Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Texts from Last Night: "Tsentoroi is burning."

More interesting stuff coming out of Chechnya from RFE/RL. And more proof that the region is a noir film, although this part was kind of like the final gunfight in LA Confidential.

Nothing more to add, really. Just keep on reading this stuff, its about as interesting as a story you're going to find these days. And, somehow, some of the least biased, too. Because unlike in Afghanistan, nobody has a dog they want to win in this fight. Unlike, you know, Afghanistan (Gooooo Gul Agha Sherzai!)

Forget it, Jake, This is the North Caucasus

I love mountains. I never really had any interaction with 'em until I graduated high school, but I still think they're fantastic. And they're a bit of what got me into this part of the world...ironic considering that even the Caucasus, the Tarsus, and the Balkans are only the borders of the vast plains of Anatolia and, well, the steppes.

OK, that said, the Caucasus are awesome. Fascinating. Responsible for the best art collective in the world. Responsible for one of the best sayings in the world, "Come back, Imam. But this time, smile." But yeah, I would never want to live there. Because nowadays, Chechnya (and its neighboring republics) look like a film noir.

This article by RFE/RL shows best what I'm talking about. Magomedali Vagabov comes out looking like some sinister mix of Osama bin Laden and Keyzer Soze, which is probably somewhat accurate:
The biography implies that Vagabov was behind the creation of several new jamaats between 2007 and mid-2009, but gives no details of his other activities during that time. Specifically, there is no mention of any further contacts with Khalilov (who was killed in September 2007), or of Vagabov's role in, or response to, the proclamation by Umarov of the Caucasus Emirate in October 2007.

What's more, none of the information about Vagabov's activities prior to 2008 can be corroborated by searching the archives of kavkazcenter.com, the main insurgency website. And the key figures who might have shed light on his activities in Daghestan -- Maksharipov, Khalilov, and Rasulov -- are all dead. 
So here we have a now-deceased guy who was probably the creative mind fixing up new assault groups and getting funding from abroad. And maybe, maybe, but certainly most-interestingly, the dreaded Chechen-Afghanistan link that has been asserted but never proven. And I emphasize the probably. I doubt the NKVD even knows too much about the guy. Other than that he's dead. Maybe.

And the place is just full of these guys. C.J. Chivers' fantastic article on Beslan has numerous references to the "nihilist" Shamil Besayev. With his bald head and missing foot, he was right out of a Dick Tracy cartoon.

Dzhokar Dudayev, of course, looked and acted like the Errol Flynn of Grozny.

All this is to say, the recent attack on Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya, may not be business as usual, but is at least frighteningly ordinary. Ramzan's father, Akhmad, was killed in a bombing at the Grozny stadium during a parade. As for the 19 people killed in this recent attack? Well, the Kadyrovsty are the closest thing you'll find today to a Varangian Guard. Dudes know how to kill, human rights abuse or no (but probably yes).

An HBO series on the area would never be able to get launched for being too bizarre, too bloody, and too devoid of good guys. In about a year, you will hear lots of tongue-clicking about having the Olympic games so close. Despite all of the many differences between the West and East North Caucasus (and please, I don't mean that as an "East v. West" trope).

But things will be interesting, of course. And for us in our air-conditioned apartments with our wireless, all we can ask for is that things be interesting. Just remember, "Every morning you wake up, thank whatever God you believe in that you were not born in Grozny."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Making up facts to fulfill our theses.

The internet is a great place. You can just...say stuff. And people take you seriously. Especially if you can get onto Small Wars Journal and throw some acronyms into the mix.

A constant challenge faced by the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan is the ability of the Anti-Coalition Forces (ACF) to steadily reinforce its ranks through the recruitment of a seemingly unending supply of fresh human reserves. Though the Taliban , et al are known to recruit from a variety of sources (e.g. particular madrassas and more fundamentalist villages on both sides of the Durand Line), among the most lucrative hunting grounds are those places where refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) languish in political and geographic limbo.
The Ph.D in indigenous issues and the MBA in cultural affairs don't instill confidence either. But yeah, that's a whole lot of dumbing-down, a whole lot of de-humanizing, and a whole lot of lack of knowledge that's been gussied up with some acronyms and vocabulary (Madrassa! Fundamentalist! Durand Line!). And honestly, what makes a village fundamentalist?

So ok, bad writing about Afghanistan. Nothing shocking there. And nowadays, the good Mr. Foust has taken on the Caucasus. I like him a lot, but I think he simplifies things a whole lot and misses complexities. He doesn't really bring anything new to the picture besides his writing style. All the same, he's a good analyst. But what happens when bad analysts take on another mountainous region full of dozens of languages and a whole lot of confusion? Think you can take a guess?

Unfortunately, other, more interesting, Caucasus-related things have happened since I started writing this down. So following are my notes. Mock the STARTFOR folks with me, will you?

Crossing point: Eurasia - ME and therefore conflict?
Border between Russia and Iran, IRAQ??, and Turkey
Russia needs mts as defense?
"Turkey needs to settle dispute w/ Armenia to project power" ummm, no. They have GA and Azbj.
Kavkaz + Caspian are where Iran fights Russia. Ira
n deals w/ Armenia to protect against Azeris....no
US joins with GA and Azbj....but WHY?
Two games. ugh. "regional actors" like azbj + hayat, Ga v Rs, and northerners.
local concerns draw in players...ITS 1914 ALL OVER AGAIN
"very carefully? HA"

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Philippines: Eyewitness Report

Beautiful Beaches. Creepy post-colonial feeling to the whole thing. I could live without ever hearing another “Yes sir. Thank you sir. Please, could I do anything else for you, sir? I will be there for you sir, just tell me what you want, sir.” It made me feel like the narrator of Gunga Din.

That said, the beaches are fantastic. Snorkeling is a whole lot of fun. And the one museum I went to was very interesting. Very nationalizing…”We are Philipinos” not just “We are from ___ island or ___ island.” And I wish their nationalist front in the 1800s was NOT called the KKK. And I wish when I was in school I was told about the US’s presence there in any way shape or form. Sure, our AP US teacher gave us a few little quotes, but that was mainly because his wife was Philipino. The US did a whole lot of funky – some would say terrible and be pretty accurate – things down there. It’s too bad they’re not owned up to.

That said, what is up with the whole “Filipino girl and White guy” sort of thing? It’s definitely a trend, and I’m not nearly enough of an anthropologist or sociologist to know anything about it. So I’ll do some googling to find something out, but I find the whole thing a bit weird. Maybe because there’s a navy base or something on the island(s)? And geeze, I sure got to learn a lot about the whitefolk in Korea. I have to say that my law school friend who did That Sort of Thing said it best, “It is just like summer camp, where you only have a few hours of work in a day. Except in this summer camp, you can drink. You can go out until 6am. You can really do whatever you want without anybody stopping you. Including forcing the locals to interact with you on your terms! And the whole fact that all of the whitefolk are either English teachers or military folk, that is, two different stereotypes, is also fairly entertaining. Someone can easily write a sitcom about that.

So that is my month-late Philippines recap. Sorry for the delay, but I have about 10 different things up in the air now, and I had a friend visit, and I love making excuses. Leave it to the Sarajevo airport, with their utter lack of activity at the Customs/Passport Control desk, to give me a reason to finally write this down. My Bosnia report will be far more involved, far more interesting, and far more recent.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Blog Roundup where I confirm all of my preconceived biases

Nothing new happening these days. Just plotting my casual takeover of the Istanbul scene, stuff like that. A trip to the Philippines (uncomfortably PoCo, if real, real, beautiful) for a bit. Work for a bit more. I'd hate to say that I've stopped doing interesting things, but it certainly seems that way.

That said, be sure to read my discussion of Turkish moustaches. And hopefully some of the things I'm talking about here will make their way into fuller-length pieces, but I need to get a few things settled first. Unfortunately that's been the theme of the summer so far. Thus the more navel-gazing and less analysis.

That said, here's what's going on while Turkey confuses itself for the Ciller years of the '90s.
  • Obama breaks out the speechin' stick. Zaman breaks out the Hagiography Camera. Fun ensues.
  • Joshua Foust over at (my techinically-still-affiliated-with) Registan shows what's up with corruption in Central Asia. Both Afghanistan and some decades-old Kazakhstan ish. And no way to blame Karzai or Nazarbayev for this, these sort of things are straight out of USAID and DOJ. So yeah, kind of an awkward chink in the armor for us blue passporters. And I received a random e-mail from the author about this article, because seriously folks: there is no rising tide of Islamism of the scary variety in Central Asia. So cool your jets, thy non-experts. I trust de Cordier more than you.
  • Also, the Tajik government goes dada, decides no praying on mosque. Next up: one can only wear shoes when not walking, can only take showers while clothed. Considering that I always shrug my shoulders when it comes to Tajikistan, leaving the Parsiphone country in far abler hands, that's about the extent of the analysis I can offer.
  • Linked to me from a real-life friend, okcupid has some of the most fascinating stats out there, though not related to CA, energy, or anything else...you'll still like them, I promise.
  • As I am now cruising my way through this guy's work, I'm getting more than a lil' nostalgic for the homeland. And after some brief wikipediaing, I've decided that I will, at some point, live along this road. Preferably in this most American of towns, beside this most American of dams.
  • And finally, along the lines of my self-righteous screed earlier this week, here's all these conflicted whitefolk complaining about how to discuss travel. Followed up with this screechingly awful bit on White Privilege straight out of Hipster Runoff.
Is it significant to you at all that you can choose to think about this or not to think about it and it will not necessarily have an effect on your life?
Can you continue to ignore race politics and theory without having it bother you one way or another?
Is that significant?

Yeah, I'm kind of done with Matador. In fact, I think I'm done with any sort of travel discussion. I'll try to stick to my academic forte from hereon out. The next post will be my first, I realize, but I need to get back on point here in order to get the real life stuff figured out as well.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Through the Roof and Underground

This needs no introduction, really:
Harem Nesin, a Turkish journalist for the Istanbul newspaper Dünya Gazetesi, began photographing concealed buildings in Istanbul sometime in 2007 for his personal records. The buildings captured by Nesin had recently been destroyed by a fire or evacuated due to some other instability of the structure, and were later covered by scaffolding, tarps, or screens. Nesin correlated his collection of photographs to a map of Istanbul, indicating the location of each abandoned building. Through the mapped locations Nesin discovered a triangular geometric pattern across a portion of the city on the European side, from the Golden Horn to the Bosphorus. Nesin used the Galata Tower as a place to survey the buildings in question, indicated by his collage of aerial photographs taken from the Tower. Additionally, in his observations Nesin recorded the means of concealment (tarp, wood, fence, screen) and the address for each structure.
And what did Nesin find?
"Harem Nesin's map reveals strategic locations used by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality as injection points for Bacillus Pasteurii, a microbe able to transform sand into sandstone by depositing calcite (calcium carbonate) throughout the granules, fusing them together."

The authorities, in other words, were earthquake-proofing the city from below, in "the first application of the bacteria, which had been under development since the mid 1970s through joint research between Germany and the US."
This secret government project, finally completed just a bit too late, is an ingenious way to solidify the landmass under Istanbul before another earthquake comes using interconnected isosceles triangles. However, not everything is rainbows and unicorns. Nesin disappeared shortly after publishing the maps, and all memory of his publications and work has been destroyed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Random Blogger named "Ampotan" Nails It

A bit earlier, I groped at the concept of what I'm trying to get at while traveling. Or maybe more precisely, what I am trying to leave. This blog is clearly about me and my personal beliefs about what I experience, but I want to have some universalizing theme here so that other people (and not just the spammers who have eaten this site alive) read it. But I don't want to talk about how Turkey has just opened my eyes and made me into such a person. Because it hasn't. I have made myself through my experiences, and Turkey will do whatever the hell it wants without me.

I haven't found a good way to express this, but fortunately, two different articles came my way (thank you, Mrs. Nesterov and Mr. Foust) that get the nail hammered on the head. My recent trip to the Philippines only emphasizes the thoughts that these people had.

First off: Jezebel. No, I don't read it. But I will when someone links me to it. Apart from the fun in the comments thread on when Bali was ruined (my vote: Muslim conquest). The article itself is a quick enough read, but here's my pull quote:
Ubud's strange post-Gilbert scene is about to get even more odd, seeing as there are now ostensibly two Gilberts: the author herself, and the author as depicted by Julia Roberts. Roberts stayed in Ubud during the filming, but the film's locations and real-life counterparts don't all match up. This may very well double or triple the must-see sites on a tourist's itinerary. You can go to the restaurant Gilbert ate at in the book, the restaurant "Gilbert" ate at in the movie and the restaurant Roberts herself ate at when she wasn't filming. I fear that once the movie opens, this whole area will turn into a far-flung Magnolia Bakery line, with women typing frantically on their blackberries and snapping photos of menus and street signs as their bored boyfriends gaze off into the middle distance.
I got into trouble a few years back when I openly laughed at a girl for having Eat Pray Love on her bookshelf. I can't help myself, it's the sort of affirmative pap that isn't actually about anything. Hey! If you have money and time, eventually you'll find someone that'll love you for it! And if you can do it in a heart-renderingly beautiful place, all the better! It's 200+ pages of a country song, telling you everything about yourself that you want to hear.

Island tourism works the same way. It gives you the opportunity to "meet locals" and "experience the culture" all within a safe, hermetically-sealed, arena. You can't do anything too bad on an island vacation. You just experience what you are told that you are supposed to experience. I can't complain about some of this stuff: snorkeling rocks. But there is, potentially, something just a bit off about the whole experience. It's all out there to explain to you how to feel. Not enjoying it is simply not an option, unless you're just trying to Chris Hitchens it or something.

The second thing is something I pretty much fell in love with. But before I go on, there are well-thought out rebuttals to it which I will link to first. Complicated issue is complicated and all. And again, more fun in the comments section:
the point is that third world nations tend to attract the lowest quality whites, like those you can find happily partying around in Pattaya or Koh Samui.
When those douchies find out they didn’t land in another place where people make a living dancing to shitty top 40 in go go bars but they just spend their days commuting to their office/factory and they have hence very little tolerance for buffonesque behaviour, well that’s when the whining ensues
The actual article is far more interesting than expat mud-flinging. Which is saying something, because expat mud-flinging is fantastic. This quote is what I've been trying to say myself for a while now.
Another factor–in Japan at any rate–is that they feel cheated because the Lafcadio Hearn experience is no longer open to them. They’re disappointed that time and traffic doesn’t stand still because they happen to be walking down a street filled with people more interested in the concerns of their own lives than their proximity to a member of the Master Race Mr. Global Adventurer from a country Far Across the Sea. Yet another is that it gives them a cheap excuse to bask in the sunshine of their superiority.
The whole denigration of locals (unless they'll sleep with you, of course), or other foreigners (same) for your own sake of superiority...that's the rub. The whole "I am better because I am living abroad" thing, that's the rub. Because as all your friends know...you're not.

And I really shouldn't use the second person, because Lord knows I'm no better at this than most other people. I'll be very upfront about my weaknesses: my Turkish is passable and declining rapidly, I came here for the simple reason of running away, and I still like the food. I'm not perfect. I deserve all sorts of criticism, especially for what I write.

This other quote gave me the shudders:
But I’ll bet he drank it anyway–with other foreign friends who sniggered at his stories and then told some of their own.
The fraternity of expats lives on this. Drinking with friends while mocking the culture that we leech off of. Look, my job description is basically, "speak English." I only am working here because of accident of birth. I wouldn't have a chance here if I was born in, say, Malawi instead.

I'll make fun of Turkish culture more than my fair share...wait for my upcoming article on moustaches and facial hair. But I'm thankful for the opportunity that I stumbled into. And to bring the country metaphor back full circle, you can call me Trace Adkins, because I'm trying.

Unlike all of you jerks, right?

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I'm going to start keeping these short, because they're not very interesting. But on my flight to the Philippines I read The Road, which I picked up a while ago on one of those "Hey, they made a movie about it, so it has to be good" sort of hunches. It's about a father and son traveling in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It reads as such.

So it was a well-written book. Certainly fits the mood and all of that. I'd read more by McCarthy, sure. But my feelings can kind of be wrapped up by this blurb of a gchat session.

me: just haven't slept in two days
  and read Cormac McCarthy's the Road on the flight over, which was a TERRIBLE IDEA
 AD: my god
  I happened to be home when my dad was watching that movie
10:46 PM and he was like "shit. this is bleak"
 me: dude, I am like the exact opposite of the target audience of that
 AD: what, people who are looking forward to the end of the world
 me: people who can handle post-apocalyptical father-son tales
 AD: or who are not easily affected by shit
10:47 PM ugh. yeah
  I'm a pretty big wimp. I hear ya. shit's depressing
 me: I feel like its easy to get emotional on flights
10:48 PM I've gotten really vindictive over chick-flicks

So yeah, that's what we're dealing with. Sorry if that was a bit difficult to follow, but you get the idea. If you are the person not easily affected by shit, this is the book for you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

This is the AP, reminding you: The muzzofolk don't count.

Fun lil' article by a dude almost named Turchia in the AP I found through Facebook. The Pera Palas, which I work a stones-throw from, is reopening next month. It was supposed to open in January, but, well, work delays happen. Especially hotels. Especially especially in historically protected hotels.

Oh wait, no, I'm sorry, it wasn't the wilting economy and general, these-always-happen delays. It was "Business interests and a lack of political will". Also, don't mention that Beyoglu was a cesspool of organized crime in the 1980s and '90s, and that Tarlebashi is still gang-ridden. Rather note "Many local residents fled deadly unrest or moved to outlying areas, leaving neglected stone facades to brood in the narrow, trash-filled streets."

This really deserves the full Fire Joe Morgan treatment.
It was the last stop on the Orient Express, a grand hotel with Istanbul's first electric elevator where artists and aristocrats sipped champagne beneath chandeliers as the Ottoman Empire dissolved and the world drifted toward war.
It was actually just a hotel. Sirkeci was the last stop on the express. Well, not really. The train ran all the way to Baghdad. That's why Agatha Christie wrote a book taking place in Baghdad. She went there on the Orient Express.
Mata Hari, accused of spying and executed in France in 1917, stayed at the Pera Palace Hotel. So did Greta Garbo, who played the shadowy dancer in a 1931 movie. Ernest Hemingway checked in to report on war between Turks and Greeks. Agatha Christie is said to have crafted "Murder on the Orient Express" in Room 411.
Then, like the empire it outlived, the hotel slid into decay.
Get yer intrigue! Get yer intrigue rite here! Yeah, sure, interesting people stayed here. And that little war Hemingway wrote about? Oh, the Turkish War of Independence. And also, will there be an Ataturk-figure for the Pera Palas to rescue and revolutionize the hotel?
On Sept. 1, the state-owned Pera Palace will reopen after a two-year restoration that cost 23 million euros ($30 million), seeking to capture the lost sparkle of what was one of Istanbul's most prominent landmarks. It is no longer the lone luxury hotel on a hill above the Golden Horn inlet. The former Ottoman capital teems with high-end accommodation, some in restored imperial mansions along the Bosporus Strait that divides the Asian and European continents.
Pinar Kartal Timer, general manager of the Pera Palace, believes fabled guests of the past will bestow new glory on the hotel, which held its opening ball in 1895.
There he is! There's our Ataturk! With the fantastic name of "Falcom Timur", too! 
Also, its not like Istanbul ever lacked for hotels. And yes, the Ciragan and the Kapinsky are nice. There are lots of nice ones here. This isn't fucking Lagos. Former capital, now just your standard 15 million person city that is the economic powerhouse of one of the most powerful economies in the world. So lets leave Sir Richard Burton, Puritan Speeches, and your sorry-ass tropes out of this.
"These people have left their traces in this hotel," Timer said in an interview in the 115-room hotel Wednesday. Major structural work and painting was complete, but the old ballroom was empty and the mother-of-pearl bookshelves had not been installed. Workers hammered, and layers of cardboard and plastic covered some balustrades and marble-floored passageways.
The Pera Palace mirrors the revival of the surrounding Beyoglu area, historically known as Pera, which comes from the Greek word for "beyond." It was nicknamed "Little Europe" in the late 19th century, an enclave of Greek and Armenian entrepreneurs, along with European diplomats and businessmen who imported luxury goods from capitals to the west.
Smart Businessman is smart. But pity they didn't break out the bookshelves and marble before finishing construction. The writer's girlfriend-cum-photojournalist-with-a-coolpix is not impressed.
And did you read beyond the first paragraph on Pera in wikipedia? This was the Genoese city, the Greeks had Fener, the Armenians had Balat (generally...they lived all over the place, as did Jews, Romani, Italians, Arabs, French, English AND EVEN ANATOLIAN AND BALKAN MUSLIMS). And again with the "luxury goods," because there ain't much else in this entire empire but damascene scents and rugs, right?
Many local residents fled deadly unrest or moved to outlying areas, leaving neglected stone facades to brood in the narrow, trash-filled streets. In the last decade, shops and restaurants flooded the central neighborhood as economic fortunes and pride in Istanbul's heritage blossomed.
There hasn't really been deadly unrest since the 50's, but hey, lets make this sound scary. It is the east, after all. And I love the "pride in Istanbul's heritage blossomed" bit, because as anyone who's talked to an Istanbullu knows, they certainly had an issue with being too humble about their city.
Mehmet Karaoren is a partner in an architectural firm that snapped up a dozen Pera buildings, restoring them and selling or renting the refitted apartments. In some years, the prices of their properties have doubled.
So what happened is that this Mehmet Bey took 200 words to say "we've bought 12 buildings in Beyoglu and restore them. We've doubled the property prices sometimes." Journalism 101.
A commission linked to Turkey's Culture Ministry bars changes that would taint the historical integrity of a structure, though allowances are made for reinforcement against earthquakes and the installation of elevators in tall buildings with dimly lit, winding staircases.
Why use "linked to"? Has that ever been used in such a non-nefarious circumstance? Would it be because you knew the law existed, but didn't want to look up who? Or is it just because you wanted this to sound like a dark, evil, way for people to ruin old buildings by...making them standing and livable. Huh?
Business interests and a lack of political will have sometimes trumped the work of conservationists. Istanbul, home to relics and monuments from the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires, is at risk of being placed on a list of endangered cultural treasures by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee. That would be a serious embarrassment since the European Union designated the city as its "cultural capital" this year.
Already made fun of the first part. And the second sentence doesn't make sense. The entire city will be an "endangered cultural treasure"? Or was it just that you found this article and only read the headline, not realizing that it is just poorly-translated into English? Because here's the endangered list, and if you notice a trend, its places of political unrest and environmental issues. Neither are relevant here. And note how he has been unable to prove that there are business interests against building up the Pera Palas. That's because there's not. He just asserts stuff and says "embarrassment".
David Michelmore, an international conservationist, said unrestored sections of old Pera were at risk of demolition, and he compared the area to London's Notting Hill district in the 1960s, a shabby area before its successful rehabilitation.
Of course unrestored sections may be demolished. Tarlebasi is a slum in a city of 15 million people. Are you worried about titling rights for impoverished folk? No, you just want to make it seem like the state hates the idea of becoming a tourist wonderland. Which is funny when your source says that,
"It's not tourists mostly, it's Turkish people who are going there," Michelmore said. "Historic centers have a huge capacity for serving purposes of recreation and relaxation."
So it looks like its these Turk fellas afterall who are doing the fixing.
Nobody will sleep in Room 101. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former army officer who founded Turkey in 1923, once used it as a base. The room will house a museum of items belonging to Ataturk, including hats, slippers and dignitaries' gifts.
Ah yes, Ataturk entered the equation. Founded the country in the war that *Ernest Hemingway* covered. We discussed this war. Maybe you should've changed the paragraph order a bit.

The hotel hosted spies as well as statesmen. Kim Philby, the British-Soviet double agent, was nearly unmasked in Istanbul, and the agent codenamed Cicero, valet to the British ambassador in Ankara, visited as he sold secret documents to German agents in World War II.
A witness to tumult, the Pera Palace became a target in 1941 when a bomb exploded at the entrance shortly after the arrival of a British diplomatic party from Bulgaria, which had sided with the Nazis. Several people died.
Wait, this is interesting. Especially the second bit. Were they British, or Bulgarian? Who did the bombing? What about Turkey's pretty-fascinating neutrality in WWII? Ah, forget it, we have Papa Hemingway to discuss.
Hemingway drank at the hotel's Orient Bar in the early 1920s. In his story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," the main character, a writer, recalls a brawl over a woman with a British soldier in Istanbul. He slept with the woman that night:
"...and he left her before she was awake looking blousy enough in the first daylight and turned up at the Pera Palace with a black eye, carrying his coat because one sleeve was missing."
Ah, Hemingway. No snark here, I love how the man writes. And I love how he's seemed to have a drink in every bar in the world.

So my favorite part of all this? The only mention of any aspect of Turkish history in all of this is how "Oh, you can't sleep in one of the rooms. This dude from Salonica got there first."

The gates of Europe are apparently at the front door of the Pera Palas. It is an outpost in the dark heart of the Mediterranean, and the locals may only be peered and leered at. It's garbage writing, even if its for a bland piece on tourism. I will rail and rail against the false separation of East and West. Not just because its wrong, but because its lazy journalism. It reinforces the acceptability of "The local culture is just a lens for me and my friends to view ourselves."

The view you have from the Pera Palas is the view hundreds of people have had, wherever they were from. Men stashed their mistresses in the room when it was a garconniere, waiters snuck their girlfriends in when it was at third-capacity, and couples have argued and thrown plates while looking at that Halic sunset. To only focus on the Westerners of the city ignores how much there is on offer from the Istanbullus themselves.

All of those 15 million Istanbullus have lives that only tangentially revolve around you finding your own fulfillment. Lets not forget that all of them have interests, and some of them are actually interesting. The awkward Orientalizing clashes so viciously with what the city really is, so lets push to change the cliche.