Thursday, September 28, 2006

QuOte Of tHE Day

"There are four enemies of human rights: oil, gas, the war on terror and geopolitical considerations."
Yevgeny Zhovtis

This bit is nice and fine. Zhovtis, however, is qutoed by the NY Times continuing “And we have all four.” He's from Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, an organization that has received financing from the American Embassy and the National Endowment for Democracy. The news today talks about how corrupt the Kazakh Government is, how important the country is strategically, and the oil and gas reserves. Now, I am not a conspiracy fan at all, but I wouldn't be suprised in case of a soft change in government of Kazakhstan (for the emancipation of the Kazakh people and to support their democratic rights of course).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?


how can we stand up for freedom of speech (and turn it into a legitimate issue in the Turkish public domain) in any other context than the EU integration?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The New York Times

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

"WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."

Iran Who? Venezuela Takes the Lead in a Battle of Anti-U.S. Sound Bites

Chavez on Chomsky and Bush surpasses Ahmedinejad on Bush and Security Council. NY Times takes the opportunity to quote Bolton on the importance of freedom of speech. :)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Bernard Williams!

"What does it mean to live well?"

Think about it... Think of what it meant, what it will mean, and in which different ways to what kind of persons.

I think it is a useful intellectual exercise, and hence, thanks to Bernard Willams.

Wiki sums up a few things I like about him in an intro paragraph,

"Williams became known internationally for his attempt to return the study of moral philosophy to its foundations: to history and culture, politics and psychology, and, in particular, to the Greeks. Described as an "analytic philosopher with the soul of a humanist," he saw himself as a synthesist, drawing together ideas from fields that seemed increasingly unable to communicate with one another. He rejected scientific and evolutionary reductionism, once calling reductionists "the ones I really do dislike" because they are morally unimaginative, he said. For Williams, complexity was beautiful, meaningful, and irreducible.

He became known as a great supporter of women in academia, seeing in women the possibility of that synthesis of reason and emotion that he felt eluded analytic philosophy. The American philosopher Martha Nussbaum said Williams was "as close to being a feminist as a powerful man of his generation could be."
In the 1970s, he chaired the Committee on Obscenity and Film Censorship, which reported in 1979 that: "Given the amount of explicit sexual material in circulation and the allegations often made about its effects, it is striking that one can find case after case of sex crimes and murder without any hint at all that pornography was present in the background."
The Committee's report was influenced by the liberal thinking of John Stuart Mill, a philosopher greatly admired by Williams, who used Mill's principle of liberty to develop what Williams called the "harm condition," whereby "no conduct should be suppressed by law unless it can be shown to harm someone." Williams concluded that pornography could not be shown to be harmful and that "the role of pornography in influencing society is not very important ... to think anything else is to get the problem of pornography out of proportion with the many other problems that face our society today".
The committee reported that, so long as children were protected from seeing it, adults should be free to read and watch pornography as they saw fit. Margaret Thatcher's first administration put an end to the liberal agenda on sex, and nearly put an end to Williams' political career too; he was not asked to chair another public committee for almost 15 years.

ps. just noted it is also
H. G. Wells' birthday today. Happy birthday and a toast to him too...

4th Traditional International Day of Peace ;)

Wiki says:

"After a campaign by Jeremy Gilley and the Peace One Day organisation, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 55/282 on September 7, 2001, which decided that, starting in 2002, the International Day of Peace would be celebrated on September 21 each year, and that it would become a ceasefire day."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

the burden of the south

One of my favourite books of all times is "The First Century after Beatrice" by Amin Maalouf.
I have started reading Maalouf's books with Semekand and have always been impressed with the well-researched, perfectly-written historically based books of him. But in this novel, he writes about the future (the narrator is a scientist, a lover, and a father in the last century before and the first century after his daughter is born) and he nicely places politics of cloning and gender relations in a context of both the the global (North-South) and individual (embedded in a family).
Looking at this photo, I wanted to re-read the book, and hence thought I should share...

Monday, September 18, 2006

moving a few streets up...

Although I truly think that I need to be closer to the centre of Amsterdam (so as to learn the city and not to get lost anymore), I will be moving just a few streets up from where I live now...

The map above shows how close they are: The green square is where I live now, the red polygon is the VU (my uni), and the blue circle will be my new place.

The good side (thinking only geographically) is that I will be closer to the centre, even closer to my office, and in a much nicer and quiter neighbourhood:
The Olympic Village is almost like an island in the outskirts of Amsterdam.
(Thanks to Google Earth, we can demonstrate this with the satellite image above.)

The Olympic Village is around the Olympic Stadium, built for 1928 Summer Olympics by Jan Wils of the De Stijl movement and won the gold medal for architecture at the Olympic art competition. However I am not really sure if he built the Olympic village around the stadium as well. Here are some photos of my new street...

It is extremely quiet, and the names of the streets are selected from among Greek heroes, myths, gods and goddesses, which gives it an extra romantic touch... some examples are: Achilles, Agamemnon, Hercules, Amazonnen streets (the latter being the one I will move to, and it is pure coincidence that the Amazones have been my favourite myth when I was a child!).

The downside is (again thinking only geographically) that I will still not be close to the city centre. The second map demonstrates how far away I will be living from the old city, which is not a real problem if you are biking, and I will be. But it will definitely slow down my cumbersome learning process of the Amsterdam map...

Friday, September 15, 2006

a poem I once loved...

Part One: Life


I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there ’s a pair of us—don’t tell!
They ’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Emily Dickinson 1924

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Amsterdam Centraal

Another small tour I made last week was around Amsterdam Centraal (Central Station). The Mystery Tour was about the oldest buildings of Amsterdam, how the city developed and about certain things that you can see but can never make sense of. It took us to Dam and Nieuwmarkt, the Red Light District and Oude Kerk.
I do like the Central Station building unlike most Amsterdamers. Not because it is practical, but because it is elaborate. But I also know how frustrating it is to have a huge building to be constructed between a city and its sea... Pity. This reminds me of a discussion we had in Istanbul with Umit: Were the wonders of today, such as the Hagia Sophia for instance, monsters of the times they were built in? I would think so. I am sure a number of things that will not be likeable to my generation will be just fine for the next. But still...

I could find no pictures or photos of Amsterdam without the Centraal Station. Interesting, isn't it? But instead, I found a relatively older and romanticised version of the building. There is a fine archive of old photos from the city archive here.

When I think of Istanbul, the city I identify with, I can think of a few smells, and a colour to represent it despite its diversity. The same goes for Niigata (at least the part in which I have lived for two years) and Ankara (where I was -unfortunately- born)... Even Tokyo (more colours and a peculiar smell). But Amsterdam so far doesn't have a distinctive smell or a colour that I can code it into. Maybe I just haven't spent enough time on its diversity yet... Or maybe it is because I do not want to caricaturise the city I live in. Amsterdam is exploited to the fullest extent on its peculiarities. I really would not like to take these on their face value, without any understanding of them at all. As for the other cities, I know for sure that I am being more or less "just" in my perception of them (except for Tokyo maybe...).

But the veil on Amsterdam is so colourful that it takes time to uncover. It is like a veil on which there are very strong colours reflected from beneath, so much so that it effectively conceals the texture of the city from negligent eyes. One simply doesn't want to unveil, as it is colourful, exciting, and very distinct to any unaccustomed viewer. I find that mystery appealing -ok, sexy-. Yes, there is a thick haze that one has to go through to pursue this city. This is similar to Istanbul in a way: Istanbul hides herself among garbage and flowers, noise and crowd, between diverse absolutes in different parts of the city and of course she hides behind her sheer size, so it is extremely difficult to recognise her beauty and elegance. But she always gives you remarkable, yet half-corrupted hints of her once obvious grandeur, while Amsterdam almost normalises its little details by being absolutely abnormal in general. It makes you realise that there is more to it all the time, but very cruelly makes those unreachable too...

hmmm... re-reading what I wrote makes me wonder if I am about to fall in love with it. (and despite my aversion of the term "falling" in the context of love, for some cities I think it is unavoidable to accept and use it. Amsterdam will never love me back, but maybe, just maybe it might reveal some secrets in the not-so-near future...)

Monday, September 04, 2006

This is not a posting -just pixels!

Let me start, as usual, by claiming no understanding of art whatsoever...
"Who can today?" one wants to ask...

A visit to CoBrA Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen-Brussels-Amsterdam) with Erkut and Eylem has been useful for a number of reasons:
1. I realised a few other reasons for not being able to like modern art (appreciation is a different matter):

- First of all, the art work is neither old enough nor new enough. It's almost old-fashioned.

- Second of all, I might appreciate but definitely not like the following:

- not to aim at perfection

- not to aim at clarity (as my ex-hero Dawkins suggests, "clarity would expose one's lack of content")

- to safeguard oneself from any criticism (through abstraction or relativism)

- hence in a circular fashion, to make artwork into something very common, so much so that the mere criterion remains as "the name of the artist", which logically boils down to marketing!!!

- Finally, I understand that the emancipation of artistic expression from whatever might be the fashionable/mainstream by then, must be valuable to the artist. Yet, I am not sure why these responsive currents of art should be treated differently than adolescent teenagers. If what we revolt against determines our work, what does it say about us? In particular the change from religious themes -which have historically been very contraversial and revolutionary in masterful hands and brains- to pagan themes in the CoBrA art made me think that it absolutely ignored how monotheistic religions were based on pagan traditions.

2. I also realised that there is a lot to appreciate and even enjoy re certain styles or schools. I have enjoyed the summer exhibition Play! The Art of the Game (t/m 24.09.2006).

It was very interactive, which made it fun. We spent half an hour playing flux table tennis (see the pic) and I spent at least a quarter talking back to a face-reflected pillow that was telling me about murder and blood. All nice and fun...

But the better part was the deconstruction of our childhood games. How chess made us normalise war and competition, and how monopoly made us applaud ruthless global corporatism etc.

The concept of the exhibition is "the marked parallels between the areas of art and play. Both are separate from everyday working life, are self-regulating, irrational and aimed at pleasure."

Well, it didn't work exactly like that with me, but I don't think anyone would mind... ;)