29/11/2011

Adrenalin: Canim Isterse

It gives me utmost pleasure to introduce the first of many music videos by my honourable friends Adrenalin. Canim Isterse (If you feel like it) is the first song to be released off the album. Below I've also posted a selection of clips from their Nirvana-inspired grungy pop rock album produced by EMI this year.


Women and Children first... Then, Anything Goes


There was me thinking it was urban legend again and this image cropped up on a google search I just instigated.


According to friends visiting Istanbul a couple of months ago, the Turkish Football Federation had punished Fenerbahce fans' unsightly, if very fun, pitch invasion in Ukraine last season, by ruling that no-one could attend their games, later amending the rules so that women and children could go instead.


In a game against Aegean side Manisaspor in September, 27 000 tickets were freely distributed to women and children and, er, this brave gentleman pictured. Apparently the atmosphere was a vast improvement, and visiting Manisaspor were even cheered by the crowd.

Booze, Hair and the Treasured Artifacts of Kemalism

"You should drink a little bit of alcohol"

"I should?" I replied - a glass of raki already in my hand as Elif Hanim served a fish platter for us. With intent eyes she continued by way of explanation, "of course - in order to be modern."

Well that justifies it then, I thought sarcastically - though I put on my diplomatic face as the food did look very nice. If the command was not stark enough she then said "I have friends who do five prayers a day - and they still drink. Just don't be deeply Muslim."

Like many Muslims in my age-group and circumstances, I do have the occasional drink - but there is a certain obligatory guilt, spoken or not, that comes with it in lieu of a greater desire for a pure lifestyle (or at least, a desire to desire a pure lifestyle.) To many, it is just part of what is known as the Jihad al-Akbar, or 'Greater Jihad,' fought against worldly desires with the aim of achieving a higher state of serenity within what Nursi might call the 'book of the universe.'

According to this middle-aged Turkish woman however, it was one step away from Islamic Revolution. Inner serenity is all very well, but how is it manifest at the polls? Those yahoos with beards shouting in the streets don't seem very serene. Forget it, what you need is a drink.

The women was obviously a staunch Kemalist, though I was shocked to hear the beliefs uttered in such an blatent manner.

Kemalism is an ideology, or cult, about which I have great misgivings because of just these kinds of corporate and Unitarian understandings of concepts like modernity and religion. For most Kemalist friends, religion is not the be-all-and-end-all of life, and it is as simple as that. But the secular republican and nationalistic elements of Kemalism produce this jadedness by counter-acting one another, as Turkish nationalism is as much defined by professed faith as much as any Central Asian origins.

The resulting belief is that being a little bit Muslim is fine, but not so much that it takes precedence over imbibing the characteristics of the enlightened western culture of the early 20th century. Unfortunately, this includes enlightened western Orientalism.

What was particularly poignant during this alcohol = modernity lecture, was that sitting opposite (and slamming religion at every turn of the conversation), Elif's son was pouring himself another raki through hands long-scarred by the disease that had seen the end of Mustafa Kemal himself: Cirrhosis.

As another friend pitched in rather tactfully support my liberalism in the guise of a compliment to Istanbul, the lady continued to probe me with another concern raised by the fact of my Muslim-ness.

"Don't you marry a woman with a headscarf," she stated blankly. I'm not sure if my Turkish failed me or whether I was giving her a chance to rephrase, I think it was somewhere between this and wishful thinking. "Would I marry a woman with a headscarf?" I asked aloud, "I'm just happy with a woman who is smart and open-minded."

She shot back: "If the hair is closed, the mind is too."

For as many times as people ask me why Europeans hate the Turks, they will never believe the first Orientalists I ever met were from among them.

Image from http://zenfloyd.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html

21/11/2011

Greece, and Why I don't want to teach anymore.

Father forgive me, it has been a whole month since my last blog...
Far from representing a lull in my activities here, the last month has seen a remarkable renaissance in my time here.

I was at my wit's end a month ago. The school dynamic had changed so much and both kids and teachers were zapping my energy. With nothing to do in the evenings for inspiration I could see myself being easily drawn back into the monotone work-in-the-week-Taksim-on-the-weekends cycle so common amongst the foreign drones of Istanbul, but with none of novelty and excitement that the city's party capital offered in the first year. It's time to break out.


Two decisions have changed everything: Firstly, instead of spending breaks at school drinking chay and slamming my head against a black board, I started to invest in scouring craiglist – a fantastic website for finding apartments, roomies – and with enough persistence it transpires, new career opportunities in trade, business, journalism and er,miscellaneous.

My second decision was simply, as soon as possible, to get out of Istanbul to seek the kind of experience that inspired my Zaman article, written a few months ago with the aid of a long-time friend and a couple of cool dude Syrian activists.

The first decision has made me a busy fellow indeed. Writing articles for magazines here and there, going to interviews for jobs that would have had me travel from to Malaysia and back, and currently has me in the runnings for a sweet editing job for Today's Zaman. All this after failed attempts – but attempts none-the-less – with Hurriyet and a whole host of other newspapers. Needless to say, if there is a message that any foreigner in Istanbul can take from my rambling posts from this day forward it is that our addiction to Istanbul, the drug on which we all get hooked, needn't be funded by walking into rooms full of screaming children to explain the continuous tense. (Continuous being the keyword here, because it feels like it is going on FOREVER)

Simply go to the jobs page and scour every day those positions not catagorised a“egitim/ogretmenlik” (education/teaching) and reply to them and blag it from there. If you can get paid to walk into a room and talk your own language for 40 minutes at a time who knows what you can do if you actually put effort into it (this is the zeal of convert talking – repent and accept craigslist as your personal saviour).

My next decision took me to a place called Greece, apparently not far from here. By the golden bosoms of Athena, I have seen another world. I went to Salonika (Thessaloniki) with the expectation of witnessing the downfall of a government and anger on streets. Admittedly, by the time I left, Greece indeed had no government and a load of Socialist were outside being all angry, but from up-close this was no way as interesting as the left-wing press made out. What was interesting to me was far more personal – it was the first time I had gone to a country knowing little of the language and culture and with no particular job to do for a long time, and it increased my observational lens regarding Turkey upon return.

Istanbul has an English course centre on every street corner, people are paid to hand out leaflets for the many competing derhanes and meanwhile, the government is trying everything to increase language skills in the country. But this will take a long time to reach the levels of every surrounding country from Greece to Syria – a significant change has to happen in the education sector, and in society as a whole, if learning is to become a worthwhile endeavor for the population at large. Modern pedagogical techniques are a very recent development in Turkey, and private schools have lead the way – but they are constantly undermined by parent involvement, lack of disipline and over-emphasis on technology. Greece is another story. The average Greek's English skills range from average to near-perfect, young and old – and with a notable absence of language schools in the process.

I pray the best for Turkish teaching, but for now we have to part ways. I'm quite tired of being given money without contributing anything to kids paying top-dollar to complain all day that we are not playing games or watching films. Time to move on. Time for redemption.

01/11/2011

Film Review: Sevmek Zamani (Time for Love)


The music to the montage from Metin Erksan's 1965 masterpiece, Sevmek Zamani, is provided by grungy mop-heads Duman. I think well put together, and I hope you agree.