#OccupyGezi Art

One of the most amazing things about the June 2013 protests in Istanbul (and rest of Turkey) is the humor, the art and the creativity that flourished in a matter of days. I hope to see more of it and I will try to add to this post those that I find compelling. If you want to understand what is happening on the political side – please check out the Economist article here.

#1 – Duman – Eyvallah – The popular rock band that is a favorite for Saturday night going outs made a song dedicated the protests early on. With English subtitles and some footage showing the excessive force by the police.

#2 – Kardes Turkuler – Tencere tava havasi (Sound of pots and pans) – The ethnic music group is mocking the Prime Minister’s speech, during which he dismissed the protests with pots and pans by the Turkish households as “just empty air”.

#3 – Angara Birds – A play on words, using the local accent softening the “K” of Ankara

#4 – Resist Gezi Park

#5 – A protestor in Besiktas

#6 – The whirling dervish in pink with a gas mask

#7 – The activist penguin – Note that penguin becomes a symbol of the protests as CNNTurk showed a penguin documentary during the protests, representing a sense of lack of media freedom in Turkey.

#8 – Penguin also happens to be the logo/name of one of the most popular humor magazines in Turkey. Here is their take-on:

#9 – The mask on AKP’s logo, “light bulb”  by Ali Cabbar

#10 – The “Tree Girl???”

#11 – Another “Tree Girl” – I love these as it symbolizes how this movement is about living spaces, but also inclusion of all. Given the abundant sexism in Turkey, it is great to see women leading this movement.

#12 – I am not sure about the origin of this (it may even be an image for some other context), but it is nevertheless very cool.

#13 – The Twitter Bird with a gas-mask. Pretty telling

#14 – It is a little hard to get without the language and a lot of Turkish references. But, pretty well-made cover/mash of several Turkish songs with new lyrics specifically for Gezi Protests.

#15 – Radikal’s compilation of Gezi Protest art from “designers” – I wish they have better references to the people who made these. You can find the full list here, but here is one example:

to be continued


Finding a political self – Thank you #Occupygezi

I grew up in Istanbul with political beliefs that did not really belong to the political spectrum of Turkey at the time. Political discourse in Turkey was too militaristic or too islamist or too ethnically oriented. I supported some movements here and there, protested once or twice, but never felt a real belonging.

Now, it is different!

My gaze is fixed to my computer’s screen, following #direngeziparki and #occupygezi tweets.

May be you are aware, may be you are not. But, there has been huge protests underway in Turkey. I am not going to make a big statement or a thorough reading of the situation, as many other people are doing exactly that. I find Guardian’s analysis pretty insightful. Also, Wikipedia page on the protests is pretty informative.

I think a lot of Turkish people would naturally relate to what I want to say. So, I am writing here in English to tell the world how grateful I am to everybody who contributed to these protests.

I am thankful that this video exist:

I am thankful that the tanks are not on the streets, but these people are:

I am thankful that hundreds of thousands of people, despite the ridiculously excessive and irrational use of police force, can restrain themselves from committing violent acts.

I am thankful that these protests seem to be about something everybody can relate to, “living space”. Both socially (e.g., DO NOT tell me who, when and where I kiss) and physically (e.g., DO NOT demolish my parks without asking me first).

I am thankful for the humor and the explosion of creative voices.

Across the ocean, I feel a solidarity that I have not felt in my life. Above all, I am thankful for that.

To my friends from all the ethnicities and religions. To my gay sisters and brothers.  To the imam who opened the doors of his mosque to the wounded.  To the shop owners and to the workers. To the sex workers, who are the bravest of all. To all of Turkey. THANK YOU!

“The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry” by Jon Ronson

I finally gave in and became a member of Audible so that I can listen to audiobooks, when I am putting Eminor to sleep (he likes to doze off while I hold his hand). So, of course, I thought a book about psychiatric disorders would fit the occasion nicely and downloaded the book by Ron Johnson of “The men who stare at goats” fame. The book is very well written (well, I listened to it) and made me question what is norm and what is deviancy and what is abnormal behavior, etc…. Concerns that are amplified when you have a small child.
It also remind me that “empathy” is a trait that is well ingrained in the human psyche and it is easy to recognize and judge the presence or lack of it. Regardless, a real review that will do the book justice will require a more knowledgable person than I am about psychiatry. But, here is the NYT Review.

Dharohar Project, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons

I enjoyed this album very much. A multicultural jam session, without much musical pretense or a shallow ideological aspirations. I have to admit, I am also a sucker for Mumford & Sons. See BBC – Music – Review of Dharohar Project, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons

Inequality in US

The biggest problem of our era in America (and possibly elsewhere) may be income inequality. In my opinion, it taints every meaningful economic, political, social and cultural activity, creating impenetrable rifts between different strata of human experience.

As such, I do think that it is important and interesting to understand income inequality. One nicely executed video presents the obvious problem very clearly (albeit, I think with a little too imprecise use of the terms income and wealth). In any case, inequality is a problem however you look at it.

The question remains, however, how the people respond to this situation. I certainly cannot see a revolution brewing from where I stand.There is a recent study conducted by a team of economists, one of them a friend, addressing this issue. Here is a link to a nice opinion piece in NYT describing the study. 

According to this study,Americans are not ignorant about inequality. On the contrary, they are deeply troubled by it. But, more interesting finding of the study is that the response of the Americans to inequality seems to be an increasing distrust when it comes to the ability of the government to address this issue. In fact, this distrust may not be that irrational given the Lessig’s reading of the current status of the politics in America. A brief intro to his ideas can be found in his latest TED talk:

So, overall, there is a gross inequality in America reflected in the strong parallels between the distribution of economic power, as described in the NYT piece and distribution of political power as described by Lessig. This is a paradox for economists as far as I can understand. Because, a populist government, elected by the people, would be a platform to redistribute wealth and regulate to maintain a fair and reasonable  wealth distribution. So, there is no obvious political or economic will to change the current status quo when it comes to income inequality.

I find the inability of the American system to separate economic and political power from each other as the natural reason for the extreme inequality. The consequences for the general liberal democracy in the long run remains to be seen.

The big old fish that is in fact not a fish

Other than the fact that everybody is calling this poor animal a “living fossil”, I am very glad to see the genome of an African coelachanth has been sequenced. Here is the link to the paper. 

These guys are large, deep sea fish that are found in Indonesia and Africa. Based on the genome sequence, there are two cool things that I found super interesting about this paper:

1. This coelachanth clusters better with the tetrapods along with the lungfish, but lungfish is the closer relative.

2. The coelachanth is actually more distantly related to modern day fish (like zebrafish) that are living today than it is to tetrapods (e.g., humans).

So, overall, it is a super cool evolutionary story and I am glad that it got the cover of journal Nature.


Also see – BBC News – ‘Living fossil’ coelacanth genome sequenced.

Paper of interest – The term admixture when describing relationship between human groups

Recently, a number of very interesting articles has used leveraged genome-wide polymorphism data and come up with estimating “admixture” estimates for different “ancestral” populations to explain variation observed in certain parts of the world, especially in Americas. These estimates and accompanying bioinformatic methodologies indeed offer powerful tools to understand selective trends affecting these populations, shed light on their population history, provide insights into inherited disease susceptibility and even help us to “complete maps of the human genome”

These are obviously very exciting studies and I am looking forward to see how these methodologies can contribute in new and exciting ways. However, I am also a little wary of the use of the extremely loaded term “admixture” with such ease and without much context for the non-population-genetics reader. Just to reminder to the reader: “admixture” implies genetic exchange between highly isolated and genetically distinct populations, and in fact, the term was used not long ago to describe genetic exchange between human races (for example, see link). Today, we know that such strict categorizations of human races remain very problematic, but geography explains most of the variation. So, admixture mapping, as used today, works in very peculiar historical exceptions, such as to understand the genetic variation among African-Americans. This is connected to the question of whether the human genetic variation is “discrete” vs. “non-discrete” (see image) – and see the discussion in Wikipedia.

As more papers come to my attention, I will try to write about this subject a little more.