Sorry…on Hiatus

Dear friends, family, and fans:

I owe you all an apology for my lack of posts lately. I first want to wish you all a Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday or whatever you choose to celebrate and say that I have taken my time off to relax and visit Greece — and as a consequence I have not written much of anything.

This is not to say that there aren’t about a MILLION things I could write about: everything from Izmir to Troy to Ephesus to Greece to my amazing (UTTERLY amazing) girlfriend to my indispensable friends/classmates to my family to the most stressful (and ultimately the most disastrous) class of the semester. I promise I will comment on all of these things in due time (well, ok, maybe not ALL of them!)

I will also post pictures of Greece and France, where I will go this weekend.

In the meantime, if you’re an American, please do something to stop all the senseless killing that never ceases. Start by withdrawing all support for the NRA or for politicians who have no solutions except “arm school teachers.” Do what they don’t do: read a book…or a scientific study. And please, don’t worry if you didn’t get that present you wanted for Christmas. The most valuable present is love — from your friends, family, significant other, and your broader community. Cherish these things. And feel free to write me. I will respond.

Love and Happy New Year,

Matthew

PS- Imagine if these “Mayan Prophesy” goofballs were right and we were all dead right now… I can’t either.

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HELP ME GET EXTRA CREDIT, PLEASE: TAKE THIS NONVIOLENCE TEST!

Friends, I do not need anything for Christmas…except your results from this test. Please just give me the question number and the letter (A or B). You can send it as a comment or e-mail it to mwjohnson19@gmail.com

 

THE NOVIOLENCE TEST (NVT)

 

1.    A car driving through a parking lot splashes water on you.  You feel like

a.   making him apologize and pay for damages.

b.   telling him to be more careful in the future.

 

2.    The more  I think of how bad someone’s actions or thoughts are

a.   the more I try to understand how to get along with that person.

b.   the more I get irritated and want to tell that person off.

 

3.    My reaction to groups is

a.   I like the feeling of belonging to a social group.

b.   for some reason I really don’t like groups.

 

4.    If someone keeps bothering me even though I ask him/her to stop, I will

a.   lose control.

b.   control myself.

 

5.    I think of myself first of all as

a.   an individual person.

b.   a social being responsible to society and those like me.

 

6.    When a stranger hurts me I believe

a.   forgive and forget is the best policy.

b.   a tooth for a tooth an eye for an eye is the best policy.

 

7.    Workers on an unlawful strike should be

a.   approached and a compromise should be negotiated.

b.   fired without notice.

 

8.    Being different from my friends

a.   makes me feel uncomfortable

b.   does not bother me; I like it.

 

9.    When someone is rude to me I want to

a.   be rude back to that person.

b.   overcome the temptation to be rude.

 

10.   I am inspired by

a.   ideas.

b.   some people.

 

11.   If I were in charge and some high officials were found guilty of taking bribes, I would

a.   pardon them with minimum punishment if they apologized.

b.   publicly humiliate and physically punish these people.

 

12.   If someone break something that belongs to me

a.   I will probably become enraged.

b.   I understand that accidents happen.

 

13.   I consider myself to

a.   be like everyone else.

b.   be different from everyone else.

 

14.   Judgments about me

a.   should be made on my own merits.

b.   should be made according to the people I associate with.

 

15.   Lawbreakers must be

a.   brought to justice, yet be dealt with mercifully.

b.   severely punished.

 

16.   I am

a.   loyal.

b.   independent.

 

17.   A boy was very mischievous and would beat up other boys.  I would

a.   kick him out of the group.

b.   try to change his habits.

 

18.   I am responsible to

a.   other people, those I love, and those who depend on me.

b.   myself, my ideals, and my ambitions.

 

19.   When I hold a poor opinion of a person

a.   I do not try to hide the way I feel.

b.   I try to hide my feelings and improve them without their   knowing.

 

20.   Criminals that are physically abused

a.   deserve it.

b.   should not be abused.

 

21.   My reaction to crowds is

a.   I dislike crowds.

b.   I enjoy the excitement of crowds.

 

22.   If an employee refused to follow orders I would

a.   threaten to fire him unless he did what he was told.

b.   persuade him to do what he was told.

 

23.   I admire

a.   no one very much.

b.   some people, and would not question their opinion.

 

24.   I see myself as

a.   an important person.

b.   a social person.

 

25.   A person who commits a murder should be

a.   placed in a rehabilitation program and given minimum  punishment

b.   put on death row.

 

26.   I like to

a.   get to know people.

b.   be alone.

 

27.   Governments should deal with rebellious people by

a.   punishing them.

b.   treating them in a humane way.

 

28.   I like a person

a.   to say he/she is a good person provided they are.

b.   to be modest, even if they are good.

 

29.   When someone does something bad to me

a.   I will get back at them if I can, just because of the principle of the matter.

b.   I do not get back at him, but try to show him his mistakes.

 

30.   I have confidence in

a.   myself.

b.   things me and others like me represent.

 

31.   When a person makes fun of me, I

a.   try to convince the person that it is not always good to make fun of others.

b.   retaliate.

 

32.   I live for

a.   the good of everyone else.

b.   myself.

 

33.   If someone criticizes me, I

a.   do not criticize them back; rather, I defend myself with good

argument.

b.   I find it is best to criticize the person back.

 

34.   Sex crimes such as rape and attacks on children deserve

a.   imprisonment and psychiatric care.

b.   more than mere imprisonment, such criminals ought to be physically punished or worse.

 

35.   When a friend does me a favor

a.   I feel that I must return the favor.

b.   I do not feel that I must return the favor.

 

36.   Sometimes, when my parents scolded me I

a.   showed resentment.

b.   tried to reason with myself to understand whey they acted as they did.

 

37.   I like to

a.   give gifts.

b.   receive gifts.

 

38.   When I am disturbed by another, say while studying,

a.   my first reaction will be to get angry.

b.   I will explain to the person I do not want to be bothered.

 

39.   The majority of my schoolwork involves

a.   reading.

b.   writing.

 

40.   If a person skips me in line

a.   I will pass him and stand ahead of him.

b.   I will persuade him to go back.

 

41.   When I was younger

a.   I did not care to be a member of a crowd or gang.

b.   I was always a follower.

 

42.   If students misbehave in school, the teachers should

a.   punish them as needed.

b.   think of things they may have done to cause the behavior.

 

43.   If a teacher grades me unfairly I will

a.   complain to my friends.

b.   seek an explanation.

 

44.   If someone harms my family, and me I will wait for an opportunity to

a.   retaliate.

b.   make them understand what they did.

 

45.   If my friend has a problem I would like to

a.   counsel that friend on his problem.

b.   recommend that my friend see a counselor.

 

46.   I like

a.   team sports.

b.   individual sports.

 

47.   If a judge were found guilty of corruption, I would recommend

a.   a stronger penalty for him than for a common citizen.

b.   the same penalty for him as for a common citizen.

 

48.   I am

a.   forgetful.

b.   organized.

49.   Our nation’s history is glorified by

a.   great fighters and conquerors.

b.   great writers and social reformers.

 

50.   I follow

a.   ethical standards.

b.   my conscience.

 

51.   All citizens should be allowed to carry weapons

a.   only when there is a war.

b.   to defend themselves.

 

52.   My attitude about groups is

a.   I do not join groups.

b.   I am proud to be in some groups.

 

53.   If a teacher is involved in a sex crime involving a student, they should be given

a.   harsher punishment than usual to set an example for other teachers.

b.   the same treatment as someone who was not a teacher.

 

54.   I look forward to social events with

a.   parents and relatives.

b.   friends and neighbors.

 

55.   I like instructions to be

a.   general.

b.   specific.

 

56.  A good social system needs

a.   rugged and tough discipline.

b.   people who can tolerate others.

 

57.   A clergyman who is involved in immoral behavior should

a.   be allowed to return to his position in the church after he repents and

changes his ways.

b.   never be allowed to return to his position in the church.

 

58.   I appreciate

a.   music.

b.   art.

 

59.   When I see a parade go by I

a.   enjoy watching it but have no desire to be in it.

b.   wish I could be in it.

 

60.   When I am in a bad mood I

a.   feel like smashing things.

b.   relax and tell myself things will get better.

 

61.   People who drink and drive should

a.   be imprisoned and severely fined.

b.  undergo counseling and education on the effects of drugs and drug abuse

62.   I would rather watch

a.   mystery movies.

b.   humorous movies.

 

63.   If someone I know is engaging in deviant behavior I feel I should

a.   tell him that what he is doing is wrong, then talk him out of doing it.

b.   let him do what he wants as long as I am not affected.

 

64.   If a country is supporting terrorist acts, I think the country should be

a.   attacked by military action until these acts end.

b. persuaded through negotiations to withdraw their support of terrorism.

 

65.   People who try to force their religious beliefs on others should be

a.   ignored until they are ready to listen to others’ beliefs.

b.   asked to leave and threatened if they refuse to go.

 

Memories from the Aegean Coast

DSCN1191 DSCN1200 DSCN1203 DSCN1214 DSCN1222 DSCN1223 DSCN1227 DSCN1237 DSCN1239 DSCN1245 DSCN1248 DSCN1249 DSCN1250DSCN1262 DSCN1279 DSCN1272 DSCN1283 DSCN1311

 

So, these photos pretty much sum-up my experiences traveling via plane from Istanbul to Izmir (or Izmirstanbul, as we jokingly called it) and returning via bus, along the Aegean Sea, stopping first at Canakkale and branching off to the mesmerizing Ephesus and the mythical Troy. Any questions?

1) Is that a DOUBLE rainbow?

Yes, in fact, it is — although you can hardly see it from this photo. My American friend Nate and Fati can attest to it. This was basically my reaction. If you haven’t heard the song yet, you definitely should watch it after the previous link (it will come up on YouTube as a recommended video once you click). This was the only good thing about how rainy it was when we first got there.

2) Who is that beautiful woman next to you? And why is she with YOU?

It’s hard for me to comment on such things due to the public nature of blogs, but suffice it to say we are in love and very happy. I didn’t know I was capable of such award-winning, toothy grins.

3) What’s Izmir like?

Izmir is rainy. This is the first thing I noticed about this major Turkish city and provincial capital (the first four photos were taken there). It was also stressful as hell getting there. I didn’t think we would make our flight, even though we left a full 5 HOURS ahead of time, and we were not going very far (that’s Istanbul traffic for you). Besides the rain, I found it to be lovely. It’s quite large with nice views, and it’s very important historically as a major battlefront in the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) that led to the ascension of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and the founding of the Republic of Turkey.

4) What’s with those ruins? Is it an amphitheater from Roman times or something?

Yes, the next few photos (except the one of the little stone cottage, which is actually where the Virgin Mary herself took refuge following the Crucifixion…I attended mass there) are of Ephesus, or Efes, which is the same name as the local Turkish beer. It’s a magical place and invaluable if you want to understand the Roman Empire and all its glory. The ruins are very well preserved. The only thing I regret is not remembering more of the facts about it…but who remembers all those details? Even if I could remember them all, it would probably bore most people. I say, look it up yourself — or, better yet, go there yourself!

5) You look good holding that beer. Have you been working out?

No. Next question.

6) Are you wearing a veil?

No. It was a blanket. We were at an outdoor restaurant, and I was cold. The woman to my right is from Guinea, by the way. I got in this long and embarrassing debate with Fati about whether there was another Guinea besides Equatorial-Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. It turns out there is — a country called the Republic of Guinea or just plain Guinea. I felt pretty stupid, but in my defense, how many Americans know about Equatorial Guinea or Guinea-Bissau? How many even know that there are Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa or that Africa is a continent and not a country? I am hard on my people I know.

7) Is that the Trojan Horse? Not the condom, but the REAL THING?

It’s a replica that stands at the entrance to Troy. It was probably my favorite part of the whole experience (except the giant dog pictured next to my friend Nate who kept scaring the shit out of us — we called him Cujo, but fortunately he was friendly). You can go up inside of it and poke your head out. Hence the photo.

8) Did the Trojan War really happen that way or was Homer a big bullshitter? 

I don’t know. That’s a tough question. If you ask me, Homer was probably more than one person. From what I gathered, there was a war that happened around the time Homer said it did but the details are hard to sort out. Troy nonetheless maintains its significance. The Romans consider the Trojans their ancestors, and archaeologists and historians continue to obsess about the details. The site itself, though, is far less impressive than the story. It’s nothing like Ephesus, although it is interesting to trace the evolution of Troy from its early roots to a large and heavily fortified Bronze Age city. The Archaeological Museum of Istanbul contains many of the artifacts salvaged from the site and classifies them according to which period they belonged to. The layout of the site is along the same lines. But unless you’re a wannabe archaeologist, you might not want to visit except to say you’ve been there…

9) What’s with the cat?

I forgot to mention that, along with Cujo, we were followed by a meowing, scrawny-little cat for much of our journey through the ruins of ancient Troy. It became obvious after a while that it wanted food, so we fed it (I’ve never seen a hungrier cat in my life!), and then hurried off before it could find another excuse to follow us.

10) How does your new love put up with your sloppy storytelling and bizarre sense of humor?

No comment.  🙂

I want to pistol-whip my country…

I have intentionally refrained from writing much about U.S. issues while here, but I feel compelled to do so based on recent events. The last time I was abroad — this past July — the infamous ‘Batman shooter’ went on his rampage in Colorado, and it amazed me how Americans, such as myself at the time, can associate the Middle East with so much violence and extremism without looking in our own backyard. Judging alone from the graphic below, Israel doesn’t hold a candle to the United States.

stop handguns

I have now been in Turkey for almost three months, and being away from the United States for so long has taught me to see it as foreigners might see it. What is wrong with this picture? I don’t even want to read the commentary that is undoubtedly filling the airwaves and the pages of major newspapers. I don’t want to hear about the ludicrous non-solutions that are likely being proposed — “we need more guns to protect ourselves from all these crazy men with guns!” or the pro-gun apologist spittle that “we can’t blame guns for what crazy people do with them.” When will we acknowledge that we are shooting ourselves into an early grave as a nation? And forget about all this nonsense about the positive uses of firearms: Take a look at these studies, which reveal — among other things — that firearms are seldom used for defense. How popular is gun control? How effective is it? Here is an interesting look at those topics.

What is perhaps most striking to me — other than the fact that 11 of the 20 worst shootings in recent world history occurred in the United States —  is that mass shootings tend not to change views on gun control very much. My only explanation for this is that people still believe that guns will make them safer from shooting rampages. I think it’s this childish fantasy that they will heroically pull out their gun (conveniently located at their hip when they need it most) and “save the day.” I hope we can remember that life is not a video game; the best way for us all to be safe is for most, if not all of us, to be unarmed.

I don’t have an easy answer to this problem because gun control is only the beginning, and we’re unlikely to get much progress even on that given the cowardice of our leaders. I just hope we can reflect on what it is about us that allows this to happen again (and again) and what we can do as individuals to make a difference. We should, at a minimum, stop advising our friends and family not to travel to other countries because of potential danger when the United States is arguable the most violent country on earth domestically and, if foreign policy is included, indisputably so.