Wednesday, 20 August 2008


Poor performance I have to confess that...
I have read one chapter from the memoirs of Ali Riza Bey, the minister of the wholesale fishmarket of Istanbul who lived during the last half of the nineteenth century. He is writing about the daily life of Istanbul, the world of kids and education, the world of women, the kahves, the poor and the vagabond, the addicts, the beggars, the famous fires, popular entertainments, palace traditions and even some famous love affairs. His style is easy to read, flowing and amusing. He places a very serious critique on the Ottoman education system, especially on the religious primary schooling before the reforms of Abdulhamit II- the enigmatic Sultan- He claims that the kids worked in small class rooms from morning to evening without any break or leaving the classroom and that the teachers tried to get money out of their students on several occasions because they themselves were underpaid. And as a final result, kids learned nothing much more than the alphabet and to learn writing - which is tough as there are different kinds of writing in Ottoman Turkish like sulus, rik'a and the official/political language siyakkat- they had to get expensive private lessons and spend years. Sooooo most of them chose either to leave school and became apperentices or brighter ones went into medreses-moslem seminaries- for a career.At one point to illustrate the poor quality of the education system and the graduates that end up in the bureorocratic cadres, he gives the example of the French intelligence which informed the Ottoman authorities of a future Russian naval attack- over the Mediterranian. Ali Riza Bey claims that the intelligence was not taken seiously because the bureocratic authorities did not think the attack was possible due to their lack of geographical knowledge: they did not know that the strait of Gibraltar existed. Could that be possible in the second half of the 19th cc? Himm..I suspect, seems very open to falsification...As far as I remember there must be an article of Ortayli in which he refutes this anectode as a mere urban legend. We will see. One has to approach dear Ali Riza Bey with caution but I think he is very sucessful in giving you the feeling of daily life, adds to what u see when u close your eyes and try to imagine and therefore brings a third dimension and color to the two-dimensional grey world of mere factuality.

Well as to Elizabeth Eisenstein's book : 'Printing Press as an Agent of Change'. She is a difficult reading as she is determined to give both sides-of the coin and in her case the coin is multiple sided- The minute u think u grasped her theory, she begins to give counter examples, creating slippery surfaces. And there are like three theories per page and tons of factual data. Well, it is a wonderful book and I totally agree with her that the invention of printing was a grand revolution rather than a gradual evolution and that it is historiographically undermined and that the effects of it on the formation of the modern world is immense...but stilllllllll it is difficult reading. Sooo I have read a little and deserve 10 whips on my shoulders...5 each.
I have read a bit in Ottoman (vaka-i Abdulaziz, a book about the Ottoman Sultan whose death was officially presented as a suicide but highly suspected as a murder), spoke a lot of Italian and even read a paragraph from of a 16th cc. hand-written document. YEEAAHHH, here I deserve an applause...
But that was all two days ago and yesterday.....................I did nothing except for going around with my crazy Italian cousin Francesco whose famous quote is 'facciamo una programma'. We went to Zeytin Cafe in Nisantasi and everything, especially the mosaic cake was DE-LI-CIOUS. Even my honey bunny daughter without any appetite ate it all...well the all was not that much anyway.
I returned to my garden of Eden(a summerhouse or rather a summergarden in Buyukada- Princess Island located in the Marmara Sea.) At night, we ate a wonderful dinner and watched Al Pacino's 88 minutes, exciting film -though I was not very convinced with the ending. Then we gossiped with my cousin till 3 in the morning under the stars, the calming breeze and the exquisite smell of the flowers. The most beautiful part: I buried my nose to the neck of my darling daughter and slept soundly till the morning..

Next...Will Yasemin ever be able to work...will she be able to deal with her hyper active cousin who is a party animal and a real challange????

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Reason d'etre

Ok. I love Alice in Wonderland. I love that merry-go-round and psychedelic way Carroll adopts to show the absurdity of a world which is not governed by basic rationality and logic. Well, what do u expect from a mathematician and a logician living under the comforting blanket of 19th cc. positivisim? Still, though Alice was about to lose her head at the end, she sure had a delicious adventure. So Mr. Carroll must also be pointing to the element of fun and colour in the irrational.
Well, I am also about to start my own adventure in the deep and dark woods of history which covers its goodies by its thick and emerald green ivies. (Yes, that brings to mind a scene from the Sleeping I give away too much that I am the mother of a seven year old beauty. At the moment we are reading "Ottoline and the Yellow Cat" and loving it)...I will stroll through the labyrinths of the past wonderlands and since the post and the post-post modern historiography rejects any possibility of scientific rationality in history, I will be pretty much like Alice. And anyway we have lot in common... to start with, we both believe that a book without pictures is no use...and we both give ourselves very good advice but then do not follow:))
The reason d'etre of this first blog...and I did never have a diary or anything like that before.. I do not even write letters...-isssssssss that I have to write my thesis and this blog will be my conscience which will take the strictest protestant ethic as its unwavering guide . And plus if I can not write this thesis I will be publicly disgraced by means of this blog:)))Here, I will register my daily work, judge myself ruthlessly, raise rhetoric questions and most importantly try to contain the psychological turmoil that people who just wrote their thesis warn u about with a peculiar frozen expression...and of course relate all the exciting and juicy information I stumble into. But bewarned reader! What I find exciting often bores other people to death.
Yes u may be wondering why on earth, after giving a break of more than ten years I am throwing myself into the wild and pitiless waves of the gradute studies and master thesis???Well, in a nutshell, history turns out to be the chocolate of my mind -and here is a classified information about me...if there is one thing I can not resist in the whole wide world, it is chocolate...and chocolate , please excuse my French, is my Achilles heel...