Featured

» UNDER THE ETERNAL SKY: Mining Boom Gains Momentum in Mongolia

Khan Kentee Protected Area, Gorkhi-Terelj, Mongolia, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

by Brian Awehali

Nomadic herder in Gorkhi-Terelj, Mongolia, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

After spending several months in the epic clamor of industrializing China, I went to Mongolia looking for open spaces and unspoiled nature, for clean air, for hiking and horseback riding, and for nights still dark enough to terrify. In the countryside (and most of it remains countryside) the Eternal Sky held sacred by Mongolians since well before the time of Genghis Khan levitates with majesty over wide-open grassland prairie, steppe, subarctic evergreen forest, wetland, alpine tundra, mountain, and desert. It stretches above yak, goat, reindeer, camel, wolf, bear, marmot, squirrel, hawk, falcon, eagle and crane, and above some of the last traditional nomadic peoples and wild horses on Earth.

The seemingly infinite Mongolian sky also hangs over the largest mining boom on the planet.

Candlelit Ger/Yurt in Gorkhi-Terelj, Mongolia, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

On my flight from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, I sat next to a miner named Tim. Tim had a wife and two children back in Nova Scotia, with another on the way. He was trying to convince his wife to relocate to Mongolia, but she wasn’t going for it yet. So his mining career kept him away from his family as he traveled to Colorado, Nevada, Australia, and now Mongolia. Tim kept his taupe outdoorsman’s hat on for the entire flight, but I forgave him for that because he shared his Lonely Planet Mongolia and enthusiastically told me about his work at a new copper mine in the Gobi Desert.

“It’s just a camp now, but we’re investing $40 million this year alone, and when it really gets up and running, it’ll probably become the second largest city in Mongolia,” Tim told me. “It’s going to be huge.

Continue reading

Featured

» CORRUPTION & SNOW IN ISTANBUL

Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.”
— Charles Caleb Colton

Photo EssayUnlike corruption or coup attempts, snow is growing rarer in Istanbul, but one day in early 2015, it didn’t seem to interrupt the usual activities of the city’s birds, fish or fishermen. A few dogs seemed on edge, and cat sightings were rarer, but otherwise it was business as usual.

Galata Bridge fishermen on a snowy day in Istanbul. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

I spent several months in Turkey last year, mostly because I wanted to visit while it was still somewhat hospitable for an American. Numerous people I spoke with in Istanbul mentioned exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and the “parallel state” he was suspected of operating within the country. In fact, the eerily unvarying invocation of this exact phrase had me wondering how manufactured or propagandistic a concept it is.

And now, a failed coup attempt Erdogan is blaming on Fethullah Gulen has apparently gone very badly and prompted a power grab by Erdogan, who has arrested thousands of coup collaborators as well as countless teachers and professors suspected of supporting Gulen. I have no idea how involved the U.S. has actually been in recent Turkish affairs–Erdogan most likely orchestrated parts of it for his own political advantage — but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a U.S. attempt to manipulate a foreign government has created instability, set off an adverse chain of events, and/or hardened the people of other countries against the U.S.

Of course, Turks don’t need much help when it comes to hardening themselves against other people and countries. Consider the findings of a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center (Hurriyet Daily News, Nov. 8, 2014), showing that 73% of Turks dislike both the U.S. and Russia, though Israel is the country Turks hate most, at 86%. 75% dislike Iran; 70% dislike NATO; 66% dislike the EU, though the report also notes that 53% of Turks want Turkey to join it. The country Turks like most, at just 26%, according to the Pew poll, is Saudi Arabia, though over half of those polled also expressed dislike for it. Turkish dislike of others is broadly distributed: 85% of those polled held a negative opinion of al-Qaeda and Hezbollah; 80% disliked Hamas. 53% of Muslims polled (Turkey is 98% Muslim) said “suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified.”

The Pew report included a humorous side note about how their polling confirmed the motto, “the Turk has no friend but the Turk.”

“It is hard to find any country or organization the Turkish people really like, except, of course, Turkey itself,” the report noted. “According to our spring 2012 poll, 78% of Turks said they had a favorable view of their country.”

I spent a lot of my childhood in and around Tulsa, Oklahoma, the conservative Evangelical “buckle of the Bible Belt,” and I suspect you could poll a representative sample of the state’s monotheistic residents and discover similar broadly held negative beliefs about outsiders.

Galata Bridge fisherman on a snowy day in Istanbul. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Outside it was snowing, but under the Galata Bridge? Bağlama and simit! (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Outside it was snowing, but under the Galata Bridge? Bağlama and simit! (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Fishing the Bosphorus, on the Galata side of the Galata bridge. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali
* * *

Back to the snow day: Men working as shoeshiners on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul will try to hustle foreigners by acting like they dropped their polishing brush. When you bring their attention to it, they act overwhelmingly grateful and vigorously insist on shining your shoes. They’ll even say it’s free, no charge. But it’s not.

Two things: I like how the guy smiles when he realizes he’s been made. Also, and more significantly, notice the other guy who’s in on it, who looks like he isn’t. He’s in the right of the frame, watching intently, then makes a hasty exit when he realizes I’m filming.

Featured

» WE LOOK LIKE THE TYPE

Blickensderfer

Text and photos by Brian Awehali

A recent surge in interest in typewriters isn’t just about nostalgia or fetishistic hipster concerns. It’s about light, speed, focus and pleasure. It’s also about digital discontent: As our type has grown speedier and more legible, we’ve become more legible to corporations, governments and private individuals in increasingly centralized, synoptic positions.


Two women — one young, the other elderly and pushing an upright shopping cart — paused to look in the window of the California Typewriter Company on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley.

“Typewriters,” said the older woman, meaningfully.

“Old,” said the younger one, before glancing down at her smartphone.

It’s true; typewriters are old. But their invention, rise, and popular decline also paralleled one of the most transformative periods in modern human history. The newest typewriter in the Berkeley store, a sky-blue Olivetti Studio 46 manual built in Brazil in the early 1990s, might have been made before the younger woman was. Most are decades older, and it’s likely that many of these machines were used at some point by a woman entering the workforce for the first time, as a typist or secretary. The oldest typewriter in the store, a Smith Premier No. 2 with what look like wooden keys, was built in the startlingly retro-futuristic year of 1890, when events like the massacre of ghost dancers at Wounded Knee and the formal end of the US-Indian Wars co-existed in time with mass electrification and the appearance of the first computer — a punch card tabulator used for tallying census data.

The nostalgic and historic appeal of typewriters is easy to understand. But what’s driving the recent revival of practical interest in them? Who’s using typewriters, and why?

Continue reading

Featured

» RUINOUS SEX CULT(URE) IN APHRODISIAS

Ruins of Aphrodisias, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Photo EssayIf you visit Turkey, it’s definitely worth strolling the nicely overgrowing ruins of Aphrodisias, a place originally erected in honor of a local cult’s goddess of fertility who has come to be known most widely as Aphrodite, goddess of love.

Ruins of Aphrodisias, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Lots of different areas had their own interpretations and names for her: Cytherea, Cypris, Acidalia, Cerigo, Ourania, Artemis and Ashtart among them. “Aphrodite” is Greek, “Lady of Ephesus” Anatolian, and “Venus” is Roman, but they’re all basically the same cult image, reinterpreted and adapted for local and/or religious purposes usually involving fertility. Continue reading

Featured

» MODERN MUSLIM MISCHIEF IN KASIMPASA

Photo EssayI laughed sympathetically as I watched this scene from the ferry I took from Kasımpaşa to Eminönü. The two younger women in these pictures really wanted to throw rocks into the Bosphorus. They weren’t harming anything, except maybe the chances of the couple of people fishing from the dock, who actually caught a nice-sized fish immediately after these women were chastised by the ticket-taker for the ferry.

1. “Is it OK?”

Muslim mother and her children in Kasimpasa, Istanbul, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

 

2. “Yeah, I think it’s OK. Let’s throw rocks in the Bosphorus over here….”

Muslim mother and her children in Kasimpasa, Istanbul, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

 

3. “I guess it wasn’t OK.”

Muslim woman and her children in Kasimpasa, Istanbul, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Featured

» PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW: Fake Identity in Social Media and Beyond

by Brian Awehali

“A man is whatever room he is in.”
–Japanese proverb

Most people know a certain portion of people on the internet aren’t people at all, or aren’t the people they purport to be, especially on social networks like Google+, Twitter, and Facebook, where at least 5-6% of all profiles are fake. 97% of these imposters are estimated to identify as female, and apparently attractive college-aged bisexuals lead the field. Consider just Facebook’s roughly 1 billion users, then do the math. A conservative estimate is that 80 million of the profiles on the network are fictional. That’s roughly the population of Germany or Egypt, a quarter of the United States, fifteen Finlands. And yet most people don’t think such fakers are among the ranks of their own online “friends.”

“[Facebook is] the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented.” — Julian Assange, speaking to Russia Today.

* * *

ArmySocialMedia

If you have a blog with any overtly “political” agenda or content, chances are pretty good you have some fake followers, too, and that you’ve posted comments by them. You may have had multi-part email or comment board exchanges with them. They might even have names of people you recognize. If you’ve ever published/edited an independent magazine, or, say, co-moderated a politicized Facebook page, you definitely interacted with a fair amount of vitriolic cognitive absolutists and disruptive personalities, but you almost surely also interacted with dozens or hundreds of deliberate fakes, either bots engaged in large-scale data harvesting attacks, military or law enforcement personnel who are “doing” the internet in order to influence public opinion, or others intent on exploiting a fundamental weakness of social networks and the internet in general, humorously summed up in a 20-year-old New Yorker cartoon:

On the internet, no one knows you're a dog - New Yorker / Peter Steiner

“The analysis of the fake Facebook profile experiment showed that creating and maintaining a fake profile is an easy task.”

This was one of the main findings reported in a paper published in the Journal of Service Science Research last year. This is not a new story by any means, but it’s the first (and last) time I’m focusing on it here on LOUDCANARY. The paper is fairly detailed, but in March and April 2012, the authors created six “socially attractive fake Facebook profiles and integrat[ed] them into existing friendship networks to simulate a data harvesting attack.”

Continue reading

Featured

» PLANTS, MAGIC & SPIRIT: Lit-Tripping in the Ethnobotanosphere

by Brian Awehali

“It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring”. – Carl Sagan

I’m always looking for examples of magic in the world that don’t require the willful suspension of disbelief, or the complete setting aside of critical thinking. Happily, the plant and animal kingdoms — not all that distinct or separate from us — provide almost limitless examples of interconnectedness, magic, and cosmic intelligence.

Consider highlights from Wikipedia’s, “Plant Intelligence” entry:

Plants are not passive entities… They signal and communicate within and among themselves, accurately compute their circumstances, use sophisticated cost-benefit analysis, and take tightly controlled actions to mitigate and control environmental stressors. Plants are capable of ‘learning’ from their past experiences, and of updating their behavior in order to survive present and future challenges of their environment. Plants are also capable of refined recognition of self and non-self, and are territorial in behavior.”

Ingredients for ayahuasca brewSo, keeping that complex and communicative intelligence in mind, are Columbian Amazonian shamans (or “medicine men” of many possible names) and their tribes able to communicate directly with animals and plants, and do they possess means of traveling to alternate psychic and physical realities? Can a combination of (animistic) belief, rhythm, color and strong plant medicine provide people with direct access and communication with what can be called a spirit realm? How is it that many Amazonian shamans possess understandings of the pharmacology and neurochemistry of plants that far exceeds that of Western scientists?

These are questions explored by Dr. Richard Evans Schultes’ landmark book, Vine of the Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Columbian Amazon (1992), an extraordinary photo-centric collection of indigenous myths and narratives from travelers and scientists about the ayahuasca experience…

Harvard botanist Richard Evans Schultes and an Amazonian medicine man, snorting curare powder through bones. Curare, a plant-derived poison most often used to lethal effect on hunting darts and arrows, is also capable of producing psychedelic states of consciousness.

Harvard botanist Richard Evans Schultes and an Amazonian medicine man, snorting curare powder through bones. Curare, a plant-derived poison most often used to lethal effect on hunting darts and arrows, is also capable of producing psychedelic states of consciousness.

Are the claims of medicine men — that they get their information directly from the plants, particularly under the influence of ayahuasca — to be taken literally, poetically, or both?

Continue reading

Featured

» CHINESE PIGEON RACING & CONFINEMENT IN CHENGDU

by Brian Awehali

Kitebird at People's Park, Chengdu, (c) 2012, Brian Awehali

Kitebird flown at People’s Park, Chengdu in 2010. – (c) 2012, Brian Awehali

Seemingly querulous racing pigeons in a Chengdu rooftop coop - (c) 2012, Brian AwehaliPhoto Essay“I’m very worried,” said Mr. C., our interpreter and guide, as our driver pulled into the courtyard. His eyes were wet. “Only two of my pigeons have returned from the race two days ago.”

Mr. C., a thin man with a sweet face, had arranged through a friend for us to make a weekend visit to a Chengdu suburb for a tour of a pigeon racing club and one racer’s private coop.

“How many pigeons did you release?” I asked.

“Ten,” he said mournfully. As we piled out of the sedan into a courtyard, he ran ahead.

Orderly pigeons in a Chengdu rooftop coop - (c) 2012, Brian Awehali

Orderly pigeons in a Chengdu rooftop coop – (c) 2012, Brian Awehali

The owner of this private coop, who was meeting us inside, was the editor of a newspaper, and also a prominent local member of the Communist Party. Most officials of any substantial-sized business in China probably are, and one might consider it an occupational hazard.

Ah, sweet release:

Photo-of-a-photo on the wall of a suburban Chengu pigeon racing club - (c) 2012, Brian Awehali

Photo-of-a-photo on the wall of a suburban Chengdu pigeon racing club – (c) 2012, Brian Awehali

Featured

» HERE COMES THE OCEAN (and the Triumph of Slime)

by Brian Awehali

Climate change is causing the sea to rise far faster than scientists once expected, a meter or more by 2100. Perhaps that doesn’t seem so dire to you. Perhaps you read that sentence and think: “Pity; there go some beaches and beach-front real estate.” Maybe you think: “You know, I’ve always liked the ocean more than New York City anyway…” If so, you may not be getting the picture, because a rise of just one meter will literally drown cities and towns across the globe, displacing millions of people, creating food shortages, epic political conflicts and disease epidemics.

It is not just the amount of overall rise that is of concern. That may well be the least concerning aspect. Storm surges will increase dramatically in strength if baseline sea level is higher. Hurricanes and typhoons have already increased significantly in strength and duration, an effect scientists attribute to climate change, and this is expected to continue. More than 10,000 people have been killed in storm surges in the Bay of Bengal alone in the last 300 years, and such surges could increase exponentially in the coming years. This means that the watery ends of Miami, Tokyo, New York, Mumbai, Shanghai, Jakarta, and Dhaka are not just possible, but actually likely.

Their ends might come from the sea, something like this:

…or from the sky, like this:

(The already disappearing island of Kiribati is, of course, already f–ked.)

Continue reading

Featured

» BIRDS ATTACK!: Navigation, Personality & Aggression in the Aviary Kingdom

by Brian Awehali

Dog and Crow Battle, Ocean Beach, San Francisco (c) Brian Awehali

Who’s attacking whom on Ocean Beach, SF? – photo (c) Brian Awehali

Birds, who once were dinosaurs, could take over the world (again) if they wanted to. And not just in the movies, a la Hitchcock’s 1963 terror, The Birds. (If you haven’t seen the movie, check out this well-edited one-and-a-half-minute version of it.) Not long ago, in Kagoshima, a city on the southern island of Kyushu, in Japan, a booming crow population went on the offensive: destroying power lines and fiber optic cable, being markedly more aggressive with people, and outwitting human “crow patrols” by building decoy nests. In recent years, crows have been filmed using tools in sequence and exhibiting complex reasoning as well.

Continue reading

Featured

» LISTEN TO THE BIRDS: In Praise of Captain Beefheart & His Magics

by Brian Awehali


“Listen to the birds. That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.”
– Captain Beefheart, “10 Commandments of Guitar Playing

Music can do a lot of different things. There’s music to comfort you, music to make you dance, music to make the time pass easier.

And then there’s music that whacks you upside the head, assaults you, is radically unconcerned with your comfort, and comes to get inside and change you, forever. Continue reading

Featured

» DANGEROUS WORDS: A Profile of Chinese Poet and People’s Historian Liao Yiwu (廖亦武)

Three months after this was written, Liao Yiwu escaped China and sought asylum in Germany. He has also since released a vivid memoir of his years in detention, For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey Through a Chinese Prison.

interview and photos by Brian Awehali

“Why should the government fear me?” says Liao smiling, the first day we meet, along with an interpreter and several friends at a riverside teahouse outside of Chengdu, in Sichuan province. “I’m just a guy who tells stories.”

Liao Yiwu ( 廖亦武 ) in Wenjiang, Chengdu, July 2010, released under CC-by-2.0 with permission of the photographer Brian Awehali

Liao Yiwu ( 廖亦武 ) in Wenjiang, Chengdu, July 2010, released under CC-by-2.0 with permission of the photographer Brian Awehali

When I was in China last year, I heard and read many colorful stories. Here’s a strictly true one: a PRC official, speaking to a visiting US official sometime in 2010, says, in somewhat condescending fashion, “We are very impressed with the gains your country has made in its short 200-year history,” to which the US official replies,  “Yes, we are very impressed with the gains of your 60-year-old country as well.”

There are, after all, people, and then there are states. There’s the massive 5,000-year-old “culture” of China, made up of many different peoples, incorporated and renegade, spread over every conceivable terrain and holding as many or more distinct and idiosyncratic beliefs and practices as they hold in common, and then there’s the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its fractious apparatus.

Beginning around 1958, under the leadership of Mao Zedong and the PRC, a roughly thirty year war was declared on the culture, traditions, infrastructure and very memory of China: temples, libraries, museums and universities were razed; millions of intellectuals, professors, specialized workers, landowners, landlords and other “liberal bourgeois elements” were imprisoned or murdered. Thirty million people—the number almost defies comprehension—starved to death after the government outlawed private farms and forced farmers in the country to send unreasonable quotas of their harvest to the cities to feed urban workers during the Great Leap Forward, an attempt to rapidly transform China into an industrial power. Compounding the stark material realities of life under Mao, during the Cultural Revolution, family members and neighbors were turned murderously against each other in series of state-directed ideological campaigns and “purges,” and official records and memories not echoing the government’s line were destroyed.

Liao Yiwu (廖亦武) was born in 1958, almost ten years after the founding of the PRC, and his often principally embattled life and many volumes of work both cast extraordinary light on the traumatic and complex collision between the Chinese people and their modern state. He’s been imprisoned and tortured for writing and distributing his poetry, and though his work has received significant international attention and acclaim, it’s also completely banned in China.

Continue reading

Featured

» MADNESS & MASS SOCIETY: Pharmaceuticals, Psychiatry & the Rebellion of True Community

Hieronymus Bosch, "The Garden of Earthly Delights" detail, raven vs. mob

Brian Awehali interviews Dr. Bruce Levine

Author and clinical psychologist Bruce E. Levine wants to tell you that many forms of depression, discontent, and a whole raft of diagnosed mental illness are nothing more than natural responses to the oppression of institutional society. In his book, Commonsense Rebellion, Levine contends that the vast majority of mental disorders are, to put it simply, profit-driven fabrications with no established biochemical or genetic causes. This interview with Dr. Levine was conducted several years ago for publication in LiP: Informed Revolt, but the growth of corporate pharmaceutical “solutions” to deviant behaviors has only grown since then. Dr. Levine’s newest book, Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite, (Chelsea Green, 2011) is an exploration of the political psychology of demoralization and the strategies and tactics used by oppressed peoples to gain power in the United States.

Awehali: Bruce, you’re a critic of both psychiatry—the medical science of identifying and treating mental illness with drugs—and psychology—the study of human behavior, thought, and development. Are there substantial differences between the two?

Bruce Levine: When I first started out as a psychologist in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was fairly commonplace to dissent from psychiatry—that’s why people became psychologists. They saw the pseudo-science of not only the treatments but of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) itself. Unfortunately, over the years, psychology itself has slowly aped psychiatry, and there isn’t that sharp a distinction between the two anymore. The American Psychological Association (APA)—the professional group for psychologists—now fights for prescription rights for psychologists. So I guess any psychologist who maintains a position that depression isn’t primarily an innate biochemical disease, and that the DSM is a nonscientific instrument of diagnosis, is a dissident!

I should say that back in the 1970s and 1980s, before psychiatrists had the backing of the drug companies, they had very little power. In fact, they were falling apart, as evidenced by so many movies that were making fun of them, like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—which could never come out today. But back in those days, when [psychiatrists] weren’t in bed with the drug companies and didn’t have much political power, you saw movies like that come out. Now, psychiatrists have the media power; they’re able to describe the playing field of the controversy.

Let me ask you a blunt question, first: Do you think there’s ever any basis for diagnosing someone as mentally ill?

Continue reading

Featured

» IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD, NOTHING WOULD BE DIFFERENT

Femininism - illustration by Hugh D'Andrade

by Lisa Jervis

[This article, first published in Fall 2005, is made available here as part of the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt(AK Press) – Full PDF]

The biggest problem with American feminism today is its obsession with women. Yes, you heard me: It’s time for those of us who care deeply about eliminating sexism within the context of social justice struggles to stop caring so damn much about what women, as a group, are doing. Because a useful, idealistic, transformative progressive feminism is not about women. It’s about gender, and all the legal and cultural rules that govern it, and power—who has it and what they do with it.

A transformative progressive feminism envisions a world that is different from the one we currently inhabit in two major and related ways. Most obviously, this world would be one in which gender doesn’t determine social roles or expected behavior. More broadly, it would also be one in which people are not sacrificed on the altar of profit—which would mean universal health care, living wages, drastically reduced consumption, and an end to the voracious marketing machine that fuels it. The link between these two elements is clear: Both gender and race, as they currently exist, are socially enforced categories that shore up a consumer capitalist system by providing opportunities for both marketing and exploitation.

But much of the contemporary American feminist movement is preoccupied with the mistaken belief—call it femininism—that female leadership is inherently different from male; that having more women in positions of power, authority, or visibility will automatically lead to, or can be equated with, feminist social change; that women are uniquely equipped as a force for action on a given issue; and that isolating feminist work as solely pertaining to women is necessary or even useful.

The influence of femininist thinking is broadly in evidence today, from casual conversations in which arrogant know-it-alls are described in shorthand terms like “typically male” and “how very boy” to nonprofit groups that exist to promote the leadership of women—any women—in business and politics. It manifests itself in the topics that are considered most central to feminism. The problems feminism should be trying to solve are not caused primarily by a dearth of women with power. The overwhelming maleness of the American population of congressional representatives and physics professors, CEOs and major-newspaper op-ed columnists is a symptom, sure, of a confluence of economic, political, and cultural forces that devalue women’s work, denigrate our ideas as less important than men’s, and discourage us from aiming high. Would more women in high places signify a change in that? Yeah. And that would be nice.

But any changes would likely be superficial: More women in high-paying corporate jobs might mean that women would finally be making more, on average, than 76 cents to the male dollar, but it would do nothing about the 35.8 million people under the poverty line—and it’s definitely not going to transform the values of profit maximization that keep them there. It wouldn’t even necessarily mean that large numbers of women were being paid wages closer to their male counterparts. Like the wage gap itself, it would be a symptom of power at work, a signal that women are being allowed more access to the benefits of a destructive value system. If we’re fighting just for that access on behalf of women, without mounting a challenge to it, then feminism is, to borrow a phrase from Barbara Smith, nothing more than female self-aggrandizement.

Furthermore, the most pressing issues facing women worldwide—slave wages, inadequate health care systems, environmental degradation, war and surveillance society, and the rampant corporate profiteering involved in all of the above—are a) no less important to feminists just because they also happen to be the most pressing issues facing men and b) directly related to the particularly ruthless brand of global capitalism we’re currently living under.

This vulture capitalism would not magically disappear if women were in charge of more stuff. Racism would not go away. Hell, sexism itself would probably be alive and kicking. God knows the gender binary would be stronger than ever. In short: The actual workings of power will not change with more chromosomal diversity among the powerful. Continue reading

Featured

» PLAY GO! (玩 围棋!)

by Brian Awehali

{It is} something unearthly . . . If there are sentient beings on other planets, then they play Go.” — Emanuel Lasker, international Chess Master

First things first: No, outside of there being white and black pieces placed in alternating turns on a grid, it’s nothing like Othello. And it was invented by the Chinese, but is most often referred to by its spiffy Japanese name: Go.

Go, or wéiqí, was created by Chinese emperor Yao about 4000 years ago and was allegedly invented to help a stupid son learn to think better. Or it was invented by Chinese tribal warlords as a strategy aid. Or it began as a fortune-telling medium.

The reality of the game is more interesting than the lore:  Go (碁 in Japanese), baduk (바둑 in Korean), and wéiqí (围棋 in the original Chinese), is a game with true majesty for those who devote themselves to it. For its devotees and for mathematicians in almost equal measure, the game inspires reverence and awe. Due to its extremely open-ended play and staggering mathematical possibilities for variation, the game is by far the hardest to teach computers. That fact, along with the clip below (after the break), from Darren Aronofsky’s film, π (or Pi) sealed it: Go was the game for me.

“Listen to me. The possibilities of game play are endless. They say that no two Go games have ever been alike. Just like snowflakes. So, the Go board actually represents an extremely complex and chaotic universe. That is the truth of our world…there is no simple pattern. — From π, or Pi

Continue reading

» FIKRET MUALLâ: “COLORS THAT EVOKE DREAMS”

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

Photo EssayAvant-garde painter Fikret Muallâ (1904-1967) was born in Istanbul, but lived most of his life in France. Muallâ was a soul tortured by circumstance and self-abuse, but he understood his pain as a crucible for the perfection of his art, which he testified to in one of the last letters he was to write:

“In my opinion every artist should suffer hardship, anguish and hunger. Only after that should they enjoy life. After the age of fifty, people start to seek comfort and health, and to think. That is my fate. My life has passed in a struggle against poverty. Now in this quiet village I submit to living peacefully by myself waiting for the final period of my life as ordained by God. Apart from this I have no problems! No pretensions. We have seen every kind of circumstance the world has to offer, we have tasted very few of the pleasures of life. Today what is left but for my tongue to recall the past and my brush to paint?”

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

» ACTUALLY AFFORDABLE CALIFORNIA COASTAL LIVING

Long-term encampment at the Albany Bulb in the California Bay Area in 2014. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Photo EssayThe Albany Bulb, just north of Berkeley, California, is a peninsula-shaped landfill created by rubble from an earthquake in San Francisco (background of the photo above) that’s existed for a long time as a kind of park, outsider art gallery and, until recently, semi-continuous community of squatters.

Three-eyed lavender Medusa painting-on-rubble at the Albany Bulb, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Three-eyed lavender Medusa painting-on-rubble at the Albany Bulb – (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Now that the landfill’s grown less toxic and the terrain’s become nicely overgrown, the city of Albany would very much like to evict the squatters and figure out ways to beautify and monetize the area for its more upstanding, legible subjects.

The Birdman of Albany Bulb, feeding gulls in the parking lot of the adjacent horse-racing track. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

The Birdman of Albany Bulb, feeding gulls in the parking lot of the adjacent horse-racing track. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Like most bureaucratic functionaries in the U.S., Albany’s would like to eliminate the presence of people who aren’t legible to the modern U.S. surveillance state.

Side view of improv housing at the Albany Bulb, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Side view of improv housing at the Albany Bulb, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

But for now at least, a very small bit of actually affordable, still somewhat off-grid California coastal living still exists.

Land’s end! Just south of the Albany Bulb, at the Berkeley Marina. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Land’s end! Just south of the Albany Bulb, at the Berkeley Marina. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

» SCENES FROM ALICATI, TURKEY

Photo EssayAlicati is a town on the “Turkish Riviera,” and it’s a favored getaway for wealthy Europeans, especially Greeks. It’s almost certainly lovelier to me during the quiet off-season.

Shoe polisher and scooter in the off-season, Alicati, Turkey, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Shoe polisher and scooter in the off-season, Alicati, Turkey, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati, Turkey street pottery. Note the lovely quiet emptiness of the streets. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati, Turkey street pottery. Note the lovely quiet emptiness of the streets. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Kebelek storefront, Alicati, Turkey. The flowers aren’t real, but the flag is. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Kebelek storefront, Alicati, Turkey. The flowers aren’t real, but the flag is. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

“Stay calm and drink (buy) more wine,” in Alicati, Turkey. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

“Stay calm and drink (buy) more wine,” in Alicati, Turkey. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati cats stake out A.M. rendering lessons at the fish market. It’s very important that not one, but two flags hang over your fish cleaning operation. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati cats stake out A.M. rendering lessons at the fish market. It’s very important that not one, but two flags hang over your fish cleaning operation. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Visionally impressive but nutritionally disastrous Turkish breakfast. 80% of what you see here is a kind of “preserve” suspended in simple syrup. In the U.S., this would qualify as “part” of a nutritious breakfast. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Visionally impressive but nutritionally disastrous Turkish breakfast. 80% of what you see here is a kind of “preserve” suspended in simple syrup. In the U.S., this would qualify as “part” of a nutritious breakfast. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali