Video battle: AOL "futurist" Shingy vs. hip hop's Chingy

Chingy is a hip hop artist who seemed poised for domination in the early '00s, and then kinda fizzled out. (Here's what happened to him.) Brilliant? No. Entertaining? Very. I love the dude's flow. Plus, like me, he's from St. Louis, though I suspect we might've grown up in slightly different neighborhoods.

Shingy is a futurist at AOL, where he earns a nice dollar by stringing together interactive marketing catchphrases in ways that are just indecipherable enough to make people think that he is being profound. 

I am able to watch all 3:44 of Chingy's Right Thurr video. I can't make it much past the 90 second mark of the Shingy video without wanting to stick long needles in my eyes. How about you?

My audition tape to be the fill-in announcer on This American Life

The radio program This American Life is known for bringing a diverse array of non-traditional American voices to the radio. And by non-traditional American voices, I mean actual voices that don't sound like people you normally hear on the radio. 
The people you normally hear on the radio have polished, pleasant voices. This American Life takes it as a point of pride that the voices on their show are not that. In fact, host Ira Glass recently did a segment (click the right arrow under "Act Two") acknowledging that his show was responsible in part for the proliferation of "vocal fry"-inflected voices on the airwaves. What is vocal fry? It's the raspy, clicky vocal sound you get when you try to speak in a soft conversational tone, while simultaneously trying to project your voice for radio. Or when you just want to sound like a valley girl. 
Vocal fry (or, more properly, glottal fry) is produced by speaking only from the vocal chords while leaving one's chest and diaphragm completely out of the equation. Ruminating over why the annoying technique had become so prevalent among the presenters on his show, Glass was forced to admit that perhaps it was because he was its leading exponent—he speaks in 100% glottal fry. Yeah, it probably makes sense that when your boss, one of the most influential people in radio, has found great success speaking like a munchkin, you'll try to talk like a munchkin, too. 
But not all that long ago, the show took its flaunting of the non-traditional radio voice to a new extreme. The advertising inserts for the show—heard at the beginning, middle and end of each episode, are now voiced by a human gerbil. In my mind, I imagine this kid being the This American Life intern when one day Ira Glass hears him say, "OK, who had the decaf soy latte?" And he immediately says, "Kid, I'm going to make you a public radio s-s-s-s-somebody."
Anyway, at the top of the post you can hear the actual This American Life announcer guy, followed by my audition to fill in for him on days when his voice sounds too normal. 


Downtown living, billboard views

There’s a new multi-use development going up at South First St. and Riverside Dr. It’s called 422 At The Lake. Here’s what the artist’s rendering on their Facebook page looks like:

Pretty nice, huh? OK, not really. And the artist left out everything that isn’t part of this developer’s property. Notably, the artist left out a new high rise directly behind the building. Were it included, it would loom center left in the image above. 

And there’s one other curious thing the artist left out. It’s a structure that has been bordering the southeast corner of this property for many, many years. And I can’t help but think it may affect the desirability of certain units in the complex:

Um, why would you put apartments there? I can’t help but notice that there’s a big billboard in the way. The side view shows just how close they built this new building to the existing billboard:

Ah, progress. 


NYT Op-Eds vs. E-Cigs: Talking Loud (and Long) and Saying Nothing

The nicotine molecule. If the gateway argument were true, wouldn’t everyone hooked on cigarettes graduate to injecting straight nicotine?I am perplexed by the New York Times’ coverage of e-cigarettes and snus (a type of Swedish smokeless tobacco that is demonstrably far less harmful than smoking).

On the one hand, the Times is to be lauded for recognizing these new forms of nicotine consumption as a topic with potential major implications for our health, and thus one worthy of serious coverage.

On the other hand, it seems that they have taken it upon themselves to be the national nanny/scold on the topic.

Last week they reported that the CDC announced a dramatic rise in teen use of e-cigarettes, while also noting that the CDC’s report buried a contrasting statistic—a dramatic, unprecedented fall in teen smoking of traditional combustible cigarettes.

This should be a good thing, no?

And yet today the Times devotes almost 1,400 words to two separate editorials, one by their own op-ed board and one by guest writers. Both of these editorials urge the need to regulate e-cigarettes in a similar way to conventional cigarettes, alluding to the potential harms, dangers and risks of e-cigarettes. Yet neither offers a single documented fact substantiating even one of those harms, dangers or risks!

And what are those alleged harms, dangers and risks? I suppose the most supportable one mentioned might be that nicotine may change the adolescent brain. The editorials don’t say that it damages the adolescent brain, just that it may change it. If I had to guess how it may change the adolescent brain, my guess would be that it may make the adolescent brain crave nicotine. 

To which I reply, so what? Don’t caffeine (or Pop-Tarts, for that matter) change the adolescent brain this way? I categorically reject the notion that all substance addiction or dependence is equivalent. I have never missed a day of work with a coffee or e-cigarette hangover. I have never robbed a bank or burglarized homes to get money to buy caffeine or nicotine.

The other canard both editorials fall back on is that e-cigarettes may—not that there is one iota of proof about this—but that they may lead kids to start smoking traditional cigarettes. The “gateway drug” argument, in other words. 

As I have pointed out before, this fear-mongering tactic is not only unsupported by evidence, it flies in the face of common sense. It’s equivalent to alleging that drinking beer or wine is a gateway to drinking straight grain alcohol, which we know it is not. And why isn’t it? Because drinking beer or wine is, for the vast majority of people, a much more pleasant and desirable way to consume alcohol.

It’s the same with e-cigarettes. I truly can’t imagine someone developing a nicotine habit by using e-cigarettes and then graduating to a product that is famously more dangerous, and also much more expensive and much more unpleasant to use.

Really, what the scolds’ argument should be is that e-cigarette use is a possible gateway to drinking straight e-liquid, the nicotine solution used in e-cigarettes. But they don’t make that argument, because it’s obviously specious. Yet the “gateway” canard about e-cigarettes persists.

No one is arguing that e-cigarettes are a risk-free behavior. Crossing the street is not a risk-free behavior. Drinking coffee is not a risk-free behavior. Virtually nothing we do in life is risk-free. The argument is about the relative risks and the relative harms. And it is indisputable that if every combustible tobacco smoker in this country switched to e-cigarettes, and that if every kid who experiments with nicotine does so using e-cigarettes instead of smoking combustible tobacco, the net gain to our society would be enormous and immediate.

Smoking combustible tobacco puts a healthcare burden of billions of dollars on our society every year. It kills many longtime users, often by literally leaving them gasping for their last breath. It’s time to stop equating e-cigarettes and other vastly less harmful means of nicotine consumption with cigarette smoking. It’s like comparing apples with… poisoned apples.

Any regulation of e-cigarettes should not impede their tremendous potential to reduce the enormous harm that conventional smoking does to our citizens and our society. 

8 Potential Titles for My Upcoming Memoir

Author photo by author.

Screwed Up and How I Got This Way: Living with the Legacy of a Dysfunctional Family

Looks Aren’t Everything: How I Achieved Mediocrity Without Them

Again, My Name Is Rich: Coping with Being Utterly Forgettable

The Courage to Change The Things I Can’t: Why I’ve Found Serenity So Illusory

Hey, Where’d Everybody Go?: A Cautionary Tale of Deteriorating Personal Hygiene

A Round Tuit: How I Will Confront Chronic Procrastination, Eventually

Sketchy Memories, Misplaced Grudges: Looking Back with 20-50 Hindsight

Here with Yeti: Five Years Spent Being Upstaged by a Stupid Cat


Signs of the End Times: The Nut Locker Flush Valve Anti-Theft Device

I was using the facilities in a gas station restroom on the outskirts of Houston yesterday when I noticed an interesting piece of hardware on the urinal before me. (Yes, I was going #1 at the time.)

It was stamped with the name “Nut Locker,” and after looking at it for a few seconds, I understood what it was for—to prevent the theft of the urinal flush valve by covering the large nut that connects it to the fixture’s water supply.

All at once my mind reeled with the significance of two pieces of information I had been completely ignorant of seconds before: First, that urinal flush valve theft was a thing, and, second, that it’s such a big thing that at least one company, Punter Distributing of Houston, has designed, manufactured and marketed a product to combat it.

Once reconciled to this new information, it did not surprise me that Houston might be both the epicenter of flush valve theft and the efforts to prevent it.

God help us.

Buy "All Tore Up: Texas Hot Rod Portraits" by George Brainard

George Brainard is a professional photographer here in Austin, TX. He’s also led some really cool bands over the years. And he’s a true Texas original, whose mama raised him right.

George’s new book, All Tore Up: Texas Hot Rod Portraits, published by UT Press, just came out. Last year I got to see some of its portraits of hot rod-lovin’ guys and gals, and they are just stunning. And the book is beautifully put together, as befitting George’s fine work.

And what a bargain! Only $33.50 if you buy online for UT Press

Highly, highly recommended. And such a great gift it would make!

Spring Pop Quiz!

1. Effecting change within a large organization has been compared to getting a supertanker to do a 180º turn. If a supertanker takes 34 minutes to go from a dead stop to its top cruising speed of 17 knots, which of the following are true?
A) It takes at least 34 minutes for a supertanker to do a 180.
B) The harbor master should be contacted before any such tomfoolery.
C) My dad was in the merchant marine back in the day.
D) I get nauseous on large seagoing vessels.

2. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was just convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Early in Hernandez’s brief pro career, Partriots coach Bill Belichek devised an unusual play, “Triple dog 9, reverse flare, hash left,” to take advantage of his unique talents. Which, if any, of these statements, describes what makes the play unusual?
A) Upon the snap, the interior tackles slant right and the action follows in that direction.
B) The interior tackles slant right as a feint and the action goes left.
C) The play called for Aaron Hernandez to garrote the middle linebacker when no one was looking.
D) The one time the Patriots planned to use the play in an actual game, they were penalized because Hernandez was caught lining up offside, with his foot down the throat of the opposing team’s cornerback.

3. The European Union is threatening to fine Google billions of dollars for alleged anti-competitive practices. Which of the following statements are true?
A) Very few Europeans could hack it for even one week in the office of a major American corporation.
B) In Europe, “winning” is a synonym for “anti-competitive practices.”
C) The European Union will use the money to buy Albania and shut it down.
D) “Don’t be evil,” Google’s founding ethos, was never meant to apply to Europe.

4. Hillary Clinton finally announced what everyone already knew, that she was running for president. Which of the following statements about her candidacy are true?
A) She will represent the lesser of two evils.
B) She will represent the evil of two lessers.
C) If she blows it this time, they ought to just give her the presidency in 2024, as a combination 97th birthday present and retirement gift.
D) Even if she wins, I may still threaten to move to Canada, but never follow through on it.

5. Racial injustice in the U.S. has been brought into stark relief by a continuing string of incidents in which white police officers kill unarmed black men. Which of the following policy recommendations are likely to reverse this trend?
A) Adding a “gamification” element to the problem by erecting large signs in communities throughout the country saying, “The United States of America: Now Celebrating __ Consecutive Days without a White Police Officer Killing an Unarmed Black Man.”
B) Arming all black men.
C) Equipping all police officers with body-worn moral consciences.
D) Equipping all police officers with guns that, when fired, raise little flags that say “Bang!”


Apple can't sell me a watch, but their early adopters might.

With very few exceptions (backpack vacuum cleaner, e-cigarettes, treadmill desk, Jose Altuve), I am not an early adopter.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, my current desire for the newly launched Apple Watch is a 1. I know lots of people are ordering them, and I hope they enjoy them, but it’s not for me.

At least not yet. I’m not naive enough to proclaim that I will never buy a new class of Apple product just because I don’t “get it” when the product comes out.

I didn’t get the iPod when it came out. A couple of years later, after seeing people use them for a while helped me “get it,” I bought a second or third generation iPod from a friend who was upgrading to the latest generation. I used the hell out of that thing and came to see it as an amazing product. I later supplemented it with an iPod Shuffle.

Same with the iPhone. I didn’t really get what it was about, or how it would be more useful to me than the mobile phone I then had. Now I’m on my second iPhone, having upgraded to the last two previous versions when their replacements came out (i.e., I got the iPhone 4 when the 5 came out, and I got the iPhone 5 when the 6 came out).

In both cases, I came to understand the utility and desirability of these devices by observing how earlier adopters used them.
I find that pretty interesting. In both cases, my desire started at around 1, but I ultimately acquired the items once I saw and understood how other people used them and relied on them. And I came to rely on them a lot, too.

Apple knows this. They know that there are scads of people who will buy the next cool Apple thing as soon as it comes out, whether they need it or understand it or not. And they know there are even more people like me, who will wait and see how those early adopters take to the product and, in so doing, define the way it is used and shape the narrative about how it is described.

Sure, I’ve read quite a bit about the watch on and other sites, and I’ve read some early reviews. But right now, Apple can’t sell me a watch. I don’t wear a watch, I don’t want a watch, and I sure don’t want to spend a few hundred bucks on a new type of watch that I don’t see the utility in.

I can read statements like (and I’m paraphrasing here) “integrates the various components of your digital life” until the cows come home, but until I see what that actually means to people, to me it’s as abstract as abstract can be.

Yet, I wouldn’t bet against me wearing one by 2018.

Is it skepticism or cynicism? How a radio ad helped me figure it out.

Do you know the difference between being skeptical and being cynical?

How would you put it into words?

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Not bad, not bad.

As for me, while I’ve implicitly understood the difference in my own mind, I’m not sure I would’ve had a good way to explain it to someone else. Hearing a radio ad yesterday helped clarify it for me.

First off, I’ll say that I’ve been called a cynic a lot in my life. Back in the day, that was probably true more often than not. But these days I work hard to try to be a more positive person. I tell myself it’s OK to be skeptical, just don’t be cynical. But what does that mean?

Yesterday, I was listening to a Houston Astros baseball game on the internets radio, as it will be my wont to do almost daily from now through September (and, God willing, maybe even into October).

In between innings, I heard an ad* for a Houston jewelry story, narrated by a sultry-voiced female announcer.

This announcer talked about how meaningful it would be for our ladies if we, the male listeners, bought them diamond engagement rings. As she bullet-pointed the arguments to counter our mental objections to this sudden idea of our spending a shit-ton of money we don’t have to buy diamond jewelry we know nothing about, she emphasized a final point: a “lifetime diamond quality guarantee.”

I immediately thought, “Oh, yeah, right, like someone is going to give his fianceé a diamond engagement ring and someday she’s going to return it because it doesn’t sparkle enough. That’s going to happen!”

And I thought, “That’s skepticism.”

And then I questioned, “Or is it cynicism?”

Which is it?

It’s skepticism. Skepticism is the questioning of received wisdom. Skepticism says, “This may be a good place for me to buy a diamond ring, but is the ‘lifetime diamond quality guarantee’ likely to ever be meaningful to me? Probably not. So as I evaluate whether I want to do business with this jeweler or not, I should not give the guarantee much weight.”

(By the way, as a native Missourian, skepticism is my birthright. Missouri is the “Show Me” state, and “show me” is nothing if not the skeptic’s mantra. That’s why, to my horror, every once in a while I will actually hear the words, “Well, I’m from Missouri, so you’re going to have to show me,” come out of my own mouth. Who am I, my mother?)

So when does skepticism cross the line into cynicism?

Where skeptics question the truth, cynics assume bad faith. Cynics believe that all human behavior is a zero-sum game. A cynic says, “if you want me to do X, it must be because it will be good for you and bad for me.”

Again, my skeptical response to the radio ad was, “Oh, yeah, right, like someone is going to give his fianceé a diamond engagement ring and someday she’s going to return it because it doesn’t sparkle enough. That’s going to happen!”

If I were a true cynic, I would also tack on, “Because the people who run that jewelry store are lying scumbags who are only trying to rip me and everyone else off.”

When it comes to the store in question, I don’t assume that cynical take is true. I’m pretty sure the reason they mentioned their “lifetime diamond quality guarantee” is because they know how hard it is to get radio listeners to consider buying from them versus all of their competitors, much less versus simply doing nothing. They don’t expect the guarantee to move me to buy a diamond ring from them. But they do hope that maybe it will make me a little more likely to step into their store if and when I ever want to shop for a diamond ring.

A skeptic asks, “Is this information true? And even if it is true, is it meaningful for me?”

A cynic says, “That’s definitely a bunch of bullshit, because all people are totally rotten all of the time.”

*I have never done a blog post about the dehumanizing, mind deteriorating poor quality and unremitting repetitiveness of the advertisements that run on the Houston Astros Radio Network (HARN). But with enough therapy, some day I will. For now I’ll just mention that the first couple of games this season, the MLB internet feed of the HARN broadcast was muting out the ads between innings. Silently, I prayed to God—that guy whom I only seem to believe in when I want something—asking that this practice be maintained all season long. What a huge quality of life enhancer it would have been! But, skeptic that I am, I questioned whether it would last.

However, because I am not generally a cynic, I did not assume, “It won’t last, because everything about baseball sucks.”

Now that the ads—God bless ‘em—are back, I’m assuming that they’ll stay there, but not cynically. As I cringe to hear Adam and Diego from the Citgo Fueling Good Road Team in the same ad for the 3rd season in a row, for the 9989th time, I believe it’s possible that whoever was cutting out the commercials in the first few games might start doing it again. I really, really hope so. But, yes, I am skeptical.


Obituary headlines that pull no punches


Oscar Siggets, 93, Ruthless Capitalist, Dies after Too-Short Illness
Brought sketchy, cost-saving innovations to meat processing industry

Mary Nells, 74, Cynical Golddigger
Widowed by three wealthy husbands older than her by a combined 139 years

Sammy Martin, 85, Actor Tied to Irritating ‘60s Sitcom Catchphrase
Lean final four decades for the “‘How They Hanging?’ kid”

Magdalene Arnell, 57, Debauched, Heartless Industrial Heiress
Liquidated family concern upon inheritance, laying off thousands; partied life away

Gerald Tervino, 77, Friendless Philanthropist
Calculated generosity kept heads of charities in thrall of odious douchebag

Catherine Bobbins, 79, CPA and Spending Scold
Few attend service for ever-irritable, harshly judgmental “Queen of Lean”


Do banned beer ads and empty tower blocks signify the Iran-ification of Turkey?

Leaving Kayseri; a pristine mosque occupies an otherwise barren easement between railroad tracks and a warehouse complex. Photo by T. van den Bout

About two weeks ago, I returned from a two-week vacation in Turkey. A conversation with a young Turkish man, a look at the dark side of one of Turkey’s vaunted “Anatolian tigers,” and the brief crackdown on the Turkish press following last week’s fatal hostage-taking incident in Istanbul got me thinking about the future of Turkey and it’s young people.

First, the young man.

“Do you think you’ll stay in Turkey?” one of us asked him.

“Not if it turns into Iran,” he replied with some sadness, but without hesitation.

He was in his early 20s. Like many Turks we met, he’d been born in a Western country where his family had emigrated, and had moved back with them. Some of these returnees came home before the start of Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime, and some likely because of it.

Erdoğan was Turkey’s prime minister and is now its president, traditionally a much less powerful position. Even though his party’s chairmanship term limits forced him out of the PM post, many believe the new PM is just his puppet. After 12 years of rule, Erdoğan still tightly holds the reins of power in the country, and he seems to have no intention of letting go.   

The early years of his regime heralded a new era of Turkish progress, freedom and openness. And there seems to be little debate that in many important ways, Turkey and Turks are better off since Erdoğan’s rule than before it.

Many emigrant Turkish families, familiar with the comforts of life in Western countries but tired of permanent second-class status, moved back. For them, the heady early days of Erdoğan’s reign must’ve seemed especially promising.

But Erdoğan’s push to remain in power seems tied increasingly to his government’s efforts to expand the Islamization of Turkish civil law. We were told, for instance, that signs promoting the sale of alcohol, though not its actual sale, were banned about a year ago. As with Coke in this country, the company that makes Efes, the Budweiser of Turkey, supplied custom signage to thousands of small neighborhood markets, complete with the Efes name, logo and colors. Now there are new signs, but the Efes name and logo don’t appear on them. But—branding!—the colors remain, so everyone, locals and tourists alike, know that Efes beer and other alcohol is sold within.

A beer brand (but not its slogan) covered over in an Istanbul restaurant. When I took this photo, the panel covering up the name looked much closer in color to the background. Only the camera flash revealed there was a brand name underneath.

The ban on alcohol ads and many other creeping legal impositions of Islamic mores and rules has our young friend, and no doubt many of his peers, pondering whether Turkey is where they want to spend the rest of their lives.

It’s not as if Islam is having a hard time there. Though by its constitution Turkey is a secular country, well over 90% of Turks identify as Muslim. But just as in the U.S., what belonging to a religion means in actual practice varies widely from person to person, and region to region.

Which brings us to that Anatolian tiger.

Two of Turkey’s three largest cities, Istanbul and Izmir, are considered its most liberal and progressive. Together, they are home to a little more than 20% of Turkey’s population. Though there are plenty of conservative Muslims in both, they are also the big concentrations of liberal thought and political leanings.

Kayseri is Turkey’s 11th largest city, and one of its fastest growing, with its booming industrial and construction sectors earning it its “Anatolian tiger” status. Lonely Planet also cites it as the second most devout Muslim city in Turkey. I don’t know what that’s based on, but I’ma run with it.*

We saw parts of Kayseri, and undoubtedly the worst parts, because it is the domestic air travel hub for Turkey’s Cappadocia region. We saw the parts we had to see to get the hell out of Dodge.

Granted, no one anywhere who can help it wants to live near the airport, so its easy for travelers just passing through to get an unfair picture of a place by only seeing the surrounding environs.

That said, ass-ugly does not do justice to the miles and miles of Kayseri and its outskirts that we saw.

First, nearest the airport, there were row upon row of new, and apparently vacant, housing blocks. The style that came to mind was, “Post-Soviet Kleptocratist.” These were big, completely charmless and weirdly ornamented buildings, when they were ornamented at all. And I’m including being painted entirely in Mylanta orange as ornamentation.

But above all, to me these big empty buildings were cheap-looking. The men who built them may not have been paid well, but some folks somewhere had to have made piles of dough—there were dozens of these brand-new empty ugly buildings. The post-Soviet reference may not be far off either, seeing as how Erdoğan and Putin seem to have a bro thing going on. Once free housing stopped being part of the plan in Russia, there were undoubtedly a lot of job-seeking former bureaucrats with a talent for converting government revenue (or, even better, debt) into sad architecture on a massive scale, while generating fat paydays for insiders.

After the tower block section came Kayseri’s Motor Mile-and-a-Half, an endless parade of sparkling new car dealerships. Hi, Kia. Oh, hi Hyundai. Looking swell, Mercedes. And, hey, Peugot! You’re still a car?! I guess so, in Turkey!

Then we progressed into the Eraserhead industrial section. Imagine Fitzgerald’s Valley of Ashes times ten. U.S. concrete plants are models of minimal impact compared to Turkey’s. Yes, it’s a messy business, and there everyone who lives or drives by it has to deal with it.

At the heart of Eraserhead-ville, we drove past a massive processing plant or refinery. Your guess is as good as mine. To me it looked like one enormous plumbed contraption that conducted whatever it was that it conveyed through some very large and befuddlingly-shaped appurtenances. Was it almost art but for being ugly? Or because of it? I still can’t say for sure.

Kayseri is a city, but Turkey is a country with some 11,000 rural or rural-ish villages. I think of our young friend, his fears, and how it seems that Erdoğan’s escalating embrace of Islamization coincides with his efforts to hold on to power that is becoming increasingly autocratic. I think of those endless empty tower blocks in Turkey’s second-most devout city and wonder if Erdoğan means to fill them with rural Turks, who are more likely to be conservative, and might show gratitude and loyalty for getting to take part in Turkey’s economic miracle, even if it means dirty, dangerous work in Eraserhead-ville and coming home to a brand new, depressing brutalist slum in the sky. For many, it may well be a better deal than what they have.

You could fit a shit-ton of loyal political partisans in those tower blocks is all I’m saying. And add to and consolidate your power in the process, making a minor urban stronghold a more major one.

And turning Turkey more into Iran.

Make no mistake, this rural-to-urban Kayseri relocation scheme is complete and total 100% speculation on my part and quite possibly complete and total 100% bullshit. What I know is that I saw a bunch of brand new empty apartment buildings that looked like they had to be government-built. And I created an explanation based on my sketchy grasp of Turkish affairs and a brief conversation with one young man. But on my side I would just mention that not only did I read Lonely Planet: Turkey, I went to Turkey: The Actual Country. For two whole weeks.

As to the Istanbul hostage-taking and it’s bloody ending and how it relates, I somehow missed the actual event in the news last week. I only learned about it yesterday, reading about the Turkish government’s punitive response to news media outlets that ran a photo, first posted on Twitter, of the hostage, a government prosecutor, with a gun to his head. Aside from blocking Twitter and other sites that ran the photo (evidently only for a short time), the government decreed that offending Turkish media organizations were barred from covering the prosecutor’s funeral.

The bullyish press clampdown reminded me of our young acquaintance, and it got me wondering whether the looming tower blocks cast more shadows darkening his future.

(*Here’s a BBC article from 2007 that compares and contrasts secularism and devout Islam between Izmir and Kayseri.)