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    A mountaintop view from Plovdiv. Originally used as an ancient fortress by many great empires, this area is now a popular drinking spot for teenagers, sort of like an all-inclusive partying and "make-out point" spot, from my observations.

    I’ve been informed that this blog was mentioned in Sofia Weekly, which is great news (thanks!). And some Bulgarian readers have happened upon this blog, leaving emails and comments. I really appreciate the interest. In fact, I truly enjoyed my trip to Bulgaria, so I’m including one last photo-based entry before returning to my Istanbul blogging. You’ll find photos — both historical and mundane — from Sofia and Plovdiv. Enjoy!

    And here are the teenagers, sitting amidst their graffiti. I was interested in the lone boy by the tree. What was he thinking about? Girls? Life? Did he find humanity disgusting? Maybe.

    A run-down home by the old mountaintop fortress. There was a car parked infront -- which makes me wonder, who is inside?

    The Plovdiv Ethnographic Museum in the 1847 Kuyumdzhioglu House.

    Kebabs in a Sofia restaurant. The food was very good and very cheap. The waitresses all wore traditional Bulgarian clothing -- but, beneath the wonderful outfits, they looked tired, bored and jaded. I guess you see that in restaurants everywhere...

    Fish on ice at the same restaurant. When I was a vegetarian traveler (years ago!), this is what I was missing. But, even if I was a vegetarian today, I think I would loosen up when traveling.

    Oversized cowbells at the same restaurant. The cowbells are hand-made. So, no one bell is exactly alike. And, because each is shaped differently, each bell has its own distinct noise.

    My adorable teenage tour guides in Plovdiv. I was lost, trying to find the Roman Odeon, and they gladly helped me. They filled me in on Bulgarian girls, too! According to these fine male specimens, Bulgarian women are very beautiful but very difficult. Well, now I know! Thanks, dudes!

    Night life in Plovdiv on the main commercial boulevard. The photo came out strangely, but I like it this way -- lends the whole experience a ghostly air.

    A less than inviting entrance in Sofia.

    A sex shop advertised on a Sofia street sign pole -- in other words, on city property! How did this get approved? How the hell is this normal? Okay, I'm from San Francisco, home to the largest leather festival in the world and all forms of debauchery. But do I think there should be an advertisement for "Rock Hard" or "Good Vibrations," both local sex shops, on my street sign? Hell no! Very, very strange.

    Old Town Plovdiv: Completely charming -- and relatively free of tourists! I walked on most streets completely alone, only accompanied by the occasional street cat. Perfect.

    Daily life in "Old Town." I always wonder how people, who live in the "historic area" of a city, feel about the whole thing. Do they appreciate it? I grew up in the historic area of San Francisco -- and I didn't appreciate it until I grew older and left home.

    Some more daily life -- fascinating and mundane simultaneously.

    I met these really cool guys in Plovdiv (from London) who, coincidentally, had the exact same heritage: Fathers from Ghana, mothers from Bulgaria, and a childhood in London with a lot of fantastic Cockney humor. They met as children, when spending summers in Plovdiv with their families. Anyway, they asked me to go get these special Bulgarian pancakes with them, which I expected to be an exotic discovery. When the food came, I exclaimed, "Oh, they're blintzes!" They asked, "What's blintzes." I said, "Basically, they're this."

    Okay, I know this *just* looks like a peach and espresso. But let me just say that this was maybe the best peach I ever ate in my life. It was purchased at a small farmer's market in Plovdiv ....so good. The espresso was from a bohemian-type cafe with a buxom, curly-haired lady behind the bar (yay!).

    I just loved this -- whatever it was ...an entrance to a cafe, restaurant or hotel ...I don't know. The photo was taken in Old Town Plovdiv.

    A more full shot of Plovdiv's impressive Roman Theater. I wonder what bawdy humor, fantastic tales and epic tragedies graced this stage. Really, I never get sick of Roman or Greek theaters.

    A shot through the columns.

    There was so much beauty in this shot -- the columns, the house and all the green. In fact, a Bulgarian TV show took place in this very spot (in that very house), and the opening credits featured an image similar to this one.

    A Sofia doorway.

    I took this picture in Sofia with no knowledge of its content. I was simply drawn to the image. But, on the bus from Plovdiv, I asked about the posting. Well, it's a death notice. Rest in Peace, whoever this woman was or may have been...

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    The first thing that came to mind when I read the Craigslist post.

    I was aimlessly browsing through Turkish Craigslist and came upon THIS:

    Turkish Female Pop-Star For USA Break-Thru (New York City/LA/Nashville)

    I am seeking a female pop singing star from Turkey to break through to USA market. Songwriting a plus. Candidates must be HOT (amazingly good looking and sexy), highly talented (strong music background, exceptional vocal abilities), have dancing ability (preferably Turkish belly dancing), and be willing to emigrate to the USA, at least for several years. If Shakira (from Colombia) could do it, imagine how big a Turkish star could be. This has not been done yet, and will be the first Turkish artist to achieve worldwide fame through domination of US pop market. Very serious inquiries only, must have exceptional talent, ability, look, image, etc. Must have professional recordings and videos in Turkey (do not have to be commercially released). All music will be re-recorded and produced from scratch. Must speak English or be willing to learn quickly. Must be between the ages of 20 and 32. No intermediaries, I will only deal directly with artists. I am a producer and music marketer with high-level music industry contacts and strong track record of major label successes. Send link to website, or MP3s, artist bio.

    This makes me think I should repost a crazy Turkish Craigslist listing EVERY WEEK.

    And who is this guy? Some greased-up wannabe agent? The listing of NYC/LA/Nashville already makes him look poseur and ridiculous — choose a city, man! But Nashville is definitely the best. I’m sure the country music industry is DYING for a belly-dancing Turkish vixen.

    But, best of all, who finds full-fledged, insanely hot pop stars on Craigslist?

    But, then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. It is, after all, Craigslist (and I mean that in the best possible way).

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    June 26th, 2010adminConsumer/Pop Culture, History, Istanbul

    Jewelry Section of Bazaar, Istanbul

    Yes, I know. I have been a terrible blogger! No updates, no anecdotes. But I’m only now beginning to adjust. However, I have now decided that I need to regularly blog — no excuses! Anyway, I just got back from a town called Lüleburgaz, where I was teaching English for a few days. The place has a 16th century mosque and a lot of tea shops and not much else.

    This is what I wanted to write about, briefly: Medieval markets. In fair old Istanbul, shopping is often laid out in a very medieval way. In other words, merchant’s work is divided into separate districts or areas. The garment sellers stick together. The shoe-shiners sit side-by-side, scanning for unbecoming leather. And the best cell phone repair shops are cloistered on a certain floor in a certain building in Eminönü (and, in fact, I went to that certain building to fix my phone yesterday).

    My French friend lived in Vietnam. He said it’s the same there…

    From a customer’s perspective, this model can be consumerist heaven. Want a dress? Go to the dress district of your part of Istanbul. And, lo and behold, there are dresses galore! Want baklava? Go to the Spice Market. Want fish? Go to the fish market, where men enthusiastically advertise the daily catches, under hand-painted signs of silver fish. And, yes, this medieval model can be very convenient.

    But how about the business man? Wouldn’t he want to stand out from the competition? Why would a shoe-shiner sit next to five other shoe-shiners? Logically, he would move to a different area. Right?

    Personally, I don’t mind the model at all! I prefer being able to survey the options in one, unified location. And I also feel less of a need to buy silly, unnecessary things, since I’m not distracted by other items to the same degree.

    But I wonder when this modern shopping model began to pervade “Western” cities.

    Once I’m removed from it (in part, at least), the architecture of shopping becomes more clear and more strange to me.

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    Grandpa reading the paper

    My 92 year old grandfather engaging in an arcane hobby: Reading a newspaper.

    I’m surrounded by technology fetishists. Why? I live in San Francisco — ground zero for Google-level geekery. Just take any bus Downtown, and you’ll be inundated with popular technology. And I mean the whole spectrum of trendy gadgets, glorified like holy grails on tech blogs. So, on the bus, you’ve got the clean-shaven “suit,” faithfully reading Thomas Friedman on his Kindle. And the admirably on-top-of-his-shit dude, fiddling with his iPad. And the PR girls, wrapped in Marc Jacobs wools, doing *something* on their iPhones. And I’m sure there’s some Japanese or German innovation, which I’m too inattentive to notice. And it’s an eerie sight, sitting on the bus. Everybody is so “plugged in.” They’re typing, talking — so seemingly “involved.” But, in the process, they seem “tuned out.” Distracted. Distanced. Out of it.

    And I wonder …is this making us more stupid? Okay, I’m not a Luddite. I support machines. Seriously, where would I be without the polio vaccine, birth control pill or Gutenberg’s printing press? And I’m immersed,  too! Really, look: 1) I’ve worked for multiple online companies 2) I know basic web design 3) I own tech items 4) I ‘m good friends with professional techies  & I often respect their work (it is definitely more useful than 90% of the garbage coming out of the movie, music and finance industries).

    But I don’t think we need all this digitalization. Or, I’ll get off my soapbox and say that, personally, I don’t need it. So, how will I feel living in a place, like Istanbul, where people don’t just SAY that tech can be “stupid”? Instead, they actually DO live outside a 24/7 tech bubble. How will I socially interact, living in a place, like Istanbul, where tech doesn’t dominate the public sphere? Will I feel better about things? About our future? Will I miss how “accessible” everybody seems? Ideally, I’ll spend more time on the “good stuff,” like web design and digital photography, and less on the junk. But we’ll see.

    As much as I love technology, I think we’re using it incorrectly. It should enhance our lives. But it shouldn’t become a detached human organ, serving as our universal portals, enveloping and overwhelming  us. And, ironically, the more tech-savvy I become, the more strongly I feel this way. That’s because I see the beauty of technology. I’ve gained the power to actually MAKE what I have passively viewed for years (i.e. web pages). That’s massively empowering. But I also see the limitations of the Internet. It is an infinite network, probably the most tangible way for me to understand the expansion of the universe — and that’s pretty deep stuff. But, due to its infinitude, it is a void. There is no end and there is no control. Somehow, we fall in deep. We’re victims of its immensity.

    Scientists think black holes are created by TOO MUCH.  They occur when an object can’t resist its own gravity. So, it collapses under its own weight. Now, apologies, if I sound apocalyptic. But, in a small way, this is how I perceive the “Information Age.” We’re not miraculously enlightened. The world seems just as impoverished, hardened and cruel as it was 25 years ago. But, now, the privileged countries are infected with something new: an onslaught of information. It bewilders us. In turn, we can’t help but succumb — or, to hammer home the analogy (sorry!), we “collapse” under the weight.

    There’s a reason, after all, why the Luddites raged through England, smashing stocking frames. They perceived a real threat to their livelihoods. They foresaw the incredible industrialization of the 19th century. And they didn’t like it. But the machines came, one after another. And they were powerful. And influential. And undeniable.


    Related stuff to check out:

    Frontline Report: Digital Nation — Who doesn’t love Frontline?

    Neo-Luddites — As the name implies, they’re Luddites for the 21st century.

    Transhumanism — They’re all about machines & technology …kinda  like the anti-Luddites.

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