Saturday, December 29, 2007


Bugün otoyolda sol şeritte gidiyoruz, tabii ki lambalar yanmıyor, yol zifiri karanlık. Yine aynı şey geldi aklıma - şoförü içip içip otoyola ters yönden giren, farları bile yanmayan kamyonla çarpışıp ölen gazeteciler. Kamyonu çarpana kadar görmemişlerdir bile belki. Kader, dedim kendi kendime, herhangi birinin karşısına çıkabilirdi o kamyon. O kadar tesadüfi ki her şey, pamuk ipliğine bağlı.

Ama sonra anladım ki, o kamyonla kimin karşılaşacağı kader de, o kamyonun şoförünün içmesi, zifiri karanlık yola ters yönden girmesi kader değil. Buralarda kader denen bir çok şeyin bir sorumlusu var, insanların hayatı boşu boşuna sönüyor, engellenebilecek şeyler yüzünden. Bu anlamsızlığa, bu haksızlığa dayanmak mümkün olmadığı için, biraz rahatlayabilmek, nefes alabilmek için kadere atıyoruz sorumluluğu. Karşımızda sorumluluğu alacak bir muhatap bulamadığımız, bulamayacağımız için. Pek çok şeyin sorumlusunun kader olduğu yerlerde hayat ucuzluyor.
Books and People

I started reading Elif Şafak's Siyah Süt. The book didn't seem very interesting at first, it's about post-partum depression, what's that got to do with me? When I read further, though, I realized it's not only for women who just had a baby or planning to have one - it has much more to it.

Then I realized people we meet are just like books. Maybe we are attracted to the cover or something we heard about them, but then once we start reading them, we may realize they are not what they seemed like, what we expected - the first pages are complicated, they are not that interesting, they don't draw us in. Maybe we decide they are not for us. We put them away.

Just like books, people we put out of sight can't do much to convince us to pick them up again, until we are ready, until we make up our minds for it. But then, people are capable of doing one thing that books aren't able to: They change, they move on. We can't resume reading them from where we left off.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A tragic assassination

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is likely to be a serious setback to democratization and secularization efforts in Pakistan. Bhutto's return to Pakistan was reportedly supported by the U.S. to conduce President Pervez Musharraf into a more civilian, legitimate rule and a power-sharing arrangement. Bhutto's party was likely to come out first in the upcoming elections in January. It is not clear whether these elections will still be held.

Many think radical Islamists are to blame. Al Qaeda has already assumed responsibility. The country has been fighting the Islamist militants in Waziristan, the northwest area bordering Afghanistan. During the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Taliban and Al Qaeda militants have reportedly crossed the border into Pakistan, starting an insurgency in the tribal area. The conflict in the region has escalated following the Lal Masjid siege in July.

Radical Islamist groups seem to have much to gain from the assassination: Not only would such an attack eliminate a secularist politician with a strong backing, but it would also put President Musharraf in a difficult position. Musharraf is already much disliked by radical Islamists for supporting the U.S. in the war against terror. Now he is also accused by Bhutto supporters for not doing enough to ensure her security. He will have difficulty controlling the resulting instability.

Al Qaeda, however, is not the only suspect. When Bhutto's bus and supporters were attacked in Karachi upon her return in October, Bhutto herself pointed to radical Islamist intelligence officials and politicians as suspects. Members of Pakistani intelligence agencies have long been suspected to frequent the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, known for its radical agenda and teachings, and home to the recent bloody siege.

One can draw parallels between Turkey and Pakistan, but there are also differences. Both countries have immature democracies influenced by the military, although the problem is more acute in Pakistan. In both cases, the state has rogue, criminal elements within. Both countries face continuous conflict between secularists and Islamists. The insurgencies have different justifications (ethnical in Turkey and religious in Pakistan), and although the instability in neighbouring countries contribute to them, the insurgencies actually reflect deeper divides within these countries.

American policies in Afghanistan and the Middle East are part of the reason of the clashes in the region today. Even Bhutto herself is said to initially view Taliban in a positive light, hoping that they will bring stability to Afghanistan.

The assassination is tragic for Pakistan and on a personal level. There is something naive, idealistic about Bhutto's decision to return to Pakistan. She could have well stayed in Dubai with her family, enjoying the riches she is claimed to have gained from corruption. Although her father and brothers were killed -maybe because of that- she returned. Maybe she liked the love and attention she received from her supporters, she liked her heroine status. Maybe she genuinely believed that she could make a difference, that it was her calling. In any case, I really respect and admire her decision to return under such risky circumstances, and it saddens me to see the story end like this, the evil triumph. (I started to sound like Bush but this is how I feel!)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"time can do so much - are you still mine?" - Unchained Melody

"of course as you're looking in the rear mirror life goes on." - Levent Abi, my driving instructor, reminding me to check the road again

The food arrived. Bose made a valiant effort to retract and start over:
"Just found a new cook myself," he said. "That Sheru kicked the bucket after thirty years of service. The new one is untrained, but he came cheap because of that. I got out the recipe books and read them aloud as he copied it all down in Bengali. 'Look,' I told him, 'keep it basic, nothing fancy. Just learn a brown sauce and a white sauce-shove the bloody white sauce on the fish and shove the bloody brown sauce on the mutton."
But he couldn't manage to keep this up.
He now pleaded directly with the judge: "We're friends, aren't we?"
"Aren't we? Aren't we friends?"
"Time passes, things change," said the judge, feeling claustrophobia and emberrassment.
"But what is in the past remains unchanged, doesn't it?"
"I think it does change. The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind, Bose." The Inheritance of Loss, page 207, 208


They are preparing a new room for the antique watches and clocks in the British Museum, and they put them in a temporary room until then. I got to see them last weekend, and I wondered, once again, how people came up with the concept of time, and how to measure it. Once I read somewhere that time is the fourth dimension, but I didn't quite get it. Now I grasp it better - let's say we have a room, with its length, width, depth. But the room is not the same from one second to the next. People enter, leave, relocate objects. The room changes, it moves away from the origin. We have frames following one another, each different from one another, like in a movie.

People must have noticed the change, the movement, and they called it time. The movement of stars, planets, earth, changing of coordinates, not being able to find something where you left it, finding something else. One of the clocks had a mechanism that portrayed exactly that - a small ball rolled along a curvy belt, and when it reached the end of it, it pulled a spring that pulled the wheels and turned them ever so slightly - then the plate with the belt slanted backwards and the ball started rolling again. Apparently it took 30 seconds for the ball to get from one end to the other.

We say it takes a certain time to go a certain distance. The opposite might be true, too - when time passes, people and objects move. We might as well assume that as time goes by, the further away from the origin we can expect to find things.

This doesn't say anything definitive about objects' positions relative to each other, though. The passage of time doesn't necessarily mean we'll travel further and further away. The opposite may also be the case. That only time can tell.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

deli kızın türküsü

yağmur yağar akasyalar ıslanır
ben yağmura deli buluta deli
bir büyük oyun bu yaşamak dediğin
beni ya sevmeli ya öldürmeli

yitirmeli ne varsa
başlamalı yeniden

bu Allahsız bu yağmur
işlemez karanlıkta
garipliğine yan
yan yürek yan
gitti giden gitti giden

yitirmeli ne varsa
başlamalı yeniden

sana büyük caddelerin birinde rastlasam
elimi uzatsam tutsam götürsem
gözlerine baksam gözlerine
konuşmasak ah anlasan
elimi uzatsam tutamasam
olanca sevgimi yalnızlığımı
düşünsem hayır hayır düşünmesem

senin hiç hiç hiç haberin olmasa

Gülten Akın

Monday, December 17, 2007

Jack Nicholson in Men's Journal January 2008 issue: the best interview I've ever read. He has solved it all. Read the whole interview, I don't want to spoil it for you by pulling quotes out of context, below is just a selection of good stuff.

"I don't know if you earn good fortune, but I think I've been pretty healthy about exploiting it when I had it, not kicking myself in the ass over it. I don't feel guilty because I'm fortunate. That's a waste."

"Don't waste hate on anything you don't love. This particular lady once told me, 'I never fight with anybody I don't love.' And you can't, anyway."

"Now this is a tough truth, but it's a truth: The men climbed on and over them to live. It's scary. I can't conceive it. But this is a fact. No matter what you may think about yourself, you're this."

"The real fear I have to overcome, actually, is the fear of the unknown. We're very uncomfortable with the unknown, and that's why we tend to cling to the status quo, to structure, to relationships - to just cling. You start off today and every day by trying to overcome fear with clarity. If you have clarity, it'll give you a position of power, the ability to act on your best instincts. I once put it this way in a comedy film: Where there's clarity, there is no choice. Where there's choice, there's misery."

"To be celebrated is uncomfortable, for men in particular. Because you don't have the choice of not being celebrated."

"For years I carried in my wallet this clipping from the Newark Star-Ledger that my mother gave me as a kid. It was the Comic Dictionary definition of a smart aleck: 'A smart aleck is the person who doesn't know that it's what he learns after he knows it all that counts.'... I carried that forever as a cautionary reminder, because I had to learn how to talk less forcefully, not hurl everything I had at somebody and feel like I had to win every argument. The truth is, I'm against nobody. My newest motto is: Everything in addition to; nothing against."

"But life - it'll make you suspicious of love, there's no doubt about that."

"We know the woman's actual cycle of infatuation is nine months; this is not psychological but in her genetic makeup. And your corresponding cycle, or sexual cycle, whatever you want to call it, is 20 minutes? An hour? We have more in common with a male dog than we do with a woman in this department."

"It's a false concept, the escape: 'I'm going to New York. I'm going to leave and go away from the pain.' This does not take anybody out of the world. We know this in many other areas of loss. Why do we think the game of geographic relocation could work here? I arrived at this on a personal level, because I always thought I could do without it, partnerships, in any situation. 'Hey, you're not happy with this scenario - okay, I've done the best I could. Let's see what happens. I'll just - go away.' So it was more an admonition of myself, because you get comfortable with the ways you successfully solve problems, and sometimes that's not the best thing."

"It's only if you don't examine it and allow it to nourish your perceptions that you're cooked. My secretary's a kind of Yiddish mama, and I love her definition of a relationship: 'If it's not half the effort and twice the fun, it's not good."

"Look, I have a lot of late eureka experiences these days. I'm driving along on Mulholland on a particular day, the kind about which my friend Harry Gittes says, 'The Lord's playing L.A. today.' And I'm looking at this beautiful day, thinking, I cannot imagine anything better than this, period. People say, 'Paradise, you're living in it.' But it had never sunk in in that eureka way that not only made me happy, but my tits got hard and my hair stood on end. I thought, Goddammit, you've experienced something here. But one second later I thought, Hey, what about Iraq? That's what I mean by the skill of happiness. It didn't protect me from Iraq. I wasn't able to jump right back into that euphoria. The increment had happened. So it's a grace to be able to modulate that. That's the best thing I have say about happy."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

"the meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances;
if there's any reaction, both are transformed." - Carl Gustav Jung


A good friend of mine went to a training session in the gym she just subscribed to. As she was telling me everything they made her do, she mentioned something she learned. Apparently our body prefers to use the muscles that are the strongest and avoids using the weak ones, because it's more difficult. If an exercise requires that we use the weak muscles, we slightly change it to be able to use the strong ones again.

This made me wonder if it's the same way with the brain. We must be using the same parts of our brains all the time, and avoid using the other parts. We think in familiar ways, we recycle familiar opinions, listen to familiar songs, do familiar things. But when something new, unfamiliar arises, we get confused. The night before, when I asked another friend what she would change if she could only change one thing, she said she would "try to make people think in less extreme ways."

Going back to the original story, when I asked about the brain, "I think it's lazy to say it's the way you are," my friend said. She heard somewhere that our brain builds new links when we start thinking about different things, in different ways.

Part of my confusion, fear stems from laziness, but it's not only me. We try to keep new, unfamiliar things at bay, we put on our poker faces and wait for people to adjust to us. My way or highway.

Any kind of relationship is only meaningful if both sides are willing to adjust. This is what I think, if it matters at all...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


you know that split second the camera lens takes to refocus and the zzzzzz sound it makes. a blurry split second, the lens quickly moves back and forth, then everything is sharp again.

I was right at the beginning, I need my anchor, my voice before everything else.

when my dad was teaching me how to drive, I would go on the highway slowly, ever so slowly shifting left. hoping the cars would slow down and give me the way. they never did, they never cared, they just kept whizzing by. my dad kept telling me to just speed up. I hoped some drivers would be courteous.

every day I'm learning more about people.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


I feel like a computer and somebody just spilled a glass of water on me. As the water is seeping through my compartments, the data I've stored, the opinions I've formed, my beliefs are getting blurry, I'm getting confused. I'm trying to refocus, gather my thoughts - not even for my own sake, but only because nobody wants a dysfunctional computer - not even when they broke it themselves.

Now apparently they are making computers more resistant to accidents like this, they don't get messed up with a little water. Technology is evolving with experience. Unfortunately I'm older-generation, but at least I know by now that this is not a good state to be in.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

From the Times Style supplement, Dec. 2, 2007:

Age of innocence?

Shane Watson

Babies, according to new research, can tell good people from bad at the tender age of six months. In tests, the babies unanimously preferred a “positive” doll over both a “negative” or “neutral” doll. In other words, before we can speak, we can distinguish the people who have our best interests at heart. This is pretty amazing when you think about it: not that babies are programmed from birth, but that we all start out with a foolproof people-radar that is then systematically dismantled.

It starts with your parents making you play with their friends’ dysfunctional children. That’s when you learn that you must get on with everyone, even the ones who hit you over the head continuously, for the sake of avoiding awkwardness. The same way you have to put up with your grandparents’ lethal driving and the au pair taking you to the park with her friend and then abandoning you while they smoke. You are too young to point out that these people are not acting in your best interests. But you are learning that in the grown-up world nobody listens to their instincts because they have other more pressing concerns (saving time, saving face, getting through).

Then there’s school. You are a sneak if you tell anyone that the girl in your class is torturing you at break. You are dead if you don’t pick the pretty but unsporty girls first for the rounders team. You must quickly bury your instinctive grasp of who is decent and who is not because the only issue is fitting in.

This distorted perspective becomes normal and, once you hit puberty, the thoughtful boys and girls are toast: both sexes are now only interested in destructive types. Your mother, who has spent the past 15 or so years bludgeoning your instincts into a socially acceptable compromise, starts saying, “Can’t you see he’s no good for you?” Too late! Meanwhile, your brother is definitely a negative doll in your life, as is your mother’s shopaholic best friend, your youth-envying aunt and the neighbour who always gets your dad drunk - all natural enemies. But nobody does anything about it; instead everybody blames you for being too “black and white”.

It gets worse, obviously. All around you there are examples of people who are either negative or nimby or both: so-called friends who moan that you are horrible since you got a boyfriend/lost weight, and so-called colleagues who advertise all the great ideas you have missed during meetings. Gradually your “negative influence” radar gets furred up, because it’s hardly ever appropriate to act on it. When accepting a proposal of marriage, yes. When going into business with someone, yes. But, for some reason, you are not able to say, “I will not have dinner with them because I sense they would use me for a float in a tsunami.” You must throw your inner baby out with the bath water, and just get over yourself.

Monday, December 03, 2007

a good definition of friendship

"a look of recognition had passed between them at first sight, but also the assurance that they wouldn't reveal one another's secrets, not even to each other." the Inheritance of Loss, page 118

Sunday, December 02, 2007


The first sign on the road to madness is looking for meaning, deliberateness in things that are completely random. I do that often. For example, have you ever wondered how you would feel if you found out that you were Truman? That everything that happens and everyone who enters your life is part of a composed tale, and you are only a laboratory animal who can't do anything but respond? And if you get really suspicious, you start doing unpredictable things to trick the composers of your story? When I get this feeling, that I'm only a pawn in my own life, I start thinking about the things that I choose purely out of my free will. But when I trace them back, I always hit something that was not my own making. Only to realize actually a decision I made previously led to this random thing. This interaction between the random and the deliberate amazes me.

I used to think I couldn't be Truman, because not enough interesting things are happening in my life. If I were Truman, script writers would surely send me more things to deal with, present me with more dilemmas.

But now it's getting more interesting, and I started seeing recognition in strangers' eyes.

But no, I'm not Truman. It's only that life throws more at me than I thought it did. I only see and take those I'm ready for.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

fast car
You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere

Anyplace is better
Starting from zero got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
But me myself I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
And I got a plan to get us out of here
I been working at the convenience store
Managed to save just a little bit of money
We won't have to drive too far
Just 'cross the border and into the city
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

You see my old man's got a problem
He live with the bottle that's the way it is
He says his body's too old for working
I say his body's too young to look like his
My mama went off and left him
She wanted more from life than he could give
I said somebody's got to take care of him
So I quit school and that's what I did

You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so we can fly away
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way

I remember we were driving - driving in your car
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

You got a fast car
And we go cruising to entertain ourselves
You still ain't got a job
And I work in a market as a checkout girl
I know things will get better
You'll find work and I'll get promoted
We'll move out of the shelter
Buy a big house and live in the suburbs

You got a fast car
And I got a job that pays all our bills
You stay out drinking late at the bar
See more of your friends than you do of your kids
I'd always hoped for better
Thought maybe together you and me would find it
I got no plans I ain't going nowhere
So take your fast car and keep on driving

You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way

(a Tracy Chapman song)