Filed under: event, the city | Tags: gezi events, istanbul, istanbul 2020, olympics, opposition, resistance
On May 31 2013, I was watching the break of events in Taksim on the Internet. A Swedish TV Channel was broadcasting live from the Taksim Square, and Turkish TV Channels were not even showing the notorious penguins: a beauty contest on one of them, two serials representing the police as loveable patriots, and some other nonsense. Unable to predict what lied ahead, I almost wrote an open letter to the members of the International Olympic Committee, urging them not to vote in favor of the Istanbul 2020 bid. I was going to tell the committee how the people of Istanbul were forcefully denied a say about the city they live in. I was also going to ask them if they would let such government undertake organizing the Olympics, an event committed spreading sportsmanship and peace despite its problematic components like its Eurocentric conception of humankind, and racist flag. I must have forgotten what the Olympics actually are.
I never wrote the letter. I took a bus to Bodrum the morning after, and started working in a remote holiday resort on the following day. My friends clashed with the police throughout the month of June, giving a strong message to the government, and the international audience. I am not sure if any of them got the message correctly, but this is not our topic.
What really makes me think is actually personal. When did I become this person? When did I grow apart from the child who watched every Olympics with tears in his eyes? For me, the Olympics used to be the celebration of humanity. I still remember how my heart almost exploded when the arrow touched and lit the torch in Barcelona 1992. I don’t know how many times I watched the opening ceremony of Beijing 2008, and of course, a torch crown on fire, rising from underwater in Sydney 2000 is never to be forgotten. The tree metaphor of Athens 2004 was neat, and the torch of Atlanta 1996 is still the coolest thing I have seen in the Deep South.
You see; it is always the spectacle I fall, or fell, for. That’s probably why London 2012 was the only games I missed so far, mostly because of its horrendous opening ceremony. But wait… there are also those readings I did about urbanization, and gentrification, and urban displacement, and neoliberalism, and all the other evil you can encounter. Is this growing up? Is this the real enlightenment? Is this “luck?” I don’t know. The spectacle just lost its edge for me. And I couldn’t care less about the Olympics in Istanbul or anywhere else. But I am glad it didn’t hit Istanbul last night.
I thought of the letter I wanted to write as a form of opposition to the government, and later a form of resistance. Now, I think that letter, though never written, was being a part of a larger movement, and worldview. The government supporters or pro-Olympics circles are blaming people like me for being merely political. Yes, it is political, but fairly larger than AKP and its success narratives.
The Olympics are nothing but public masturbation of power holders; they are flashy masks of profitable gentrification projects in the host cities; they are new ways of inscribing (neo)colonial points of view to the host communities; they are the twin brother of what was on Turkish TV on the eve of the Gezi uprising and violent government crackdown. If you still believe the Olympics spread sportsmanship and peace, please explain the rising racism in the Premiere League, the ghost town aka the Olympic village in Beijing, which is one of the most crowded cities in one of the most crowded nations in the world, the situation in front of the banks in Athens, the wars Australia participated in the last 13 years, or maybe just tell me where Atlanta is. Not wanting the Olympics in Istanbul is not, and never was, only a blind opposition to the Turkish government. It is opposing a way of life, which is largely driven by a colorful spectacle. But just like the flag itself, the spectacle is ugly, and it belongs to an old world.
Filed under: college, event, web | Tags: academics, blogging, ML 2.o?, multilingualism, symposium, The University of Arizona
Do you have too many blogs?
When I started blogging, my first entry was about the very nature of this action. What was I personally expecting from blogging, and more than that, what was blogosphere waiting from me? These were my central questions. I tried to set myself free of limitations, because blogging was itself being limitless, or less limitless than usual. I only wrote about things I wanted, with no time limitation or academic concern.
This weekend, at the University of Arizona, we are holding Multilingual 2.0?, a symposium dealing with the timeless phenomenon of multilingualism. We will be hosting amazing scholars, and the coming together of leading scholars with participants from all around the world will contribute to the local, national, and international debate(s) of languages.
And guess who is “the blogger-in-chief”?
When Dr. Gramling, one of the core faculty members of the organization committee, asked me what I would want to do for the symposium, I had no idea. I had been volunteering for such events since my early undergraduate years, and I have done a wide range of things, from serving wine at the cocktails to making opening speeches. He looked at my perplexed face, and asked: Do you want to blog the event? I said “why not?”
However, how do you blog events? I have blogged mostly personal stuff about life and death, or music, or traveling, or changing the continent I live in—but how could I blog a symposium? Do I cover the whole thing, summarize every speech, note down every question, and then say “Wow, this was a great conference?”
Dr. Gramling said, “No. Make it personal, introduce your analysis.”
I should tell the truth: When he bestowed me the title of “blogger-in-chief”, I was intimidated at first. I felt a huge pressure on my shoulders. Mary Louise Pratt is going to speak, and I will record it? Me, a graduate student who one day wants to be an academic? But David quickly gave me the freedom I needed, the freedom that actually blogging signified: Be free, be ridiculous, tell us your take on the issues. Write like an aspiring academic, but don’t write academically.
So, I accepted the challenge. Dear Readers, if you wonder what are the contents of the speeches, please go to our website and watch the symposium live online. If you wonder what is going on in the symposium, keep on reading my blog.
And see how I deal with a roller-coaster of ideas.
Filed under: event, music, the city | Tags: Amy Winehouse, How I Met Your Mother, summers, TV
Or another summer gloom…
“When Amy Winehouse died, I was in New England, suffering from a severe lingual crisis.”
This is what I will tell my children when they ask about the beautiful voice they are very familiar with. However, they will have to do some Internet archeology to find out what she really meant to me. I am writing this entry mostly for them.
My summers are never exciting. I can actually say that I never enjoyed a single summer. I don’t remember one I was completely happy. When I was a child, and a teenager, which means for at least 10 years, I had to stay in Izmir during the summers while every single friend of mine escaped from the town. As a Mediterranean city, Izmir gets extremely hot in summers. You can’t get out of your apartment between 11.00am and 7.00pm. The humidity makes it impossible not to sweat while sitting at home and watching TV without AC, a technology we could not afford until I was 21. Some poets have written about İmbat, a special breeze from the sea, but it was just an urban legend for those of us who had to live behind a huge, cement wall of 7-story apartment buildings right on the seaside. The poetic breeze belonged to the habitants of those expensive apartment buildings, who ironically were never in Izmir during the summers. Those who could afford those apartments could also afford a summerhouse in Cesme or Foca, towns not very far from the city, with beautiful beaches and at least 7-8 degrees F lower temperature.
Growing up, summers meant limitless boredom, constant sweating. It was a life behind a huge wall, a life without the soothing power of the sea.
When I was 19 years old, in Galatasaray University, I made a life choice of becoming a dedicated member of a very demanding student club. For three years, the club became my life. Until then, I was a cinephile who saw in movie theaters at least 50 movies a year. I used to know which TV show was worth watching and which Internet site was lately in high demand. I was a home person, thanks to my summers in Izmir, and I was doing good in catching up with the trends. I also used to know who was getting popular in music sector. I never was one of those indie listeners, and I got to know Lauryn Hill or Norah Jones after they got all those Grammies. But I knew what was going on, I was on top of my interests.
When I finished my years at the club, I was left with two-year old songs in my iTunes. I didn’t have a clue about which movie won Oscars last year or what the heck was that “How I Met Your Mother” show everyone was fuzzing about. I was completely lost in my indifference to my former areas of interest, and summer was approaching, with nothing going well in my life.
In 2007, a terrible summer started with moving from Beyoglu to Uskudar, a drastic change of habitus for me. I left the “life” on European side and moved to so-called “calmness” on Anatolian side. It did not help. I was restless because of many unspoken things, many intended heartbreaks, and a huge ingratitude. I went to Amsterdam; it didn’t help. I knew it, Summer of 2007 was going to be another hell. When I came back from Amsterdam, I had to start my internship in an academic NGO in Etiler. It meant at least one hour commute everyday. I needed music, I needed new, popular, good music.
I remember exactly how I got to know Amy. I had noticed the fuzz about her, just like that meeting the mother show, but I didn’t pay attention. I had never felt the urge to type her name on YouTube or download at least one song of hers. None. Klum.
A boring weekend, I was zapping through channels in my decadal summer position and I found a black and white video clip on MTV. A woman with a big mouth and some tattoos was singing a song of a great pain. She was so intriguing that I could not notice the lyrics at the first time. I could not take my eyes off of her, and I felt that I finally found the voice for my summer. So hurt, so self-intolerant, so conscious, so deep. Later, I would find out that the song, Back to Black, actually described my summer before that, Summer of 2006, word by word.
Amy became my companion that summer. She told me that she knew what was going on, and she even wrote that song for me. I survived Summer of 2007 thanks to her, but four years later, probably around the same time I got to know her, she passed away.
Now, I am sitting in my hell-like dorm room, in the middle of New England. I am here to learn an extremely hard language, and going through a lingual crisis. My “mais”s became “aval”s and I am not liking it. On top of that, I am struggling with the loss of a huge talent. I wish it was as easy as another artist, but this time, maybe just because it is summer, it touched a lot. She punched a hole on that great wall for me, and her voice meant the soothing power of the sea. Now, she is gone and I will have to wait for my next black and white angel to save my summers.
So, kids, this is the story of how I met your Aunt Amy.
How do I overcome homesickness?
One day, a close friend’s mom, Güniz Teyze, read my fortune from coffee grounds in my cup. She said: “You will always be on road. When you are here, you will have a bag ready to depart anytime. When you are there, you will always miss here. You don’t belong here, or there. You belong to both.”
She had known me since I was 14. I was 23 years old when she told me this. I believed in her with the whole of my heart.
In one month, I will be celebrating my 26th birthday in Arizona, and not on an island for the first time in 7 years. This year has been the year of change, and I can’t say I don’t enjoy it. I am leaving some habits behind, just like some expressions, or a couple of favorite dishes and fortunately many obsessions. I am building up a new life in America in general, and in Tucson in particular. I have a bag ready to depart here, too. But for a long time, I plan to stay on this part of the world.
However, this does not mean that I don’t miss my life back in Turkey in general, and in Istanbul in particular. Looking at a crowded street from the second floor of a building, and feeling the noise rather than hearing it is at the top of my list. I miss people filling streets up and me looking at them from Oyuncular Kahvesi or somewhere in Nevizade. Or I miss sitting under the pergola in a quiet summer afternoon, drinking tea and looking at Galata Tower. I miss the chilly spring mornings of Gülhane Parkı or taking a taxi from Taksim to Kuzguncuk, my last neighborhood in Istanbul, and not realizing how we crossed the Bosphorus bridge as I am already sleeping because of that last drink. I miss live clarinet, buying a simit and running to a bus with it, or getting soaked under the rain on my way to Ortaköy and cursing myself for not taking the bus. I miss things unique to Istanbul, unique to life there, and mostly individual moments rather than collective ones.
Why individual rather than collective? Why personal rather than communal? The answer is hidden in “Virtual Rakı Sofrası”.
I don’t miss collective moments because my friends are creative enough to organize a virtual gathering on Skype, around a Raki table, with all rituals completed. They turn on their Skype, raise their Raki glasses with me, and stay up until 4am just to talk with me around the table, something very different than any gathering including alcohol. They have time for keeping my spirit up with such an event on particularly May, the best month of Istanbul, full of festivals around the city. They are so sweet that they read me passages from my yearbook, which recently came out and is so heavy and emotionally valuable to be shipped. They keep me updated, they keep me happy, they keep me belonging to two without sacrificing one or other. Their kindness, and valuable friendship, and considerable efforts leave me with my yearning to only individual moments.
I can’t thank them enough, so I just raise my glass.
Every year, months of May and June compose an exciting ouverture for summer in Istanbul. L’été stambouloite is usually dull during the day, and tuneful at night: The open-air concerts of Turkey’s and the World’s best musicians are a swell tradition that the soft climate enables us to have for years. They used to be concentrated around the open-air concert halls, counterfeits of Ancient Greeks’ amphitheaters as the heritage of the Greek civilization. Past years have proved Turkey’s economic potential, Turkish youth’s yearn for globalized fun, and a secure environment for the artists (remember those days U2 rejecting concerts because of human rights violations or Michael Jackson (RIP) cancelling because of the terrorist acts of PKK?). Therefore new concert venues have been built or created such as Hazerfen Concert Venue or Kuruçeşme Turkcell Arena just for such occasions. –I opt out the Stadiums, since I accept them as usual areas– Now, there we have multiple organizations where famous artists entertain les stambouloits every summer.
This year the Istanbul summer promises great potential for quality music and alcoholic fun, mostly in May and June. Before always-trendy but mostly-expensive Babylon moves to its magnificent Alaçatı branch, it is going to host Nouvelle Vague. NV is now used to coming to Turkey, just like Pink Martini. They are a common expectation; don’t miss it if you had before. But don’t worry if you can’t make it, they will probably be back again. The dates are May 18 and 19. Other worthy possibilities of inhaling Babylon à la Istanbul are Redd Softcore on May 8 and Hüsnü Şenlendirici & Trio Chios on May 12.
Another cluster of exciting moments in Early Summer will definitely be at the end of June: Efes Pilsen One Love Festival 9. This festival does not only host the most popular global artists but usually the most entertaining ones! This year, Groove Armada and The Ting Tings are on duty. Pick up your alcoholic spirit and come to santralistanbul for a nice farewell to college exams.
Well, things get pretty personal now. The best concert venue ever, with its magnificent Bosporus view and friendly environment, Galatasaray University Ortaköy Campus will host the leaders of the pop music for the most snob, crème de la crème, and largest French-speaking –ha ha- community of Turkey. Yalın and his melancholy, Kenan Doğulu and his legendary stage performance, Nil and her classless cuteness, Teoman and his alcohol problem, The Revolters and their punk, Buzuki Orhan and its rich music will be present to entertain us, and you. The bigger hit of the festival is definetly Jay Jay Johanson who will be enchanting us and enchanted by Istanbul at the same time. The GSU Festival is going to be the entertainment center of Istanbul between May 14-16. Don’t miss it if you want to grab a bit of Galatasaray attitude.
Let’s not forget the big events of May and June such as Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, and other entertaining options in spring festivals of some universities and high schools.
All these events will heat the weather up more than summer itself and the global warming phenomenon. A wonderful Early Summer is being prepared by a group of people, and I hope nothing will ever be on their way. Time for renewal of Biletix accounts. Come on people, it is gonna be just sunny this summer!
Oh.. we all know how going green is “à la mode”.
The cool hunter has launched a new exhibition project named “Treelife”, at April. The exhibition, which is all about “getting urbanized in a tree-hugger way”, will take place in 2010. While the date and the venue of the event is yet to be announced, concept art and ideas have already been released and they look gorgeous at the worst. Well, after all, it’s all about going green… It can’t be bad.
Take a look at the whole thing here and decide for yourself.