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Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

SOUNDTRACKLESLEY ROY-“Maps” (Ireland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 has come and gone and of course I’ve got questions.

Even though I enjoy checking out Eurovision entries, I know very little about the Eurovision process.  I didn’t even know that there were countries that didn’t qualify for the final round.

Thirteen countries didn’t make it to the final this year.  Remarkably, when I listened to some of the songs that didn’t make it I really don’t understand why not.  It almost seems like some of the songs that didn’t make it are just kind of bland–perhaps not over the top enough?

Take Lesley Roy’s song.  There’s a lot of drums, there’s strings, there’s dramatic pauses and, given that the song seem to be about running, it’s got a propulsive beat.

The middle of the song breaks for a (very!) short tin whistle break and then resumes with the strings and drums.

It’s feels like it’s catchy and inspirational, but isn’t, really.  And yet, it is hardly worse than many of the other songs that did make it,   In fact I’d say it’s better than a number of songs that did make it.

So did something happen on the night to make it particularly not very good?  Is the whole score based only the performance of the night?  Not on the song itself, which people know about ahead of time.  Whatever the case, this is the sixth time in seven years that Ireland (who once couldn’t NOT win) has failed to make it.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “How to Spend the Budget Surplus”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece contains six letters to President Clinton about what he can do now that the government has balanced the budget.  Aw, remember when people (particularly Republicans) cared about a balanced budget?

Three years after the similar “How to Spend the Budget Surplus” this is five letters to the President. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MÅNESKIN-“Zitti E Buoni” (WINNER Italy, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online.

I enjoy seeing Eurovision entries for the novelty or for seeing the amusing bands that are popular elsewhere.  I never expect to genuinely like a song (although there’s several I liked this year).  I also never expect a song that rocks as hard as this one did.  And certainly never expected it to win.

Måneskin means Moonshine in Danish and was inspired by bassist Victoria De Angelis’ half Danish heritage.  The rest of the band are vocalist Damiano David, guitarist Thomas Raggi, and drummer Ethan Torchio.  “Zitti E Buoni” roughly translates to Shut Up And Behave

There’s very little new about this song (or the band).  They’re a partying, sleazy rock band.  But their music pushes a lot of my buttons.

Distorted guitar playing a simple riff? Yup.  (The riff sounds really familiar…).  Rumbling bass?  Check.  (And a cool bass guitar as well). Quiet verse into loud chorus?  Check. (The additional high note at the end of the chorus lines earns a small bonus point).  And even more bonus points for singing in Italian.

After the chorus he sings really fast in what could be a rap, but probably isn’t.  After two minutes there’s a little bass solo which is a nice touch,.

They end with a slightly new riff and a little soloing which gives the song a cool twist for the end.

I’ve listened to this a number of times since the victory was announced and still dig it.  Am I actually in touch with Eurovision?

UPDATE: How do you say winner in Italian?  Måneskin.

[READ: May 10, 2021] “Relationship Quiz”

This is the first piece I’m aware of that has both Amy and David writing together.  I wish it were funnier–but, you know, it’s a Shouts & Murmurs.

It’s a 9 question relationship quiz.  What does make me laugh is that after half of the questions, the (d) answer provides the basis of the next question.

It starts off with you being interested in a business acquaintance.  What do you do?  Introduce yourself over a thermos of ice-cold daiquiris?

What do you do next? Meet for drinks at the local airport bar.

Note: If you chose these options you might have a drinking problem. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Go_A “SHUM” (Ukraine, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online.

I have been rather enjoying the folk metal genre, especially as practiced by Eastern European bands.  So I was pretty fascinated to hear about Go_A [Ґоу_Ей].

The name Go_A is meant to mean “return to the roots” and was made by combining the English word “Go” with the Greek letter “Alpha.”  There’s four members: Kateryna Pavlenko, Taras Shevchenko, Ihor Didenchuk and Ivan Hryhoriak

Lead singer Kateryna Pavlenko has a pretty fascinating backstory (if Wikipedia is to be trusted, and when is it not?).  [The entire quote is (sic)].

Due to unsatisfactory living conditions, she developed lung disease. As a teenager, she underwent several surgeries, including surgery to remove a lung tumor. After that she can’t sing in the traditional way. “The sound is not formed in my lungs or bronchi, because there is not much space there, but somewhere here (points to the back of the head). This is especially true of high notes, ”she said.

Her voice is quite striking–surprisingly powerful.  In the video, she looks as striking as her voice.  She’s dressed in an awesome leather jacket with a black dress.  She’s got some kind of metal(?) thing on her face–I can’t determine what it is., aside from cool-looking.

The song opens with a repeated unearthly sound–a kind of siren.  She starts singing in powerful Ukrainian as menacing chords emerge.  Then the song pumps along.

Once again the video is pretty spectacular as the band is driving in a kind of Munsters meets Mad Max truck.  The song is loud and fast with some big distorted guitars.

And before you know it, the song breaks and there’s a tin whistle solo and a jaw harp keeping pace (!).

In the middle of the song her voice sounds a bit less harsh as the music builds and fills in.  And then a throbbing bass bounces along to the tin whistle.  And after a beat the drop kicks in and the song is now twice as fast.

The video is pretty entertaining–the “story” is fun to watch, anyhow.  But as the song ends she hits a really high note–almost a screech.  In the video a hawk lands on her outstretched hand.

Nice touch.  Did they do that live during Eurovision?

UPDATE: No hawk live, and they came in fifth (with a really cool set).

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Card Wired”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece is based on an article in The Independent that says greeting card companies are getting in on the “mass-therapy act” so if you buy enough of these cards you could hold an entire conversation with your loved one without opening your mouth. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAÐI FREYR OG GAGNAMAGNIÐ-“10 Years” (Iceland, Eurovision Entry 2021).

I first learned about Daði og Gagnamagnið last year when Eurovison didn’t happen.  I have no idea how they came on my radar (something in Instagram, I assume).

Daði og Gagnamagnið is the creation of Daði Freyr Pétursson.  Much like The ROOP, the visuals from Daði and his band are what really sells the song(s).

Daði is the composer/musician and in performances, he is supported by his sister Sigrún Birna Pétursdóttir (backing vocalist), wife Árný Fjóla Ásmundsdóttir (dancer), and friends Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardóttir (backing vocalist), Stefán Hannesson (dancer), and Jóhann Sigurður Jóhannsson (dancer)—known as “Gagnamagnið”. Gagnamagnið, means “the amount of data”, and is the Icelandic word for “data plan”.

And the real selling point?  Teal green sweaters with pixelized portraits of themselves on them.  Last year’s “Think About Things” was pretty awesome (the video is incredible).  A blast of disco fun.

This year’s “10 Years” opens with a string quartet playing a sad sounding melody and then Daði appears singing in his deep clipped style.  Then a huge disco bass line comes in and before you know it, the song is in full dance mode–a swinging disco confection with the remarkable hook

Everything about you [pause} I like.

Add in some disco wah wah guitars and some irresistibly dopey dance moves and its impossible to look away.

And what on earth are the weird keytars?  Presumably homemade and non-functioning except that now they shoot sparks from the bottom.

Just when you think its all over, up pops a fairly large choir of little girls to sing along before the disco resumes.

And then it’s over but they are not done because after an awkward pause of them standing there, one of the guys shoots a confetti cannon at the camera.

Novelty?  Sure.  Funny?  Absolutely.  Catchy?  Definitely.

UPDATE: This song came in fourth.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Girl Crazy”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece is about when Ellen DeGeneris’s character Ellen was about to come out on Ellen.  (Wow, remember when that was a big deal?).  And like several of these pieces, these are written as letters to the person in charge.

There are five letters here.

The first suggests that a six year old boy from North Carolina wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for sexual harassments for kissing a girl in his class if only he had kissed a boy.  The network best not mess with Regis and Kathie Lee. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOP-“Discoteque” (Lithuania, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us. It’s hard to follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as one off singers people haven’t heard of.  But that is patently false.

The ROOP are an established band from Lithuania fronted by a handsome man, Vaidotas Valiukevičius.  The rest of the band consists of percussionist Robertas Baranauskas and guitarist Mantas Banišauskas.  In the video there are two more members.

The song itself is quite sparse and remarkably catchy (evidently it is based on a Lithuanian folk song).  They explain:

The song is called “Discoteque” – without the letter “h”, because it’s a different kind of discotheque. “It’s not about showing yourself off. It’s more about being with yourself and accepting yourself the way you are,” says Mantas.

Although they give a different inspiration for the song, I feel like this is the perfect lockdown anthem.

A simple synth pulse as Vaidotas speaks “Ok, I feel the rhythm. Something’s going on here. The music flows through my veins.”

He starts doing subtle dance moves–shoulder shrugs, finger movements.  And then he reveals his bright yellow suit.

The song starts to build

I can’t control it. Don’t wanna end it. There’s no one here. And I don’t care. I feel it’s safe to dance alone.

The rest of the band comes in dressed similarly in bright yellow as the dance part jumps in

Let’s discoteque right at my home.
It is ok to dance alone. (Dance alone, dance alone)
I got the moves – it’s gonna blow.

Now you’ve got five people dressed in bright yellow doing over the top synchronized dancing–waving your arms in the arm, crab walking, walking like an Egyptian, etc.  (The video makes it pretty hilarious).

It is infectious watching these people having such a joyful time and imagining that these are exactly the kinds of dance moves one might make up in their home.

It ends with him doing the simplest hand gesture going from v to w and back again.

UPDATE: This song only came in 8th, but their live performance is pretty spectacular (see below).

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Proposals for Welfare Reform”

Back in the mid to late 1990s, David Sedaris wrote a few Shouts & Murmurs for the New Yorker.  It’s interesting to see a writer whom you know for a certain style of writing crafting jokes in a very different manner.  Shouts & Murmurs are rarely actually funny, and that’s true of most of these.

Obviously the topical nature of most of these means there’s a component of “wait, what was going on?”, but the set up usually explains everything pretty well.  Now we are more likely to say, “Aw, remember when that’s all we cared about?”

This piece contains six letters to… the President I guess?  Aw, remember when people talked about welfare reform?

The Calverts suggest that there’s a lot of young people who throw rocks and bottles at mailboxes.  How about making people on welfare fix mailboxes or dig new post holes for them.

Kevin D suggests that everyone on welfare should train to be n merrymaker of some sort–singing, dancing massage, whatever.  They could reenact funny skits in malls or do massage in the nude. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TIX-“Fallen Angel” (Norway, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us.  It’s hard to really follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as over the top and campy.

And, yep, I’d say this falls into that category.  It’s an over the top ballad–a remarkably simple melody and very straightforward lyrics (you’re an angel, I’m a fallen angel, will you ever notice me?).

The over the topness comes because as he sings this song he is wearing massive white angel wings and he is surrounded by half a dozen demons dressed in black with giant horns.

Upon hearing the song my daughter commented that his English was very good.  This is not surprising, him coming from Norway, but you can’t hear a hint of an accent.  And his lyrics are sung so clearly you can make out every word.

The whole thing is really quite mockable and yet it is so sincere it’s hard to hate.

Especially when you learn that Tix is called Tix because he suffers from Tourette’s syndrome and as a child he was bullied and called “tics,” which he has since embraced.

UPDATE: This judges were not moved by his story as this song came in 18th.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Let It Snow”

I found a stash of old David Sedaris pieces and since they’re all pretty old, they’re quite funny.

This short piece is very funny and, obviously, it’s about snow.

He says that winters were always mild in North Carolina when he was a kid.  But one year there was a snowfall that lasted for a few days–which meant the kids were home from school.

They quickly got on their mother’s nerves and were thrown out of the house.

They pounded on the door and rang the bells demanding to be let back in, but she just pulled the drapes and enjoyed her solitude (which meant wine, mostly):

Drinking didn’t count if you followed a glass of wine with a cup of coffee, and so she had a goblet and mug positioned before her on the countertop.

They decided the best revenge would be if one of them got hit by a car–“It was really the perfect solution.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARBARA PRAVI-“Voilà” (France, Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us.  It’s hard to really follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as over the top and campy.  But there are often many entries that are anthemic and inspirational.

And there’s also the super powerful ballad.  This entry from France is one of these.

If you play the song on YouTube the first comment is “This is the most French song I’ve ever heard,” and I have to agree.

The song begins with quiet keyboard notes and Pravi singing.  After a verse, the chorus comes.  It’s just one line this time.

Voilà, voilà, voilà, voilà qui je suis
Me voilà même si mise à nue j’ai peur, oui
Me voilà dans le bruit et dans le silence

Then the verse resumes and each time around the verses get bigger and bigger and the chorus follows suit as the strings get louder and more dramatic.

The end of the song see her going a little wild with the “voilàs” and a little vamping as a wild piano is added into the mix.

I wasn’t that impressed with this at first but after a second watch, it’s got some nice drama and the video is pretty cool too.

UPDATE: This song came in second.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Who’s The Chef?”

I found a stash of old David Sedaris pieces and since they’re all pretty old, they’re quite funny.

I read this essay a while ago and I remember it making me laugh then as much as it did now.

Set in Paris, David is telling an anecdote.  His French is good but he can be much more subtle in English.

So when he says “My boss has a rubber hand,” there are obviously some questions.  Especially since boss can also mean chef. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JEANU MACROOY-“Birth of a New Age” (Netherlands Eurovision Entry 2021).

Eurovision 2021 is upon us.  It’s hard to really follow Eurovision in the States, but you can see highlights and most official entries online

I tend to think of Eurovision as over the top and campy.  But there are often many entries that are anthemic and inspirational.

This entry from Netherlands is one of these.  It starts quietly with a pulsing synth and Macrooy singing with a clean powerful voice.  After each line, the backing vocalists chany “Your rhythm is rebellion.”

Then like a choir, the voices sing

“Yu no man broko mi” over and over until the song resumes.

The phrase calls to his Surinamese roots and translates as “You can’t break me.”

I found the song and the video quite compelling.

UPDATE: I don’t know exactly what the judges vote on (the live performance only?), but I’m pretty astonished that this song came in 23rd.

[READ: May 10, 2021]  “Possession”

I found a stash of old David Sedaris pieces and since they’re all pretty old, they’re quite funny.

This essay starts in Paris and ends in the Anne Frank house.

Sedaris talks about how he and Hugh were looking for a new apartment in Paris.  They loved their current place, but the landlord promised it to his daughters.  Sure the girls were young and, you know, something could happen to them, but it was unlikely that David and Hugh would ever own their place.

Looking at apartments is like falling in love, but “buying one is like proposing on your first date and agreeing not to see each other until the wedding.”  David did not love their new place but High sure did.”  Maybe you’re confusing love with pity,” he told Hugh.

Three months after they moved in, they took a trip to Amsterdam, a place often recommended with the phrase, “You can get so fucked up there.”  They toured around and eventually came to the Anne Frank house. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DECEMBERISTS 20th Anniversary Celebration Streaming Shows (April 11, 2021).

Even though I love live shows, I don’t really like streaming shows.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with them, it’s just that I don’t tend to watch live music much at home.  And, most of the time i tend to forget the show until the stream is over.

But since Sarah and I were supposed to see The Decemberists and our shows were cancelled, I though I’d treat her to these shows for her birthday.

The first show was pretty great–a deep dive into lots of old songs.

As they start, Colin says this is the first time we’ve played….ever together as a live band.

They open this set with Don’t Carry It All from The King is Dead.  Colin plays harmonica and I was really surprised to realize that drummer John Moen is singing the higher backing vocals (I’d always assumed it was keyboardist Jenny Conlee).

They stick with King for “All Arise” where you can really see Jenny’s massive keyboard array!

There’s a little extended jam at the end, which Colin calls “a proper honky tonk.”

They move to What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World album for “Wrong Year” which Colin says is emblematic of the previous year.  Colin plays the acoustic 12 string and Chris Funk is on the electric 12 string.

Jenny claps: “since there’s no audience we have to support ourselves.  Should we clap for ourselves?”

Colin says the tour (that was recently cancelled) would have been their 20th anniversary tour.  These song would have made up the set list.

This next song is early mid period that John Moen: he was just laying around being a man about town a the time.  “On the Bus Mall” [from Picaresque] sounds great with Nate Query getting a great deep sound on the upright bass.

Colin has as sip of wine and mentions that someone has made a supercut of every time he drinks a sip of wine and goes mmm.  “It’s normal to go mmm after a drink of wine.  it heightens the experience.”  And yet when you put hem all together….

Up next is a song about dead children and this is the first of many.  “Leslie Anne Levine” (from Castaways and Cutouts) sounds great with the 12 string, the accordion and bowed upright bass.

Colin jokes that it wouldn’t be an authentic Decemberists experience without him forgetting lot of words–so far I’m doing alright.

Up next is a glorious “The Crane Wife Parts 1, 2 & 3,” always fun to heae these together.  Nate’s bowed bass sounds deep and resonant but the song gets even bigger when he switches to electric bass.  Jenny is playing organ and glockenspiel.  There’s a seamless transition to part 2 with Chris Funk on pedal steel.  As they switch to Part 3, Jenny keeps the song going on organ while Colin gets an 8 string acoustic guitar.

It’s followed immediately by “The Island” which sounds so good I really hope to see this song live one day.  I love the intensity of Jenny’s keys and the great riffing and they even switch it up in the middle as John takes over keys, Jenny plays accordion, Chris is on pedal steel and Nate’s on the bowed bass.  The end is magnificent.  As they wrap up Colin jokes, “those were some jazz chords you were playing, there, Johnny.”

Colin states that they went through strict COVID protocol so they could do the next song.  “Raincoat Song” is a deep cut==a pretty acoustic song with both of them singing into the same mic.  (“I haven’t been so close to another man in many months.”  “Only harmonize into one microphone with you pod.”)

As they get ready for the next song, Colin says this is an epic jam set, apologies of epic jams are not your thing.  Jenny says that if they were on stage during this delay they’d either jam out or tell dad jokes: Nate: “How do you make an octopus laugh?  Tentickles.”

As Chris starts warming u his new guitar Colin says “John Carpenter on guitar.”  That’s the biggest complement you can give him.

Then we are off to a mystical land with “Rusalka, Rusalka” a new song I don’t know very well.  I really enjoyed the sound of it and need to check out the later cuts on I’ll be Your Girl.  The song has Chris on mandolin and harp samples from Jenny.

Colin gets a guitar but changes his mind as asks for The Reverend instead.  Jenny plays circus/instrument changing music.

The new guitar sounds great, and indeed the whole of “Make You Better” sounds fantastic.

Before introducing the final song, Colin says “Stay safe out there.  We’re nearing the end of this thing.  If you can get your vaccine, get it; mask up, stay socially distanced.”  “Not a very sexy PSA for a rock n roll show.”

But anyhow, this is about people who drowned, so things could be ….worse.

They end with a rocking “Hazard of Love (Part 4)” with Chris Funk on pedal steel.

It was weird hearing these live, quite rocking songs and there being no audience to cheer. Even if I hate noisy crowds, the silence is worse.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “How to Practice”

This was Ann Patchett’s second long form non-fiction essay in six months in the New Yorker.

This one is all about getting rid of your stuff.

In my family, we treasure heirlooms and even things that have only minor sentimental value.  We’re not hoarders but we have a lot of stuff.

Patchett opens this essay by talking about a friend’s father who died.  He had amassed all kinds of things.  Each new stage of his life brought on a new interest or hobby–and the accoutrement that went with it.  Getting rid of things proved to be a burden to his children.

Because Patchett grew up with them and her friend’s father considered her like a daughter, he wanted her to get something meaningful.   For instance, a particular painting.  She liked it but “either you have a place for that sort of thing or you don’t.”

But after allocating the important stuff there was so much more

How had one man acquired so many extension cords, so many batteries and rosary beads? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O.-Pink Lady Lemonade ~ You’re From Inner Space (2011).

This album is something like the fortieth AMT album and somewhere in the middle of the band’s tenure with this lineup:

Tsuyama Atsushi: monster bass, voice, cosmic joker
Higashi Hiroshi: synthesizer, dancin’ king
Shimura Koji: drums, latino cool
Kawabata Makoto: guitar, guitar synthesizer, speed guru

The album consists of one song, the title track, broken into 4 parts all based around a simple, but rather lovely guitar melody

 “Part 1” is 32 minutes long.  It begins with the opening guitar melody which plays along with some trippy sounds.  Tsuyama is reciting the words (in Japanese?  English?  Gibberish?) and occasionally you hear the words “Pink lady Lemonade.”  At around 12 minutes drums and bass are added.  Once the bass starts meandering through some catchy riffs, Kawabata starts soloing.  It’s pretty far down in the mix (the main melody continues throughout).  Then around 22 minutes Tsuyama starts adding the monster bass–wild riffs that go up and down the fretboard.  With about 5 minutes left Kawabata starts playing s louder solo–louder than the rest of the music–and you can really hear him wailing away.   Part 1 fades out completely before jumping into Part 2.

“Part 2” is only 5 minutes, but it is utter chaos, with everyone making a big pile of noise–keyboard banging, sliding bass, thumping drums and wild, seemingly uncontrollable guitars.  It ends five minutes later with some warbling keys

Then comes “Part 3,” which runs just over the minutes.  It’s a faster chord version of the same guitar intro with slow bass notes and a big guitar solo.  It changes shape and adds some discoey bass lines.  About midway through the synths take over and while there is music in the background the song becomes mostly washes of sounds.

“Part 4” ends the disc at just over 18 minutes.  It picks up with the original guitar melody once more.  This time, it’s only a minute until the drums and bass kick in and the soling begins.  At five and a half minutes the guitar solo gets really loud and takes over.  The soloing is wild for over ten minutes and then around 13 minutes the song grows very quiet with only the lead guitar and the heavily echoed main riff playing.

There’s on online version here that has this entire record but adds six minutes at the end of the last part which is mostly the introductory melody and some washes of keys over the top.  i rather like this extra 6 minutes and it feels like a really nice ending.

 

[READ: May 1, 2021] “My First Passport”

This essay was translated from the Turkish by Maureen Feely.

Pamuk talks about people travelling from Turkey when he was young.  First it was his father, who left the country when Orhan was seven.  No one heard a word from him for several weeks when he turned up in Paris.  He was writing notebooks and regularly saw John-Paul Sartre.   He had become one of the penniless and miserable Turkish intellectuals who had been walking the streets of Paris.  Initially Orhan’s grandmother sent Orhan’s father money but eventually she stopped subsidizing her bohemian son in Paris.

When he ran out of money he got a job with I.B.M. and was transferred to Geneva.  Soon after Orhan’s mother joined his father but left Orhan and his brother with the grandparents.  They would follow when school was done.

Orhan sat for his first passport photo (included in the essay).  Thirty years later he realized that they had put the wrong eye color down–“a passport is not a document that tells us who were are but a document that shows what other people think of us.” (more…)

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