Monday, December 28, 2009


Actually, it's just Petuk. I didn't realize it, but apparently he totally called it about 3M Co. -- "Disappointing earnings forecast," he said, and man, was he right. He's concerned about the P/E ratio on the S&P 500, but cautiously bearish on hedge funds.

Amazing, no? As if miraculous healing powers weren't enough.

Allie still hasn't shown much of a gift for stock-market forecasting. I have to be candid about that. He's still a great dog who deserves a home.

Unfortunately, it was Allie who was managing the Simba Fund. So please help out.


Coming up next month: I'm bound for Port au Prince.

Claire: How's the Muay Thai scene in Haiti?
Mischa: There is none.
Mischa: Absolutely none.
Mischa: Although there are rumors of a Thai restaurant.

(Turns out my brother's wrong. But I seem to have missed the excitement.)

Mischa: But I think you should blog your trip to Haiti. Your fans expect no less.
Claire: I surely will.

(Later ... )

Claire: Capoeira.
Claire: I can study Capoeira in Port au Prince.
Mischa: But Claire, Haiti is a good place to study real self-defense.
Mischa: The kind with bullets and tanks.
Mischa: Bulletproof vests.
Mischa: High powered ammunition.
Mischa: Snipers.
Claire: Excellent!
Claire: That will give me much to blog about.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I just spoke to my brother. (He's rescued three kittens in Bangkok and one in Haiti. He also tried very hard to rescue a zombie. So he's something of an expert.)

He wondered if readers might be intimidated by the thought of adopting two dogs. Not everyone can bear that much happiness, after all. Few among us have the self-esteem to think themselves worthy of that much love.

He thought I should stress that if you only seek to be half as happy, it would, in fact, be possible to adopt just one or the other.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Time to remind you that Petuk and Allie are still looking for a home.

I've mentioned them before. I'm absolutely astonished that no one has adopted them yet.

What's wrong with you? Are you allergic to happiness? Do you like being lonely?

Do I really need to explain what's so special about these dogs?

I suppose I do.

In one sense, there's nothing unusual about them. They're just ordinary mutts. I can't say that they speak fluent French, or that they have some remarkable aptitude for composing lyric poetry or forecasting the stock market.

But in another sense, you would have to have no sense of wonder in the world at all to be unable to see that they're miraculous.

Consider a world in which dogs were scarce -- a world, say, with only ten dogs in it. If you'd never heard much about dogs before, you'd be awed.

These dogs -- Petuk and Allie -- have a sense of smell so acute that they can detect certain organic compounds at one millionth of the concentration you'd need to discern them. It's one of the great scientific wonders of the world.

Petuk and Allie have astonishing healing abilities: Children with autism are known to respond to dogs even when they can't or won't speak to humans. Patients with advanced Alzheimer's disease will recognize dogs even when they can no longer recognize their human relatives.

Petuk and Allie are probably able to detect cancer more accurately than any laboratory test. (You'd have to train them a bit, but I'm sure they'd be willing.)

Just touching Petuk and Allie -- I am quite serious -- will raise the level of mood-elevating chemicals in your brain by statistically significant levels. If any drug company announced such solid support for an antidepressant medication in trials, its stock would soar.

Being around Petuk and Allie will lower your cholesterol, your blood pressure, and your risk of having a heart attack.

If you adopt Petuk and Allie, you will be 30 percent less likely to have a reason to visit a doctor. (This study was done in Japan, but I assume it would apply to you wherever you are.)

Petuk and Allie have seemingly telepathic aptitudes that thus far defy any conventional scientific explanation. Skeptics: Read those studies carefully, they seem to anticipate all obvious objections. I'm not saying there's no more prosaic explanation for what those dogs are doing; I'm just saying we sure don't know what it is yet.

Petuk and Allie might very well save you from poisonous snakes, drowning, an overturned car, the rubble of a collapsed building, or a rapist. Dogs save people from these things all the time.

If you get lost in the woods, Petuk and Allie would probably be able to find you. What's more, they'd probably want to.

If you'd had no previous acquaintance with dogs, and if I told you that such creatures really existed and were not merely the product of my perfervid futuristic fantasies, would you even believe me?

If I added that these creatures were genetically programmed to adore you, no matter how basically repulsive a human being you are, would you not want to possess them more than anything else in the world?

Would you not assume that only the world's wealthiest and most privileged people could ever hope to be so lucky as to live with these dogs?

And were I to note that in addition to this, Petuk and Allie descend from Neolithic dogs, and Byzantine dogs, and Ottoman dogs, wouldn't you go mad with desire to see them for yourself? I mean, it's entirely possible that their ancestors' ears were scratched by the Emperor Justinian.

Doesn't it seem insane to you that these two astonishing creatures are sitting in a cage, and that no one wants to adopt them?

I really can't understand it.

Click here to adopt Petuk and Allie. I'd hurry, because now that I've explained this, I'm sure everyone in the world will be trying to get their hands on them. I'm fully expecting a savage bidding war.


This has nothing to do with the martial arts, but since it's actually far more important, I figured I'd point it out.

I'm working on another piece for City Journal about Pavel Stroilov's stolen Kremlin papers. I've asked an acquaintance of mine to help with the translation from the Russian. He in turn asked me why I thought it important to settle scores from that era.

This is the answer.

If you're in a hurry, skip the introduction and go right to the speech, which starts at about minute 5:00.

"The West accepts an epochal, monstrous, unforgivable double standard. We rehearse the crimes of Nazism almost daily; we teach them to our children as ultimate historical and moral lessons; and we bear witness to every victim. We are, with so few exceptions, almost silent on the crimes of Communism. So the bodies lie among us, unnoticed, everywhere."

Thursday, December 24, 2009


spor - en çirkef bayan futbolcu!! |


Walking out of the gym today, I saw a couple of guys having a real fight, just across the street.

"Should we call the police?" I asked.

The guys at my gym shrugged. "This is Turkey," my teacher said.

I figured he was right. I think he meant it in a negative way, as in, "This is Turkey, where things are so rough that people fight on the streets," but I actually took it in a positive way, as in, "This is Turkey, where you can still settle things with a little shoving match and nothing that awful will happen as a consequence." It's not as if we don't fight in America, after all. We just end up shooting each other when we do. (Or, depending on our social class, calling our lawyers and our publicists and making some huge deal out of it for all eternity.)

I watched for a few seconds more. It definitely seemed more of a "ceremonial expression of conflicted feelings" fight than a "prelude to a funeral" fight.

After satisfying myself that it was probably ethically okay not to call the police or try otherwise to solve the problem, I noticed how astonishingly deficient in clinching skills the parties to the conflict were. They were hopeless. My teacher looked on, silent. I've never seen him look at a situation like that without shouting, "Knees! Use your knees! Push!"

He must have been thinking it, though.


Istanbul is now full of Christmas decorations. I don't remember seeing those before. Few are of a specifically Christian nature -- I haven't seen any mangers or crosses -- but that's rare now in the US and Europe, too. It's pretty much like any Winter Festival in California. The trees are lit up with twinkling lights and stars. I've spotted the occasional Santa and his sled. No Christmas carols as yet, thank God. (If they start playing "The Little Drummer Boy" over and over again, Saudi Arabia, here I come.)

This is definitely a new trend. I'm not sure what to make of it, but continue to find Istanbul remarkably unpredictable. You'd think at first that this really isn't compatible with the idea of encroaching Islamic fundamentalism, wouldn't you?

Not so fast! There goes the caravan of bearded muftis screaming down the street in their jihadimobiles, yelling slogans about the liberation of Palestine.


This is the second time this week I've come home to find my little black cat with a muzzle full of white fur, my white cat sulking indignantly, and the other cats looking piously skywards if to say, "No, no, nothing to do with us." Pretty obvious what goes on here when I'm not around.


Many thanks to the Istanbul Capital of Culture Agency for throwing a lavish press dinner last night for foreign journalists. You're definitely on the right track with the thought that my influence is for sale. Now that we've established that, let's just haggle a bit over the price. The calamari was an excellent start, and so was the salmon -- and it wasn't overcooked, which I really appreciated; that's definitely a touch worth a few positive column inches, as far as I'm concerned. I don't eat meat, but I still thank you for the steaks. Claudia and I had a good time figuring out how to get them into our handbags for Shirin, her neighborhood's favorite stray dog, without anyone noticing. Really liked the spice cake with caramel sauce and ice cream, too, and the handsome Istanbul Capital of Culture leather briefcases.

You were doing just great before the long, droning speeches, which almost undid all that good will by making us hate you horribly. Next time, just put the propaganda in the briefcase: We'll read it at home.

Most importantly, the talentless Irish twat you hired to sing wasn't an asset to the evening, not least because he was a talentless Irish twat (hardly the example you'd wish to showcase as an illustration of Istanbul's rich cultural legacy), and because he seemed to think his job was to scold for inattention the journalists who were there to do their jobs -- viz., to schmooze the assembled functionaries and coax them into saying something interesting enough about the Capital of Culture to print. We hated him.

Other than that, an excellent effort, and I'll definitely write something nice about you.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I enjoyed my foray into basketball on Sunday so much that last night, spotting an empty basketball court, I asked Egemen to indulge me by shooting a few hoops. (I believe that's the term of art, isn't it? I know even less about basketball than I do about the martial arts.) I realized within about thirty seconds that it would be no fun at all to play with him -- certainly not one-on-one, anyway -- because we're so completely mismatched in athletic ability. I wouldn't have a chance of winning, ever, not even with outrageously good luck.

It's easier for me to accept the gross disparity in our athletic skill and talent in the martial arts because in some larger sense, it's not just a game. The point isn't just to win in any given encounter, it's to improve your skill to the point where you might be able to win in the encounter that really counts. That, at least, is how it sort of plays out in my mind.

The only real point of basketball is winning right there and then; if there's no hope of that, well, it's not as if you can tell yourself that at least you're improving your emergency dribbling reflexes and your chances of beating a crackhead home-invader bent on a pick-up game.

It made me wonder just what level of competition is required for a competitive pursuit to be maximally addictive. It's not particularly addictive to play with someone you can always beat, unless you take your pleasure in pedagogy, score-settling or sadism. (Those are real pleasures, don't get me wrong, but as I'm sure you'll all agree, it speaks well for my character that I only enjoy humiliating an easy target a few times before I get bored with it.)

"Evenly matched" isn't quite the right solution, either. I'm thinking now of my most depraved online Scrabble binges. They never occurred because I was winning as much as I was losing. They always happened because I was winning, against the odds, against progressively more highly-ranked opponents.

I suspect that for a competition to be maximally addictive, the opponent probably has to be about 15-20 percent more skilled than you. If you have a minor run of good luck, it produces the exhilarating temporary illusion that you're in fact better at something than you really are. The inevitable setback leaves you desperate for a rematch. If Scrabble is anything to go by, it takes losing about eight games in a row, at a level higher than your real ability, to produce total demoralization and the suspicion that perhaps you have something better to do with your life than play game after game of online Scrabble.

I'll bet there's been quite a bit of research into this. Casinos must have the algorithms pretty well worked out.

I expect the maximally addictive level of competition varies depending how deeply emotionally invested you are in the pursuit. It's not unbearably ego-dystonic for me to lose at things like basketball and Scrabble -- basically, I don't really care -- so I can accept losing quite often in exchange for the hope of winning occasionally.

It is not anywhere near so amusing when old college rivals write books that sell better than mine.

Monday, December 21, 2009


After playing a game of basketball yesterday afternoon, I became curious to know how rates of injury in basketball stacked up against rates of injury in the martial arts. It seems that basketball is actually quite a bit more dangerous.

I'm a little puzzled by this table, though. Surely they don't mean to suggest that a full 54.8 percent of American cheerleaders ended up in the emergency room in 1998?

I can't vouch for the methodology, since obviously these numbers don't make sense at all, but it does seem to be suggest that people who do martial arts (as a broad, undifferentiated category) are less likely to be seriously injured than people who play basketball, soccer, football, or softball. Volleyball and weight-lifting, too, would seem to be riskier. Predictably, rugby and and hockey involve very high rates of injuries. Less predictably, "Track & Field" appears to be nearly lethal: You'd have to be mad to get messed up in that world.

Very strangely, it appears to be safer to take up the martial arts than to take up dancing.

Anyway, I'm glad to report that I made it off the basketball court unharmed. I had no idea how much danger I was in.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I thought I'd put in a plug for my friend Mark Law's book about Judo, The Pyjama Game. When I went to check the URL of his website, I noticed this review:

The literary genre “neophyte learns a martial art” is getting somewhat crowded, but Law’s likeable and stylish entry deserves a place on the mat.

"Neophyte learns a martial art" is a crowded literary genre? I had no idea. Anyone want to tell me where to find the rest of these books?

Anyway, I liked Mark's book very much. I particularly enjoyed the third chapter, which is relevant to anyone involved in the martial arts. "If there is some chemical compound," Mark writes,

called aggression sluicing around our systems, and it is A Bad Thing, then surely we need to have some way of disposing of this hazard before it starts burning holes in the fabric of society? In fact we have a number of methods; one of them is called sport.

This seems intuitively obvious to me, almost so much so as to be hardly worth saying. Yet it seems to be remarkably shocking to many people when I say just this.


It would be indecent to keep writing from Turkey without noting that my martial arts meditations are taking place against a bleak backdrop. Almost every conversation I've had here in the past week has suggested a mood of hopelessness. This does not mean that things are, in fact, hopeless, but certainly these are the unhappiest times I've seen in Turkey since I arrived here four years ago.

My notebook is full of bizarre and alarming comments made to me off the record recently. I am not sure how seriously to take any one of these comments, individually, but taken collectively, they suggest the mood of a madhouse.

"In this part of the world," one government official said, "two plus two doesn't necessarily equal four. Sometimes it's six, sometimes it's ten. If you don't understand this in your heart, you cannot understand this region. If you've grown up thinking rationally, you won't understand it."

Every story I write here -- even a feature about the Turkish art market -- is touched by the sentiment that behind everything is a sinister conspiracy. "There's 50 billion dollars worth of narcotics flowing in from Afghanistan, Iran," said one art dealer. "You can't put that money in the bank, but you can put it in art."

Sadly, that makes a lot of sense, and is probably at least partly true.

Inci Eviner, "Harem"

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The story says they're taekwondo monkeys. The headline calls them kung-fu monkeys. Kung-fu and taekwondo are not interchangeable.

Happy though I am that the monkeys gave it their best shot, I wish they'd gotten away in the end.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Obviously, the problem I note below is not confined to the martial arts. When I interviewed Neil Kinnock, the leader of the Labour Party during Margaret Thatcher's time in power, he described exactly the same dilemma:

Several more times during our conversation, he tells me that he simply couldn’t figure out how to attack a middle-aged woman without looking like a cad. He says this as if menopause were an illegal weapon. “The feeling I’m getting,” I say to Kinnock, “is that you did not feel that she played fair.”

“Oh, Christ, this is politics!”

“I know.”

“No, this is not boxing under the Queensbury rules, and it’s not association football! This is a blood sport!”

“Well, then, how come you weren’t willing to really stick it to her? I mean, you’re saying, ‘I didn’t want to use discourteous language, I didn’t want to be seen attacking a woman older than me,’ but if this is a blood sport, why didn’t you?”

He sighs. I feel a bit cruel now, as if I’m not playing fair myself, but I really do want to know how he explains this to himself. “Well, like I said,” he answers at last, “it would have been politically disadvantageous—but in any case, it would have bloody demeaned me to have done that. If you’re doing it, you know, toe-to-toe with a fellow about your age, or even if he’d been a bit older than myself, that would have been—”

“So you’re basically saying, ‘I couldn’t hit a girl.’”

“Well, I know I couldn’t hit a girl—”

“Yeah, but you know, she happened to be the prime minister. And you felt that you couldn’t hit back? Because she was a woman?

“Not that I couldn’t hit back, I mean, I did hit back!”

I am left, in the end, with two images—a small boy of about three, red-haired, pink-faced, hiccupping as he fights back tears, staring into the looming face of an impossibly large woman in an apron. If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?

And then, the image of a beleaguered middle-aged man with a thin fringe of wispy pumpkinish hair, lying on the psychotherapist’s couch.

“My mother,” he is saying, “was a formidable woman.”

I should stress that while I have great sympathy for this position in the martial arts, I have none for it in politics.

If you want to read the rest of that interview, it's in my book.


I'm having an argument with a guy at my gym -- I'll call him Richard Nixon, just to keep his identity extra-obscure -- about whether I could theoretically hold my own in a fight with him if we were the same size, age and strength.

"I'm 59 kilos," I wrote to him indignantly, after he unjustly accused me of being much shorter and lighter than him. "I stand by the assertion that if I were younger, faster, a better athlete, and better trained, it should be absolutely possible for me to hold my ground."

"Still doesn't matter," he wrote back.

To justify my assertion that it was at least theoretically possible for a woman to hold her ground in a fight with a man, I sent him this video of Lucia Rijker fighting Somchai Jaidee.

Now, he knocks her out in the second round, but I think it's fair to say she holds her ground.

Here's what's interesting about this. Lucia Rijker is one of the toughest women in the world. She's a four-time world championship kickboxer and two-time world champion boxer, undefeated in 54 fights, with 39 KOs. She's trained with Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson. They call her "The Most Dangerous Woman in the World," "The Queen of Lightning," "Lady Ali," and "The Dutch Destroyer."

Somchai Jaidee is an absolute nobody. I challenge you to find any information about him except the single fact for which he's known -- he knocked out Lucia Rijker.

This was Rijker's only professional defeat. Mind you, it's the only time she fought a man. This does seem to lend support to Nixon's assertion.

But this isn't actually my point.

My point is that it's psychologically interesting to watch that video. I'm pretty desensitized to the idea of men sparring with women and roughing them up, but even I find it hard.

A guy in that situation simply can't win. Somchai's facing an inarguably tough opponent who is more than capable of inflicting serious damage on him. They're well-matched for weight, and she's by far the more experienced fighter.

But the crowd hates him for fighting hard and hates him even more for winning. They're completely on her side. If he doesn't really fight, she'll slaughter him. But when he protects himself and his record as a fighter, he ends up looking like a guy who hit a chick, and no one likes men who hit women.

If a guy in that situation loses (legitimately), it's a total humiliation. He got beaten up by a girl. If he wins (legitimately), it's worse than a humiliation. He beat up a girl, which is for very good reason an absolute social taboo in any civilized society.

Winning certainly doesn't look like any kind of honorable athletic victory for Somchai here. He fought well and won fair against a tough opponent. But look at his face, when he holds up the trophy at about minute 5:38. That's not a guy who's feeling proud of himself, even if he deserves to.

(By the way, you can't tell from this video, but Rijker is actually a very good-looking woman who doesn't look like a man at all.)

I should remember this when I feel frustrated that guys around here don't seem all that eager to train in an enthusiastic way with women.

Of course they don't. They have huge social and emotional reasons not to want to, and that's exactly as it should be. No one wants to live in a world where men think, "It's fine and very manly to hit chicks." The taboo against hitting women is an excellent one.

Still, it creates a dilemma for women who want to train in a realistic way, and for men who have to figure out what to do with them at the gym.

You see this phenomenon even more in this video:

I'm not sure who they are, but either they're completely poorly-matched, because he doesn't have a clue what he's doing, or he simply can't bring himself to fight back. He misses chance after chance, and he ends up bloodied and obviously hurt.

Again, he just can't win. If he kicks the crap out of her, he looks like a bully. If he doesn't, he looks the way he ends up looking here. The social expectation is that a guy that size should be able to control a feisty chick like that without really hurting her -- except that in reality, if she's as strong and aggressive as this woman obviously is, that's not so simple to do.

A guy who wins a fight with a girl, no matter how much bigger or stronger she really is, and no matter how much better an athlete she is, gets absolutely no credit for being fast or strong or tough or well-trained, even if he really had to put up his best fight. He just gets credit for being an asshole.

You might expect me to take exception to some of the comments posted below that video, e.g., "Ladies, unless your name is Gina Carano, stay out of our sport."

I don't, actually. I can completely understand the sentiment. The game is rigged against the men, and I can perfectly well see why they're not happy about it.

I don't have a good solution to the problem. I am certainly not going to suggest that it's a flaw in our society that most men find it very difficult to hurt women.

I appreciate it that the guys at my gym are trying their best to cope gracefully with my being there. They're giving me a chance to learn something I really want to learn, even though it's awkward for all concerned.

It speaks well for them that they're willing to try.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


This discussion over at MMAJunkie is sweet. Some kid froze in his first grappling tournament and all the other MMA Junkies are consoling him and telling him about all the times it happened to them.


I must say that if there is any field of endeavor that gives rise to more utterly inane commentary than the martial arts, it's art criticism. Take this randomly selected gem from

Paine manages to steer these leafless “Dendroids,” as he calls them, between the Scylla of transparency and the Charibdis of mechanization, unyielding hazards to authorship of his own contrarian devising established by two other families of sculpture. On one side are Paine’s “Replicants,” portraits of notorious, untrustworthy plants and fungi fixed in eternal plastic with an exegetical fidelity to surpass the craftsmanship of the best diorama and Hollywood prop technicians.

This reminds me of a short story by Max Beerbohm, Enoch Soames, about the author of a slim volume of verse titled Fungoids. Much concerned with his own literary legacy, Soames sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for the chance to travel to the future and search for his own name in the British Museum Library. He discovers that he has been remembered only as a "third-rate poet" in a short story by Max Beerbohm.

I see no reason to suspect the allusion was intentional.


Research for the same article led me to discover this painting by Seyhun Topuz, which I thought lovely.


So I'm working today on a piece about the contemporary Turkish art market. While looking through the catalogue at Sotheby's, I came across this painting by Taner Ceylan, which for obvious reasons caught my attention.

I was intrigued: A Turkish martial-arts artist! I was particularly intrigued to see that this painting had sold for nearly 80,000 GBP at auction. So I went to have a look at the rest of his website.

There's a warning on the home page that to enter the site you must be 18 years of age.

Let me give you a further warning, one I wish I had also been issued: No matter how old you are, do not enter the site in front of your cleaning lady, particularly if she is a very sweet, traditional Turkish woman from a small town in Middle of Nowhere, Anatolia, where they don't really relate to the idea of "astonishing technical masterpieces of hyper-realism" that pay homage to "the artistic avant-garde and the leather S&M circuit" while simultaneously "calling upon the pastoral tradition of man depicted in the context of nature’s majesty to underscore the aesthetic idealization of two men in the throes of lovemaking."

Please, take me seriously about this. You do not want to feel the way I do right now.


Claire says: (5:27:32 PM)

What's new in Haiti?

Mischa says: (5:28:29 PM)

The DEA raided Guy Phillipe's house, but he wasn't there.

Mischa says: (5:28:36 PM)

That was big news.

Claire says: (5:28:50 PM)

Really? It wasn't in the Turkish Daily News at all.

Mischa says: (5:29:07 PM)

No? And it has such major ramifications on Turkish-Haitian relations.

Claire says: (5:29:42 PM)

Has the Haitian press been as riveted by the Ergenekon arrests as Turkey is?

Mischa says: (5:30:11 PM)

There is no Haitian press.

Claire says: (5:30:24 PM)

How do they know which journalists to arrest, then?

Mischa says: (5:30:34 PM)

They just shoot 'em all.

Claire says: (5:31:37 PM)

Haiti sounds like it's still got a ways to go before it meets the Copenhagen accession criteria.

Mischa says: (5:32:19 PM)

It will never, ever join the EU.

Claire says: (5:32:46 PM)

Yes, the Europeans are far too profoundly voodoophobic for that, I think.

Mischa says: (5:32:49 PM)

I'm habituated to Haiti now though.

Mischa says: (5:32:53 PM)

It just feels normal.

Mischa says: (5:33:04 PM)

And the rest of the world seems effete.

Claire says: (5:33:59 PM)

It's too bad you can't take a martial arts class there.

Claire says: (5:34:14 PM)

You would be so into writing SIFU again if you did.

Mischa says: (5:34:24 PM)

I bet.

Mischa says: (5:34:32 PM)

But I'm all over writing anything.

Mischa says: (5:34:37 PM)

I was into it last week,

Mischa says: (5:34:41 PM)

but then my Creatons went south,

Mischa says: (5:34:54 PM)

and now I'm too sleepy.

Claire says: (5:35:27 PM)

I don't have the energy to write either. I'm devoting it all to martial arts.

Mischa says: (5:37:55 PM)

Maybe YOU should write SIFU.

Claire says: (5:38:20 PM)

No, no one will ever buy my fiction again because LION EYES tanked so badly.

Mischa says: (5:38:33 PM)

Yes they will.

Claire says: (5:38:51 PM)

No, actually, they won't. But it doesn't matter: SIFU is yours.

Mischa says: (5:38:58 PM)

I hate SIFU.

Claire says: (5:39:26 PM)

Anyway, no one is going to buy SIFU if it's set in Turkey, that's for sure.

Mischa says: (5:39:37 PM)

You know, they just might.

Claire says: (5:40:23 PM)

What have you moved on to?

Mischa says: (5:40:48 PM)

A Haiti novel.

Claire says: (5:40:52 PM)


Claire says: (5:40:55 PM)

Can I read it?

Mischa says: (5:41:01 PM)

But now I'm thinking of giving that up too,

Mischa says: (5:41:05 PM)

because I'm too sleepy.

Mischa says: (5:41:16 PM)

No, it's nowhere near ready to read.

Mischa says: (5:41:23 PM)

Not being written and all.

Claire says: (5:41:26 PM)



Tangentially related to our martial arts theme, today I bring you some Eastern wisdom on mind control from Guruji, the founder of Ashtanga yoga.

Good luck applying it!

Claire says: (9:51:39 PM)

Claire says: (9:51:53 PM)

I wonder if the interviewer was entirely satisfied with this interview?

Mischa says: (9:53:32 PM)

That sounds like a very typical encounter with an Indian.

Claire says: (9:53:47 PM)


Mischa says: (9:53:51 PM)

I had many such encounters in India.

Claire says: (9:53:57 PM)

Me too.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I had a few conversations today with martial artists I know here in Istanbul. I'm going to change their names. I'll call the first one Mehmet. He's very experienced in a number of styles, an obviously outstanding martial artist. In the past I've asked him why he took up the martial arts; he told me that he wanted to learn how to defend himself. Not, obviously, an atypical response.

Me: I don't want to feel unsafe walking down the streets.
Mehmet: [Shouting] Then screw the martial arts. The martial arts are shit and everyone in them is shit -- they're all egotistical narcissistic fucking frauds. Don't waste time on them. Use your time to earn more money, take taxis everywhere, go back to the States and live in a safe neighborhood.

(I paraphrase, because I can't remember what he said exactly, but that was the gist of it.)

Leaving aside the question of whether any neighborhood in the United States is safer then Istanbul, what he seems to be suggesting is that I spend the rest of my life in a gated community for seriously wealthy people, occasionally asking my chauffeur or personal bodyguard to accompany me while I slum it over to the grocery store. Problem is, I sometimes like to go outside by myself on a sunny day, without a chaperone. And actually, I'm a journalist who lives in Istanbul, so sometimes I do have to go to low-rent neighborhoods, because that's where the news is, usually.

So I guess if all the martial arts are shit, I'm just hosed. I better buy myself a gun and get really proficient at the firing range.

You'll recognize that his remarks did not precisely have the standard elements of a pep talk, but give the man credit for honesty. I've certainly had these thoughts myself, on a bad day.

I don't believe it though. I don't think it's all shit and they're all shit. Obviously, there's quite a bit of dysfunction, as the shrinks say, in the martial arts community here. Some real clowns and lowlifes. But there are some good people too. Good fighters, people who are willing to teach and even willing to teach a middle-aged American weirdo like me, despite my standing out at their gyms like a tarantula on angel food.

I had a great time again with O. and G. tonight. G. has gotten really into the idea of showing me the consequences of failing to push away from the clinch at the right moment, which he uses to drop me to the floor, every time. I keep getting up, determined he's not going to be successful this time, and every single time, he does it again. It is my sole goal in life to get that kid down to the ground before he gets me.

Anyway, conversation two, with another good Muay Thai fighter. I'll call him Selcuk. He's only been doing this a few more months than me, but he's much more talented than I and about 20 years younger, too On the other hand, he's about my size. "So," I said to him, "in principle, if I trained hard enough, I should be able to give you a pretty good run for your money."

"No way," he said. "You're a woman."
"So? We're about the same size."
He looked at me appraisingly. "You're much shorter than me. And thinner."
"No way. We're about the same size."
"It's still not possible."

We then discussed the state of the women's bathroom at the Boran Gym (the state is non-existent.)

"I think most women find that a bit of a discouragement," I said.
"Martial arts gyms are supposed to be dirty."
"Why? Do you think it sharpens your athletic abilities to acquire foot rot in the toilet?"
"No, but it's just part of it. Rich people can't fight. They're too lazy."
"That's why they're rich, right? Laziness being a well-known path to economic success and all."
"No, it's just that if you have options, you don't want to fight. You have to have passion and aggression to fight."
"So rich people are passionless androids?"
"Yeah, kind of."


Qefal explains. They're right, too.


I figure I owe it to the world to open up about my relationship with the troubled golfer. I want to help the healing process begin.

But, first, since I have your attention, just let me remind you about Petuk and Allie.

This is Grace, their mother. She got knocked up after spending a depraved night with the canine version of Tiger Woods. We don't know much else about him, except that he lives on the streets of Istanbul and apparently wasn't as serious as she thought when he told her he would love her forever.

Let's Adopt rescued Grace and found a home for her and for one of her puppies, Vernon. But we've had zero luck finding a home for the other two.

That video of Vernon pretty much shows you what Petuk and Allie are like. They're normal, healthy puppies. They have all the natural instincts puppies usually have to run and play.

Isn't there someone out there who can make a home for them?

It's not an act of charity. Your life will be better if they are part of it.

There's nothing in this world more exuberantly charming and full of life than a puppy.

This is not a video of my cats playing the roles of Petuk and Allie; it's an actual photo of Petuk and Allie. Do you seriously mean to tell me your life wouldn't be made better by saving theirs?


Let me ask you a few questions: Did you happen to notice who Elin took with her when she sped off hysterically into the night after discovering that her husband was not the squeaky-clean sports hero she believed him to be but a philandering son-of-a-bitch who was cheating on her with every skank in the phone book? That's right: her dogs.

You want to guess who the only creatures in the world are right now who aren't giving Tiger Woods the fishy eyeball, canceling his sponsorship deals, selling photos of his hapless naked ass to the tabloids or trying to knock his teeth out with a golf club? That's right: his dogs.

Stalin's hatchet man, Lavrenti Beria, once said, "Show me the man, and I'll show you the crime."

Show me the man, and I'll show you someone who needs these dogs.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I just checked Twitter, and discovered that #IDF is busily exchanging irate Tweets with #Gaza.

IDFSpokesperson #IDF: despite rocket fire from #Gaza, 115 aid trucks sched to cross into Gaza today. Erez Xing open.

ajit8uk RT Conflicting Reports Over #Egypt Works at #GazaBorder: #Zionism #Apartheid Middle East Newsabout 1 hour ago from web
What a loss to literature that Twitter arrived so late on the historical scene. All of history's great and tragic conflicts might have been likewise chronicled and imbued forever in human memory with similar dignity.
Athens #Peloponesian League: 4,000 Hoplites dismissed from quelling #Helot revolt: #Delian League #Corinthiansuck