday.  as a matter of fact, many denizens of the turkish social media think that another one of the major reasons behind the attempted coup, which they call “theatrics”, was the expansion of mr. erdogan’s powers, resulting in the executive presidency he pines for.

and a good majority of turkey is still at shock– this was unlike any coup d’etat in turkish history.  as a matter of fact the world history.  coup’s are never faceless– immediately at their inception, someone, a face, a human being (or human beings) take responsibility.  didn’t happen here.  the names of the conspirators were released at least 12-hours after the fact.  how was the government this prepared (with a detailed list) for the purge after the coup?  and, who really was behind this coup attempt?

conspiracy theories aside, this coup is immensely benefiting erdogan: he is expanding his powers, purging anyone who may stand in his way (and, this is not his first purge– it feels like now they’re purging the leftovers), legitimizing his revolutionary guard, gaining more confidence among his supporters while instilling more fear and terror on his opponents, has a good shot at getting gulen back for vengeance, and a decent shot at the executive presidency, ie. absolute power.

to the credit of the conspiracy theories, at last night’s speech at the istanbul ataturk airport, mr. erdogan seemed to aware of his windfall– he exclaimed to his followers, in a moment of excitement, “Eninde sonunda şu anda bu hareket, Allah’ın bize büyük bir lütfudur”, which translates to “after all, this coup attempt is a great gift from allah to us”.

i fear, if he really feels that way, the worst is still yet to come.

“what’s happening in turkey?”– thanks for asking friends– i’ve been commenting in turkish for the last few hours on social media, and many asked for english commentary. the short and true answer is “i don’t know”.
what i know is there was a “coup attempt” (or, an “attempted coup-attempt”, whatever the hell that means, according to the turkish government pundits). who is really involved, to what extent, how many people died, who is injured, what damage the cities have suffered, etc. is unknown. turkish government, as usual with attacks and tragedies, has shut down most forms of social media. citizens are resorting to VPNs and other circumventions to communicate. i am receiving emails, messages, comments, etc from friends in turkey asking me what’s going on in turkey and what the foreign press is reporting. they have little or no access to information there. and, social media, (and, for that matter media), as usual, is full of disinformation and all shades of propaganda.
i am receiving anecdotal reports from all over the country. people stuck behind barricades with their infant children, guns and tanks ablaze, mass arrests, a coup soldier who was executed on a bridge by having his throat cut (and a video of it), so on and so forth. there are rumors of fighter jets crashing, or bombing, or engaging in dogfights. there are rumors of numerous civilian deaths. of course there are no official numbers– and, when and if they’re released, i fear the numbers will be greatly falsified as it was the case in the tragedies and the bombings of the last few years.
in the meantime, the “military” leaders are calling the soldiers behind the coup back to their barracks. but the top brass of the turkish military are MIA. all the orders, news, etc. are coming from second tier commanders.
there are rumors that the joint chief of staff is held hostage. but no real verification.
the turkish government quickly blamed fethullah gulen and his merry band of dissenters. they’ve been calling his group a terrorist organization, sans any terror attacks.
allegedly, a faction in the military, controlled by the gulen movement, is behind the coup. which sounds like an impossibility to me. at least, the fact that such a marginalized portion of the military can organize a coup without the knowledge of the regime sounds implausible and i am not the only one.  the washington times actually wrote an article on this back in april, arguing how the rumors of a potential coup d’etat is actually helping recep tayyip erdogan, the president of the turkish republic, politically.  
the perceived “impossibility” of a military coup is also making the conspiracy theories discussed below more plausible.
but, if the government can establish a gulen link, one way or another, it will pave the way for the turkish president erdogan to achieve one of his long-term dream of gulen’s extradition back to turkey.  a dream which has been futile so far.
gulen and erdogan were once allies.  but, a few years ago they fell apart and have been engaged in a feud ever since.  a feud that has resulted in purges, persecutions and scandals like the now infamous corruption scandal of december 17, 2013, that would topple any democratic government anywhere but in turkey.  a scandal which had very serious implications for erdogan, his immediate family, and his cronies, with taped phone conversations, but was quickly brushed under the carpet.  and a scandal that was recently resurrected in the highly publicized federal trial of reza zarrab in the southern district of new york.
so far, the US government has refused to extradite gulen.  designating his group as a terrorist organization sans any real acts of terrorism was not enough.  but, if this coup is somehow tied to him, the US government’s position on the extradition may change.
this is one of the reasons why the turkish social media denizens predominantly think that the coup is either planned or permitted by erdogan.
the other reason is the simple fact that erdogan is pining for a presidential system in turkey.  in social media, the term “sultan” is even used. erdogan has implied himself, numerous times, how he sees himself as a caliph, or a sultan, and how he wishes to resurrect the ottoman empire.  though these statements may seem delusional if they were heard from anyone else, when they come from erdogan’s mouth, it sends shivers down democratic citizens’ spines.  and, social media is full of “fan pages” for the “grand master”, a term his dedicated followers use for erdogan, started by his supporters, chuck full of ottoman and ultra nationalistic fantasies, xenophobia, and rampant anti-semitism. 
the anti-semitism goes so far that yeni akit (the new covenant), a radical newspaper aligned with erdogan, calls gulen and everyone close to him jews, and, during the last elections, published anti-semitic cartoons akin to 1930s weimar germany, depicting jews as cockroaches, and, anyone not aligned with them as an israeli puppet or a jew.
the cartoon above has gulen, on a leash, rabid looking, rode by a “jew”, about to be unleashed on turkey.  the caption of the front page story is “siyon-piyon ittifakı”, meaning “zionist-pawn confederacy”.  on gulen, the words “paralel şeyler”, which means “parallel things”, are written.  “parallel” is the term the erdogan regime uses for the gulen movement– for allegedly running a parallel government in turkey.  sadly for reportage and evidentiary purposes, but happily for human decency, most of these cartoons “vanished” after the elections.  though one can still find them if they know where to look.
erdogan has a dream of presidency (currently he is the president of the republic- which is a more symbolic post than say a prime minister in the parliamentary system). he wants a presidential system, which requires a constitutional change. he tried to achieve this through democratic means, but, the last two elections backfired, he couldn’t reach the parliamentary majority needed for the constitutional change.
the first elections, in june 2015, preceded by dubious violence, resulted in a stalemate, and erdogan called for a snap election was called for november 2015.   erdogan, who, as the president of the republic, constitutionally had to take a neutral stance, lobbied intensively for his party, AKP (justice and development party), and a constitutional reform for an executive presidency.  it was reported that erdogan, through the presidential office, had spent 109 million euros for the campaigns, which is a violation of the turkish constitution.  obviously, nothing came of it and the matter was closed.
the violence leading to the election was very interesting: the main threat to AKP and erdogan’s absolute power was the peoples’ democratic party (HDP), which has grassroots kurdish support.  bombs exploded in their events, and there were other senseless acts of violence.   the kurds were blamed.  especially kurdistan workers’ party, PKK, a terrorist organization.  but, they were nothing close to what will happen before the november snap elections.
HDP gained surprising power in the parliament at the june 2015 elections, winning 80 seats, which would have shifted the balance of the parliament, and would have put erdogan’s presidential plans in jeopardy.
needless to say, the parties couldn’t come up with a coalition, all post-election scenarios were rejected, especially by erdogan, and the november’s snap elections were called.
leading up to the november elections, bombings and terrorism escalated and was almost always contributed to the kurdish terrorists.   the election was preceded by the deadliest terrorist attack in turkey’s modern history, after two suicide bombers killed 102 people attending a peace rally in central ankara.
and, with every bomb, with every attack, kurdish terrorists were blamed (even though in most instances they were killing their fellow kurds), and, erdogan and AKP came with the propaganda that HDP = PKK, shifting any sympathy  the voters would have with HDP.
because of the violence, opposition parties suggested postponing the elections to no avail.  and erdogan campaigned furiously for his former party, AKP– again in violation of the constitution.
needless to say, the election, again with rampant documented electoral fraud, resulted in a “shocking” victory for AKP– they nearly reclaimed all the seats they lost five months earlier, winning 49.5% of the votes, and establishing a government without a coalition; but, not reaching the parliamentary majority for securing the constitutional changes required for erdogan’s dream of executive presidency.  and the “evil” HDPs seats fell to 59 from 80, just five months ago.
violence continued after the elections.  a bomb exploded, guns were fired, all at strategic times, when erdogan or AKP was in hot waters.  those coincidences, and the fact that the government had constructive knowledge of the attacks before they happened, fed the conspiracy theory that erdogan and/ or the government is behind the attacks, trying to establish enough fear through terror to secure absolute power and the executive presidency.
the people of turkey, which is the original melting pot, with many different ethnicities, cultures, religions living together, became more and more polarized.
erdogan and AKP continued to implicate HDP as supporters of kurdish terrorism. a very strong innuendo in the public eye was created– HDP=terrorism and turmoil. erdogan likes and uses the old dictatorial maxim “either you’re with us or against us”.
in the meantime, erdogan continued to lose credibility globally.  his actions, often almost surreal, made turkey not only an international security concern, but a laughing stock.  he sued a physician for stating that his facial expressions look like gollum of the lord of rings,  sued and asked for the extradition of a german comedian for a song mocking him,  along with over 2,000 other people he sued for insulting him, since he took the presidency in 2014.
over 2,000 people sued for insulting the president, including tons of journalist, who were merely expressing their opinions and the freedom of press.
erdogan’s credibility suffered more when he tried to pick up a fight with putin by shooting down a russian air force plane (blaming russia, the russians releasing documents tying him and his son to smuggling ISIS oil through turkey, and then back-peddling and apologizing), blaming israel for everything under the sun (and then back-peddling once more), supporting ISIS in his fight against the kurds (and putting the journalist who publish the documents of the support in prison), etc.  such loss of credibility and behavior resulted in him receiving the cold shoulder from the obama administration in his last “official” visit to the US.
the opposition parties tried to oust him through legal means.  a president in a parliamentary system is not legally culpable, accountable, or prosecutable for their private or public actions.  turkish constitution only allows for prosecution and impeachment for treason.  treason is not defined in the turkish constitution–  but the turkish penal code traditionally declares alliance with the enemy, acting against the national benefit, damaging the country’s unity, etc. as treason.  which the opposition claimed, albeit unsuccessfully, for erdogan.   achieving this would be impossible at the current parliament without the support of AKP, erdogan’s party and the majority.
which brings us to the “attempted coup”.  such attacks, terrorism, polarization, the loss of credibility, and now the “attempted coup”, actually, as the social media denizens believe (at the expense of sounding like a conspiracy theorist), paves the road to erdogan’s presidency/ sultanship.
you see, the current constitution of turkey gives immense powers to the president of the republic, erdogan, when marshall law or a state of emergency is declared. and that’s what just might happen. and, this could, possibly, enable him to call for early elections, dissolve the government and the parliament, etc.  that was the guess of the washington times, cited above, back in april.  
this chaos actually may help him obtain the presidential system he pines for and get gulen in his hands– two birds with one stone, and, hence the conspiracy theories.
erdogan was vacationing in marmaris, at a “businessman’s” mansion, when this happened. the little cove where the house is has been shut down to the public for a while according to sailor and vacationing friends.
the first few hours he was nowhere to be found. then, he spoke to the people through facetime– a very strange address– he basically called the people, his supporters, to the streets, even though the government has issued a curfew.
his words were strong and provocative– it was almost akin to a call for civil war. and, very very reckless.
immediately afterwards, we started receiving anecdotal reports of “people” gathering in plazas and around the istanbul ataturk airport where erdogan was supposed to land at.
then, there were reports from the NBC and the daily beast that erdogan was trying to flee the country, broadcasting from a plane, and his request to land at the istanbul airport and then in germany was denied. both NBC and daily beast based their reports on sources in the US. veracity of it is not established and people all over the social media were tracking his plane through flight tracker.
and all this culminated in an attempted coup that failed spectacularly.  it was half-baked.  there were no apparent leaders (which coup d’etats almost always have), no real or obvious plans, nothing.
it feels as if this coup was designed to fail.
no matter what, turkey is in ruins as i type this.  fear is immense.  confusion is rampant.  security is a nostalgia.  people with any democratic and/ or humanist tendencies have lost all hope with their confidence in the government.  and this is where we are.
so, again, my honest and simple answer is i don’t know what’s happening (and i doubt that we will know what really happened anytime soon). what i know is there is too much propaganda (black, grey, and white) and disinformation, so beware of what you hear and read (even what i wrote, which is just a summary of what i know and what i think and what i suspect and what i presume and what i speculate).  stay tuned, will post whenever there is something verified to be posted.
and let’s hope that the days i will post happy and proud things about my beloved turkey will come soon…

this crawled into my inbox today.  a first hand report from istanbul, turkey– about the protests and the revolt going on out there.  the diarist’s name is not published, due to his request.  we respect that.  apparently our man in istanbul had  a rough ride the last few weeks.  his writing and articulation deteriorates towards the end but we should cut him some slack. these are terrible times in istanbul and consider this a public service announcement.  we are publishing it verbatim- kicking off with his introduction to us.  if you like it say so and share.  if you find it offensive, just click on a different blog.


diarist’s intro:

i am a chapuller.  or a çapulcu if you’re linguistically inclined.  i just found out i am a chapuller last week.  before that i was a simply a man.  a professional.  a somewhat decent human being.  but, now, i am a chapuller.  and i take pride in it.  according to the mighty wikipedia, what i am is a neologism.  i looked it up– obviously it derives from greek words, like almost everything else.  apparently it means a new utterance or speech; a brand spanking new term of the english lexicon.  it sure don’t feel that way.  according to wikipedia, we should avoid neologisms.  such avoidance would defeat the purpose of my existence, rendering me null and void.  but that’s what avoidance does– renders you null and void.  i don’t avoid any more.  i don’t seize, i don’t desist.  i am a chapuller and i am damn proud of it.

chapulling was born in my beautiful turkey.  a nice mediterranean country.  as a people, i would say we’re the perfect fraternity special cocktail– throw in turks, arabs, kurds, armenians, levantines, jews (mostly sephardic, some ashkenazi), greeks, bulgarians, albanians, lebanese, and anyone else you can find in a 2,000 mile radius in a blender and you have us.  we live in the original melting-pot.

it is easy to figure out why– just take a look at a map.  if you forgot how, just google “map”.  turkey, or the land known as asia minor, is a natural bridge between asia and europe– the two continents that historically meant something.  people traveled through turkey for thousands of years– it was a bridge they had to cross.  some invaded, others passed through; but, many, many stayed behind.  hence the cocktail.

we turks were the last invaders and we’ve been holding on to this beautiful land for a thousand years.  we started our invasion in 1071– just five years after the battle of hastings– interesting coincidence– i guess it was a period of upward mobility for the normans and the turks.

anyways, our language always had a term– çapulcu– which basically meant a looter or a marauder.  i was christened one on june 2nd, 2013.  this is my story.

i won’t bore you with the “i woke up, took a crap, and went to work again” bits of my diary– rather, i’ll only reprint my evolution from man to chapuller.  the rest is irrelevant.  at least to you.

may 23, 2013

today i woke up late.  i shouldn’t have woken up at all.   everything started the way it should– morning coffee, skipping breakfast (sorry mom, i know!), work, then, given it is a thursday (best night to go out), drink and food with the same old friends.  same old bullshit over and over again until someone got a tweet and we heard of a new legislation passed by our wise parliament just before midnight (governments like catching us with our pants down, don’t they?)– apparently no more alcohol sales at stores after 10 pm.  huh?

we continued drinking and debating (more and more imbibed, but still somewhat coherent), the ramifications of this new piece of legislation.  we had an american friend at the table.  some ivy league washout who decided to grace istanbul with his presence, teaching english as a second language, after a bad break-up, like many before him.  istanbul is becoming more and more an expats city.  i don’t blame them, it is magical.

anyhow, our friend said, “what’s the big deal?  we had such laws in the US forever”.  according to him, apparently americans have they call “blue laws”– each state enacts its own law and prohibits the sale of alcohol after certain hours, and, most definitely, on sundays– the holly day for christians.  he even told us that there are “dry counties” in the US– places where you cannot legally buy alcohol.  he even claimed that the place where jack daniels is made is actually a dry county.  we chuckled.

we didn’t take him seriously and debated till the wee hours.   most of it is blurry and i am drunk as it gets.  enough for now.

may 24, 2013

i woke up with a colossal headache and dragged my stupid ass to work.  why, oh why, drink so much on a school night?  yeah, the legislation was an excuse for the libations, but since when did i need excuses for getting shitfaced?  just another run of the mill thursday night.

i hate hangovers but don’t know how to avoid them.  actually, i do know how to avoid them but never practiced what i preach when it’s booze and excess.

the entire day was a waste but i looked up my friend’s claims about american laws on the internet and turns out he wasn’t bullshitting.  then, i read the government’s pundits on twitter and they were reciting our american buddy’s exact same argument– their argument was uncannily verbatim– perhaps they were getting their drink on at the next table last night?   what they said boils down to “the americans do it, why don’t we?”…  i’ll tell you exactly why but i don’t have the energy.  the days of walking and sweating off a hangover by noon are long gone.  i am miserable.

came home straight after work.  my girlfriend came by around 8 pm, took one look at my hungover self and left, rabbitting off something about a brunch tomorrow.  i passed out on the couch watching a documentary on penguins.  woke up around 2 am with a raging hard-on, and the penguins still parading around.  penguins, really?  hangover erections know no shame.

may 25, 2013

we took a boat to bebek for brunch.  when the weather is right, there is no place like the bosporus.  i’ve seen it a zillion times and each time it feels like a gabriel garcia marquez novel.  surreal, magical, and mythical.  it is the most gorgeous place on earth.  i remember one early morning, drunk as usual, and seeing a school of dolphins doing their nautical show in the mist– sheer magic…

there were eight of us (nine if you count the freeloader who sat down for 15 minutes drinking our tea, eating our food).  our american friend was with us again and the conversation turned to the new legislation again.  this time around in complete sobriety.

i first asked him if he is moonlighting as a spinmaster for AKP (for the uninitiated, the justice and development party, turkey’s governing political machine) and its fearsome leader, mr. recep tayyip erdogan, the prime minister (AKP and RTE, respectively, from here on).  he just laughed.

we were civil, we let him make his case for respecting other people’s rights, how democracy had to be fettered for the greater good, etc, etc.  felt like listening to an oasis track– derivative and boring.

we really had to school him about turkey, and the eastern hemisphere in general.  you see, there is no one-size-fits-all in political theory.  you have to take into account the country, its conditions, its people, or the “stakeholders” like the academicians call them, etc, before prescribing a cure or a solution.  what works in turkey most likely ain’t gonna work in the US and vice versa.  we are different people evolved through different traditions, cultures, needs, demands, so on and so forth.

to make sense of our brunch discussion, a little detour through history is absolutely necessary: turkey is a spin-off of the once mighty ottoman empire.  the once mighty ottoman empire, besides being a powerful force, was also the vatican of the muslims.  the sultan, or as we used to call him the padişah, was also the caliph, the ruler of all muslims.

like all empires before and after it, the ottoman empire declined slowly and became a sad shadow of its once glorious self.  but, it held on to its delusions of grandeur, which led to its demise.

its demise was ugly– after the first world war, it was divided between the winning nations and the padişah said, simply leave me my title and my palace, and do whatever the fuck you please with the rest of the country.

we, the people, wouldn’t have none of it– we started a war of independence, led by mustafa kemal (later “ataturk”), our hero, our george washington.  we fought hard, we fought well, and won our independence in 1923.  we established a democracy, a republic, and started catching up with the western world.

to catch-up, we had to change our way of life– in less than five years, we adopted the western alphabet, initiated one of the most aggressive literacy campaigns of history, gave the women the right to vote, modernized our clothing, changed our calendar to justinian, adopted the metric system for measures, and established the rule of law.  yeah, we were plagiaristic in the last measure buy why reinvent the wheel?  we simply reviewed all the modern laws of western countries and took the ones that worked the best, and that would fit our culture.

ataturk, during that time, even did his due diligence on the two emerging fresh political waves- fascism and communism, but decided they weren’t for us and settled on democracy.

we also demolished the caliphate– we were humble and secular– we had no business in claiming to be the prophet incarnate, or ruling other people outside of our borders.

try this on for size– how many countries can go through this many changes in five years?  many revisionists simply shrug and say “ataturk was a dictator and any dictator could have done this”.  i call that world-class bullshit– ataturk died in 1938– if all the changes were forced via dictatorship, we would have reverted back to our old ways in no time flat.  but that didn’t happen.  we prospered and started building a decent sized economy and a happy people from the rubbles of the first world war and our fight for independence.

why am i explaining all this?  to emphasize how we embraced secularism and how easily we, as a people, can change.  we can change, and adopt to changes, at the blink of an eye.  perhaps it is because we predominantly came from nomads.   it is our biggest blessing and our worst curse.  we adopt, we survive, but we also change– our identity is shiftier than a billboard lawyer.  it is a blessing and a curse.

i’ll go off on another tangent here– bear with me– it will all make sense at the end: physicists cannot still explain precisely what “time” is.  i don’t know much about “time”, as a vector or a dimension or whatnot, but i know that “western time” is not the same as “eastern time”.

western time is quicksilver, eastern time is molasses.   western time is leaps, eastern time is a baby crawl.  western time is instant gratification, eastern time is deferred.  western time is a revolution, eastern time is an evolution.

as far as time is concerned, western folks got desensitized.  their concept of time is instantaneous– if something happens now, it exists– if it will happen tomorrow, it doesn’t.  it is all video montages, sound clips, and big thumbs-ups.

eastern time is about patience.  eastern time is the fateful acceptance that the next generation, or the one after them, will reap what you sowed.

western time is the time-lapse clip of a seed blooming into a flower; eastern time is meditating over it, assured that someday the seed will bloom into a forever, whether you’ll be there to smell it or not– someone will be there to smell it and that’s what matters.

cognizance of these tangents was the great divide between us and our american friend.  he did not see a minor regulation banning the sale of alcohol at stores after 10 pm as a big threat to our democracy.  he did not see the minor but persistent attacks on freedom of speech, religion and press as threats either.

he didn’t take them seriously because neither amounted to an islamic revolution by itself.  he operated on a different time wave– he did not have the inherent patience to sit and watch the seed grow, millimeter by millimiter.  unless the revolution was televised, with time-lapse tricks and 10 word soundbites, it did not happen.  we tried to explain him what was going on was an evolution, not a revolution, and, therefore, more dangerous.

taken individually, the limits on our freedoms did not matter much– but, taken in their entirety– now that’s another story.

that’s what scared us– we saw the pattern– starting with headscarves (or “türbans” as we called them), crawling slowly to the latest ban on alcohol.  next thing you know, let’s prohibit alcohol sales on fridays.  next thing you know, let’s give municipalities the right to ban alcohol outright.  next thing you know, for common decency, and for not hurting the feelings of devout muslims, let’s ban it in public places completely.   next thing you know, let’s ban private consumption too while we are at it.  and, you know what, those public spaces where people used to drink, now young couples are commingling and committing amoral acts offensive to our devout citizens– let’s ban the commingling of the sexes as well.

let’s use america as an excuse– let’s ban the teaching of evolution in our schools– americans are still discussing it in 2013, aren’t they?  let’s ban abortions.  let’s ban prostitution, which we used to run clean and tax the shit out of.  let’s close down all the restaurants during ramadan– serving succulent food while our devout citizens are fasting is insensitive!

while we are at it, let’s visit the feasibility of a new caliphate and a new padişah as well, shall we?  let’s inflate the egos of our people with romantic notions of our glorious past, sell them pipe dreams, sing them lullabies of grandeur.  hush a bye lil’ turk, go to sleep, go to sleep.  when you wake up, you’ll be a serf in a dictatorship, but the romantic notions and the illusions of grandeur will keep you going at full-steam until you realize it is too late.  you can change and adopt quickly, can’t you?  here is your task, are you up for it?

when you’re the legacy of such a majestic empire, when you were ruled by the caliphate, pushing religion is just like handing out a cold beer to a recovering alcoholic on a muggy summer day, saying “hold this for me for a minute, will ya?”, and disappearing   we all know how that story ends.

if we do all these overnight, we are iran, we are shunned… but, if we do it over a decade, it is democracy as usual.  no time-lapse clips, no western frowns.

AKP and RTE know this too well– they already took most of the baby steps.  the dissenting journalists are in prison, the secular soldiers are bunking with them, the media has one voice and one voice only, freedom of speech went down the drain years ago, and things are proceeding according to the plan, on eastern time.

and AKP and RTE continue to thrive, while the west watches silently, applauding them as chosen leaders (and don’t even get me started on how the elections were bought and sold), and turkish democracy ticking away like swiss clockwork.

until its too late and you realize your baby grew to be an angry teenager without you realizing.  then comes the time-lapse clips, the soundbites, and the volumes on “how the fuck did this happen?”, but it is too late to do anything anymore…

that was the gist of our schooling during brunch today.  i think our friend started seeing where we are coming from.  he is not completely sold– he still believes that a staged “mission accomplished” banner is all it takes; but, we can’t blame him, he is on western time and the western state of mind.

after brunch, we took a nice walk and then went home with my girlfriend.  made love, hanged out, made love again, argued whether or not she told me she slept with 16 guys before me when we first met (she claims 9 now), ate, hanged out more, and fell asleep.  it was a good day.

may 26, 2013

woke up late.  vegged out in the house all day.  more sex was inevitable.  did nothing productive or meaningful.  was the perfect day.

may 27, 2013

went to work cheerful.  during the commute, i thought more about the alcohol ban and saw an opportunity.  oh, i forgot to mention, we turks love, love our shortcuts and once in a lifetime opportunities.  i knew there was nothing we could do about the ban– why not profit from it in a vigilante sense?  open a few underground stores and sell alcohol after 10 pm.  like the speakeasies, but in a take-out model.  nothing like the black market for much needed cash.  did you think they don’t broadcast the “boardwalk empire” in turkey?  shit…

came home pumped, started working on a half-baked business plan.  will look at a few spaces the next few days.

may 28, 2013

work, work, work.  during lunch and after work looked at a few available basements.  no need to find a major supply-chain– i can go to supermarkets and load up on wine, beer, and liquor and sell ’em with a good mark-up.  will approach wholesalers after i make some money.  i am sure a new industry will emerge.

girlfriend on a business trip.  won’t be back until thursday morning.

masturbated.  internet is a wonderful thing.  realized, just before climax, the tv on mute was showing penguins again.

may 29, 2013

more work, more real estate agents.  not sure which is more depressing.

didn’t jerk off– if i am all spent and slow in completing the deed, girlfriend will grow suspicious.

may 30, 2013

had an epiphany on the way to work.  i’ll buy some scooters and bikes and have messengers deliver the booze.  create twitter and facebook accounts for taking orders.  ain’t technology great?

girlfriend called during lunch.  her flight back was a-ok.  she told me about some protest in taksim, the epicenter of istanbul.  apparently AKP and RTE are planning to build something in gezi parki, the last remaining green oasis in my beautiful city.  what’s next?  pave over the bosporus?  agreed to meet her in taksim after work.  have to look at a few basements there anyways.

dealt with a new obnoxious real estate agent (do they come in any other flavor?), and made it to gezi parki.  it is like a college yard– lots of young people picnicking, reading books, hanging out.  asked her to give me the skinny on the protest.

apparently AKP and RTE want to build a shopping mall after razing the park.  here is another thing about them– their’s is an infinite hunger.  since they got the power, they got rich, their families got rich, their friends got rich, friends of their friends got rich, and they covered the entire country in concrete.  i hear that now they are planning to rezone the national parks and concrete ’em over as well.  shameless, that’s all i can say.

the only thing AKP and RTE learned from western time and mentality is instant gratification when it comes to worldly greed.  they want it now and they want it all.

i am not a protest type of guy but couldn’t say no to the girlfriend.  it wasn’t much of a protest anyhow– lots of young bright things hanging out peacefully, doing their own thing, and having a merry old time.  apparently yesterday saw some police action and water cannons.  but today was quite.

went to her apartment this time.  she needed to unpack and tomorrow she has the day off.  sex was great.  glad i didn’t jerk off last night.

may 31, 2013

work again.  is this how i am gonna live until i retire?  going somewhere i totally despise everyday, and doing things that make me nauseous?  there should be a better way to live out our years.  intelligent design, minttelligent design, or random evolution, i don’t care either way– i am 100% sure we are not designed to live like this.

girlfriend called me just before lunch.  she said things were heating up at the protest.  she said she was scared and asked me to come by.

when i arrived, the protest was nothing like the day before.  there were hundres of police officers and they had their ugly assault vehicles on the ready.  thinks started heating up– i heard a bang and started smelling something sharp and acidic.  someone yelled “teargas” and panic ensued.

the rest of the day is a blur.  midnight found us in besiktas, just a neighborhood away from taksim.  my whole body was aching.  i’ve never known such pain.  not sure how many plastic bullets, pressurized water, electrical batons, and teargas my body absorbed.  girlfriend has a little cut on her forehead.  i think i tried to protect her and everyone around me as much as i can but i am not very sure.

people started building barricades.  feels like the paris ghetto all over again.  feels like civil war.  there are thousands of people and hordes of police.

called my mom in ankara to make sure she wasn’t worried about me.  she asked me why she should be worried?  wasn’t she watching what was going on in TV?  she said there is nothing on TV.  there was coverage of a beauty contest and now she is watching a documentary on penguins.  despite my aching body, and despite the voice of my mother on the other end, i felt an erection emerging.  i hanged up.

mother called half an hour later– she said she was curious and checked online and saw on the BBC site what was happening.  apparently everyone but the turkish media was reporting on our protest.

around 6 am, we decided to call it quits and made it home.  i am telling you, with all the police, fires, and the barricades, it was an ordeal.

we tended to each others wounds, and then, surprisingly we had the best sex we had in a while– apparently adrenalin does wonderful things to the libido.

june 1, 2013

we slept some, if you can call it sleep, and then went out again.  it was a war zone.  tweets started coming from all over about protests in other cities.

everyone was on the streets. and this time, it wasn’t only the bright young things of the last few days.  everyone was out– old, young, from all walks of life– and they were united against the police brutality and AKP/ RTE.  i guess gezi parki was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

i don’t know what i can tell you– much of it is pretty well documented in the international media.  i guess “carnage” is the only word that explains what we saw.  we were beaten down, hosed down, gassed, down, and then some more.  but we felt a sense of purpose and we were united.

we heard reports of hospitals and infirmaries being attacked by the police, injured folks gassed down in emergency rooms, people losing eyes, suffering broken bones.  we heard of people dying but thankfully most reports turned out to be false.

then they started gassing us with an orange chemical.  other protestors said it was agent orange.  the government later vehemently denied it– they said it was just colored teargas.   i am not sure what it was but it sure hell wasn’t teargas.  it burned my skin like acid.

somehow we made it home just before daybreak.  everything we passed by was broken down and ruined, everything was burning.  hotels, restaurants, stores that should have been closed were offering shelter.   i heard from someone that they sought refuge in a whorehouse– the prostitutes offered them food and drinks– the person said “i’m not sure who the real whores are– those inside the house, or those outside”.  that will stay with me forever.

when we got home, we showered, cleaned our wounds, and passed out.  adrenaline carries libido so far.

june 2, 2013

can’t believe it’s been a week since our last peaceful sunday– feels like forever.

cruised the internet after a quick breakfast.  i guess my eyes must have been more swollen from the gas than i thought they were– the swollen eyes and the batons to my head must have made me see triple or quadruple– the turkish media finally started reporting on our revolt and claimed that about a hundred protestors were responsible for the mayhem and only a handful were injured.  the thousands i saw fighting on the streets, and the hundreds i saw limping with blood all over them must have been an illusion.

i was very happy to see the international protests though– apparently our revolt not only made it quickly to all the major turkish cities, but also caught up globally as well.  there were protests everywhere– from amsterdam and london to los angeles and the zuccotti park in new york city.

people from all around the world gave us their support.  with tens of thousands protesting and risking life and limb in all major turkish cities, the international support was a jolt of much needed energy.

despite our better judgment, and aching bodies, we made it to the streets again in the early afternoon.  this time we were not only greeted by the police, but also with shady characters holding big sticks and wearing police helmets.  RTE’s boys finally joined the party.

we fought, we resisted, we chanted, we did not give up.  this wasn’t a revolt anymore, it was a national awakening.

june 3, 2013

today i woke up a man, went to bed a chapuller.  eat it kafka.  my metamorphosis was complete.  you see, RTE finally made a statement and called us “a handful of çapulcus”– i guess we were looters.  i am sure there were some looters after all the mayhem, but all the protestors i’ve seen were actually cleaning up the broken down stores, too busy and too weary to be looting.

i don’t mind it though– if RTE thinks i am a chapuller, so am i.  i take pride on it.  pissing in his general direction makes me happy.  if only we can aggravate them a fraction of how they aggravated us…

RTE is dismissing it all with the rest of the media.  it is scary how such carnage and mayhem can be downplayed with the help of a friendly media.

but, in turkey, people are scared to speak.  there is no freedom of speech or press.  you follow the partyline or you’re toast.  ask fazil say, one of our favorite sons, if you don’t believe me.  the boy is a world famous pianist and composer.  he is also very outspoken.

one day, last year, he tweeted a poem from omar khayyam.  y’all know khayyam, right?  he was a persian genius of the 11th century.   fazil only tweeted the poem– no commentary, no nothing.  it was a poem questioning the wisdom of the islamic paradise in the typical sarcastic khayyam style.  bear in mind, khayyam is one of the greatest poets of the east, if not the greatest.  but, fazil was promptly arrested for “publicly insulting religious values that are adopted by a part of the nation”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison.  how you like them apples?  try to exercise your freedom of speech in turkey now.

you know what gave me hope though?  people were finally able to say what they thought and felt.  and i mean everybody.  people were tweeting like there is no tomorrow and facebook was nuts.  i have 2,000 friends in facebook.  yeah, sue me, i am popular.  but, most of my friends are hardcore conformists.  at least, i thought they were.  when some political issue arose, when a small protest was organized, maybe only 1 out of 10 friends raised their voice on facebook.  the rest continued posting stupid songs or pointless tidbits about their mundane lives.  this time around, it was different– 10 out of 10 were posting about our revolt– and from all around the world.

i have this one friend– perfect conformist– nothing rocks his boat.  steady job, steady income, never a political statement out of his mouth.  i saw him on facebook today with a gasmask on, fighting in the streets.  it gave me hope.

RTE continued to dismiss us and got on a plane to morocco for some diplomatic trip.  we went home.  this time our bodies were more used to the abuse and our libidos finally prevailed again.

june 4, 2013

work?  what work?

we were on the streets all day again.  fighting was still at full blast.  the momentum was building consistently.  but, the foreign media was losing interest in our awakening and domestic media was either still asleep or dismissing us outright.

istanbul wasn’t that bad but i heard ankara, hatay, and adana were terrible.  people got hurt seriously, people died.

it was just another day of the awakening.

june 5, 2013

RTE is coming home tomorrow!  we’re still fighting in the streets and waiting for his return with open arms.  i wonder what he has to say to us chapullers.  we heard that the king of morocco refused to see him.  i guess he is a fellow chapuller himself.

we’ve been discussing where this awakening will lead us.  some of us are optimistic, others not.  the pessimists fear that soon we will lose momentum and eventually things will quite down and people will forget all about our awakening in no time flat.  it is a distinct possibility– i told you before, we turks adopt and change very quickly.  they are also worried that even though we are fighting for our individual freedoms, we don’t have a proper leader and a proper mission.  i have to agree with that.  but, i am still the glass is half-full type of guy– this awakening will not be forgotten– it will change the course of the country and it will keep the AKP on a short-leash.  accuse me of dreaming, but one can hope.

tonight, back home, i felt like a war weary veteran– i felt my body, despite all its aches and pains, was as strong as it ever was, and i was ready to fight another day.

but my mind is a different thing– even though it is sharp as it gets when i am on the streets, i am having problems concentrating and articulating in down times.  my writing got very sloppy, and i am sorry for subjecting you to it.  hope i am still making sense.

june 6, 2013

today’s highlight was cleaning up some broken down stores and restaurants and manning a barricade (teargas only this time– felt like a walk in the park), with our american friend who we ran into in taksim.  he is a regular hemingway- seems to be enjoying himself.  we also started building a library for the protestors in gezi park.  all the restaurants, bakeries, etc are contributing to the cause.  i’ve never ate this good for free.

we talked more about freedoms.  he mentioned operation iraqi freedom and i nearly puked.  how can someone be this naive?  after years of dictatorship, invading iraq and trying to establish an american style democracy is not any different than “let them eat cake”.  remember stakeholders?  remember cultures and traditions?  such arrogance.  there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to different societies and cultures.  to each its own.

RTE is coming home tonight.  the city is ready for him– during our awakening, public transportation was limited at best.  tonight, the subways and buses will run late so his fans can go to the airport to meet him.  his party offices are chartering buses to the fucking airport.  such injustice.

tonight we will go home early and watch his speech.  i am sure he will give one.  let’s see who am i going to wake up as tomorrow?  i hope chapuller again.

june 7, 2013

i hope this is not my last diary entry.

i was so mad last night i couldn’t finish my entry.  i wanted to summarize his speech but i’ve never known such aggravation.  i simply couldn’t write, couldn’t think, couldn’t function.

i can’t write, i can’t articulate anymore.  words feel weird and strange.

bear with me while i try to explain.

he arrived in istanbul little after midnight.  thousands of his fanboys were waiting for him.  and he gave a speech.  it was probably the single most provocative speech i ever heard from a turkish politician.  and this speech was coming from a guy who said shit like “zionism is a crime against humanity” and twitter “is the worst menace to society”…  really, without twitter, we wouldn’t have been able to exercise even a bit of our freedom of speech.

basically, his speech was a call for civil war.  he ranted about us drunkards, chapullers, foreign agents, extremists, terrorists, etc, etc.  his fanboys chanted “allahu akbars” and “we’re your soldiers” and “we’ll die for yous”.

it was a call for war.  a war on us.  us, who only wanted to exercise their basic individual rights- our freedoms of speech, press, and religion.  us who want democracy.  us who want our parks and environment protected.

this time around he also called us vandals.  i’ve been promoted, i am a chapuller-vandal now.

we will go out on the streets again today.  but this time i am very, very afraid.  his fanboys are pumped up and full of hate.  today will be a different kind of battle.  we are awake.  we are revolting.  i know we accomplished something.  i know we will never be the same.  i know we are not a herd anymore.

but, RTE is inciting civil war.  he is pitting us against each other.  and i am scared.

i only hope this is not the last entry and there’ll be more later…  and more sex.

bowie’s back in berlin, and with a new song (first in 10 years) for his 66th birthday. way to go old man– you’ll still be glam, fighting the buff and sadistic orderly to have your hair spray back (and the community room tv on MTV, rather than the matlock reruns & lotto results all the other residents are insisting on), pounding the out of tune piano of the music room like a late-stage parkinson’s jerry lee lewis, humming old t-rex tunes, paying for a disco ball for the recreation room and convincing your senile shipmates that the best bingo is strip bingo under the flickering lights of the said disco ball, and grabbing the ass of your geriatric roommate’s 17 year old granddaughter and/ or grandson, when you’re 80, smiling your huge smile with your contraband viagra pill stuck between your two front missing teeth, relying on his alzheimer’s to escape the beating you rightfully deserve, kicking it around carelessly and in style in the nursing home…

breaking news– east village, new york city:

christmas got canceled once again this year after the early morning arrest of kris kringle, also known as “santa claus”, for breaking and entering and trespassing.  residents of an apartment building on east 8th street, ms. canyon comstock and her partner ms. jo livingstone, woke in the early morning hours of tuesday to what they described as “rummaging noises” coming from their living room. according to ms. comstock, “i walked into the living room and found an overweight elder white man sitting on our white eames chair with our little liia (the couples three year old daughter liiam comstock-livingstone) on his lap, feeding her a store bought gingerbread cookie.  my poor baby is lactose intolerant and we keep her on a gluten and sugar-free diet.  i mean, what kind of a sick person feeds a child such horrendous food?”.   seeing the situation, ms. comstock immediately called out to her partner canyon, who walked into the living room with the baseball bat the couple kept for protection and springtime softball games, and they promptly put mr. kringle under citizen’s arrest and called NYPD.  mr. kringle, age 1742, was arrested on the spot and was moved to the manhattan detention complex, also known as the tombs.  mr. kringle’s illegally parked sleigh was also impounded.

according to public records, this is not mr. kringle’s first brush with the law.  last year, around the same time, mr. kringle was arrested in a DWI checkpoint in macon, ga, with a blood alcohol level of 0.12%, above the state’s legal limit of 0.08%.  a search of mr. kringle’s sleigh, incidental to his arrest, yielded an open container, and an unopened case, of “arkansas lighting”, a whiskey distilled in the state of arkansas, which also resulted in bootlegging charges.  in his defense, mr. kringle stated that he was drinking the whiskey because of religious reasons and he bought it at a truck stop in west memphis, arkansas after one of the reindeers pulling his sleigh was killed over the white river national wildlife refuge in the state.  according to georgia state troopers, a visibly drunk and crying mr. kringle repeatedly slurred, “what kind of a sick fuck shoots a reindeer in christmas?  with an arrow and bow no less.  poor, poor blitzen”. further investigation discovered that a reindeer was indeed shot over the white river national wildlife refuge by an arkansas resident named william “zoot” branson, earlier in the day.  reached for comment, mr. branson stated that “hell, yeah i shot that reindeer.  it’s my god given right to feed the missus and the young’uns.  it’s huntin’ season, so fuck you”.  the federal fish and wildlife service confirmed that it is indeed archery deer hunting season in the white river national wildlife refuge.

even though mr. kringle’s bail of $7,500 was posted shortly after his arrest by his wife mrs. kringle, mr. kringle was promptly released into federal custody because of an immigration hold.  according to a georgia trooper who wished to remain anonymous for this article, the state law gives its state troopers the authority to check any person’s immigration status, and during his arrest, mr. kringle was not able to establish legal status in the united states.  according to the state trooper, mr. kringle, in his possession, had an expired mississippi driver’s license with his name, a valid new jersey state identification card with the name santa claus, and an apparently forged social security card with the name kris santa kringle.  the authorities were able to track down the social security card and the other identification documents to a known forgery operation in flushing, new york.

mr. kringle, at his deportation hearing, was able to produce a birth certificate from the republic of turkey, stating his full name as nikolaos of myra, his birthdate as march 15, 270 and his place of birth as patara, turkey.  with long time residences in demre, turkey, the netherlands, and the north pole, mr. kringle was not able to establish legal US residency.  despite legal assistance from the turkish consul general in houston, tx, which has jurisdiction over the turkish nationals in the state of georgia, and despite international and diplomatic support for his case, was deported from the united states on may 19, 2012.

at a press conference this morning, NYPD stated that they are putting an ICE (immigration and customs enforcement) hold on mr. kringle and even if he posts bail again, he will be handed over to the federal authorities for removal proceedings.  reached for comment, his wife mrs. kringle stated that “i ain’t bailing his dumbass again.  i told him at least a hundred times which zip codes the shmuck should avoid in NYC.  yeah, williamsburg and park slope is fine, with whatcma call it, irony and all, but east village?  gimme a break…  just stick to the red states i said.  lay of the booze i said.  would the shmuck listen?  santa, please…”.

new york city mayor mr. mike bloomberg, at a press conference earlier today stated “new york city will not tolerate such illegal and outdated intrusions to new yorkers lives. christmas infringes upon the rights and well being of all new yorkers of all ages.  we are introducing a bill for banning christmas in all public and private spaces in NYC and we issued statewide arrest warrants for the easter bunny and the tooth fairy as well”.  asked about the expectations of NYC children, mr. bloomberg commented “NYC is the capitol of shopping.  go to FAO Schwartz, go to toys’r’us in times square, go to your favorite apple store.  who needs old pervs like mr. kringle cruising our neighborhoods where there is an apple store right around the corner, or amazon, which we are taxing the shit out of, on your fingertips”.

as of the writing of this article, mr. kringle is held without bail at the immigration detention center in elizabeth, nj, his sleigh is impounded to the city pound in brooklyn’s navy yard, and his reindeers are being held as material witnesses at the bronx zoo.  the reindeers, which were first held at riker’s island, was moved to the bronx zoo after the protests of the american humane society.  according to the society, they became aware of the ordeal of the reindeers through ms. comstock and ms. livingstone, who are members, and the reindeers are well fed and happy at the zoo.  the authorities are still considering adding animal cruelty charges to mr. kringle’s arraignment.


oh, my, pynchon is getting bold and bolder… first a cameo appearance in simpsons, then the rumors of a p.t. anderson movie in the works for “inherent vice”, and now permitting the e-publication of his books.. is there anything pynchon won’t do for publicity?

what’s next tommy boy, a 6 page au nautrel photo spread, along with a full-frontal centerfold, with you in an elegant and vaguely athletic standing tiger/ crouching dragon pose from the kama sutra, flexing your body over a desk full of e.m. forster first editions, your bare old skin accentuated only with an airbrushed “V.” tattoo on your navel pointing towards a colorful, alas still airbrushed, “gravity’s rainbow” tattoo on your scrotum, stenciled by zak smith, in playgirl’s “the naughty boys of american lit” edition?

just finished reading “love goes to building on fire“, penned by a mr. will hermes, a music critique for the rolling stone and a contributor to NPR, entertainment weekly, etc.  i read hermes’ record reviews in the past and some were really good.  he is not one of the “fun” critiques who you read even if you don’t care for the music they’re reviewing– those select few are an endangered species:  good writers you just read because you want to read ’em.  rob sheffield used to be one.  now he is trying to be the malcolm gladwell of pop-culture.  not so much fun anymore.  or tony rettman and moe bishop of vice.  or like anthony lane reviewing films for the new yorker– even if i don’t care for the film he is reviewing, i still read anthony lane because he is anthony lane.  same with eileen jones of the exiled.

will hermes belongs to the other school of critiques– not really funny, lacking an original unmistakable voice and any original criticism; they instead rely on their encyclopedical knowledge and utilize it to make musical connections.    you read them only when you need to know about a certain band or an album.  you read them for information with no expectation of fun or enjoyment.  alas, they serve an important purpose– pure information and musical associations & history is sometimes precisely what you need.  and most music critiques fall (or file) into this second group.

mr. hermes, who interestingly is named after a famous scarf maker, is a prime example of this second (and predominant) group of critiques.  the depth of his music knowledge seems infinite.  he can probably make a 3-step association between the creaking of your kitchen floor and pre-bleach michael jackson.  a walking, talking google of modern music.

but, unfortunately, he is not fun to read.   as simple as that.  he is as fun as a public radio DJ.  very knowledgeable but scared of his own shadow; opinionated, but in a very inoffensive, politically correct manner.  he is where he should be– he belongs in post-1980 rolling stone and NPR.  who, incidentally, if was writing for this blog, would have consistently fallen under the “circle jerk” category.  that’s why NPR is fitting– it is the biggest circle jerk of all things considered on this planet…

buildings is a very noble undertaking– a play-by-play musical history of the new york scene in the ’70s– specifically between ’73 and ’78.  the book’s full name is “love goes to buildings on fire: five years in new york that changed music forever”.  it has tons of information, trivial facts and anecdotes but it still fails for three simple reasons, first objective, second slightly and third purely subjective:

1. because mr. hermes picked a narrative style that doesn’t fit him and one he simply cannot pull-off; and

2. because the music that came out of new york, with a few minor exceptions, was pure, unadulterated shit…  but he got the title right– that shitty music coming out of new york really changed music forever (for worse); and

3. because he has a huge crash on patti smith.

let’s start with the criticism on style first: mr. hermes tries to tell his story (and information) by personifying the events and anecdotes.  he attempts to do this by using present tense while describing anecdotes or background stories.  it is a good technique to draw the reader into the heart of the story.  a few random examples:

“Patti Smith walked to Electric Lady Studios from her apartment at 107 MacDougal Street on September 2.”


“Saturday night, March 15, Felt Forum, early show.  Al Green is falling apart onstage.”

see– he is trying to make you visualize the scene.  like i said, it is a good technique.  but it is a good technique in the correct hands.  mr. hermes doesn’t have the chops to pull it off.  he should have sticked to dry writing instead of throwing in random paragraphs reading like bad, bad fiction…  then i would have had no qualms with his style.

but, the way he is switching between his tenses, and with his cheap shots in new journalism, he completely turned me off, making me seasick.  mr. hermes ain’t no tom wolfe  and buildings ain’t the “the right stuff”– but that was precisely what mr. hermes aspired to write and failed miserably in his attempts.

if he sticked to his regular writing style, which is dry and informative, with its breadth of information, buildings would have been a great book for those who want to know more about ’70s new york music scene.  but he simply had to go third-rate tom wolfe wannabe on us and it literally funked up the book for me…

which brings me to my second (and subjective) criticism of the book– its content.  no matter how well mr. hermes could have written buildings, this criticism would have stood.

i’ll repeat myself: the music that came out of new york, with a few minor exceptions, was pure, unadulterated shit…  and that shitty music coming out of new york really changed music forever (for worse)…

the book consists of five chapters, one for each year it is reporting on.  and each chapter alternates constantly between six major musical styles: rock, jazz, early hip-hop, new york salsa, its evil offspring disco and avant garde music.   he worships each style and it is all flattery– there is no criticism here.

avant garde music– i don’t get it.  call me stupid, ignorant, whatever, but i don’t think there is anything to get.  unless you dissect it with someone who “knows” or you read a monographs on what you’re listening to.  it is finnegan’s wake without the genius.  at least, even though finnegan’s wake is next to impossible to read cover to cover, if you shuffle through it randomly, you’ll find sentences (and sometimes paragraphs) of sheer genius.  what i feel about avant garde music, on the other hand, is similar to what i feel about conceptual and performance art.

just like conceptual and performance art, if you find the right guide you’ll find moments in avant garde music to make you exclaim “ah!”, but that is about it.  it is just a scam like its “art” counterpart– it makes every pseudo-intellectual cream his pants because they’ve been told they should cream their pants.  it is “good” because it is weird and is hard to understand.  it is “genius” because it requires learning a backstory to make sense of.

i once asked a composer friend, who is also a renowned professor of music, what he made of avant garde music, which he taught to his students.  he simply said “i only listen to it because i’m expected to listen, know and write about it.  but i never listen to it because i want to listen to it”.  enough said…

nicholas payton recently wrote “jazz died in 1959”.  i fully concur.  what is left is “post-modern new orleans music” as he calls it. i love jazz.   and i respect the musicianship of them modern guys, from chick corea to herbie hancock, but i simply don’t like their music.  i find it overproduced and lacking soul.  preach me all you want on mahavishnu orchestra, weather report, yellowjackets, chuck mangione, whatever– it is all overproduced soulless musical calisthenics.

give me ellington, give me gardner, give me miles, monk and coltrane in the 50s, give me django, give me bix, give me gillespie, give me the bird, give me goodman, i’m in heaven…   give me anything modern, ie. after a love supreme, for five minutes, and i’ll confess to the kennedy assassination.

hermes canonizes all the ’70s jazz, with its overproduced fusion nightmare with jazz flutes.  he has a few nice anecdotes about miles and monk, two of my heroes, but that is about it.  that 70s fusion will not stand the test of time and was terrible, terrible music.  i don’t want to hear it, i don’t want to read about it.

early hip-hop– i was happy to read about it.    kool herc and his clan– those were some of the best parts of the book for me.  but then hermes ruins it all by coming out with his boy crush on jay-z and ruins it all up…  cool hip-hop died with eazy muthafa e…

don’t even get me started on the new york salsa.  i like brazilian music, i like spanish music, i like cuban music, i like west african music.  but i hate new york salsa with its shrill trebles and beat-box rhythms.  it is an abomination.  furthermore, it begat disco.  case closed, fire up the ole sparky, read new york salsa its death sentence and get it over with.

disco is the worst thing that happened to music.  started mostly in NYC, thanks to homegrown salsa, and ruined the entire 70s and the 80s, leading up to techno and other assorted crap.  before disco music was a social force.  in the heydays of disco and its resurrection in electronic dance music, the force diminished.  disco and electronic dance music begat yuppies.  disco and electronic music cut the brains of the youth in half…  and mr. hermes glorifies disco.  i’m not even sure if a more detailed statement against disco is necessary here.  res ipsa loquitur…

that brings us to what i know best– rock music…  70s rock, in new york city, was shit with a few minor exceptions.  good rock was coming out of elsewhere, not new york city.  granted, there is television with marquee moon, one of my favorite albums from the 70s.  there is also talking heads’ ’77.  two albums mr. hermes raves about, and rightfully so.  i occasionally play ’77 at my parties and many people who heard it for the first time think it is a new band with a new album.  it is that timeless.  ditto on marquee moon– verlaine was a genius…

hermes also raves about springsteen and born to run, again rightfully so.  and of course dylan’s divorce masterpiece blood on the tracks.  two albums i can’t live without.

but these are exceptions.  good rock was not coming out of new york city in the 70s.  it was coming out of UK, it was coming out of elsewhere in the US.  bowie, clash, sabbath, costello, gang of four, buzzcocks, zappa, purple, floyd, the list is endless, leading up to joy division and then taking a very different turn.

suicide was decent but punk was really coming out of merry ole england, not CBGB.  CBGB is where it landed.  X was the first great american punk band and they came out in 1980.

hermes has a boy crush on them, but spare me the ramones.  they were nothing but a glorified party band.  like cowboy mouth (ironically also the name of the sam shephard play he performed with patti smith) in the 90s. a precursor to the hairbands of the ’80s.   just entertainment.  just a few opportunist boys who saw room for themselves in the CBGB scene.  they won’t stand the test of time.  that’s why they’re a frat-party staple now.

lou reed– what about lou reed?  his post velvet underground work is shit at best.  a few good songs, rest is worthless.  and this is coming from a velvet underground fan…

television, talking heads, springsteen and maybe some suicide– these were pretty much the only keepers that came out of the NYC rock scene of the ’70s…

which brings us to patti smith– i really tried to like her.  as i am writing this, i am listening to horses one last time to find some redeeming words.  but the words won’t come…

patti smith was (and still is) an opportunistic scenester.  hermes has a big crush on her.  like most rock critiques have.  the male of the species has a crush because she was the quintessential female rock star– easy wet dream material for any horny rock loving boy of the 70s.  women critiques loved her because she was the one feminist voice of 70s rock.

but her music was (and still is) shit.  patti smith is nothing but a glorified cover artist.  there, i said it.

she tried to break into the scene as the female reincarnation of jim morrison. she even tells tales of crying over jim morrison’s grave.  granted, her poetry was as bad as morrison’s, but ole jim had the very musical the doors.  patti did not.  jim was a true rock star, patti was a scenester channeling a rock star.  if patti was able to find herself a the doors, she may have pulled something off.  and she tried with verlaine, among others.  but she failed.

even her first major hit was a cover of gloria, a song jim morrison made his own.  and her best song was “because the night”, actually written by springsteen…

hermes even drops a shameful jewel when he is writing about patti smith’s final set in CBGB, where most of the songs are actually covers,  “[she played] the Who’s “My Generation,” which has been part of her repetoire for so long, she’s really a co-owner of it”.  “she’s really a co-owner of it”– my ass.  hendrix is a co-owner of all along the watchtower, otis redding is a co-owner of satisfaction, van (not jim) morrison is a co-owner of gloria, and talking heads is a co-owner of take me to the river.  dylan, jagger/ richards, and reverend al green wouldn’t object.  but i would like to hear what pete townshend would say to patti smith co-owning my generation.  yeah, right…

patti smith is the ultimate opportunistic scenester– starting off with bad poetry and worse acting, she found her niche as a pseudo-feminist jim morrison– without the balls (and i am not saying this in a sexist way)…  her music had no balls.  it was just the right music for the right opportunistic time.

she was a party girl who saw an opportunity and took it.   like nico before her, but with stronger constitution and better con skills.  joan baez would probably be a better analogy though…  same shit, different decade…

she became a drooling icon of horny boys (and hornier male critiques) and a role model of feminist rocknrolla girls.  all part of the master plan for the production “patti smith”.  she is still milking it like the elder feminist rock star– her recent album trampin’ broke out her new persona– as the elder but more sensitive feminist rock star.  the con never ends.  and she just had to include gloria again in the deluxe CD set– just to play it safe…

the male critiques who creamed their pants in the 70s simply by staring at the record sleeve of horses for five minutes ate trampin’ up and the female critiques beatified her as the joan of arc…  but, if you take a step back, ignore all the rave reviews and actually listen to her oeuvre, it is just shit– some barely talented musician playing to the choir…

and this brings me to my conclusion and the best tidbit i got out of buildings:  apparently johnny rotten of the sex pistols said about patti smith and her performance “see the hippie shaking tambourines: ‘Horses, Horses’. Horseshit”.

“horses, horses, horseshit”– it sums up patti smith in three simple words– i can’t agree more…

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