Friday, March 28, 2008

Tortoise Mom to a Baby Hippo

Kenyan tsunami survivor baby hippo, Owen (300 kg), chooses a 100 year old male tortoise to be his mother! It seems both of them are very happy about this extraordinary relationship.

Ecologist Paula Kahumbu from Lafarge Park said, "After it was swept away and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. Fortunately, it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. They swim, eat and sleep together."

"The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it followed its mother. Somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother," Kahumbu added.

Khambu also explained that the hippo was a young baby, he had been left at a very tender age and by nature, hippos were social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kinetic Sculpture Genius: Theo Jansen

Are you an eco-friendly stuff maniac, a kinetic art fan, or a renewable energy geek like me? Then, probably you have heard about Theo Jansen.

Let me introduce him for the ones who doesn't know him yet: he is a genius combining engineering with art. He is the designer of wind powered robots.

The Dutch artist, Theo Jansen, creates huge animal skeleton-like robots walking by wind power.

At this point, I'm glad I'll be able to see his works in Netherlands. Yet, for now, we all have the chance to learn more about his work, and see the pictures and movies of his creations at his website, strandbeest.

And the video below includes the BMW commercial with Theo Jansen, and some footages of his works.

Ancient Music from Urkesh Palace

Welcome back!

I know I told you that there would be more about ancient melodies and tablets in the following post. I kept my promise. Although I am not providing a lengthy text, I have a gift for you - unless you have discovered the link before me. In this link you'll find the earliest musical score in the history, as far as it is known, and more information on this music, the tablet from 13th century BC found in Ugarit with this notation written on, and a simplified translation of the lyrics of the hymn. And most importantly, you will be able to listen to this melody!

The simplified - by Hans-Jochen Thiel - lyrics:

I will (bring x?) in the form of lead at the right foot (of the divine throne)
I will (purify ?) and change (the sinfulness).
(Once sins are) no longer covered and need no longer be changed,
I feel well having accomplished the sacrifice.

(Once I have) endeared (the deity), she will love me in her heart,
the offer I bring may wholly cover my sin
bringing sesame oil may work on my behalf
in awe may I ...

The sterile may they make fertile,
Grain may they bring forth.
She, the wife, will bear (children) to the father.
May she who has not yet borne children bear them.

If you are interested, you can download the precious document, which contains the musical portion of the text from Ugarit interpreted by Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin, "A Musical Score from Ugarit: The Discovery of Mesopotamian Music".

A distinctive Photo-Blog

They say, some people are born lucky, but I don't belive that. People make their own luck in this world. Well, Wouter is one of them. He is a fellow traveler and also a very good photographer.
First of all, he is my colleague, so he is darn lucky (ok, I flattered myself a bit). Secondly, he is just back from a 5 months of journey which he toured South America. So again, he is so darn lucky... Sure I envy him a bit... yet. Well, everyone has his future travel plans. :)

You can reach his blog by clicking here or on the title of this post.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Biblical Martial Art?

It looks like in these days everyone knows about Krav Maga. It is everywhere: in How I Met Your Mother, Splinter Cell and Wolverine. If you still haven't heard about it, I will post something about this Martial Art which I also practice. So don't worry. :)

Yet today, our subject is "Abir". Just like Krav Maga and it's derivatives, it is originated from Middle East, but not from Israel. It is originated from Yemen! It's Abir Aluf(The Grandmaster) is "Joshua Sofer" whom you can see on the right. I will tell more about him later.

Abir is an ancient Jewish Martial Art. It is originated from Habbani Jews who were originally living in Yemen in vast numbers before they were expelled. The literal meaning of Abir is "warrior," "fighter," or "strong" in Hebrew. It's semitic root is "Aleph-Beth-Resh." In Hebrew Alphabet it is written as "אַבִּיר".

Abir has different attack styles for each of the 12 Hebrew tribes and its defensive movements are derived from the shapes of old Hebrew Alphabet.

The place where it has been practiced is called "Beit Abir" which literally means the "Abir House". Abir takes its roots from Jewry as I told, so it is a "conservative" martial art...

So, what is a conservative martial art??

Trainings open with the reading of Torah. There are numerous references to Jewry and Midrash, so if you want to understand the philosophy behind the system you have to know something about Judaism.
Yehoshua Sofer is the "Abir Aluf" (The Grandmaster of the Abir now. You can see one of his pictures on the fly on the left side). :)

He is an Habbani Jew and also he is a follower of Chassidism. He is an extremely fast fighter, thanks to his 45 years of physical and mental training. He began to involve in Martial Arts when he was 3!

According to Yehoshua Sofer:

My family lived in Israel for 100 generations, since the time of Saraya Sofer — a royal scribe and warrior who served the kingdom of Israel. Both ancient Israelite writing and martial arts traditions, were handed down in my family from generation to generation.

The Sofer family has a tradition that, following the wars of Bar Kokhba, their ancestors lived in Piq'in near Tiberias for one thousand years, and at the time of the Crusades, moved to Hevron, where they lived for another one thousand years, some of them moving back and forth between Israel and Yemen all the while.

Members of the Sofer family moved between Jerusalem and Habban in eastern Aden to cities such as Baidha. "Baidha" means "white" in Yemeni Arabic. While in Israel, Nachman Sofer and his youngest son, Ya`aqov Mosha, Yehoshua Sofer's father, left the region for Jamaica following the Chevron massacres of 1929. From there they would move to the United States and later back to Israel.

I can hear you saying "It is so much words for a Martial Art! Let's see it in action!". Here it comes folks:

And here is defense of "Isshakar Tribe" against choking.

You can find more about Abir at Abir Warrior Arts.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Oldest Melody In History?

Well, it seems the 3400 years old music played below is the oldest melody of the history according to Klezfiddle1, a YouTube user.

The Hurrian Hymn, which has been preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, was discovered in mid 20th century. The Hurrians, to whom the Hittites owed the weaving of their social fabric, dwelled in the northern Mesopotamia. And the clay reserving this melody was found in Ugarit, an ancient port city.

There will be more about ancient melodies and tablets in the next post. But first...

Let's listen to the melody!

As a subscriber of Klezfiddle1, I can say that besides being a really creative musician, he is also very talented and extremely good in handcrafts. He gets beyond his knowledge of history by making replicas of ancient lyres. For example, the lyre he is playing in the video is a replica based on a contemporary illustration of the Kinnor on the back of an ancient Jewish coin (on the right).

For more information on this hymn, please visit the video page. And for other projects of Klezfiddle1, please visit his user page in YouTube.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Approximately 350,000 people speaks Tetum, which has become one of the official languages of East Timor since the country had declared its independence in 2002 (the other official language is Portuguese), and Tetum-Dili.

Before the Portuguese occupation, Tetum became widespread through Central and Eastern Timor as pidgin under the aegis of the Belunese speaking Kingdom of Wehali. When they arrived, the Portuguese built their settlements mostly in the west, where Dawan was spoken. As the capital was moved from Lifau to Dili, Tetum became an inter-regional language within the colony. These conditions brought Timor to a significant place amongst the colonies of Portugal. For only a few Portuguese colonies conserved a local language which is not a form of Portuguese as the lingua franca (later on, the language was immensely influenced by Portuguese).

With the hasty occupation of East Timor, which couldn't have relished its independence declared in 1975, by Indonesia and the declaration of the country as "the Republic's 27th Province", Portuguese was banned and Indonesian became the only official language. Yet, the Roman Catholic Church adopted Tetum as its liturgical language.

Tetum has four dialects. The first one, Tetun-Dili, which is also known as Tetun-Prasa (City Tetum) is spoken in Dili, the capital city, and in the north of the country. The second dialect, Tetun-Terik, is spoken in the southern and southwestern coastal regions. Tetun-Belu is spoken in a central strip of the island of Timor from the Ombai Strait to the Timor Sea, and is split between East Timor and West Timor -where it is considered as the regional language, "bahasa daerah" with no official status in Indonesia-. Nana'ek, which is spoken in the village of Metinaro, on the coastal road between Dili ile Manatuto, is the fourth dialect.

Tetun-Belu and Tetun-Terik are not spoken commonly and understood at all, other than the main places they are spoken. Tetun-Prasa is the form of Tetum spoken in East Timor, and it has always been the predominant lingua franca in the eastern part of the island, even when it was not an official language.

If you are interested in this language, you can find this page interesting. And, of course, the main resource for this post, Wikipedia.

...obrigada everyone! (:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Loving Ottomans

As Ibn-i batuta mentioned Turkish language in Arabic alphabet -known as the Ottoman language- I think it's time to show you this piece. The page shown above is from a book published in Paris and London, in 1842: "The Turkish Interpreter or a New Grammar of the Turkish Language".

This book is another proof of the fact there has never been a language such as "Ottoman language". It's the good old Turkish we know, only with Arabic alphabet.

The first column is the original Turkish words written by Arabic alphabet. The second column is the same words in Latin letters. And the third column is the English translation.

The book is full of entertaining dialogs and examples. You can find it in Google books. (Respect, Google!)

The image cannot be enlarged here, so you can check it out from here or by clicking on the title of this post.

Pater Noster

The picture you see above is the "Pater Noster" written in Ottoman Turkish Language. Ottoman Turkish was actually Turkish, both in grammar and structure, but a more elegant language with the blend of Persian, Arabic and Greek loan words. The alphabet used was the Arabic Alphabet.

The first two sentences in this Pater Noster go like this: "Bizim atamız ki göklerdesin. Seniñ adıñ mukaddes olsun."

More will follow about Ottoman Turkish in the future.


It had been quite some time since I had written to the blog, ain't it? Well, here comes a specific subject: Lukasa.
Lukasas are basically memory boards that are being used by Luba Tribe of Africa. Lubas are dwelling in Democratic Republic of Congo which is actually former Zaire. They emerge to the stage of history in the 5th century AD. The environment they are living brings some challenges. To survive, they had to build dams and canals. As you can imagine, constructing and digging work needs communication and organized labor. Well, Toynbee's "emerge of civilizations" theory looks applicable here. Toiling to get over the challanges brought an organized society. Nevertheless, in 1880 Belgians came. The usual story followed afterwards, Lubas forced to slave labor at the copper mines.

Traditionally, Lubas dwell in rectangular houses which have facades to a single road. They are "slash and burn" farmers, fishers and also hunters. "Kilolo"s are their patrilinear chiefs and under the protection of the traditional king they are responsible from the administration of the village. These chiefs and the King are the members of a secret group which is called "mbduye". Women can be the members of Mbduye, as well.

Well, here it comes folks: one of the main responsibilities of the mbduye is keeping the record of the important instances and the religious life of ther village with Lukasas.
Lukasas are hand carved. You can see an example on the right. They are various. Some of them are about the political systems of the Lubas, some are telling the stories of the historical figures and some are drawing the borders of the villages' lands. Every lukasa is unique. On the front side of the lukasa faces of the chieftains, members of the mbudye and historical figures are carved. At the outer side the diagonal, horizontal and vertical strips symbolizes Lolo ina Nombe, who is the ancestor goddess of the Lubas. It is believed that she still lives among people as in the form of a tortoise. Hence, tortoises are highly respected in the Luba community.
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