Thursday, May 26, 2011

Truth Windows

As I often do, I'll lead with BLDGBlog:
[I]f we could simply scrape aside some paint and plaster and see, for once, the truth, the Real, the scaffolding, the code that makes and sustains the everyday worldly environment; though, I suppose, any attempt to over-literalize such a thing—even the portentous, Frodo Baggensian name of a "truth window"—would come out as, well... exactly like an architecturally themed remake of The Matrix (perhaps resembling the unwatchable film Dark City). 
 He's wrong - Dark City is a fantastic movie. But everything else about Truth Windows is fun and fascinating.

I've written about the unders of Istanbul previously, and I still think it's worth a mention again. I love the optimism of the term "truth window" as in "ah yes, we've finally understood it." If we see the scaffolding of Istanbul, we understand Istanbul. Or, if we can make fun of the zaniness of Almaty, we'll come that much closer to solving Kazakhstan.

Beirut has come somewhat towards this assumption. The real, real, interesting story of Le Maison Jaune is taken as a symbol for Beirut itself. From its sumptuous beginnings to its noble heritage to its bloody, terrifying, use during the Civil War. It is a symbol and a birthmark at once.

Istanbul? Well, Istanbul still sells itself as the city of Paleologues and Sultans, of Ancient Greeks and the mysterious harem. If locals know the truth, there is certainly less opportunity to celebrate it. Honesty doesn't seem to work as well in buildings as it does in books.

Maybe it's because Turkey is too optimistic in its self-image. The forward glance, looking upward and ever-onward conflicts with the cockroaches that would show up if truth windows were set up. It's odd, even though Brazil uses it on their flag, "Order and Progress" would fit Turkey an awful lot, as well. Order & Progress fly in the face of the inchoate, anarchic underpinnings of cities like Istanbul. They give a pat on the head and make cooing noises about industrialization and GDP to the very real and very serious environmental problems that occur.

Well most every government does, I suppose, and it's a problem for all of the G-20 states (and quite a few that fall in below there). But if nobody takes my idea before then, I'm going to have periscopes in the sidewalks in time for Istanbul Bienale 2037.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blame it on the Business Cards

Been on a long, unexpected, absence from the internet for the past few months. Maybe you noticed, probably you didn't, but it's about time I get back into this thing. In the past few months I've gradually made my way westward until I've ended up in Colorado studying water allocation for the summer. The intention is to use Colorado as a case study to see how water gets divvied up in the US (Colorado is a headwater state for about 20 million people. It's like the Kyrgyzstan of the Mountain West, but with less NGOs). While I'm here I'll be studying up on Islamic Law, and I'll move on toward post-Socialist models in the fall. On that note, if anybody has any suggestions beyond Wael Hallaq's A History of Islamic Legal Theories, be kind enough to let me know.

All I've been doing is reading books and retweeting @RickMuscles for the past few months. Now that's about to change. I'm going to be keeping a research log of sorts up on here if Istanbul Alti's server continues to be obnoxious. I'll be keeping on looking at Turkey, the Caucasus, and Central Asia and natural resource law. I'll be keeping on giving my unsolicited opinion. Istanbul Alti seems to have died the death of apathy; the result of having life goals that supersede enthusiasm. I hope it returns, but there are other projects in the meantime.

But until then, I felt more attention shoulda been brought to this EurasiaNet article on a Turkish arms dealer being the power behind the throne in Turkmenistan.

First: ordering translations of Rukhnama. Genious. It may be my new favorite slimy toady move: demand the honor of translating the unhinged ramblings of the man you want to curry favor with.

Second: "It's been eight months. We hear good words (from Berdimuhamedov), but we see no actions. Nothing has changed -- except they've taken down Niyazov's pictures and put up Berdimuhamedov's. Turkmenistan cannot recover from Niyazov and become a relatively normal country without democracy, an open economy, and rule of law." aka "They don't trust me anymore. So I'm going to mention the 'Western-oriented reformer' bullet points."

Third: "The US was most keenly interested in getting Chalik's assement of Berdymukhamedov's readiness to get Turkmen gas flowing to the South Caucasus, and mentioned a feasibility study of that era. Chalik replied that Berdymukhamedov, while interested, was non-committal, and probably because he "cannot make this decision on his own" -- an intriguing claim about the figure everyone on the outside sees as indispensable to every deal." aka Chalik knew that Nabucco was a dead, stupid, misguided deal and didn't want to be the one to tell the U.S.

There's something about Central Asian Republics that make individuals feel like they can come in and change it in their image. No doubt Chalik was influential to the Niyazov regime: if I was running an atavistic security state, Turkish ex-military dudes are right up there with South African and Israeli ex-military dudes, but without all of the baggage. Chalik got stuff done, and is clever enough to do mention grave concerns about backsliding and a security-run administration. Of course it's a security-run administration, any transitory country relies on the whim of the men with guns. Chalik should know this, assuming he was in Anatolia in 1980.

I love the story of a shady arms-dealer who built his way up to Richeliu stature, only to be removed by the sudden death of his sponsor. As insinuated by my reference, there's something delightfully 18th Century Europe about it.

Garbanguly is relatively young, only 53. Assuming status quo (which is a relatively safe assumption for Turkmenistan, though I said the same thing about Libya not so many months ago) nothing dramatic will change in his regime. But as more schools get built - even if Fethullahcilar get shut down - and the internet gets built up, there should be something interesting going on a couple decades out. Especially as the Communist old guard die out and people brought up through folks like the Turkmenistan Civic Value and Youth Foundation get responsibility.

The Turkic Spring is still some time out, but it'll be a blast once it gets started. As long as shady militaristic types like Chalik stay near the fringes of it.