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Bıdık the Crow


My housemate Hafize has been taking care of a young crow for the past few weeks. And the relationship is becoming so hilarious that I want to make a note of it.

Bıdık, as the crow is named (means little one in Turkish), was found between two parked cars in the dead of night in a neighborhood called Çağlayan where Hafize had gone to visit her sister. Baby crows are actually quite big, you know they are babies from their wings which are still unformed and their beaks which are thin and relatively soft. He was kept inside for the first few days, but then we realized that he would be OK outdoors provided he was near an open window in case he needed to flee inside. He has grown very quickly, can now fly (after a fashion - he still cannot gracefully glide the way adult crows do, quite a bit of excessive wing flapping there), he gets fed raw chicken, cheese and meat as special treats but his main food is cat kibbles which he seems to thoroughly enjoy.

And he is an absolute delight to have around. Very funny, very mischievous, extremely inquisitive. I had always heard that crows are highly intelligent, but I had no idea they were this intelligent. Far more intelligent than the cats and the dog, as far as I can tell. And a very pronounced personality. Scurrilous, deceitful, playful, obstinate.

I hope he learns to eventually fend for himself, not live his life as a pampered house-crow (if there is such a thing). He has been flying further and further and there are plenty of crows around here. So, my big hope is that he will somehow hook up with them. But meanwhile he is with us. Hafize and the neighbors have been taking a lot of videos of him, and I have started to collect them on youtube here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvbK8Vus5VDV8rrPcLqReow/videos
There's some other stuff there as well, of course, but the bulk of it is crow and cat stuff. And I will go ahead and embed one of the funniest ones here:


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Beşiktaş


I am not terribly patriotic when I think about Turkey as a whole. Sure I want the country to be OK. Sure, I want it to get out from under this yoke of oppression and tyranny - which I am fairly confident that it will, sooner or later. Sure, I like hearing the music, or eating the food. But, I do not well up in tears when I see the flag or anything like that. I do not think we are better than anyone else on the globe.

I become a bit more involved when it comes to Istanbul. But, when it comes to my own neighborhood Beşiktaş, I become a card carrying, flag waving, fully fledged patriot. I love love love where I live. The people. The mixture. The congestion. The animals. The sweet young things that flock from all over the city to congregate in the cafes and bars. The black and white that designates the colors of the soccer team around which everything here revolves. The un-elitism. Very important that.

And that brings me to "Çarşı" of course. The soccer fan club whose world view centers on anarchy, whose motto "Çarşı herşeye karşı" translates as "Çarşı is against everything." I know nothing about soccer, wouldn't know the difference between a goal post and a center field. But, "Çarşı" is something different. Something that goes beyond soccer. Something that brings together humor, kindness, protest and a deeply selfless love for a team - not because it wins, but also because it loses. I linked to a very good article on Çarşı (which I really do think is an international phenomenon) above, so I will not say more myself.

Long and short of it - I love my hood. I identify with it. I feel great wandering its many crooked unkempt streets. Going up to the park that has become one of the emblems of the Istanbul protest scene. And so, inevitably many of the Istanbul FB page pictures are taken from around here. At least initially, for now they are. 
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My city is Istanbul


I may have found a way to put my street photos to some use. Not in terms of creativity, or design. I still have no ambitions or confidence in that regard. But there is something else that has been bugging me for ages, and there I may be able to do something with them. Which is trying (against all odds) to change the perception that people have of my city by starting a Facebook page (awful design, but nothing to be done about that, it is the thing that has the reach) where I simply post what I capture around me. And also a tumblr where I post the pictures in a much nicer way, mostly in order to satisfy my own designer cravings. Doubt that too many people will be looking at that one.

Funnily enough it isn't only foreigners who have a very warped perception of this place. Locals have it too. For me, this city is magic. For the Western tourists who come here it is what they see in the historic peninsula and what they see from the top of the tour bus. They come here with a mis-perception that this is an exotic, oriental city and there is plenty to re-enforce that if all they see is the Grand Bazaar, the palace, the historic mosques and the flocks of Arabic tourists who tend to congregate there and whom they will invariably mistake for locals. 

For the locals the city is a nightmare of traffic, of congestion. And there is something in the psyche here that involves a lot of self-deprecation. I see this in my students, my friends, my relatives. A deep deep dissatisfaction with who they are and what surrounds them. Very low self esteem. A lot of "we will never amount to anything" nonsense. I have been to lots of big cities. From Hong Kong to Sao Paolo. And of course all the usual suspects like London, Rome and Paris. And yes - 30 years ago Istanbul was a very provincial sister to these. I have actually written about how the city transformed and re-invented itself right here on this blog

Today, it rocks. It is the metropolis to end all metropolises. It rocks with its youth, with its street animals, with its protest politics, its anger. Its humor. Its resilience. I live in, and therefore I obviously wander around in areas that are congenial to me. I know that there are vast neighborhoods where life is quite different. I know that there is lots of poverty for example. That poverty I do not see where I am. The city is huge. You could spend a lifetime here and not see most of it ever. But I have decided to show what I do see everyday. And hopefully to enable an alternative way of looking at this society. Neither as an orientalist fantasy, nor as a "we will never amount to anything" negativity. We do amount to something. Something energetic, funny, wild, contradictory and provocative. And that is what I want to show. 
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Julian Assange


I am very upset about this. In fact, I obsess about it. For the man himself and what he has been subjected to obviously, but I also obsess about what this means. In Gordon Dimmack's words "this is the biggest story ever, in ever ever - bigger than Brexit, bigger than anything else" - speaking as someone from the UK. As someone from Turkey, Brexit has never been high on my agenda anyway, but looking at it from here, it is bigger than all the horror stories we are currently undergoing in this country also.

I do not want to romanticize this by posting a picture of Assange and his cat. It is simply one of the most expressive pictures of him that I could find, that it is all. What is happening here is far too serious to romanticize. I have been aware, for a long time now, that freedom of press / expression, democracy, human rights are gone from the entire globe. We, here in Turkey, get extremely worked up about what is happening here, in our own country. As we should! What most of us here fail to see however is that we are only a part of a much bigger global pattern. The powers in the West do it far more subtly, that is all. Or that has been the case up until recently. But now with Julian Assange all pretense, all subtlety has finally been tossed out of the window. It is staring us in the face.

What I am especially very upset about is the lack of reaction. Here, as I said, we are so engrossed in our own tragedies that we don't see it. And also, I think that people who do see it prefer to not show it in order to maintain this illusion that all is still OK in the West and that once we break out of this yoke of tyranny that we are currently subjected to, and once again join the "free world" all will be fine. Except that the "free world" is no longer free.

So, why are there so many journalists, academicians, and politicians jailed here and not over there then? Could it be that over here there is far more dissent? That the propaganda that we, in this country, have been subjected to has been so clumsy, so ham fisted, so overt, that it simply hasn't worked? That we have seen beyond it - journalists and all? But that instead, the masses in the "free world" are so far propagandized, and in such a subtle way (again journalists and all) that there isn't that much dissent? Ergo, no imminent need to throw people in jail en masse? What was it that William Casey said to Ronald Reagan in 1981? "We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."

And then along came Julian Assange. To whose plight (which is actually their own plight, their own freedom, their own future!) no one is reacting. So, obviously the plan has worked.

And, I am very very very upset. 
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Going out on the streets


After exhausting home and cat photo topics I have ventured outdoors with the phone and have started taking street photos. I still get nervous when I point the thing at people but I am also realizing that, unlike a real camera, the phone does not seem phase anyone. They probably think I am just texting someone when I hold it up like that.

The results aren't great or anything like that. No Cartier-Bresson in the making. But I do enjoy it. I am also finding (as I also did years ago when I was taking photos for a conference web site) that taking just a single shot doesn't really capture the spirit of the streets. So, I am stitching together series of photos into panoramas. Seems to work better somehow.

No idea how long I will keep doing this. Not sure if it could be some sort of creative activity for me. There are lots of urban photographers I admire (my darling Murat being not the least among them), but I don't think I am cut out to be one of them. I will probably grow tired of it at some point. However, for now it is a lot of fun. Gets me out of the house for one thing - which I really need to be doing far more. 
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The Selfie


Whenever I see a photo of myself taken by someone else I have a massive shock. This isn't something new, or something that is age related. Obviously I no longer look as good as I used to, and I wouldn't expect to come across as a glamour puss in photos. And like I said, it isn't a new thing anyway, I have had this experience for decades. The shock has less to do with how I look in these snaps than it has to do with my expression. Really really sour. Bad tempered. A very nasty old woman stares back at me.
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Starting to take photos


Never done it before. Never had the slightest interest, in fact. But now that I have the phone camera I have started to explore, starting with my own home and my cats. Which is probably how most people start with this. Their homes and their cats. And it is a lot of fun, I must say. A new toy, a new playground.

Although it proclaims to have a high resolution (4000something pixels) it isn't a very good camera, as I found out when I looked at the photos at 100%. But it is more than enough for my purposes, which is to basically take souvenir photos. Home for now, but I will probably eventually venture outdoors - and we shall see how that goes...