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Turkish-Romanian-Bulgarian-Jamaican rap heist

A large part of the credit for this post belongs to Christina Xu, who did most of the background research while I was in class looking at Google Images results for “giorgio moroder mustache.”

I was introduced to Türkpop darling Serdar Ortaç by an eccentric Turkish-Brooklyner-Turkish waiter at a restaurant adjoining a budget hotel in Istanbul.  I buy a lot of music when I travel, and I often try to get suggestions from locals I meet.  The waiter seemed like a good person to ask, since – judging from his habit of publicly announcing the latest developments in his sex life to the restaurant guests at breakfast each morning – I assumed we were on pretty familiar terms.  After faking my way through a few painful minutes of Yankees-Red Sox banter, I got directions to the nearest record shop and the names of his favorite Turkish artists.  One of his suggestions was the guy pictured below, posing with his… uh, I guess that’s a domesticated panther.

Serdar Ortaç with Unreasonably Large Domestic Cat

Serdar Ortaç with unreasonably large domestic cat. The next person to make a "pussy" joke about this album cover is getting a pointy stick in the eye.

I left the store with Ortaç’s latest album Kara Kedi (“black cat” in Turkish, whence the…) and an album of remixes from a couple years ago.  I find that remix albums are a solid bet when buying music by an artist I’ve never actually heard, because if I end up hating the artist, I can still usually find a palatable remix.

Strictly as a matter of personal taste, I’m not really a fan of Ortaç’s singing.  Türkpop gravitates strongly in the direction of nasally belted lyric ballads, which ain’t really my thing.  His instrumentals are well off the hook, though – wacky strings and funked-out noodling brass all over some intense thudding bass.  Accordingly, I decided to do some chopping.  I took two tracks from Kara Kedi, extracted just the bits where Ortaç isn’t singing, and shuffled them all back together.  The resulting track is after the jump, at the bottom of the post. Continue reading


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Awesome Foundation London kickoff!

Tonight was the kickoff event for the London chapter of Tim’s brainchild #179833492, the Awesome Foundation.  The Awesome Foundation started last year when Tim and nine homies decided to get together each month and collectively donate $1000 to a project they thought was really cool.  Since then, it’s spawned chapters in six (!) cities: Boston (the orig), New York, San Francisco, Ottawa, Providence, and now London.  Each of the chapters operates in the same way: every month, they give a $1000 to fund a cool project, except in London, where they give £1000.  Never mind that in London £1000 buys about two servings of fish and chips and a used teabag – you should see what some of these artists and inventors can do with a cod fillet!

The party celebrating the first grant by the London chapter was held upstairs at The Griffin pub near Old Street.  It was a lot of fun, but it was kind of suspenseful.  The five finalists for the £1000 grant had to give pitches to the ten AF London trustees, after which the trustees went downstairs to the bar to deliberate before coming back up and announcing the winner.  Here are the finalists, along with brief, highly inadequate descriptions of their projects, in the order they presented: Continue reading

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Blogging Again: The Problem of Sex Selection

Recently the New York Times ran a story on sex selection of children in Asian-American communities.  The article outlines some disturbing findings from birth records and census data: Asian-American families are much more likely than others to have a boy rather than a girl if their other children are all female, and demographers are attributing this discrepancy to an increasing number of Asian immigrant parents who are selectively determining the sexes of their children.

The trend was found specifically in Indian, Chinese, and Korean families.  Families from those countries might prefer to have boys for a number of reasons: they have patrilineal cultures, in which the male children carry on the family name; raising male children is often seen as a good investment, since they are more likely to find gainful employment; and especially in India, raising female children, for whom parents may eventually have to pay a dowry, can be a financial burden.

There are several ways for couples to ensure the birth of a son.  In Asian countries, sex “selection” is most often accomplished by aborting female fetuses, or through female infanticide.  In the United States, families are more likely to use pre-implantation methods, such as sperm sorting followed by artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization, although sex-selective abortions are still performed.  Whatever the method used, sex selection is problematic.  For one thing, the desire to weed out daughters is misogynistic, and suggests that these parents have some unfortunate ideas about gender roles.  For another, the practice of artificially selecting a child’s sex amounts to treating the child as a vessel for the parents’ expectations, rather than as a person in his or her own right.

Artificial sex selection needs to stop, but the question of how to stop it is a difficult one.  My position as an advocate for total reproductive freedom is that it is unethical to regulate many of the technologies that are used to predetermine the sexes of infants.  In particular, a woman’s right to get an abortion must never be subject to any conditions.  That means that we can’t legislate an end to sex selection.  If we want to solve the problem, we have to address its cause: the underlying beliefs that give rise to the preference for sons.

That’s a much loftier and tougher goal than outlawing sperm sorting, and it’s not clear how to go about accomplishing it.  Certainly the US would benefit from more widespread education on gender issues, for everybody.  But would that be enough to change a set of beliefs that many people take as cultural norms?  What else can we do to get people — not just Asian-American immigrants, but everyone — to see their daughters and their sons as equals?

If you have any ideas, leave a comment.

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Cruise Ships: A Study in Over-Consumption

My grandmother’s 80th birthday was this past week, and to celebrate my family went on a seven-day cruise in the Western Caribbean.  If you’ve ever done one of those things, then you know that the food on cruise ships is off the hook.  Four-course meals and monster buffets come flying at you from every direction, and since you pay for it all up front, it’s hard not to feel tempted, even obligated, to eat it ALL.  It inevitably turns into a week of face stuffing for everyone aboard (save the crew, who work like beasts).  I got my hands on some slightly nauseating statistics. Continue reading

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Dear Femblogs, an increase in reported DV is good news!

In the past week, Human Rights Watch and at least three major feminist blogs have posted somber reactions to this report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Here’s the gist of the hubbub, from HRW:

A new government report showing huge increases in the incidences of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault over a two-year period in the United States deserves immediate attention from lawmakers and the incoming administration, Human Rights Watch said today. The statistics show a 42-percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25-percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault.

Is this something that we should act on immediately?  Absolutely yes.  Is it bad news?  Absolutely not.  In fact, it’s pretty damned great.  HRW seems to have assumed that an increase in reported crimes corresponds to an increase in actual crime rates, and that is just straight up wrong.  Domestic violence and sexual assault are known to be massively underreported, for a couple of reasons: respondents to surveys are often uncomfortable admitting that they’ve been abused, and they are often unaware that something that has been done to them actually constitutes a violent crime.  This year, the BJS made two major changes to the National Crime Victimization Survey’s methodology for collecting information on gender-based violence.  First, they replaced “computer assisted telephone interviews” with interviews with real people, either on the phone or in person.  Second, they made an effort to describe sexual assault to respondents to ensure that they actually knew what it was.  I would think that those two alterations more than account for a 42% increase in reported DV and a 25% increase in reported sexual assault.  And really, we’ve always known that those additional 42%, and more, were being abused; now we have proof, and hopefully it will motivate policymakers to do something about it.  As for the actual crime rates, they probably did go up over the last two years, but my guess is that the increases were closer in magnitude to the increase in everyday plain vanilla assault, which rose by 3%.

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