so it didn’t survive after all

Damn. We were certainly premature in taking relief in the safety of New Orleans.

Between no power and being at work most of the time, i had no clue of how grave the situation is.

I’m still digesting this…

Brief Katrina Update from Jack City

I took two New Orleans Refugees in…. only to see Katrina coming right toward us. The power has been blinky and rains are hard. Even as I type now, the tornado sirens are sounding. Me and three droogs are moving to an empty house in a few minutes (higher ground).

Just wanted to post my relief that New Orleans has survived. We’re hearing about Levee breaks in the 9th Ward and buildings collapsing on the West bank, but the city survives!

I plan on getting hit with the eye wall in about two hours. It’ll be GREAT. I’ve got some beer, some friends, a deck of cards and a battery operated radio. Thanks for all the kind words… If you don’t hear from me for a few days, either my power is gone or I’m DEAD.


Cat 2 hurricanes are actually fun….


Katrina: part two

Although the damage to New Orleans will be considerable, it seems that the worst case scenario shall not come to pass. Now we can fret over the Mississippi Gulf Shore, a less hyped special place, but relatively less populated and more easily evacuated.

Eyewintness accounts are being posted on the NOLA View blog.

The company i work for insists that the bookstore must be open today, to capitalize on any possible shopping of evacuees. I’m not on the opening shift, but right now, even in Baton Rouge, no one is allowed on the streets. Morons.

New Orleans elevation maps

This is lifted from a larger map, probably from the Times-Picayune, that speculated what would have happened if Hurricane Georges had hit New Orleans in 1998. Katrina is a far more dangerous, powerful storm, bringing a larger storm surge. Here’s some details from that map:

Now check out New Orleans proper. The part of the city most people think of, the French Quarter is not actually below sea level. Midcity’s in bad shape though.

It’s Metairie & Kenner that is built on reclaimed marshland that has subsided over the years. A lot of the houses out there have to have pilings to shore them up, as they are quickly sinking into the ground. This is the part of Greater New Orleans that is under the greatest threat.

Of course, with all of the talk about a thirty foot high wall of water coming at shore at the same time of high tide tomorrow, qubbling over what part of New Orleans is really below sea level is a moot point.


Not to be a ghoul, but the dearth of posting is because i’m obsessively combing through the weather and news sites for any updates on Katrina.

We’re in Baton Rouge, so we’re relatively safe, although there will probably be some dangerous winds. I don’t want to lose New Orleans. Although i’m originally from Tangipahoa Parish, my roots are just as much out of New Orleans (as my mother is from Algiers, across the river from New Orleans,) and i still have a lot of family that live there.

(Bill’s in Jackson, Mississippi, so while he’s theoretically in the path of danger, he’s in relative safety too.)

This image is lifted from this story. If the worst case scenario happens, as it finally seems likely after all of the years of doomsaying, the twenty foot pole the man is holding demonstrates where the water level might be.

I love this city, and it scares me that many places that i accepted would exist long after i’m dead may be destroyed in a matter of hours in my lifetime.

The other scary fact is that a lot of people evacuating are still trapped on the interstate, and the winds are beginning to pick up. I cannot comprehend why anyone would have headed east on I-10, if they have had any previous experience with hurricanes, but they did. The real death toll might wind up being on the roads.

The footage of the evacuees at the Superdome is still making me wince at the possibility at how monstrous this could be. I doubt if that structure is as safe as they are estimating it is.

National Parks are not resources to be exploited

Paul Hoffman, deputy assistant secretary of the Interior, is revising National Park policy so that mining and grazing are higher priority park uses, easing restrictions on installation of cell phone towers, and allowing more off-road vehicle access. He’s also disallowing park manager’s ability to restrict commercial development of the parks by citing the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

This is bad, bad news. This land is not a true renewable resource. This land was set aside for future generations, and Hoffman is part of the Cheney plan to squeeze every bit of wealth out of these resources for immediate use. Most veterans of the Park Service are dismayed at how shortsighted and rapacious these new rules are.

Privatizing public lands in this manner is theft. The national park system was not set aside as a stockpile of raw resources to be auctioned off to the highest bidder when the federal budget feels the pinch. This is about more than immediate material wealth, especially since no average American citizen is going to receive any benefit from redefinition (and essentiallly the liquidation of) National Parks.

Istanbul Gets Bright at Night

Istanbul is beginning to stake its claim as one of the coolest cities in the world. It is on my travel list, right below my glorious return to Venice, the jewel of the Earth.


Spend a summer night strolling down Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi, the pedestrian thoroughfare in the city’s old Christian quarter of Beyoglu, and you’ll hear something surprising. Amid the crowds of nocturnal revelers, a young Uzbek-looking girl plays haunting songs from Central Asia on an ancient Turkic flute called a saz. Nearby, bluesy Greek rembetiko blares from a CD store. Downhill toward the slums of Tarlabasi you hear the wild Balkan rhythms of a Gypsy wedding, while at 360, an ultratrendy rooftop restaurant, the sound is Sufi electronica—cutting-edge beats laced with dervish ritual. And then there are the clubs—Mojo, say, or Babylon—where the young and beautiful rise spontaneously from their tables to link arms and perform a complicated Black Sea line dance, the horon. The wonder is that each and every one of these styles is absolutely native to the city, which for much of its history was the capital of half the known world.

The sounds of today’s Istanbul convey something important. They’re evidence of a cultural revival that’s helping the city reclaim its heritage as a world-class crossroads. After decades of provincialism, decay and economic depression—not to mention the dreary nationalism mandated by a series of governments dominated by the military—Istanbul is re-emerging as one of Europe’s great metropolises. “Istanbul is experiencing a rebirth of identity,” says Fatih Akin, director of this summer’s award-winning film “The Sound of Istanbul,” an odyssey through the city’s rich musical traditions. Akin grew up in Germany but during the past decade has rediscovered his Turkish roots. “There’s such richness,” he says. “So many people have crossed Istanbul and left their culture here.”

Signs of renewed self-confidence are everywhere. The city is still thickly atmospheric, with bazaars, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mansions pretty much everywhere. But that faded grandeur has recently been leavened with new energy. Stock markets are surging. Young, Western-educated Turks are returning home to start businesses. Foreigners are snapping up choice real estate. Turkish painters, writers, musicians, fashion designers and filmmakers are increasingly in the international spotlight. Two major new private museums devoted to Turkish art, the Istanbul Modern and the Pera Museum, have opened in the past year alone. Private galleries like GalerIst and Platform are showcasing, and fostering, new artists from Turkey and around the region.

The city’s renaissance is part and parcel of Turkey’s embrace of Europe. It’s no accident that the Modern’s opening was pushed up last December to coincide with the European Union’s decision to begin accession talks with Ankara. Turkey’s drive to “join Europe” undergirds the economic reforms that have given both Turks and foreigners the confidence to invest and buoyed the country’s prospects. Inflation is in the single digits for the first time in 30 years, unemployment is down and GDP growth is more than 9 percent. Reforms pushed by the EU—from its insistence that the military step back from politics to human-rights and free-speech liberalizations—have reshaped Turkey’s political and social landscape. At bottom, Istanbul’s new look would not have been not be possible had the country’s government not been so determined to prove its Western credentials.

In every area of life, a new generation of young Turks is reaching outward. This year’s Art Biennale will draw artists from Bosnia, Iran, Egypt, Greece and Lebanon—a most uncommon mix—while the Web Biennale will feature work by Armenians, Ukrainians, Serbs, Macedonians and Romanians. “Istanbul these days has as much dynamism as New York,” says Genco Gulan, director of the Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum. If anything, he enthuses, “Istanbul is more alive. There’s more interest here in doing something new.”

That cultural vibrancy has come hand in hand with a physical renaissance, the likes of which Istanbul hasn’t seen in a century. Begin with Beyoglu, an area of grand 19th-century apartment buildings reminiscent of Budapest or Vienna that was largely abandoned by its Greek and Jewish inhabitants in the 1950s and became a Kurdish and Gypsy slum. “Fifteen years ago, you’d be afraid to go there,” says Gulen Guler, a film producer who lives in the neighborhood. Fusion restaurants, organic grocers and designer candle shops now abound, along with the city’s trendiest shops, galleries, design studios and clubs—many of them standouts of contemporary design. Beyoglu is also home to a growing colony of young foreigners buying up cheap apartments. “This place is attracting people away from very cool scenes elsewhere, like Berlin,” says Andrew Foxall, one of the owners of 20 Million, a design and photography studio in Cukurcuma, the artiest of Beyoglu’s enclaves.

The rise of Beyoglu is a good metaphor —for Istanbul as a whole. At its best, it showcases all that’s original and vibrant in the city. At its worst, it does just the opposite—testifying to Turkey’s cultural insecurities. Yes, the melting pot that is the Istiklal Caddesi is genuine enough. But what to make of the Fransiz Sokak, a whole street filled with faux French cafes and restaurants, complete with baguettes and piped accordion music? Contrast that with the restaurant Dilara’s Abracadabra, whose owner, Dilara Erbay, conjures up a truly innovative new food culture based on traditional seasonal rhythms. “This is Anatolia, a very spiritual and holy place,” says Erbay. “Anatolian food is alive, all the old stories are there. We prepare special foods when someone dies, when they are born, when guests come. You can tell all your life in food.” Erbay’s next big thing is Sufi cuisine, simple and pure food eaten from a communal bowl “to symbolize love and oneness,” rooted in Turkey’s ancient culture of Sufi Islamic mysticism.

It’s a constant tussle, this East-West divide. For years being cool and innovative has long meant, simply, being Western. “Kemal Ataturk wanted to change Turkey into a Western country; everything from our own culture was forbidden,” recalls Fatih Akin. Now, he adds, more and more Turkish artists are rediscovering their own voices, grounded in their own traditions rather than borrowed ones. Listen, for instance, to the weird, haunting melodies of the dervish rituals that shape the mesmerizing electronic music of Mercan Dede, who mixes Sufi classical music played on the ney (a kind of flute) with computer beats. Look at the upper floors of the Pera Museum, dedicated to the work of young Turkish artists. (One female painter crowns her angry self-portrait with a Byzantine-style gold halo; a digital photomontage of horses and soldiers turns what might have been a battle of classical Greece and Persia into something resembling a videogame; in one photo of a large mosque, minarets tilt at 45 degrees, evoking missiles.) Or try on some of designer Gonul Paksoy’s sumptuous Ottoman-inspired gowns made of antique silks and rich embroidery. These are all signs of a cultural voice growing from within, and no longer imported from abroad.

Not all the new art is a celebration. Filmmaker Kutlug Ataman, shortlisted for last year’s prestigious British Turner Prize, cuts close to Turkey’s sociocultural bone. His latest video installation, “Kuba,” constructs a communal portrait of life in an Istanbul shantytown, voice by voice. The subjects range from criminals, drug addicts and teenage delinquents to religious radicals and the poor—an uncomfortably real slice of daily life at the margins.

Bold artistic voices like Ataman’s are bound to collide with Turkey’s many taboos—nationalist versus European, modern versus traditional, secular versus religious. While bright young things drink and flirt in expensive Beyoglu restaurants, the more numerous poor look on in bewilderment and not a little disapproval. Outside one trendy record shop specializing in reggae and rap, graffiti on the wall reads RAP NO—MUSLIM YES. And just a hundred meters from the lively bars of Istiklal, an armored personnel carrier stands permanently parked outside the police headquarters on Tarlabasi Boulevard, ready for use during the sporadic disorders among Tarlabasi’s largely Kurdish minority.

Istanbul and its artists are testing new political limits as well. Aynur, a Kurdish singer featured in “The Sound of Istanbul,” recalls that when she started performing 10 years ago, police would pull the plug on her. With new laws (another nod to the EU) authorizing broadcasts in Kurdish, she can now sing wherever and whenever she wants. But, she says, “I only wish these changes were happening because we really believed in them, not because we’re becoming members of the EU.” Even novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose books have been a huge success in Turkey and the West, was pilloried by nationalists earlier this year when he dared to ask what had happened to the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in 1915, when hundreds of thousands were killed.

Still, taken together, the changes have been dramatic. For decades now, Greeks and Turks have lived in enmity. Yet the Pozitif photo gallery in Galata is currently hosting a show of stark images from Imroz, a Turkish Aegean island with a tiny, and dying, Greek population. It’s a sad exhibit, says photographer Murat Yaykin, but “it’s important to tell the story” of how Greeks and Turks not so long ago lived side by side in harmony. A huge crowd also turned out last month when Greek singer Aliki Kayaloglou performed poetry by Greek poets Elytis, Kavafis and Sappho, as well as Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, set to music by contemporary Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. Greek contemporary pop sells well in the record shops on Istiklal.

Perhaps most encouraging is the fact that, as Istanbul goes, so goes much of the rest of the country. The megalopolis accounts for roughly 45 percent of national industry, 55 percent of GDP and 60 percent of the country’s exports. A whole generation of young Turks, educated abroad, is now being drawn back to their homeland, stoking the city’s dynamism. Memduh Karakullukcu, 35, schooled at MIT, Columbia and the London School of Economics, worked as an investment banker and consultant in Europe and the United States before returning to head Istanbul Technical University’s prestigious technology incubator. “For the first time, living in Istanbul doesn’t mean that I’m left out of the major social and financial networks,” he says. “I can be part of all that from here.” These new repatriates bring a worldliness and an openness their parents’ generation lacks. “There’s a cultural shift. Both Turks and foreigners are excited about the possibilities of the city, which has been a well-kept secret for so long,” says Oya Eczacibasi, chairwoman of the Istanbul Modern.

Europe may yet balk at admitting Turkey to its Union. Yet the world won’t end if it does. All signs suggest that Istanbul will continue to re-create itself, perhaps even more energetically. Remember the sounds of Istanbul’s streets—European and Turkish and Balkan and Middle Eastern, all coming together in a strange but beautiful harmony.

finished The Brief & Frightening Reign of Phil

Saunders wrote a nice little satire, that reeks of contemporary America versus Iraq, as well as versus Mexico… there were elements of both that came through. The joke about 9/11 seemed to fall flat, but delusions and bland complicity of normal Americans worked well enough. It was too quick of a read for me, and the end was… eh… since we’re still stuck in the middle of the Long & Frightening Reign of George, the end of this story seemed an empty gesture.

How could one not enjoy some of a story with a passage like:

“You’re not sure about this?” said Phil. “Freeda?” Did you sign your Certificate of Total Approval? I believe you did. Although, as i recall, you signed it rather disrespectfully, with your eyes ope, while facing it. That should have been my first clue that you Loyalty was suspect. Did you ever read your Certificate of Total Approval before signing it, Freeda? Especially Paragraph D, Disloyalty Consequences? ‘When Disloyalty occurs) to be determined at the discretion of PHIL), the consequence for that Disloyalty will be determined by PHIL and PHIL alone.’

Ahem. Patriot Act.

There’s some good swipes at the vacuous media as well, but unfortunately, since the book is so damned short, if all of those were excerpted, too much of the book would be reproduced.

If it was not for some of the slightly more advanced vocabulary, this would have made a better children’s book, like The Very Persistent Gappers of Fripp. The ending screams that it was never intended for adults, but this is the version we’re stuck with.

so it just went off the air

Stanislav is recapping some of his most infamous shows for the Little Lighthouse right now. Some of the ones that he’s most proud of are the shows that he dedicated to covers of “I Fought the Law,” “Louie Louie,” “Train Kept a Rollin'” and “Tobacco Road”

He’s also playing an old in-studio performance by Damien of a pretty little acoustic ballad dedicated to blowjobs and masturbation, “Decorate.” To be perfectly honest, it was never one of my favorite of Damien’s songs, but it worked perfectly in this context, as it’s a good live show staple.

Stanislav’s forgotten that one of the moments he’s most notorious for is when someone called in to request Dave Matthews, and he came back on the air with a terse statement full of icy rage that he would never ever play Dave Matthews, and don’t even bother to waste his time with such nonsense. For some reason, there seemed to be a lot of people listening that day, and every time i ran across someone who knew of Stanislav’s show over the next couple of years, heard that incident live.

Dukes of Stratosphear “Little Lighthouse”
It’s always perplexed me that someone as obsessed with Memphis and distinctly American sounds picked an archetypically English sound for his show’s theme song. Because of Pavlovian response I cannot hear it, the clocks from “25 o’clock,” or the intro of “You’re My Drug,” anymore without thinking he’s going to sweep next into one of his brilliantly idiosyncratic picks.

Although this Saturday morning ritual with KSLU seems to be over (as it would be on every time that i wasn’t working or out of town,) he’ll be continuing the show online, either by realaudio or podcast. Salt Lake City’s might have a radio station that will have him, although checking this list doesn’t give me hope. The internet’s the future anyway… and there’s always pirate radio!

Death And The Dervish

In late 60’s, early 70’s there was a soul band in Yugoslavia called Mladi Levi (Young Lions). They were praised as techincally the best Yugoslav band at the time, although in retrospect, only a handful of their songs stood the test of time. Here’s a very nice instrumental inspired by Mesa Selimovic’s novel “Death And The Dervish”. Of course, Mesa is the hero of this blog, and this one goes for Bill who created the whole hype at the first place! Even though Mladi Levi were based in Slovenia, they seem to understand Bosnian folklore, soul music and psychedelic style good enough to mix it all in one exciting piece.

Mladi Levi – Dervis i smrt