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I have not written anything for The Beat in a fairly long time, but I recently traveled most of the Turkic World (Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan). With the exception of returning to Istanbul by plane and crossing the Caspian Sea by boat, it was me hitchhiking, taking cabs, trains, and buses everywhere.
One of reasons I took this trip was because I hadn’t seen my father’s side of my family in over 18 years. Another reason was because I was an artist in crisis. Not sure if I was cut out for being a cartoonist or not, creatively lost and confused, wavering convictions, etc… I was seeking inspiration. A side quest I also engaged in was looking for comics in each country, seeing if they had a comics scene of sorts and what it was comprised of. If there was not much of a comics industry, I tried to at least look for other artists. Out of all the countries I went to only two had any semblance of a comics scene or tradition: Turkey and Kazakhstan.
I do apologize in advance. My mastery of Turkish and Russian is basic and there were times where I forgot to take photos of something or my camera battery died; a running gag on this trip along with my other gadgets dying or breaking.
The Turkish Comics (Çizgi Roman. pronounced Chiz-gi Ro-mon) scene is a sizable one and a surprisingly unknown one on top of that. They have a breadth of iconic characters and comics like Kotu Kedi Serafettin,Robin Crusoe, and Jamal along with an industry that has a weekly amateur day where aspiring cartoonists can come to the major comics magazines to meet the artists for pointers and stuff, but the most baffling thing is the lack of exposure beyond Turkey despite the pool of talent and prevalence of comics in the country.
The first shop I visited was Arkabaçhe in Beşiktaş, Istanbul. It’s in a mall and is a familiar sight, a modern comics shop: white, slick, clean, and organized, sprinkled with some action figures, apparel, and memorabilia. I got the good feeling it’s all about comics here; I love that. The owner Sinan also knew good English, no need for the pre-written-as-simply-as-possible questions on Google translate!
arkabahce(turkish for backyard)
He told me his shop also does the Turkish translations for Marvel and DC comics and has begun to publish original works like Istanbul Odyssey, among others. In terms of what’s popular, it’s all about Marvel, DC, and to a lesser extent at his store, manga. When I asked about comics conventions, Sinan was blunt and explained few to none in Turkey would go to a comic convention and there’s not much economic incentive for the few shops to pack up some books and go where they won’t make much money. When I asked him if people in Europe, Japan, and America know about the Turkish comics scene, he bluntly said no. He suggested if someone big from the US came or if Midtown Comics had a booth, that could bring in more people. He also mentioned that some people in Turkey would need to have explained to them the concept of paying for artists drawings/signatures at cons.
Sinan, the owner of the shop
Speaking with translator Burc Uner, he told me that they don’t have a lot of contact with Marvel and DC because there’s a middle man between them and they have contact with the big two very minimally for design related issues. He also mentioned that it’s difficult to publish some books they would love to translate. For example, he would love to translate David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Polyp but the given the printing requirements Pantheon has for the book and the already low interest in indie comics, it’s not affordable for them.
When I asked him about the self-publishing/indie scene he explained how it has a touch and go quality to it, where a group of artists get together publish an anthology then over time one person becomes more popular and then the group disbands. He showed one group of high schoolers who published a heavily manga-influenced and nicely printed(a glossy soft cover trade with recycled paper interiors) anthology and for their age it was an impressive feat. Not the best work in the world; vacuous backgrounds, unintentionally wonky drawing, and heavy amounts of emulation than originality, but a C for effort given their age. They managed to publish 3 issues but the dip in quality in each issue is very apparent.
Another self-published work (also black and white interiors) I was shown was Çizgi Fanzin, put together by a group of art school students and was a glossy covered book with recycled paper interiors. It has a familiar vibe of friends all hanging out, drawing, and grinding away making comics; hunched over their desks with a cigarette in their mouth and smile on their face, all having a good time. The work inside reminds me of people I went to school with at SVA; it’s all very promising and definitely the best self published work I came across for what little I’ve seen so far. By sheer luck, the group who put it together was just stopping by the shop and I got to ask them a few questions. They are more or less no different than any other young and budding cartoonists in North America and Europe. nothing really stood out other than the language barrier. When I asked them about how much it cost to print their work, they said it was not much because they all pitched in. Where their work is placed online varies. Some post on Behance and a Turkish equivalent, others Deviant Art, and some on Instagram.
The second shop I visited was Gerekli Seyler in Beyoglu which was more heavy on the toy and memorabilia than Arkabache but they had more manga and a sizable collection of erotic comics and hentai too. They also translate books for Marvel and DC but this owner’s English was not as good.
The folks at Gerekli Seyler
He did give me a ballpark estimate of the number of comics readers in Istanbul though, around 5000 and said that out of all those comics fans probably only 300 at most would show up to my hypothetical Turkish comics convention. I ended up leaving after about 15 minutes and headed off to my final shop.
Gon is for me the most beautiful shop of the three and is also the smallest. It’s named after the character of the Japanese Manga series of the same name by Masashi Tanaka via a contest. Gon was originally just a place being used as storage for a bookstore called Robinson Crusoe. It began its life as a comics shop 8 years ago, originally selling English language comics but shifting towards Turkish language comics over time due to low demand for English fare.
I spoke to Nedim Okan further about the Indie scene and he continued where Sinan left off about the clashing egos and unrealistic expectations of cartoonists and literary journalists. The mentality of Turkish writers and cartoonists who publish their work is not far from that of a rock band. They get together for the music, but then the fame gets to their heads and once it dries up or one member goes solo they ditch the magazine. Nedim told me one story of a literary magazine that had printed 8 issues (a whole lot by Turkish standards) and the members came by the store to tell the owner they were no longer going to print the magazine because they said that “Honestly, we’re not making any money or getting any pussy out of this, so what’s the point?”
Orkan is one of the folks who works at Gon
I laughed pretty hard and it was glorious. Nedim’s hope/advice was that if cartoonists actually stuck through with it and did not unrealistically expect to be make tons of money and get laid a lot, comics would get bigger in Turkey. Unfortunately, peoples’ egos hold everyone back.
Peter Kuper was here and he made a contribution to Gon’s sketchbook.
The Kazakh comics (Komisky) scene is as sparse as the country itself. I found absolutely nothing starting from Aktau in the west to Shymkent in the south near Uzbekistan. However, I met some Otaku and it was pretty funny to see how similar they are to the otaku students I teach in middle and high school. It was not until I reached Almaty where I struck gold. Almaty is where the art is at. You can find artists selling their paintings of Kazakh epics and the pastoral life of the steppes. I even came across a few print shops, though they were unfamiliar with self publishing comics.
I searched the city and the interwebz for Kazakh comics and lo and behold I finally found them! Khan Comics published an anthology in 2011 called KZ Comics and they were putting on a show at a national art school. I used my limited Russian vocabulary to tell them about my background as an American comic artist and to talk to them about their comic. My credentials perked their ears up, so they scrambled to find the one English speaker, Timur from external relations.
He brought me to the head of the animation department who then explained that the comic only had a print run of 500 copies and there were no more, but would get me a black and white prints of the comics in side (I never got them because I forgot to pick them up like a dumbass). He also showed me a lot of comics done by the animation majors.
The Head of the animation dept showing me the comics made by animation students.
The talent was just as promising as the Turkish work I saw. For the Kazakh, comics and animation are one and the same. However, while Turkey has a large cartoonist scene and therefore many opportunities to prove yourself as a professional cartoonist, Kazakhstan did not. Timur explained that their school is not affiliated with any western school, only CIS ones (Commonwealth of Independent States aka the former Soviet bloc).
A student named Nursultan working on his Diploma Project
Logistically things are also very difficult. For example, if you were to host a comics convention or festival in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, people in Almaty, Aktobe, and Shymkent would be a day or more away if they traveled by train or bus, the cheapest ways for the average Kazakh to get around. Traveling so far for a small one day festival when it takes two or three days to commute to and from it is a hard sell. It’s hard to build a scene of comics readers when people are so scattered.
The handful of students I met in Almaty they expressed this sentiment. Nursultan, Mansur, and John (I forgot his real name but he said John was ok) all expressed this feeling of isolation and want to go to Europe or America because there isn’t much opportunity in their home nation. They can probably get jobs doing animation for commercials or graphic design work in Kazakhstan or Russia, but anything beyond that is unlikely. They asked me questions about opportunities in the States and I tried to help them with what little I knew about the film and animation industry and we traded contacts. They asked me to stay in Almaty a little longer but I was leaving for Bishkek by the end of the week and could not stay longer. I plan to return to Almaty someday.
We are so excited to announce the release of our latest children’s book, Ten Thankful Turkeys. This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book. You can get the kindle version of this book for a special launch price of $.99 for a limited time or FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited. We also have paperback versions on sale now at Amazon for $8.99.
Be sure to gobble up this deal before it disappears. :-)
In December 2013, Turkish authorities arrested the sons of several prominent cabinet ministers on bribery, embezzlement, and smuggling charges. Investigators claimed that the men were contributing members in a conspiracy to illicitly trade Turkish gold for Iranian oil gas (an act which, among other things, violates the spirit of United Nations’ sanctions targeting Tehran). The scheme purportedly netted a vast fortune in proceeds in the form of dividends and bribes. Among those suspected of benefiting from the trade was Prime Minister (now President) Tayyip Erdoğan and members of his family. The firestorm from this scandal was initially so furious many feared that Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party would not survive its implications. Yet as of this September, the investigation into this scandal has all but come to an end. The officials involved in propagating and executing the investigation have all been dismissed or transferred. Consequently, virtually all charges related to the case have been dropped.
Most of the analysis of this scandal has focused upon the political implications of the arrests and the subsequent purges of Turkey’s national police force. Events since December have indeed underscored the intense levels of strife within Turkey’s governing institutions as well as the growing authoritarian tendencies of the country’s ruling party. Yet Turkey’s “oil for gold” corruption scandal also illuminates fundamental, yet long-standing, aspects of the relationship between prominent illicit trades and the country’s politics.
Turkey’s black market, by all accounts, is exceeding large and highly lucrative. As a country sitting at a major intersection in global commerce, Turkey acts as a spring, valve and spigot for multiple illicit industries. Weapons, narcotics and undocumented migrants, as well as contraband carpets, petroleum, cigarettes, and precious metals all pass in and through the country’s borders on a regular basis. Official statistics on cigarette smuggling offer a few hints of the extent of smuggling in and out of Turkey. According to Interior Ministry sources, Turkish seizures of smuggled cigarettes grew fourteen fold between 2009 and 2012 (with ten million cigarettes seized in 2009 and over 145 million in 2012). In January of this year, Bulgarian customs officials purportedly confiscated fourteen million cigarettes illegally imported from Turkey in one seizure alone. The numbers of arrests for cigarette smuggling has also climbed precipitously, with over 4000 people arrested in 2009 and over 24000 arrests in 2012.
Organized crime takes other forms in Turkey. Criminal networks, builders, and lawmakers have been known to violate laws governing land sales, usage, building safety, and contracting. Bribes and kickbacks to government officials and regulators historically have been essential elements in the rapid building projects undertaken throughout the country for much of the last century. Charges levied against the managers of Istanbul’s Fenerbahce soccer club stand as an example of the match fixing and extortion scandals that have rocked professional sports in Turkey in recent years. Gangsters and extortionists, known as kabadayı, have been counted among Turkey’s most noted and notorious figures in the public spotlight. All in all, organized criminal trades have generated an untold number of fortunes for a select few and have provided a subsistence living for an even larger number of average citizens for a very long time in Turkey.
If Tayyip Erdoğan and his family did glean a great fortune as a result of illicit doings (which some reports claim to amount to total in the tens of millions of dollars), Turkey’s president joins a fairly sizable host of Turkish politicians who have benefited from organized criminal trades. American officials in the 1950s, for example, secretly suspected that noted members of Adnan Menderes’ Democratic Party had protected major Turkish heroin traffickers. During the 1970s, at least four members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly were official charged with attempting to transport heroin abroad. Other politicians from this era, including one-time Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, were unofficially suspected of engaging in the drug trade but never charged. Accusations of theft and corruption especially dogged the governments of the tumultuous 1990s. Tansu Ciller, the country’s first female prime minister, was implicated in organized criminal activity both before and after she was first elected to office. Tayyip Erdoğan’s JDP came to power in 2002 with the promise of bringing discipline and respectability to politics. Yet even as recent as last year, a regional JDP chairman was implicated in trading in heroin in the province of Van. The revelations of December 2013 now has many in Turkey convinced that the JDP is as dirty and corruptible as any of the parties that had preceded it.
Erdoğan’s ability to deflect last year’s corruption charges has not put the specter of smuggling and corruption to rest. Local media reports and other studies suggest that the Syrian civil war has stimulated a surge in smuggling along Turkey’s southern border. It is now estimated that fuel, cigarette, and cell phone smuggling has risen by 314%, 135%, and 563% respectively since the war began. The initial efforts to arm and maintain resistance groups in Syria were deeply indebted to Turkey’s smuggling trade. As smuggling continues, it is clear that some groups have attempted to tax trade into and out of Syria (al-Nusrah, for example, purportedly levies a fee of 500 Syrian lira for every barrel of fuel that crosses the border). What this means for the present and future of Turkey’s government is not entirely clear. Suggestions that Ankara has allowed for the passage of large numbers of foreign fighters into Syria has cast doubt over the country’s police and customs officials stationed on its borders (particularly after the official purges earlier this year). Trading schemes and corruption allegations like those revealed in December may yet again manifest themselves considering what international watchdogs call Turkey’s “grey” status as a state with loose embezzlement and money laundering controls. Whether these trends will dent the image of Tayyip Erdoğan or upend JDP control over Turkey remains to be seen.
Headline Image: Turkish flag photo by Abigail Powell. CC BY-NC 2.0 by Flickr
Autumn is here again – in England, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, in the US also the season of Thanksgiving. On the fourth Thursday in November, schoolchildren across the country will stage pageants, some playing black-suited Puritans, others Native Americans bedecked with feathers. By tradition, Barack Obama will ‘pardon’ a turkey, but 46 million others will be eaten in a feast complete with corncobs and pumpkin pie. The holiday has a long history: Lincoln fixed the date (amended by Roosevelt in 1941), and Washington made it a national event. Its origins, of course, lay in the Pilgrim Fathers’ first harvest of 1621.
Who now remembers who these intrepid migrants were – not the early ‘founding fathers’ they became, but who they were when they left? The pageant pilgrims are undifferentiated. Who knows the name of Christopher Martin, a merchant from Billericay near Chelmsford in Essex? He took his whole family on the Mayflower, most of whom, including Martin himself, perished in New Plymouth’s first winter. They died Essex folk in a strange land: there was nothing ‘American’ about them. And as for Thanksgiving, well that habit came from the harvest festivals and religious observances of Protestant England. Even pumpkin pie was an English dish, exported then forgotten on the eastern side of the Atlantic.
Towns like Billericay, Chelmsford and Colchester were crucial to American colonization: ordinary places that produced extraordinary people. The trickle of migrants in the 1620s, in the next decade became a flood, leading to some remarkable transformations. In 1630 Francis Wainwright was drawing ale and clearing pots in a Chelmsford inn when his master, Alexander Knight, decided to emigrate to Massachusetts. It was an age of austerity, of bad harvests and depression in the cloth industry. Plus those who wanted the Protestant Reformation to go further – Puritans – feared that under Charles I it was slipping backwards. Many thought they would try their luck elsewhere until England’s fortunes were restored, perhaps even that by building a ‘new’ England they could help with this restoration. Wainwright, aged about fourteen, went with Knight, and so entered a world of hardship and danger and wonder.
One May dawn, seven years later, Wainwright was standing by the Mystic River in Connecticut, one of seventy troops waiting to shoot at approaching Pequot warriors. According to an observer, the Englishmen ‘being bereaved of pity, fell upon the work without compassion’, and by dusk 400 Indians lay dead in their ruined encampment. The innkeeper’s apprentice had fired until his ammunition was exhausted, then used his musket as a club. One participant celebrated the victory, remarking that English guns had been so fearsome, it was ‘as though the finger of God had touched both match and flint’. Another rejoiced that providence had made a ‘fiery oven’ of the Pequots’ fort. Wainwright took two native heads home as souvenirs. Unlike many migrants, he stayed in America, proud to be a New Englander, English by birth but made different by experience. He lived a long life in commerce, through many fears and alarms, and died at Salem in 1692 during the white heat of the witch-trials.
The story poses hard historical questions. What is identity, and how does it change? Thanksgiving pageants turn Englishmen into Americans as if by magic; but the reality was more gradual and nuanced. Recently much scholarly energy has been poured into understanding past emotions. We may think our emotions are private, but they leak out all the time; we may even use them to get what we want. Converted into word and deed, emotions leave traces in the historical record. When the Pilgrim William Bradford called the Pequot massacre ‘a sweet sacrifice’, he was not exactly happy but certainly pleased that God’s will had been done.
Puritans are not usually associated with emotion, but they were deeply sensitive to human and divine behaviour, especially in the colonies. Settlers were proud to be God’s chosen people – like Israelites in the wilderness – yet pride brought shame, followed by doubt that God liked them at all. Introspection led to wretchedness, which was cured by the Holy Spirit, and they were back to their old censorious selves. In England, even fellow Puritans thought they’d lost the plot, as did most (non-Puritan) New Englanders. But godly colonists established what historians call an ‘emotional regime’ or ‘emotional community’ in which their tears and thunder were not only acceptable but carried great political authority.
John Winthrop, the leader of the fleet that carried Francis Wainwright to New England, was an intensely emotional man who loved his wife and children almost as much as he loved God. Gaunt, ascetic and tirelessly judgmental, he became Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor, driven by dreams of building a ‘city upon a hill’. It didn’t quite work out: Boston grew too quickly, and became diverse and worldly. And not everyone cared for Winthrop’s definition of liberty: freedom to obey him and his personal interpretation of God’s designs. But presidents from Reagan to Obama have been drawn to ‘the city upon the hill’ as an emotionally potent metaphor for the US in its mission to inspire, assist, and police the world.
Winthrop’s feelings, however, came from and were directed at England. His friend Thomas Hooker, ‘the father of Connecticut’, cut his teeth as a clergyman in Chelmsford when Francis Wainwright lived there. Partly thanks to Wainwright, one assumes, he found the town full of drunks, with ‘more profaneness than devotion’. But Hooker ‘quickly cleared streets of this disorder’. The ‘city upon the hill’, then, was not a blueprint for America, but an exemplar to help England reform itself. Indeed, long before the idea was associated with Massachusetts, it related to English towns – notably Colchester – that aspired to be righteous commonwealths in a country many felt was going to the dogs. Revellers did not disappear from Chelmsford and Colchester – try visiting on a Saturday night – but, as preachers and merchants and warriors, its people did sow the seeds from which grew the most powerful nation in the world.
So if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this year, or you know someone who is, it’s worth remembering that the first colonists to give thanks were not just generic Old World exiles, uniformly dull until America made them special, but living, breathing emotional individuals with hearts and minds rooted in English towns and shires. To them, the New World was not an upgrade on England: it was a space in which to return their beloved country to its former glories.
Featured image credit: Signing of the Constitution, by Thomas P. Rossiter. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Thanksgiving eve. The zoo denizens are upset with the zoo directorate having not been included in the Thanksgiving celebrations
Once again, we’re not included in Thanksgiving festivities
Did you really expect to? I mean, why should they? Who are we? Merely the tools in which they make money. That’s all - and how do they thank us? Closing the zoo for the day so we can’t even expect extra treats from visitors. This is so typically…human
SOUND: GOBBLE-GOBBLE… GOBBLE-GOBBLE….
What’s that noise?
Noise? What noise? Are my stripes straight?
You don’t hear that?
‘You are magnificent… Those teeth…those sparkling eyes…’
Maybe if you’d get your face away from that mirror and stop admiring yourself…
A person has to make sure that he looks good from every angle. Being the sole representative of the zebra specie in this zoo comes with a responsibility. A daily body examination is necessary to ensure that all my black stripes are evenly spaced on my perfectly white skin. ‘Yesssss! Perfection personified!’
Far be it to burst your bubble, Zeeb…
…I am not zeeb - or zebby - or zeeby-baby. I’m a zebra. Z-E-B-R-A!
Gotcha Zebby-boy – like I was sayin’ – the way that I see it, the stripe on your upper right leg doesn’t well…match the left
What?! You must be mistaken. It’s not possible… How could this be? I just checked it not two minutes ago and it was perfectly aligned
MANNY, the boa constrictor slithers in)
Hey – how ‘ya doin’?
Manny – you’re out. Free. Did you eat lunch, yet?
Yes Manny – I do hope they’ve fed you some nourishment. I mean, it’s important to keep up your strength. We don’t want you slithering around hungry looking for anybody, heh-heh…
That’s the last thing we want…being that we’re your friends and all…that is to say, we don’t want you to experience hunger pangs…
As I remember, I had a nibble a month ago. Sure is quiet around here. No humans to knock on the glass of my enclosure
There it is again. Sounds familiar-like…
(a turkey suddenly drops down from a tree)
A tree chicken. Never knew chickens live in trees.
I am a turkey who requires sanctuary
…turkey…I am – um – an endangered specie. Yes – that’s it and am declaring myself on the extinct list thus requiring sanctuary
You must be someone important judging by your extensive vocabulary. All cultured and important species have an extensive vocabulary – and a beautiful body, of course
I am. In fact, I can state with absolute knowledge that I am number one on everyone’s hit list, today
Well I for one, believe you. You do look very appealing – in an endangered species way of course
Wish we could help, turkey, but we live out in the open
I could send a protest letter to the Zoos of America if that could assist you in any way
I am doomed!
(slithering almost directly in front of TURKEY) Well turkey – really feel for you, in the true sense of the word. I just happen to live inside in a huge glass enclosure that has lots of hiding places.Why don’t you come back to my pit and check things out? I live alone and there’s nobody to bother or see us
That’s a very generous offer on your part –
-Manny – TURKEY Manny
Anything for a friend in need.
(the two start to make their way to MANNY’s place)
cont’d.) Did anyone ever tell you that you have a beautiful, full body. I bet under all those feathers, you have nice firm flesh
The farmer takes good care of me. You can see for yourself when we get back to your pit.
Oh I intend to
Can I give you a hug?
Later…when we’re alone…they’ll be plenty of hugging to go around…
What started as a simple festival celebrating the year’s bountiful harvest has turned into an archetypal American holiday, with grand dinners featuring savory and sweet dishes alike. Thanksgiving foods have changed over the years, but there are still some iconic favorites that have withstood time. Hover over each food below in this interactive image and find out more about their role in this day of feasting:
What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Let us know in the comments below!
As always, Thanksgiving, was a time for being grateful for all the wonderful blessings that’ve been presented to us this year and all the years before…to get together with family and friends…followed by a slight feeling of regret that I may have ate a little too much. But nonetheless it was a great weekend. Our turkey?
Rave reviews about our very first turkey! So awesome. Thank goodness for the internet and showing us the perfect way to brine this massive bird. It was deeeelicious, we’ll definitely be sticking with this recipe for the future. Even my niece Chloe grabbed a second helping and her mom said she didn’t like turkey. As of yesterday, we are officially out of leftovers. YAY!
Hope everyone had a great start to the holidays as well!
With all the discussion of diplomacy (and its limits) and the robust debate about military action in Syria, the issue that haunts both is the nature of post-Assad Syria. Will Syria end up like Iraq? Like Lebanon of the 1970s-1980s? Both countries have suffered much from sectarian and ethnic differences that politicians have manipulated for their own ends. Or might Syria suffer far worse? Such has been the commentary about what might befall Syrians in a world without the Assad regime. Few observers have looked at the deeply divided Syrian opposition without a credible leader and declared that post-Assad Syria will be a better place at least in the short run. It is all about Sunni-Alawi bloodletting, especially. I have come to support international action in Syria, but the big unknowns of post-Assad Syria—the political, ethnic, and sectarian dynamics—give me pause.
To be sure, the narrative that Syria will automatically fall into communal conflict is to varying degrees the product of a particular strain of Western thought about the Middle East in which Arabs, released from the grip of authoritarianism, are fated to play out some kind of primordial bloodlust. Isn’t it possible that this scenario is wrong, though? Remember Syria’s coming anarchy after Hafiz al Assad died? Even though everyone knew there would a be family succession, there was nevertheless supposed to be bloodletting as the Sunni majority, including the Muslim Brotherhood, would exact revenge on the Alawis at a moment of regime weakness. In reality, the transition from Hafiz to Bashar was relatively smooth. To be fair, the transition was planned well in advance and the elder Assad made sure that his loyal old guard would ensure the dynasty. Still, isn’t it possible that observers are engaged in some ethnic/sectarian conflict overshooting? In summary, because Iraq descended into strife after the U.S. invasion and Lebanon’s well-known history of communal violence, it only stands to reason that Syria will do the same after Assad. This seems to me intuition—perhaps good intuition—but nevertheless a hunch. If Syria is not Libya then it may not be Iraq either. I haven’t read anything about what is going on in Syria that tells me the probability of ethnic and sectarian conflict, yet all the analyses seem to take it as a given. Social scientists are starting to develop tools like agent based modeling that can tell us something about the “futures” of states, but at present no one actually knows what will happen in Syria.
If Syria is fated to a violent future in a post-Assad period, why bother with all the “Bashar must go” rhetoric and diplomatic maneuverings? After all, Hafiz al Assad’s greatest legacy was to bring stability to a country that had known nothing but political intrigue, coups, and counter-coups since the 1940s. And before independence in 1941, French imperial policy expressly favored minorities at the expense of the Sunni core. Indeed, if the country needs a strongman to hold it together and thereby avoid mass violence, then shouldn’t that be the policy of the international community? After all, even if there is some sort of managed transition along the lines of that which the Arab League or now Turkey have floated, that development negates neither Syria’s ethnic and sectarian fault lines nor the predicted conflict that flows from them.
The point here is not to justify international intervention or inaction. Rather, it is to tease out the logic and logical flaws in arguments made for or against intervention. In the end, the risks of military action or continued diplomatic pressure remain largely in the realm of considered opinion. Thus far, no one on either side of the debate has been able impose their will on the other, which says something about the quality of the debate. That said, no one has effectively answered the two questions at the heart of t
Chafing from four centuries of rule by the Ottoman Empire and taking advantage of the Ottoman army’s need to suppress a rebellious local official, the Greek organization Filike Etaireia ( “Friendly Brotherhood”) launched revolts across Greece on March 25, 1821. While it took years for the Greeks to win independence, the day the revolt began is still celebrated as Greek Independence Day.
While a rebel Greek army under Alexandros Ipsilantis met an early defeat, other Greek efforts succeeded. By late 1821, the Greeks controlled the Peloponnesian peninsula, and in January of the next year a coalition of rebels formally declared independence. More territory was taken from Ottoman hands in 1822.
Soon, however, infighting among different factions plagued the Greek effort, though the struggle attracted liberals across Europe—including the British noble and poet George Gordon, Lord Byron—who flocked to the Greek cause. By the middle 1820s, the Ottomans had regained control of parts of Greece, and the independence movement was reeling.
In 1826, however, Britain, France, and Russia inserted themselves into the conflict, seeking to restore stability. Their combined fleets defeated an Ottoman and Egyptian force at the battle of Navarino in 1827. The battle was a major victory, though fighting continued until 1832. That year the Ottomans signed a treaty recognizing Greek independence.
Independence was tarnished for some Greeks by the terms of the treaty. The European imposed a constitutional monarchy, placed the German prince Otto of Bavaria on the throne, and insisted on maintaining a protectorate over the new Greek state. Nevertheless, a new Greek state had come into being.
Confession: The day I received Working Title Presses’ latest release, An ANZAC Tale, I was assailed with nostalgia and immense trepidation.
How does one do justice to one of the most unjustifiable periods of human history? Ruth Stark and Greg Holfeld have done it and done it admirably well. The result is a meticulously researched and presented graphic picture book that possesses the unique duality of being both breathtakingly beautiful, and poignantly tragic.
It is almost that time of year when we gather as a nation to commemorate and reflect on one of the most fiercely contested campaigns of WWI, the battle of Gallipoli. But how does one pass comment on the interpretation of the tenacity, stupidity, bravery and strength of spirit of humanity without sounding trite or conceited? I wasn’t sure I could manage it as masterfully as the Stark Holfeld team. So I didn’t try.
Instead I revisited the tale, and with each turn of the page, was transported back to a time over two decades ago, when I gazed across the benign azure waters of Suvla Bay and ANZAC Cove, on the European side of Turkey’s Gelibolu Peninsular. Sunshine bronzed my already travel-tanned shoulders and the smell of the Aegean Sea filled my lungs. Nothing permeated the silence that engulfed us, not even the cry of sea birds. I stared at the impossibly steep cliffs looming up from the beach and shivered in spite of the heat.
I remember standing in the trenches of The Nek and Second Ridge, shallow now, scalloped smooth by time. A pine scented breeze played about my neck. We stood unmoving, listening to it whisper through the pines; the sound of a thousand souls sighing around us. And tears seared my eyes, blurred my vision of the honey coloured earth as I struggled to imagine it stained vile by the colours of war and battled to comprehend the futility, the valour, the discomfort, and the stench of human corruption.
We were led about by our Turkish guide with quiet reverence, not because he thought we were special, but because we were Aussies. We had already earned his respect and our right to be there. We felt that as absolutely as the heat pulsating up from the baked earth.
I remember visiting Chunuk Bair, Lone Pine; standing in front of the walls of names, searching, too many to read through; I’ll be here all day, I thought. Compared to whom? I found a pine seed from that tree and slipped it into my pocket, (just as Ray did for his mate Wally). When the afternoon sun lost its sting, we slipped away quietly from the trenches and had Turkish Dondurma (ice-cream) to temper the memory of what we had seen and felt; acutely aware of enjoying a pleasure and a respite that would have been denied to the ANZACS.
My brief sojourn to Gelibolu makes me no more of an expert on the event and the place than the next Aussie backpacker. Yet it has created an indelible memory with which An ANZAC Tale resonates profoundly.
The enormity of the ANZAC’s story is handled with remarkable lightness of touch and told by Ruth Stark with a respectful, quintessential Aussie jocularity. It is never sentimental or laboured but simply follows best mates Ray Martin and Wally Cardwell as they experience the first landing at ANZAC Cove on the 25th April 1915. What followed became a battle of endurance and wits sadly resulting in thousands of deaths on both sides.
The popular comic-style graphic format is dominated by the illustrations of Greg Holfeld that are brutally faithful to the moment without depicting gratuitous guts and gore. The last charge in particular rips with chaotic movement, terror and finality but not in a way that traumatises the reader.
Wally, Roy and their new, fortune-seeking mate, Tom, head an anthropomorphic cast of Aussie characters. They are buck Roos, who rub shoulders with Kiwis (the birds) and various other national fauna. The Drill Major is a raucous bossy cockatoo. Egyptians are depicted as cats. Wily and resourceful magpies represent enterprising privates and Johnny Turk is portrayed as the ‘black eared’ caracal lynx, from the Turkish word karakulak. This cat is described as being fiercely territorial which accurately translates to the Turks’ indomitable fighting spirit.
An ANZAC Tale not only chronicles a significant period of history difficult for young people to fathom in a way that they (young boys and reluctant readers in particular) will find enthralling and exciting but also takes us on a deeply moving journey (tears were never far away for me) through the vagaries of Australian society in the early twentieth Century and the complexities of warfare. All this is brilliantly supported with maps, notes and a timeline.
‘Why would any Australian want to come to Gallipoli?’ Ray asks Tom as they evacuate under the cover of darkness on the 18th of December 1915. You don’t need to turn the last page to find the answer to that poignant question, but you’ll be touched when you do.
If you haven’t yet been or are unlikely to get the family to Gallipoli any time soon, An ANZAC Tale is an outstanding armchair substitute. Beautifully bound and twice the length of a normal picture book, it will appeal best to older aged primary children and those who’d rather reflect than analyse.
One of the memes that has gained popularity during the recent visual effects industry turmoil is asking, What would Hollywood films look like without visual effects? We may not find out the answer to that question anytime soon, but we do know now what a Turkish TV series looks like without visual effects.
Turkish Redditors are claiming that the TV network STV accidentally aired an episode of a dramatic show with unprocessed chroma key shots, that is, with the green screen actors still running around the screen. Here is the footage that allegedly went over the air:
Maggie Steele, the storybook heroine who vaults over the moon, has been attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. So many visitors, in fact, that she’s using a time zone map to keep track of them all.* People are … Continue reading →
Time to put Halloween away and focus on the upcoming holidays along with… drumroll please… PiBoIdMo and SkADaMo and any other creative challenge November seems to be dripping with lately.
Looks like we have a fair amount of masochists joining us this year. I’ve posted links to all the participants (who have left links in the comments here). If I’ve missed anyone or your link is not working or any other proof of my heinous lack of organizational skills, please let me know and I’ll do my best to fix it.
So let’s kick those moldering pumpkins out of the way, roll up our sleeves and get cracking!
Ok then (rubbing hands together), time to put Thanksgiving behind us and focus on the holiday shenanigans still ahead, along with… drumroll please… HoHoDooDa 2013!
Looks like we have a few masochists joining us this year. Below are the names and links of said participants (at least any who have left their name and link to where they are posting their doodles, in the comments here.) If I’ve missed anyone or your link is not working or any other proof of my heinous lack of organizational skills, please leet me know and I’ll do my best to fix it.
So let’s kick the turkeys out of our way, roll up our sleeves and get doodling!
So, it’s less than twelve hours until my blog on ABBA is due and I’ve given it no thought because:
It’s the holidays.
I only have until 31st October to finish my book.
It’s my niece’s birthday and I had to buy her a present.
My mum needs a cataract operation and I spent ages on the phone sorting it out.
There were blackberries begging to be picked.
It took 45 minutes to cycle to where the blackberries were waiting to be picked.
My son is in Bangkok, trying to get to Sydney but the flight has been delayed 26 hours and counting.
It’s still sunny.
My daughter has just come home from a day’s shopping in Bath with her friend.
She bought a camera.
I have annoyed her by saying she should have bought it from a ‘proper’ shop in case it goes wrong.
I have no insights worth sharing.
But, I have a commitment so please find below a brain dump of all the things that I’m finding difficult, writing wise:
In a sequel, how much of the earlier story do you need to put in? It’s hard to judge. Too much will bore the reader who already knows the background, too little and it won’t make sense to the disobedient reader approaching them in the wrong order.
How do I refer to my character given that she has several pseudonyms? I keep putting in aka and annoying myself.
I have chosen a structure that alternates between current day and several years ago. Do I need to give the chapters headings to help the reader or shall I assume they are capable of keeping up with me?
I set the first book in Bristol, where I live. The second is set in Leeds. It seemed a good idea as I went to university there, but when I looked at a street map I realised my memory is unreliable. Does it matter?
In between fretting about the plot, I am conscious that I should be thinking about publicity for the first book, out in November. Even the word makes me feel like watching Breaking Bad and eating dark chocolate with dried cranberries. Does the fact that it’s the holidays mean I can shelve those thoughts until September? (Do any writers relish the idea of ‘selling’ their books?)
My character has a trip to Yemen. I have read relevant blogs and spent far too much time on trip advisor. As the work is fiction, how authentic must it be? Do I need to find someone who has been there to check what I’ve written?
(I am enjoying asking all these questions. It’s like having an imaginary friend.)
I have endlessly googled bomb-making, and similar, will there be a knock on my door one day? Do other authors erase their search history?
Would you mind if I stopped now, and went to fry the turkey strips? (I know, what possessed me to buy them?)
We are so excited about our next children’s picture book release, Ten Thankful Turkeys. Stay tuned here for more details and promotions we will be doing. You’ll want to gobble up these deals before they disappear.
Happy Thanksgiving! The above is a card my son and I made for his dear cousin. Today I am thankful for things big and little: my family, friends, health, home, my work, construction paper, tracing-hand turkeys, time to spend with my little son making art together. Wherever you are, whatever you are eating, and whomever you are with, I hope you are happy, healthy, and thankful for all that makes you smile. Gobble gobble!!!!
Let's Talk Turkey! Or, better yet, let's let Emlyn Chand talk turkey because eating all those leftovers really tired me out ;)
Ah yes, Thanksgiving. Nothing says the holidays like sitting around a fully decked out dining room table with mouthwatering temptations waiting to be gobbled up. Everyone waits anxiously for the big reveal… the turkey!
Lovingly prepared since early that morning, the turkey is brought out in a covered, silver serving platter. Aunt Edith smacks little Tommy’s hand as he attempts to steal a candied yam dripping with marshmallow. The collective breath is held as the silver cover is removed… revealing… a zombie turkey!
What—what? That’s right folks, this year, we are celebrating this American holiday paranormal style. And what says paranormal holiday better than a walking, talking zombie turkey? This zombie turkey brings you important tidings of great prizes that shall be for all people… who participate and win of course. November 25-27 you could win up to $200 in prizes!
Three days. Four YA paranormal books. Five chances to win!
And who are these crazy paranormal authors? Check them out. It’s like the Nightmare Before Christmas, Thanksgiving style!
Emlyn Chand, Author of Farsighted “Psychic or not, you’ll never see the end for this one coming! Emlyn Chand is pioneering ‘the next big thing’ for YA.” ~ Emily Reese, author of Second Death Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t. When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider. Monster Mash: Emlyn says… I. AM. WEREWOLF! And why’s that you ask? First off, my name (Chand) literally means moon in Sanskrit. Next, werewolves are super cool–we can blend in with common folk, and then out of nowhere, kapow! I’m a werewolf, and I sure am hungry. Lastly, Team Jacob 100%. Now excuse me while I cock back my head and howl at my namesake.
Patti Larsen, Author of Family Magic “Patti Larsen is truly gifted because I read Family Magic cover to cover and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next installment!” ~ from Goodreads review
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Turkey dinner with all the fixin's around 2:00 PM topped off withlemon meringue pie!
Turkey sandwiches around 7:00PM (Yummy!!) Nature's sleeping pill!
Turkey sandwiches with mayo, lettuce, and cranberry sauce for lunch (still tasty!)
Turkey dinner with all the fixin's (round 2) plus pie, ofcourse! (Next-day leftovers are even better, don't you think?) Day 3.
Turkey salad sandwiches for lunch. (Lovin' me some turkeysalad!)
Turkey Caesar salad for dinner (Finally, something green that isn't soaked in Campbell's mushroom soup and French's onions!) and, oh yeah…pie. Day 4.
Turkey salad sandwiches for lunch (Not lovin' the turkey salad so much and there's still half a bowl).
Turkey pot pie for dinner and the last of the lemon meringue. (sigh)
Note: There might have been Day 5 except that on day 2 I was smartenough to vacuum seal a couple bags of turkey pieces for some time in May, (theearliest possible date I figure we'll be able to look at turkey, again, withoutgagging).
Btw, our furry daughter, Lucy, requested a 22-pounder next year because she doesn't feel she got her share.