Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blogging from Turkey: Clouds, rain, but no piano-playing cats

I'm in Istanbul - and it is cloudy, dreary and rainy. C'mon - I can easily have this weather back in Massachusetts.

Couple of quick things:
Travel from the airport to the hotel was very reasonable. I took a shuttle called Havas and it brought me to Taksim in 40 minutes for 10 Turkish Lira (about $7). The shuttle was comfortable and did not make any other stops. Fantastic!

There is no Youtube access here!! What? Where am I now going to see cat-yodeling videos and people doing randomly idiotic things? Well I did hear about it some time ago, but I didn't realize that Turkey's ban on Youtube (yes, all of it) is still going on. Yeay - for censorship! Hey - a couple of years ago Pakistan had blocked numerous sites, including blogspot (I had a hard time posting on Irtiqa on my visit there) - but I think most sites have now been unblocked. So what caused Turkey to block Youtube (and also some Google sites):
Under court order, Turkey's telecommunications authority banned access to YouTube, the video-sharing site, in May 2008, after users complained that some videos insulted Ataturk. Earlier this month, Turkey expanded the ban to include some Google pages that use the same Internet Protocol addresses as YouTube, to prevent users from circumventing the ban. The search giant Google Inc. is YouTube's parent company.
Hmmm...but those cats were just yodeling :)

Okay - I'm sure it is related to just Youtube - and not to any intellectual things. Oh - but you cannot reach the website of Richard Dawkins either. In fact, if you try to do that, one gets this message:

Bu siteye erişim mahkeme kararıyla engellenmiştir.

Translation: "access to this site has been suspended in accordance with a court decision".Yes, it does show up in this beautiful reddish color - perhaps to balance out the act of blocking. Or may be it is the color of blood (well - a little lighter blood here) and it is trying to scare you, like in Hitchcock's Marnie. (here is a clip from the movie - oh but wait - I can't access Youtube from here, so no clip for you!). Okay - so why is Dawkins' website banned in Turkey? Well - because he made fun of and pointed straight-forward mistakes in creationist Harun Yahya's Atlas of Creation.  No seriously - it is like an astronomer pointing out issues of astrology. It is as straight-faced as you can get with such creationist material. Though to be fair, Harun Yahya may not accept evolution, but his Atlas has shown a remarkable ability to evolve after Dawkins' criticism - and I had a post about it here: The Evolution of Harun Yahya's Atlas of Creation.

More from Istanbul later - as long as blogspot avoids the ire of the censors and the courts.


Kate said...

Hi, Salman -

Sorry about the rain and the censorship (what a miserable combo), but glad you've landed safely. Life without YouTube...what a painful thought. I haven't seen the yodeling cats, but I do understand the need for regular access to various videos - including the amazing animal ones that get posted on YouTube.

I still don't entirely understand Vimeo (it seems very tame, and a much smaller community), but can you access that? I found one piano-playing cat:

And this is probably the only video that I saw on Vimeo before YouTube, and it's still one of my favorites (it's Bathtub IV, a time-lapsed and "tilt-shift" video by Keith Loutit):

There is nothing insulting in either video (apart from the fact that the cat does not really explore the keyboard as much as she could), so hopefully you'll be able to access them if you get desperate for some random entertainment.

Anonymous said...

I'm in Turkey right now and can tell you that Youtube is most definitely not banned. I saw several videos from my hotel in Istanbul just last week and this week I'm in Canakkale and YouTube works just fine...perhaps it was your local hotel?

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