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 Erdoğan attracted criticism over his announcement to withdraw the country from the International İstanbul Convention of 2011 to prevent and combat domestic violence because, as Erdoğan 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 Dağlar kadar farklı, “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 Blört, we are directed to this remarkable choreography of a troupe of increasingly abstract virtual dancers in the streets of Istanbul created by Gökalp Gönen 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 BİDEN 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 İstanbul, the dotted version usually represents the long vowel sound, close front unrounded, whereas ı 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 ı—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

sıcak 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

boğaziçi köprüsü

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 François 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’etát 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 Erdoğan 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 (箏), 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.

Sunday, 15 September 2019


Via Boing Boing, we are quite the privileged witnesses to a solar eclipse caused by the shadow of Io moving across the dappled clouds of Jupiter (previously). One of the Galilean Satellites discovered by the artist and polymath in 1610 and designated Jupiter I, this innermost moon is the most dehydrated body known and also the most geologically (ionically) active with over four hundred volcanoes driven by gravitation pressures and tidal heating from its host world.
The mythological figure (whose name means moon) was one of Hera high priestesses at Argos and caught the wandering eye of Zeus, whose advances she steadily rebuffed. Unhappy with the extra divine scrutiny, Io was turned out of the temple, whereupon Zeus transformed her in a resplendent white heifer in order to hide her from his wife. The deception was rather transparent and Hera dispatched an obnoxious gadfly to pester the poor cow and drive her to wonder the Earth without rest.
She crossed from Europe into Asia at the Bosporus (oxford), where she met Prometheus chained, whom despite his own torture was able to console Io was the prophesy that her humanity would be restored. Returning to Greece, prodded still ever onward, she sought relief by taking the sea route to Egypt (the Ionian), when upon arrival, Zeus was able to disenchant her. With Zeus, Io bears Apis, king of Egypt—identified with the historical pharaoh Apophis (*1575 – †1540, BC), and primogenitor of many of the ancient, semi-legendary great houses of the Mediterranean.  Among the most frequented bodies in the Solar System and well studied, inhospitable Io has been rather ignominiously described as having (the namesake—that is) the colour of pizza.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019


Whilst the agglutinative nature of German might be more familiar with its very, very long compound words, for which there is grammatical no upwards limit though terms would become unwieldy and unintelligible eventually, Turkish also has this feature. This construction through affixes illustrated in the passage by author Koksal Karakus in addressing education reform:

We are in a teachers’ training academy that has nefarious purposes. The teachers trained here are indoctrinated on how to make unsuccessful ones from the pupils.  So—one by one—teachers are being educated as makers of unsuccessful ones. One of those teachers, however, refuses to be maker-of-unsuccessful-ones—or in other words, to be made a maker-of-unsuccessful-ones; he is critical of the academy’s stance on their performance. The rector who thinks every teacher can be made easily into a maker-of-unsuccessful-ones is quick to anger. The rector invites the teacher into his office and confronts him, “You are talking as if you were one of those we cannot easily be made into a maker-of-unsuccessful-ones, isn’t that right?” The final form is the seventy-letter:


Though not a case of agglutination like the Turkish example or the above medieval Latin ablative form for “being in a state capable of receiving honours” appearing in Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, it nonetheless recalls the motto of Saint John’s College (pictured above), a sort of word play in Latin: I make free adults from children by means of books and balance.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

στην πόλη

The Turkish government on this day in 1930 changed the name of its largest city from Constantinople to İstanbul—the ancient metropolis having formerly been known as New Rome, Augusta Antonina, Byzantium and originally Lygos—and recall us to contemporary name changes we’ve encountered recently.
Whereas the reflagging of İstanbul strips it of historical associations, the people of Kyrgyz are considering renaming its capital from Bishkek to Manas, a legendary warrior whose exploits are sung in an epic poem that contains half a million verses and is a cultural touchstone for Kyrgyz identity. Some speculate that this debate was sparked by adjacent Kazakhstan’s decision to rename its capital Astana (formerly Tselinograd and founded as Akmoly) to Nur-Sultan in honour of long-serving president Nursultan Äbishuly Nazarbayev on the occasion of his retirement.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

thread and transistor

As a heuristic exhibition to explore the shifting definition and value of craft in modern society and commerce, Dezeen highlights some of the best instalations during the Istanbul Design Biennial that employed stitching and weaving recontextualised in electronics and as a store of value, as in an heirloom quilt to hand down from one generation to the next.
Looms themselves prefiguring mechanical computational relays, we really enjoyed discovering the functional universal computer whose circuitry was embroidered out of gold and the yarn spindle whose spooling action can actually save a spoken yarn as an audio recording. I wonder if future electronic devices will be decentralised and once again a cottage industry. Moreover, given the value assigned to block-chain cryptography—secure and sturdy though mathematically also relatively simple, it struck us as particularly delectable that there is one gaming circle that calls for players to produce their own knitcoin to advance. Check out the link above to learn more about the individual works from Ebru Kurbak and others.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

we have defeated isis in syria, my only reason for being there during the trump presidency

To the consternation and concern of US military top brass that have been pushing for a continued troop presence for stabilisation, rebuilding and not to afford the Cosplay Caliphate another chance to regain a purchase, Trump announced his intentions to redeploy all soldiers from Syria, some two thousand individuals.
While the majority of the territory once held by the terrorist group in a sliver of what it once was, the situation is still precarious and the likelihood of a revanchment seems in the realm of possibilities. Aside from the suffering of the Syrian population that might be forestalled, geopolitically Trump’s announcement—which he perhaps offers as a human-shield to deflect the ratcheting up of the Special Counsel Investigation into the campaign and administration’s ties to Russia and easing sanctions in exchange for real estate development opportunities but only serves to reaffirm the relationship—is a huge concession to Putin and Russian interests in the country and ensures that the rebellion will be quashed. Also by withdrawing from their base near the Turkish border, the US is abandoning its at least nominal ally in the Kurds and inadvertently (given the diplomatic tensions and trade disputes) by affording the Erdoğan government the chance to further marginalise this group.