Sunday, 24 April 2022

never look a gift horse in the mouth

Though this kind of exact date for something semi-legendary, laden with cultural baggage and millennia hence is notoriously hard to pin down, the attestation by among others Eratosthenes, polymath and librarian of Alexandria who calculated the circumference and axial tilt of Earth to a remarkable degree of accuracy (thanks in part to his access to extensive geological data at the library), traditionally places the Fall of Troy, the end of the decade-long siege of the impenetrable city by the Achaean armies when they were let into the gates, hiding inside a wooden horse, a ruse thought up by Odysseus—a creature sacred to the Trojans, on this day in 1183 BCE. Left on the beach as an offering for their return home, the Greeks had apparently decamped. Many were suspicious, including Cassandra and Laocoรถn—with of course no one listening to the former and the latter being devoured by a sea serpent along with his sons sent by Athena to keep the priest’s mouth shut but they ultimately decided to keep the horse and celebrated the end of their long blockade with an evening of drunken revelry. Most of the population was massacred in their sleep as the Greeks sacked the city—save for Aeneas who went on to found Rome in some traditions, with most of the Greeks also denied a safe homecoming by the gods for their atrocious behaviour as victors and for their desecration of temples and holy sites and were doomed to wrack and ruin.

Monday, 11 April 2022

uzay yolu

Somewhat familiar with the adaptation known as Turkish Star Wars, we enjoyed the introduction to its counterpart in the Star Trek universe, which though unauthorised and non-canonical was a forerunner to any feature length treatment of the franchise by a good six years before any sanctioned production could debut. With the plot lifted from episodes of “I, Mudd,” “The Man Trap,” “Arena,” “Amok Time” and “What Are Little Girls Made Of?,” the hapless tourist ร–mer is beamed up and inserted into the action mise-en-scรจne when Doctor McCoy is visiting an old girlfriend—Nancy—who in actuality is a murderous shape-shifter yearning after salt. The away-mission segments were filmed at the ruins of Ephesus.


Officially adopted by the Rada after independence and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992 and with historical precedence going back to the Ukrainian People’s Republic of 1918 and in the historic seals and brands (tamga, ๐ฑƒ๐ฐข๐ฐ๐ฐ€, from the Old Turkic to mark the property of nomadic peoples—see also) of the Rurikid rulers of the Kyivan Rus, the country’s coat of arms, the Emblem of the Royal State of Volodymyr the Great, is described as a “trident” of gold (ะขั€ะธะทัƒะฑ) on an azure shield but likely was intended to represent the Trinity in the form of a stylised gyrfalcon (like this one from outside of St Petersburg connected to an eighth century Viking trading outpost on Lake Lagoda at the other extreme of the Rus’), consistent with the iconography associated with the Scandinavian extraction of the ruling dynasty.

Friday, 8 April 2022

imperial ambitions

On this day in 1783, Czarina Catherine the Great announced the annexation, following a favourable outcome in the Russo-Turkic Wars against the Ottoman Empire, of Crimea, the right-bank of the Kuban region and the Taman peninsula that separates the Azov from the Black Sea. Other territorial expansion during long reign included parts of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Novorossiya (roughly corresponding to the Bessarabia region of Moldova and coastal areas of Ukraine) as well as Russian America. Also on this day in 1812, Czar Alexander I (grandson of the former) issued a decree to make Helsinki the capital of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland—having seceded from Sweden and part of the Russian Empire from 1809 until 1917

Monday, 4 April 2022


Via Miss Cellania, we quite enjoyed this appreciation of the Ukrainian roots of wheat world-wide—see also—and how grain-cultivation and baking traditions owe a heavy debt to the Crimean peninsula and successive exoduses and displacement—and what those fleeing carried with them. National banner modelled on the blue sky over the waves of grain, times like these reveal the depth of our connections and dependence.

Saturday, 4 December 2021


In what’s become an annual treat, Tom Whitwell again shares fifty-two items he has gleaned from the past year. In the compilation, drawn from experiencing editing projects for Fluxx / Medium, Whitwell’s shared new facts learned include that daily over a million images of coffee grinds are uploaded to a fortune reading app (the process of divination called tasseomancy), advice on how to solicit better answers, the MSG hoax, the truth behind the mystery seeds from China hysteria, and a few we’ve previously covered like how cowpox vaccine was transported around the world, traditional Japanese microseasons, how film was formulated to privilege lighter complexions, and how the threshhold effect applies even to a doorway on screen. Many more astonishing correlations at the links above—do let us know your favourites.

Thursday, 8 April 2021


Though wanting to focus on substantive issues, rehabilitating diplomatic and economic ties and address a host of social issues including gender equality rather than standing on ceremony or protocol, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen found herself sidelined and snubbed during a high-level meeting in Ankara (previously), forced to sit on an adjacent couch, whilst her interlocutors had a more domineering position. Ahead of the meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoฤŸan attracted criticism over his announcement to withdraw the country from the International ฤฐstanbul Convention of 2011 to prevent and combat domestic violence because, as ErdoฤŸan characterised it, was an attempt by the LGBTQ+ community to normalise homosexuality and impose their views on society as a whole. The awkward meeting was not wholly unproductive von der Leyen owns as the slight only sharpens her focus on upholding the highest standards of human rights.

Monday, 22 February 2021

like chalk and cheese

Though attested since the late fourteenth century and surely encountered in every day speech, we were unaware of this delightful idiom, said of things that are superficially alike but very different in substance, like a crumbly, unaged cheese that’s never mistaken as flaking chalk (though some attribute the etymology to an unscrupulous cheesemonger that tried to pass off adulterated product). The Turkish equivalent DaฤŸlar kadar farklฤฑ, “As different as the mountains” conveys the same sense. Its extended meaning covers things that don’t pair well.  Learn more at Nag on the Lake at the link up top.

Monday, 30 November 2020


Via Everlasting Blรถrt, we are directed to this remarkable choreography of a troupe of increasingly abstract virtual dancers in the streets of Istanbul created by Gรถkalp Gรถnen for the jazz stylings of Ilhan Ersahin’s latest single, the eponymous ‘Good News.’ These enthusiastic, unrestrained performances recalls these other whirling digital dervishes.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

alfabeti shqip

With the conclusion of the Congress of Manastir—now called Bitola, on this day in 1908 academicians from around the country met and achieved their goal of standardising the national language and script for the native population and the diaspora aboard and in neighbouring Kosovo and North Macedonia—who commemorate this Dita e Alfabetit—whereas prior to the democratic, deliberative and well-considered process the language was expressed in no fewer than six distinct scripts that drew from Greek, Cyrillic, Ottoman and Arabic. There was great potential for confusion between rho and pi, aitch and kha. The outcome was a variant of the Latin alphabet (see also) with thirty-six letters to best represent the phonology of Albanian with diagraphs including dh, gj and nj.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

the lesser apocalypse

Referred to as the above with the conviction it was punishment from God alternatively for the Ottomans’ perceived inhospitality toward the Eastern Christians or for the Turks tolerating them, a powerful earthquake, with its epicentre in the Sea of Marmara, and resulting tsunami devastated Constantinople on this day in 1509. Damage and death estimates vary widely but probably took ten thousand lives and destroyed homes and infrastructure, and reportedly Hagia Sophia (previously) withstood the quake virtually unscathed, only the plaster that had been used to cover the Byzantine mosaics was shaken off the walls, revealing the Christian imagery beneath. The month and a half of aftershocks that followed did not cause significant damage but delayed recovery efforts and rebuilding.

Monday, 17 August 2020

point suscrit

Noticing an all-caps headline with BฤฐDEN rendered as such with the dotted i (called the tittle in English though there’s no case for the letter j in Turkic scripts, see also) as opposed to the dotless that appears later in the word for asylum, I was intrigued about the distinction and wondered how Turkish orthography treated these letters. As with ฤฐstanbul, the dotted version usually represents the long vowel sound, close front unrounded, whereas ฤฑ most times denotes an oo sound, close back unrounded. Not all computing platforms are able to encode this difference properly—sometimes the numeral 1 is substituted for the dotless ฤฑ—resulting in consequential miscommunications.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

artemision or the streisand effect

Though it was the restored temple financed by the citizens of Ephesus themselves, a version that post-dates its infamous destruction by arson on this day in 356 BC, that sealed its inclusion in Antipater of Sidon’s tourist guide, the Seven Wonders, that earlier loss bears more notoriety for the Temple of Artemis than the other must-see attractions.
Comparing it to his other sight-seeing excursions—none of which are extant excepting the oldest and most venerable Great Pyramid at Giza, the travel writer himself pronounced, “Lo—apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.” The fate of the final temple is not well documented though it was the Christians that oversaw its slow dissolution, cannibalised for architectural elements and decorations including some of the columns of the Hagia Sophia—with archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom credited as “the overthrower of the temple of Diana, despoiling in Ephesus the art of Midas.” While this last boast sounds lofty, it is far less memorable than that of our damnable vandal, Herostratus.

Monday, 13 July 2020


flotus: chainsaw sculpture of Melania Trump erected in her hometown torched on US Independence Day

[screaming internally]: assorted news items including thrill ride guidance from Japan

holy wisdom: Turkey reconsecrates Hagia Sophia as a mosque after eight decades as a museum

dining alfresco: the variety of New York’s newly founded streateries

mallrats: a tour of shopping galleries past

strike a pose: professional model An Tiantian shows off her photogenic gestures

swamping the drain: Trump wines and dines wealthy campaign donors while America slides into failed statehood

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

sฤฑcak caz

After being directed to Open Culture’s nice primer on Japanese jazz sessions—that I could play as ambient music all day—from Nag on the Lake, I was excited to see an expanded, cosmopolitan coffee break set pieces from the same DJ Zag Erlat playing vinyl grooves from Africa, Brazil, Bollywood, Russia and Anatolian rock from his native Turkey. Most of the selections date from the 1970s and make me want to go crate-digging at the first opportunity. Sample all the genres of Erlat’s Analog Journal at the links above.

Friday, 21 February 2020

boฤŸaziรงi kรถprรผsรผ

Construction finished some three and a half years later and coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the modern Republic of Turkey, work began on spanning the strait separating Europe from Asia, Anatolia from Thrace on this day in 1970. The suspension bridge was the first to cross the Bosporus in some twenty-five hundred years when Persian emperor Darius and later his son Xerxes separately commissioned pontoon bridges to connect the continents.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

mandatory syria

Negotiated and ratified in secret in May of the same year, the Manchester Guardian published an invective report detailing the memorandum of understanding between Britain and French ambassadors Mark Sykes and Franรงois Georges-Picot (see previously here and here) regarding the partition of a soon to be defeated Ottoman Empire days after it was presented to the Bolshevik government of Russia, whom first exposed it to the public, the arrangement contingent on its assent. With parallels to the present and storied abandonment of the Kurds, the terms of the treaty amplified and circulated to the British readership, the government was embarrassment by its betrayal to the Arabs, whom had been promised an independent homeland in the Levant (which was not on the map) in exchange for their revolt that destabilised the Empire and precipitated a victory for the Triple Entente. The consequences of this line in the sand are still informing and shaping geopolitics more than a century later.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

do ut des

Continuing to charaterise the impeachment proceedings as a coup d’etรกt and in the wake of particularly compelling testimony by a seasoned career diplomat whose work was undercut by Trump’s backchannel, a group of thirty of Trump’s staunchest supporters stormed closed-door meeting being held in secure chambers to disrupt the testimony of another witness with Ukraine connections, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence.
By bringing cell phones into a classified environment, members—with a distinct lack of collegiality—compromised security and caused the witness’ accounting to be delayed for several hours. Grown weary of playing the apologist though too cowardly to cross him, Republicans refused to give anything but the thinnest, tacit support for Trump’s call to hold the next G7 summit at his tacky resort which prompted Trump more than the self-dealing Ukraine (or Kurdish concessions inter alia) and how that affair is unwinding to accuse his party of not fighting for him. Loyalist responded to this lament by barging in to the hearing room, again characterised as a star chamber despite how the scandal under investigation makes Nixon’s subversion of the democratic process seem rather adorable, and ordering pizza. After five hours, the witness was allowed to give her statement in private.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

i, in my great and unmatched wisdom

With no advance warning to Kurdish fighters or coalition partners, Trump announced the abrupt withdrawal of US troops from the Turkish-Syria border region.
This abandonment after five years of cooperation with Kurdish forces, whom have borne the brunt of defeating the Islamic State during Syria’s civil war though characterised as terrorists by Turkey, has prompted the Pentagon to deliver a stern warning to Turkey not to invade. Though Trump in principle agrees with the assessment that there should be no military incursion that would further destabilise Syria, pledging to economically destroy Turkey should it do so, removing soldiers from the cross-fire has essentially given ErdoฤŸan a pass to carry on as he sees fit.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

opening titles

Courtesy of the Awesomer, we are treated to the musical stylings of the duo Bei Bei Zheng with piano accompaniment from Vera Yaqi Mackay performing a singular cover of Dick Dale and the Del Tones’ surf rock anthem Misirlou (previously). Bei Bei replaces the guitar with the traditional Chinese instrument called the zheng (็ฎ), an ancient pentatonic zither dated from the Qin dynasty with twenty-one strings to the tune, itself inspired by an Ottoman folksong referring to an Egyptian girl in Turkish that was often used for belly dancing. The up and down harmonic progression is known as hijaz kar.