12/25/06

Thank god summer’s over

The heat is gone and it’s time to celebrate.


For some reason, it’s everybody’s favorite season. Everyone thinks summer is the time of sun, sand, sea and sex, of gorgeous bronzed bodies windsurfing to Greek islands and back, laying out on sundecks in beach clubs with beautiful people all around, sipping mojitos and eating fresh octopus salad, before dancing the night away in clubs that overlook magnificent Crusader castles and Homer’s ‘wine-colored seas’. And it is… if you’re rich. But do you know what summer is if you’re not rich? It’s the time of sticky, sweaty, smelly suffering, of the noisome bacterial odor of un-hygiene everywhere, of flabby ash-yellow bodied herds of families carrying screaming infants with plastic toys on to public beaches where they proceed to plant little gardens of cigarette butts and semi-gnawed corn cobs around them before splashing around in the water in front of you with the grace and athleticism of drunken water buffalos – with the exception, of course, that water buffalos can actually swim.

The heat brings out the worst in everything. First of all, just because people are walking around with bikinis and speedos and skimpy clothes does not make anything sexy. Your libido is suffocated and sweltering with its tongue sticking out, unable to think straight in the meat-sauna that has become your body. Most of what your eyes see is pretty gross anyway, and when the odd hot-bodied God or Goddess comes strolling along, your libido – still suffering in the meat-sauna – is more annoyed than anything, because action is demanded of it at a time when inaction is the only action worth not-acting on. Secondly, all those microorganisms that you hate LOVE the heat and you can smell their excited little parties all around. That’s right, every time you get that bacterial whiff of semi-putrefaction around you, it means there are about a billion tiny little single-celled organisms donning party hats and sipping fecal martinis, each of them giving you the finger and loving it.

Of course, there are those who can’t spend the whole summer at the beach, who spend most of it in Istanbul, which is all the more pleasant thanks to regular water and electricity cuts, decomposing fruit and sugary soft drink oozing out on to the streets in fly-ridden rivulets from black garbage bags, packed public transport (which is really fun to ride on in 42-degree heat with your pants glued to your thighs amid the pervasive smell of armpits and feet), and last – but not least – what everyone living in Beyoğlu has come to love: the summer-long love affair we’ve all had with the municipality’s Sisyphean Istiklal Avenue granite-paving ordeal… which, at the time this was written, was STILL not finished. There’s nothing like having to tip-toe around trucks and front end loaders amidst a wall of human meat trying to cram through a half-avenue as jackhammers pound your eardrums and dust and dirt transport millions of germs up into the air and through your respiratory tract to set up mutant supercolonies in your lungs. Yep, summer doesn’t get much better than this.

Oh wait, it does get better! How about having to see men’s feet everywhere you look? In the near past it was considered unacceptable that a man would wear anything other than shoes, no matter how hot it got. But then some evil genius introduced us all to flip flops – and worse, mandals. These man-sandals used to be exclusive to two-meter tall Dutch tourists – and even then they often wore them with white socks, which, while being the fashion equivalent of wearing your underwear over your head, nevertheless shielded people from perhaps the ugliest thing the human eye could possibly perceive: man feet. But now flip flops and mandals are everywhere, and so is the sight of hairy toes. Nice. If God had intended men’s feet to be seen in public, he would have given them women’s feet.

Ok, so maybe I’m being a little harsh. I mean, what about all the good things about summer? What about all the ice-cream oozing down your arm approximately 1.8 seconds after it’s been bought? Or all the sun-bathing to harvest that perfect crop of melanomas? Or all the swimming which you have to either pay a fortune for if you want to do it anywhere decent, or the eye infections you have to brave if you can’t afford to do it anywhere decent? How about all the sand that’s probably still lodged up your nethermost orifices, a grain of which might one day turn into the perfect butt-pearl? How about those five minutes between getting in the steaming hot car and waiting for the air-conditioning to kick in – with salt water still on your skin, brushing against your shirt, as you sit in half-dried togs, working on developing a nice case of hemorrhoids that can wake you from deep sleep at 3 in the morning? And how about a nice little sailing trip, as you puke over the side every ten minutes, get screamed at and humiliated by the captain because of your poor knot-tying skills, and come to despise everyone on board who go from being your Best Friends to becoming Personal-Space-Intruding-Competition-For-Toilet-Space-Bastards within two days? As pleasant as all those lovely summer experiences sound, there’s really only one truly good and enjoyable aspect to this whole miserable season: mosquitos. If it weren’t for them lullabying me into the sweet arms of Morpheus every night, summer might actually be unbearable.

But I guess we should look on the bright side: at least summer’s better than winter. Come to think of it, spring isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. And don’t even get me started on autumn…

12/20/06

Your pet sucks


Left: Who's a wittle poochie koochie? Who's a poochie woochie koochie, hm? You are! You are! Yes you are! Yes you are!

I'm sorry, but I don’t care about your pet. I don’t care what a wittle shnuggums your stinky slobbering dog is, I don’t care that your cat does the cutest little thingy with her nosey wosey, I don’t care how funny your lunatic parakeet is when it squawks and says “cheesy peas” every time you enter the room. I don’t care how cute it was as a puppy or a kitten, I don’t care about its fractured pelvis, and I certainly don’t care about its “depression.” Hearing you talk on and on about your stupid pet makes me want to open a Vietnamese restaurant just so I can feed you your own dog and then charge you for it. So you could imagine my excitement at visiting an old college friend who had just had a baby, only to discover that he also had… a huge… golden… retriever.

What little enthusiasm I could already muster for seeing an ugly little newborn baby was totally snuffed out as soon as I rang the doorbell and heard the barking of a large dog. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, but they don’t belong pent up in apartments, they don’t belong in cities, and they don’t belong at the ends of leashes being walked around on concrete sidewalks by Filipino maids. They belong in the countryside, roving around, having adventures, herding sheep, hunting rabbits or retrieving dead ducks and stuff like that… in other words, they should be doing what they were BRED for in the first place, instead of being carried around like handbags and used as status symbols or surrogate teddy bears. Anyway, the door opened and I immediately found myself wrestling a big, fat, barking, salivating golden retriever whose tail was wagging so violently I could feel a breeze on my face. My friend, the dog’s owner, acted like his dog was the cutest thing, laughing and saying “Down there, big fella… Isn’t he hilarious?” before kneeling down, grabbing his dog’s head, and having one of those intimate “yes you are, YESH YOU ARE!” moments right in front of me. I don’t even think he said hi to me.

That’s the problem with pet owners: they’re deranged. They believe that just because they think their pet is so cute and important to them, it would be to others as well, much the same way that people who talk about themselves think anybody is actually interested in hearing anyone talk about themselves. That’s why, when we sat down on the couch and I had to keep reluctantly petting this smelly beast that was panting in my face with its dog-food breath, my friend actually didn’t see a miserable person who wishes he had a baseball bat and some ample swinging room. All he saw was his precious little poopykins being a naughty wittle puppy, yes he did, yes he did, YEEESH HE DID! Like I said, they’re all deranged. So I just thought I’d go see his newborn baby and leave as soon as I could.

Fat chance. His wife had already brought out food and tea. In the meantime, this dog started bringing things and putting them at my friend’s feet – a slipper, a ball… I was wondering if it would bring the baby too. It didn’t. “He’s a retriever,” my friend explained, “it’s in his nature to fetch things because he’s a hunting dog.” Gee, really? If you know this to be true, then why is your dog in a carpeted living room chewing your slippers? I refrained from saying this and just asked if I could see the baby, but he just went on about his dog: “He’s been depressed lately, so we’ve been showing extra attention.” My friend was obviously insane. Then he gave me the standard “unrequited love” crap that always comes at some point from the deranged pet owner: “They’re so loyal” and “It’s pure love,” and bleh, bleh, bleh. Guess what, I’d bring your slippers too if you gave me free food. “So, where’s this baby anyway?” I said impatiently. The dog got excited and jumped on me as soon as it saw me get up, humping my leg. My friend just said “No! Bad boy!” but it was still up to me to kick the dog off and then keep pushing it away until it got the message into its retarded animal head.

Finally I saw the baby. Now, I don’t want to be mean, but a newborn baby looks the same as any other. It’s basically just a weird, writhing larva. Kids are cute, fun, and actually distinguishable when they’re 1 or 2 years old, but a newborn baby is basically just a gross little monkey. It doesn’t look like daddy, doesn’t look like mummy, it doesn’t even look human. I of course told them how cute it was and how it looked like both of them, then made some koochie koochie noises, and was ready to leave, when all of a sudden I heard my friend shouting violently. I turned to find that the dog was chewing a pillow to shreds. My friend had lost it. His face was red and the veins on his neck were protruding. He smacked the dog on its head and its ass, shouting obscenities. It was disturbing. The baby started screaming. The wife was confused. I turned and fled.

I haven’t talked to them since, but I’m sure all’s well. A large beast that’s bred to snatch squirming little animals with its vice-like jaws, and a tiny helpless little baby, all in the same small confined space… What could possibly go wrong?

12/19/06

Magandamania


Like a testament to societal identity crisis, the “maganda” represents everything we wish we’d left behind but know we haven’t. They live among us like an embarrassing eyesore, but how many of us have really gotten to know them?


Ever see a guy behind the wheel of a pimped-up Tofaş Şahin with fat tires, tinted glass, a fluorescent purple interior light and big furry objects dangling from an over-sized rearview mirror like the testicles of an elephantiasis-stricken rabbit, thinking to yourself “This guy has got to be kidding”? Well he’s not kidding. And furthermore, the mullet, the bass-blaring boom-box and the left arm hanging from the rolled down window with a smoking cigarette growing like a weed out of his man-ring adorned fingers, are all unique traits of that modern-day specimen we call… the “maganda.”

Although scientists are still not sure if Homo Neanderthalis became extinct or whether they actually interbred with Homo Sapiens, the scene around certain main drags in Istanbul (Taksim, Istiklal or Bağdat Caddesi) seems to show irrefutable proof that our erstwhile Neanderthal friends have not only survived, they have also picked up driver’s licenses along the way, learned to read letters and numbers, and even figured out how to use a complicated and dangerous piece of machinery like the automobile. In fact, it can be argued on this evidence alone, that the Neanderthal has not only thrived, he has also slightly progressed along the evolutionary scale to earn himself a rightful place as a new species of the hominid genus: Homo Maganda.

Although Homo Maganda is obviously a different species, they still resemble Homo Sapiens in many respects, except for their proclivity to fiddling with prayer-beads or key-chains (and in the absence of those, their genitalia), their passion for sports (football, expectoration, bezik-briç-okey), and their inability to adjust the range of their voices, which is demonstrated by the fact that they shout even when speaking into a telephone or communicating with someone standing right next to them.

Homo Maganda also shows a startling tendency to color blindness. This has been demonstrated time and again when the maganda has encountered a red traffic light whilst driving a vehicle (car, bus, dolmuş) and has failed to stop on almost all occasions, unless of course the maganda saw another vehicle in its path, in which case danger was sensed and their brakes were used, albeit grudgingly. They do not, however, show the same compunction to stop when there is a pedestrian, a bicycle, or a dog in their path, which leads many to conclude that the maganda can sense only the most obvious danger to him, not danger that can emanate from him. Magandas have also never been known to slow down at a yellow traffic light, as intended, but rather show the obverse reaction of accelerating toward them, a fact which has baffled many of us, and led me in particular to conclude that the maganda’s failure to see yellow might also explain why they show no hesitation to urinate when and where they get the urge, seeing as they do not see the difference between water and urine – just as they fail to see the difference between complex terms like “public” and “private”. But this should not give the mistaken impression that Homo Maganda does in fact see green just because he passes the green traffic light on every occasion. Some think the maganda drives through regardless of any color that he may or may not see, although the fact that the maganda displays an almost innate tendency to throw trash when passing by grass or trees – both of which are often green – seems to show that Homo Maganda can in fact sense green, and thus satisfy its urge to throw things at it.

Furthermore, Homo Maganda shows some remarkable behavioral traits which set it apart from Homo Sapiens. For example, they have a compulsive tendency to leer unabashedly at soft wobbly protrusions, and show certain characteristics of mating behavior which are very similar to primates other than hominids (e.g. chimps). When the Homo Maganda male becomes excited (keep in mind their abnormal levels of testosterone vis-à-vis Homo Sapiens), he has the tendency to raise his voice, puff his chest, strut, swing his arms and invade the privacy of those around him with even more vigor than usual. This is due to their unique trait of, not staking out territory, but rather seeking to invade others’ territory, a truly remarkable style of truculence among any primates, let alone hominids. Other noticeable characteristics include their tendency to don black overcoats (which indicates a bizarre Matrix/Mafia fetish), their inability to resist shiny things (gold, cars, television), their preference for black shoes with white socks (a mystery to anthropologists and fashion critics alike), their general inability to grasp the subtle difference between the concepts “cool” and “wanker,” their confusion at the prospect of queuing or waiting for something they want, and their inexplicable tendency to try to prove their manliness when performing a simple task like crossing the street, during which many seem to believe that holding up traffic while they themselves act as unhurried pedestrians is a feat worthy of other people’s recognition. Nevertheless, most magandas prefer to drive, as they find they can convey their thoughts better with a car horn than with actual words.

Although Turks can spot a maganda faster than you can say “lock up your daughters,” foreigners may have difficulty in this respect at first. But even so, do not ask someone if they happen to be “a maganda”, because the maganda is not conscious of himself as a maganda anymore than, say, a baboon is conscious of itself as a baboon. Instead, the above description should help guide those of you with a curious nature who would like to go maganda-spotting, while also contributing to the preservation of their habitat. Too many endangered species have been lost to us already (dodos, unicorns, Homo Erectus). So let’s help preserve Homo Maganda, if not for our own sakes, then for the sake of snobby smart-asses to come.

12/17/06

Flash, boom, bang: it’s an Istanbul summer wedding!


Once again it’s the season for big brash vulgar ostentatious kitschy exhibitionistic flaunting, and what better way to encapsulate the whole package of poshlost than your very own wedding by the Bosphorus?

Every little girl dreams of it: bright lights, a beautiful setting, hundreds of important people in thousand-dollar frocks and tuxedos gathered just for her, camera flashes going off in her face, fireworks going off in the air, the ring on the finger, the wedding dress, the dance, the whole world telling her how pretty she looks… Finally, it’s the night when hours of solarium time, litres of hair-care products, kilos of make-up, thousands of dollars worth of planning, shopping and organization – and a good long bout of determined anorexia – finally pay off. Precious Princess at last has her day, and she’s relieved to have finally shut her mother and aunties up, made her friends (and that ex of hers whom she dated for 8 years) jealous, and fulfilled daddy’s and society’s expectations. And even if the marriage doesn’t work out, she’ll at least have been married before 30. In other words, she won. Finally, she can have a kid and be fat again and live happily (read bored) ever after.

But as everyone except the bride knows, a wedding isn’t only about the bride. In fact, the bride is more of a decoy – as is what’s-his-name by her side over there. Instead, the wedding is an exposition of patriarchal power and influence; this is manifest in the big booming fireworks display (that threatens to go wrong at any moment and burn down a historic wooden Ottoman mansion next door); in the array of cheesy cigar-toting wanna-be-Latino hotshot businessmen with their starving fake-orange-tanned rhinoplastic wives who threaten to gouge out an eye with their uniform pointy noses every time they move in to give another insincere air-kiss; in the press coverage represented by the paparazzi rats scurrying around on behalf of socialite mags like Alem, Şamdan and Hello, in the next issues of which the guests’ blown up over-lit photos will reveal enough cavities, wrinkles and acne to satisfy even the most jealous of friends; in the size of the cake, the size of the venue, the size of the stereo system, the size of the food portions, the size of the boxes of champagne bottles, and the size of the overall bill, all of which reflects favourably on the size of the bride’s father’s enormous… power and influence.

And what of the bride and groom? They’re of secondary importance since the wedding is more of a social obligation for them. Their job isn’t to have fun; it’s to maintain a constant frozen smile on their faces as they go to personally greet each and every one of the seated guests, thus reinforcing the implicit sense of duty and conformity implied in the whole wedding ceremony. Afterall, what a wedding actually is – besides a venue for the bride’s father to show everyone the size of his aforementioned power and influence – is a social bond between two families as part of a ritual inaugurating the young couple’s advent into society before all the gathered eyes of that very society into which they’re seeking acceptance, thus leaving the private domain (‘aile evi’) for the first time and entering the public one (‘dünyaevi’). That’s why we say that those who are married have ‘entered the world/society’ (‘dünyaevine girmiş’), while those left unmarried are said to have been ‘left at home’ (‘evde kalmış’). This makes sense considering we have a culture in which leaving the family home unmarried is still not an accepted practice. Marriage is the only accepted way of leaving home and entering the ‘world’ (i.e. the rigidly regulated network of family and acquaintances) as a respected (read ‘enmeshed’) member of society. And so our two protagonists just have to grin and bear the stifling demands of their social responsibility toward this imposed duty until it’s all finally over and they can look forward to a brief honeymoon respite.

But that’s not to say that weddings aren’t fun… eventually. Once you get enough booze into everyone the social masks melt off along with the make-up, bowties dangle limp from loosened collars, the gelled hair gets slightly unset (although not exactly dishevelled), everyone starts dancing to tacky pop songs, and finally, at the end of the ordeal, even the bride and groom can relax a little and have a modicum of fun. Around this time you can see newly met cousins from the two families snogging in a corner, formerly obsequious wedding photographers and waiters with now-disdainful faces scrounging around asking for money from the drunk guests, and one or two raised voices, usually involving a female guest who’s up way past her bedtime scolding her midlife-crisis-suffering husband for awkwardly flirting with some far-too-young friend of the bride. Last but not least, if you stick around to the end, you’ll see a messy disgusting wasteland of half-eaten slabs of cake stabbed with cigarette butts next to fingerprint-smudged wineglasses with bits of food and saliva on the rim amidst a sea of lipstick-stained napkins, ignored gift baskets, wine-drenched tablecloths, a cheap guest asking for a tinfoil doggy bag, the odd puddle of vomit, and an overwhelmingly human stench of sweat, pheromones and suffering. All in all, an appropriate beginning to a lifetime of marital bliss yet to come.

(If you’d like an alternative look at weddings from someone who’s not a complete sociopath and is actually invited to them – albeit against her will – check out Emine Yildirim’s ‘Bored of the Rings’ in TOIST, October 2005, or on-line at www.timeout.com.tr)

Nişantaşı 90210



Move over Beverly Hills, it’s time to meet the nişantaşette!

If you thought that Jane Austen’s idyllic Regency-era wonderland of courting aristocrats, ballroom dancing and how-do-you-do’s was over, you’re mistaken. It still lives on in the poshest of Istanbul’s suburbs, Nişantaşı. Well, sort of. Although the countryside walks have been replaced with visits to the country club, horse-drawn carriages traded for SUVs, ballroom dancing for pilates, and tea parties for solariums, that ridiculous world where women stay at home till they marry, make themselves pretty, and have no cares other than to find the perfect husband for themselves (or their daughters) is more valid than ever in 21st century Istanbul.

The nişantaşette’s life basically involves being places. It means being at her private university’s American Literature course lecture at 9am; the university café from 11am to 1pm, where she debates with her girlfriends whether Ataberk loves her or not; her Yoga class at 3pm for the best spiritual peace and perfection money can buy; her friendly neighborhood solarium at 4:30pm to maintain that caramelized faux-Latina radioactive orangey skin; a brasserie/cafe at 6pm, and a discussion with her other girlfriends (the ones from her summer holiday cooperative village) about whether Ataberk is her soulmate or not; dinner at 7pm served by her maid; watching whatever’s on CNBC for an hour (Angel or Buffy); a 3-hour telephone monologue with her best friend about why Ataberk was sort of cold to her in the university cafeteria when he was with his friends (and that slut who was totally hitting on him and dresses like a whore); then finally cuddling with her over-sized stuffed panda as she goes beddy-byes by 11pm accompanied to her favorite nostalgic “Look how pretty I look dancing!” song from last summer in Bodrum.

But don’t let the veneer fool you, because our nişantaşette has problems too, just like real people. Between the beauty salons, the tennis lessons, the laser electrolysis treatment, and finding parking space for daddy’s 4-cylinder high-school graduation present, our nişantaşette is aching with real-world dilemmas. For example, should she get a new nose or not? Do people like her nose the way it is, or should it be a little smaller, a little more pucked up? And what about that cellulite on her ass? Liposuction or rhinoplasty? Lipo or rhino, lipo or rhino… which one does she want for her birthday? Maybe she should just get a dog? She would look so cute with a little Russian terrier, and she could wear that hot little training outfit, oversized sunglasses and a baseball cap to go with the dog, with a leash and cell phone in one hand and a Venti Soy Cafe Latte in the other. Which brings her to another question: what to wear? She’s so bored with her clothes and she needs something for tonight, not to mention summer being just around the corner. Maybe she should get the lipo, now that she’s thinking of bikinis. Why is life so difficult? Why couldn’t she have been born a princess without a care in the world?

The nişantaşette also needs to worry about keeping up appearances. There are certain requisites for membership in the nişantaşette “club”: namely, an annoying nasal voice that sounds like a duck whistle every time she calls a waiter; some sort of eating disorder, preferably anorexia, but bulimia if she's really cool; pointy shoes, tight blue bell-bottom jeans and a pair of designer sunglasses perched atop her head at all times – all from DKNY or Mango; a boyfriend with a car and an attitude; dyed blonde hair; and most importantly, an aloof aura of smug pretension, with friends to match. Oh, and rich parents to pay for gasoline, education and hair dressing. A big no-no for the nişantaşette is smiling or laughing openly and sincerely in public. She must always maintain her stratified social superiority by not deigning to stoop to loose antics, or “fun” as it’s also known. In fact it’s preferable to look bored a lot of the time, and to complain a lot, thereby letting others know that she is worthy of a better scene than the one she is in and that she actually has better places to be, and is thus better than you. In fact, the only time a nişantaşette considers it okay to break that phlegmatic look of dull indifference and actually laugh in public is if it’s at the expense of others while gossiping with her friends (i.e. dissing any pretty girl who is not part of her group).

But the nişantaşette must also cultivate both her spiritual and physical side when the world gets a little hectic. She keeps track of the latest dieting and fitness trends through her monthly staple of Cosmopolitan, the Atkins diet, her horoscope, and all the in-depth scientific research that has magically revealed that fruits, vegetables, water and exercise are good for her. She knows where her chakras are, and she knows that June will be a particularly tricky month when Saturn is aligned with Mars and Libras everywhere will have to deal with a lot of negative energy around them (which, by the way, always emanates from others, not her).

While cultivating a spiritual balance, the nişantaşette must also attract much-needed attention, which acts like fuel to her existential fire. Lots of accessories are a good start, colorful and distracting. Tattoos in the right places are also essential for that “Look at my sexy bits!” effect. The ankle, arms, breast, shoulder blade, hip, belly or just above the ass are all strategically ideal locations to draw peoples’ attention. And that little tattoo on her shoulder blade actually means “harmony” in Sanskrit or Chinese or something, in case you're wondering.

But huddle in close, because our little nişantaşette has a terrible secret: she and her parents used to live in Beşiktaş (before daddy’s import-export business landed a big contract – something to do with trading “miscellaneous” goods in Ukraine), and, god forgive her, most of her friends still do live in Beşiktaş. Hopefully nobody will ever find out.

12/15/06

story - Constance Purdue


(A Darwinian Parable about Birds and Worms)

Constance Purdue was on the tail end of her soliloquy concerning the nature of men and women when I walked into the restaurant and joined her band of diners…

“…the female, as you see, is therefore the constant factor in nature, the male being the variable. The female is the progenerative force that is burdened not only with the task of bearing the full responsibility of procreation but also with that of justifying the existence of the male of the species; for ultimately, it’s the female who must choose her mate and it is the male who must be chosen. The world is structured in this way. Males invent a whole myriad of competitive systems to enhance their chance of being selected by an appropriate female, competition being the basic determining factor within those systems, and thus justifying those systems by inevitably ranking the participant men. Although, of course, the male seeks recognition from as many women (ideally, all) as possible, this is essentially sought so as to facilitate his selection by one ideal female, whether she in fact exists or not. Be it in the realm of politics, philosophy, professional pursuit, sports, sex or nocturnal disport, the male recreates these competitive systems which females realize are essentially ridiculous, yet which they nevertheless overlook, since they know full well the reason behind men’s innocuous and childish enthusiasm for those games. Their foolish pride in excelling at those games is no less significant, since they are in all actuality gratifying their need to stand out as being all the more attractive to the female – be it one particular female or their ideal conception of the female. The female ultimately selects the more successful and the potential alpha of her species; the stronger, faster, bigger, smarter, more self-confident, the better, all the while realizing the essential foolishness of those she is selecting, secure as she is in her far more significant biological function as Woman. No self-respecting female will ever settle for second-best in a male while being able to remain true to her own self. This is of course not to say that all females will go for the best possible choice. This is to say rather that females will always go for the best possibility open to them and in keeping with their own qualities as females. Thus men have found ways to create niches in which to excel while being able to forsake competing at levels and in fields in which they may have too great a handicap to overcome, be it physical, intellectual or pecuniary. Nature has seen to this because otherwise there would be a lot of lonely people and not much regeneration of the race – I mean, of course, fucking – going on. Thus some men will compete physically, others mentally, some academically, others socially, as all of them seek to find for themselves that optimum niche from which to crawl out of their little hole of mediocrity and be selected by a female. So, to sum up, the old analogy of the Birds and the Bees is misleading. Rather, nature and sex is about the Birds and the Worms. As the worms wriggle and writhe their way forth, the bird selects the tasty morsel brought forth and gobbles it up with relish. The bigger the worm, the tastier the morsel. The worm is sure in its function and is happy to be the worm, while the bird chooses the tastiest to satisfy her appetite. And that, my vermian friends, is my theory of the Birds and the Worms.”

Having made her point, she paused and smiled so sincerely that her eyes became little squinting slits that nevertheless lost none of their ominous intensity. She drew in the pensive looks that were vacantly cast her way, perched in her seat like an anachronistic sibyl. I imagined her to be some sort of metamorphosed female black widow or praying mantis, ready to sting and eat her potential “chosen” mate, or turn his little brain into mush before slurping it up with hungry relish. Despite these morbid flashes, I, like any other man present, relished the challenge offered by a feisty object of desire such as Constance Purdue. And besides her pugnacious, self-assured character, she was a bombshell of a girl, with classic Teutonic features, but with a waistline to boot (something so often denied by nature to that race), and a chest that poured proudly and profusely into her dress. Too bad my girlfriend was sitting right next to me.

Naturally, her speech raised some eyebrows along with some indignity from the table of men who had been summoned to join her. While women may often pass philosophy off with a flirtatious giggle or an absent nod, excusing it as the childish product of games boys play, boys, when confronted with such a proposition from a female, immediately feel threatened, like a foreigner has invaded their pitch and has proceeded to challenge them on their own turf. The territorial male cannot back away from such an affront to his dominion. He invariably zeroes in on the challenge. Thus Wallace bore down on the target of his indignity.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, how can you argue that when it’s always the guy who’s stereotypically cast as the hunter, while women are cast as the hunted, as prey, as the helpless object of aggressive male desire? Our ribald quotidian prejudices are aligned against your misandrism missy!”

Constance was in a feisty mood, and she let none past her alert gaze and her by now adrenalin-inundated psyche. Had she lacked even an ounce of grace, her nostrils would certainly be flaring.

“Ah!” she contested. “And yet our modern prejudices fall short of ancient wisdom which portrayed the great hunters not as men but as voluptuous busty women in whom the bloodlust foamed and bubbled in the same spirited, ideal domain as the libidinous nature of their rapacious femininity. Artemis, Atalanta, Athena, the Maenads, the Erinyes; they were the names of the huntresses, goddesses and warriors of old - luscious, deadly, omnipotent in their lusty potential, wielders of the bow, goddesses of the hunt, sensors of blood, voracious devourers of flesh, avengers of injustice. They are the ideals of the men that created their mythology – and rest assured that it was men who created mythology. Men are responsible for all the ridiculous idealisms and simulated discursive pantomimes that have fed the degeneration of our race over the millennia. The woman knows nothing of those, she only has the nose for blood, for flesh, she IS her essence, she has no need to seek it elsewhere, to philosophize over it. She carries her essence within her, always assured of her biological truth. And so, if it be men who have created these myths, then it be men themselves who are conscious of the nature of women and the nature of the relationship between the sexes.”

Her speech went down very successfully around the table - at least if the subdued collective demeanor of the men was anything to go by. But one also immediately picked up on a tension – on the part of the women, that is. While the men were threatened and annoyed that a pretty female was challenging their smug chauvinistic dominance by locking horns with them rather than just looking pretty and at least feigning a visage of being impressed by their self-importantly macho pseudo-intellectual chattering, the women were simply annoyed that a pretty girl was amidst them and drawing all the attention of the men from their own expensively-coifed heads and their freshly painted faces. Immediately (as is wont in such circumstances when an outsider female enters the circle of familiar males that insider women feel possessive over, and further makes such a strong imprint that she gains the complete and undivided attention of those very males) one sensed the brooding resentment Constance Purdue had conjured in the comportment of the other females at the table - not least of which in my own girlfriend. The mix of intelligence, charm and stunning good looks is already a strong point against the outsider female among the insider females, but what particularly exasperates the insider females is the inability of their insider males to be able to hone in on all the little qualities that make the outsider female so unpalatable, so hard to digest on the part of the insider females. In other words, the women are disgusted by the stupidity of men for not seeing all the little qualities that the insider girls themselves find odious in the outsider, and they don’t have any faith in the men as a result, so they take their spite into their own hands and conjure the means to make sure the outsider stays an outsider by trying to turn the insider men against the outsider woman as well as by making snide remarks, spiteful looks and carefully orchestrated shows of ridicule and contempt thrown brutally in the outsider girl’s direction, though always subtle enough no matter how brutal to escape the attention of the dimwitted insider males.

Now while Wallace was offering his retort to Constance (in almost symphonic unison with one or two other blaring, undignified, ape-like male voices), and going on about something to do with “tautology” and “gross generalizations,” I noticed my girlfriend (whom I tried not to omit from my sphere of attention despite my enraptured interest in Constance) whispering inaudibly to her friend in a way that nevertheless spoke volumes as to the subject of their conversation as well as to the general congruence of opinion concerning that very subject, which immediately led me to see that – to overstate an understatement – Constance Purdue was persona non grata in this particular sorority of spite. While Constance grappled with the host of male adversaries ranged before her, my girlfriend and her partner in crime gave fulminating glances Constance’s way, projected all the more abrasively by the snickering and teasing laughter that hurled it across the table with the most unambiguous of intentions. I tried to ignore what was going on, and it seems so did Constance, because I knew my girlfriend felt threatened, all the more so because she didn’t even try and influence my own opinions as to this unwanted outsider perched belligerently within our midst. That could only mean that my girlfriend was aware that I was attracted to Constance and so she was now on the defensive, giving a rather unseemly and ineloquent fight, yet no less effective for it. As much as I tried to mollify my girlfriend, she gave me clumsily feigned and careless brush-offs as if dismissing me as being in on this unpleasant scenario and in fact conspiring against her along with the outsider. Love may be blind, but jealousy is a bitch.

The many-sided battle went on, superficially with the men (“there is no other way with them,” Constance opined at one point) and surreptitiously with the women (there is no other way with them, thought I). The oafish brutes around the table continued panting and retorting under the spell of this outsider Artemis.

“…and that’s why women do not philosophize,” she continued, “philosophy is the result of alienation of man from nature, of the idealization of his own identity, of his sublime estrangement from the mysterious entanglement that is nature. Woman on the other hand IS nature, she bears its wrath, its responsibility, its beauty and its ferocity, all within her own body. She bleeds every month, she bears new life into the world, her whole body is a regenerative mechanism that feeds off the male half of the race in order to carry on with its fundamental and crucial task of regenerating the race. The female is thus not estranged from nature, she is one with it, she knows what the reason of her existence is, she bears it, she lives it, nothing else matters. She has no need for philosophy, the questions of philosophy have been answered bluntly, brutally, carnally in her own biological morphology.”

“And yet you philosophize!” interjected Wallace.

“No, I anti-philosophize,” retorted Constance playfully, offering her idiosyncratic squinty-eyed smile.

“Polemics my dear, mere polemics,” was his way of excusing her retort. “Besides, how can you anti-philosophize while using philosophical methodology? If your conclusions are anti-philosophical, that’s one thing, but anti-philosophizing in itself can only be the opposite of philosophy, which would mean that you’d either have to be quiet or base all your beliefs in a truism like god, or a holy book or something. Otherwise, you’re philosophizing - and you, missy, are PHILOSOPHIZING!”

Wallace displayed a proud grin on his mug. He looked like he could have pissed on the table leg and claimed his territory for good.

“But Wally,” said Constance sadistically, still brimming, “I DO believe in a truism, and it’s not god or a holy book. I believe in my femininity and I believe that femininity is anathema to philosophizing, it’s a contradiction of its own nature, thus I cannot philosophize because if I did then I would be contradicting my belief in that truism, and as you’ve already stated, Wallace, belief in a truism is anti-philosophical.”

Wallace laughed heartily at this tongue-in-cheek retort and shook his head, leaving it at that.

On that playful note, we ordered the bill. The topics and anti-topics of philosophy and anti-philosophy had all but been exhausted by this hour and a postprandial vow was made to spare the whole company from any more of this childish pride-mongering and devote more time to simply having a good time. Our next destination was a friend’s house where we could carry on the aforementioned task.

I was by now quite drunk and also quite enraptured with this girl and her playful (anti-) philosophical flirting. She was well aware of my girlfriend and of everything that was going on, and yet instead of backing down or giving up any territory, she rose to the challenge of this generally tense social climate by adding her own mischief into the whole cocktail of conflict that had reared its head that night. The mischief was augmented in the form of a wink thrown effortlessly yet very calculatingly my way – and, needless to say, I was smitten. By the time we were at the friend’s house carrying on with the festivities, the whole scene had gotten out of hand. On one hand all of the men were vying for the attention of this fine outsider femme fatale, myself included, to the extent that my girlfriend had by now not only ceased to talk to me but had actually chose to ignore me and furthermore had got it into her mind to try and make me jealous by using all her body language to convey a sense of flirtation with another man, not a friend of mine but a friend of a friend. Her legs were crossed and the top leg waved nervously and playfully back and forth as the knee pointed straight in the direction of this guy’s crotch. As she spoke to him she played with her hair, threw her head back with laughter and her hand intermittently touched parts of his body – most notably his thigh, his arm, his hand, and even once brushed across his chest. Her smile was as if forcefully glued to her face which turned to glance over at me at almost equidistantly regular intervals.

I was now in a tight situation. Meanwhile, I, along with the other of the male company that was gathered at the house, was fixated on Constance. There was a lustful aura that hung about the room. The men carried on their light conversation talking about everything yet really only wanting to say one thing; i.e. that they wanted Constance. Glances and smiles were thrown about carelessly, topics wavered, jokes flew back and forth, and all the while everyone in the room – every single person – anticipated and exaggerated every single little glance and gesture that was flung about the room, especially by Constance. Within a second I received another of her titillating glances, given in the form of another wink and a smile and a lingering look across the table that shut a few yapping ape mouths while giving extra wind to even less tactful others. Nothing of course got past my girlfriend, for when a man is involved, the woman’s extra-sensory intuition misses nothing, picking up on every little vibe as if they had a radar fixed in their womb.

I could feel the situation was now forcing itself to a climax. Eyes were shooting back and forth in a thousand directions, body language blared so loud it looked as if people were talking through their flesh and bones. The alcohol was having the customary effect of amplifying the emotions that fed the subtle communications that had all of a sudden become not-so-subtle. The cocaine only exacerbated the needy, libidinous egos it fed, and the cigarette smoke danced and twirled in the air as it escaped from the nervous hand-to-mouth habit that sucked it into our lungs with stubborn indifference. Constance winked as she passed by me to make her way to the bathroom. My girlfriend looked at her and then threw a flaming glance my way, her hand now suddenly, strategically, on the crotch of her own prey. I felt drawn beyond my reason, beyond my own volition, to the gaze of Constance, a gaze that had since carved out a dizzying eddy that sucked me behind her and into the bathroom where she had laid her web out for me. Eyes whirled around my head, voices beckoned for and against my momentary lapse of reason, I thought of my girlfriend, I thought I heard my girlfriend, she had by then ensnared her own prey, but it was soon all over. Constance Purdue had ensnared her own prey as well. I had been selected to make a point, as if I were just mere words extracted and from her “anti-philosophical” exposition at the restaurant earlier that night. When the tempestuous and sordid affair was over in the bathroom, she gave me the same squinting smile that declared her triumph and my downfall – and the downfall of all men – all in the same gesture. Upon emerging from the bathroom, the same triumphant gaze fixed upon my girlfriend, who was by now past anger and about ready to grab her female friend and storm off, which she wasted no time in doing, leaving her own doe-eyed male prey in the throes of confusion.

Constance Purdue lit up another cigarette and cast a very satisfied glance around the party. The mixture of jealousy and frustration along with the last embers of hope on the faces of the men, and that of jealousy and sincere hatred on that of the women, fittingly concluded what turned out to be a very contented night for Constance. And from that little sparkle that shone from the corner of her eye, teetering above the crest of a delicate, Mona Lisa-esque smile, one could tell that it had less to do with that one conquest of prey than that all-encompassing pleasure in having verified her anti-philosophy in such a poetic, non-discursive, pro-active manner, while at the same time having bettered woman and man alike in so complete a rout.

As for myself, the guilt I felt vis-à-vis my girlfriend and the weakness I felt in having been made such an obvious and easy prey of the huntress, all of this made me indeed feel like the worm, helpless and squirming, yet, paradoxically, happy in the function I served that night in the quarry. I was in fact proud to have been the one chosen to be gobbled up by the voracious bird that morning.

12/11/06

Mabel Micklethwaite - Try Iskander Kabab the authentic way!


Hello my little pumpkin pips! Although Middle Eastern food generally doesn’t agree with me and hubby Phil, we finally found ourselves a dish that does! Iksendar Kabob! Phil and I decided to go native one night and have an authentic local eating experience at an Iskkandor ‘restoran’! Now when we got there we made sure that we had the 100% real deal, so no sitting at tables and using forks and knives! We demanded they clear a space for us, bring some cushions and put the food on the floor so that we could take our shoes off and eat like true Arab shaiykhes! You would think we asked them to dissect a camel! It seemed they didn’t even understand what we wanted! The problem of course is that Turkey has become so westernized that even Turks no longer eat the traditional way; they now sit at tables and eat with cutlery instead, just like in the First World! Well we were in Turkey and wanted to do things the real Beduin way! So we insisted! Phil and I grabbed either end of the table, moved it aside, took our shoes and socks off, sat cross-legged on the carpet, and proceeded to grab hot fat handfuls of saucy buttery meat and pita and yoghurt in our right hands (the left is not used!), squishing them into nice big Ikssandeer balls, and munched away! Goodness me, did we have fun! The locals around us watched with fascination, some even peering through windows, obviously impressed that we could mix in so well and adopt local customs with such ease! As a show of satisfaction we topped it all off with much belching and loud squeaky passing of wind – the highest compliment in Asian countries! Ta-ta for now!

Ooo, look at my new Mac!

The chicest name in consumer fetishism, Apple Mac computers have become the sine qua non of a narcissistic new class of predatory artsy fartsy intelligentsia that has hijacked art galleries, upscale cafes and environmental conferences everywhere. Whole neighborhoods have been consumed by their voracious appetites for conservation, tolerance, creativity and postmodernism. Cihangir is already lost. It’s time for the evil PC empire to strike back…


It’s the awful moment all us uncool PC-users dread. There’s always some friend of ours who just bought a new PowerBook or an iThis or iThat, and they always act like they just got married or something. “Ooh isn’t it wonderful! Look at it! It’s beautiful! Look at the design! I’m so happy! It’s so smooth and slick, and it works so easily! I love my Mac! I hope you fall in love too some day!” And they really do fall in love with their new Mac. You know why? Because they’re actually in love with themselves.

Buying a Mac is a status symbol, and every Mac-user thinks they’re cooler and smarter than you. By buying a Mac they’re sort of confirming their superiority. It sounds like an exaggeration, doesn’t it? It’s not. Have you been to the Apple store in Şişli, or any Apple store for that matter? The walls are covered with photos of annoyingly pretty, multi-talented technobrats with flowing hair who are both younger and more successful than you, who wear comfy-but-stylish shirts and jeans, all smugly aglow with huge happy smiles on their faces as they surf, or mountain bike, or play guitar, or look pensively over their Mac while sitting on a yoga matt and gazing at a sunset from their beachfront verandah. That’s right, Apple officially targets prats, and it’s shamelessly advertised all over the walls. You should also see the people who browse around the store all ooh-ing and aah-ing like idiots. You’d think they were in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. This is them: “Wow, look at the new Mac!” This is me, but in a sarcastic tone: “Wow, look at the new Mac!”

Okay, this is where the Mac-users who are reading this are going, “Mac’s are sooo much better, they’re easy to use, each is a masterpiece of design and engineering, they make no noise, you don’t get any viruses, the OS-X user-interface beats the XP, Apple cares about their customer, PC’s are evil, Microsoft is Satan, you’re just jealous anyway,” blah blah blah… Yeah, we know. The iTunes, Garageband, iMovies, and all that software are sooo easy to use, it’s all so pleasing to the eyes, it’s so secure, everything is so snug and safe and backed up by Apple, even people with no experience – or talent – can compose songs and make DVDs... Would you like it to change your diapers for you too?

Here’s the proof that Mac-users are smug prats: 1) Co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs, a sexagenarian who walks around in sneakers and jeans and boasts about having a 1-dollar annual salary (check the Guiness Book of Records), although he also gets “gifts” like 90 million-dollar passenger jets from the Apple board of directors. 2) Apple only has around 5-10 percent of a share in the world market for computers, and yet, if you go to any overpriced yuppie café with Wi-Fi, like Gloria Jeans or Starbucks (in Turkey, Starbucks is yuppie), you’ll see that 90 percent of the people there with laptops who are just sooo busy that they don’t have time to fiddle around with their computer at home or at the office – and would love to take every opportunity they can to rub their busy little self-involved creativity in everyone’s face anyway – are Mac-users. Look at them closely; every now and then they’ll give a silent little chuckle to themselves without ever taking their faces from the screen, just before they take a sip of their café latte, as if they were sharing a private joke with their Mac. A Mac-user and their Mac together in public is like seeing an overly affectionate couple with matching clothes who have their own private jokes and whom you wish would just get a room already. In fact, one day Apple should design a porthole through which Mac-users can finally have sex with their computers, then maybe they can get sick of them once in a while and leave them at home for once.

Basically, the difference between Mac-users and PC-users is like the difference between those who drive sleek, European cars and those who don’t. Mac-users are like Mercedes Benz- and BMW-drivers. These cars also have about a 5 percent share in the world automobile market, and are also relatively expensive, since they are niche luxury brands aimed at – you guessed it – PRATS. You can be sure that that black turtleneck sweater-wearing, gelled-hair, 30-something, Gillette-shaven Euro-prat with a tan and a smirk on his face who actually drives with gloves on, uses a Mac.

By contrast, PC’s are loud, noisy and ugly. Let’s face it, a PC’s like a slut compared to a classy Mac. Their software applications are often put together by 6-7 companies instead of the neat little packages all designed and built by Apple; it’s prone to viruses and spam and all sorts of possibly damaging and bothersome outside applications that Macs are too lofty for… In fact, a PC is a big, noisy, gas-guzzling, problematic American Chevy in comparison.

But there is one big advantage to using a PC: At least you’re not a Mac-user.

11/15/06

story - The Lacoste Factor



Casimir Lacoste winced and moaned his tedious way into consciousness, having tried unsuccessfully to ignore the morning sun forcing its way through the wrinkles of his Italian satin curtains and through the creases of his matching satin sheets. As he struggled to come to terms with the hatchet buried in his head – the one he attributed as being the cause of his splitting headache – Casimir tried to put together the pieces of yet another night of debauchery and mayhem. He first sought to recall when he actually went to sleep, vaguely remembering the sun seeping its rays menacingly through the blinds of yet another strange house, with yet more strange people, none of whose names he could remember. He also remembered the shadows that Helios had ironically cast over his conscience, even as he had remained doused in good spirits and continued to babble incoherent nonsense, surfing out the final, dying waves of pharmacologically inspired bliss that splashed on the shores of his drained mind. Amid the “never again”s and the “I wish I hadn’t”s that were exclaimed in the form of inarticulate groans, Casimir found his only solace in the comforting thought that he’d avoided bringing home yet another girl with a body that resembled an over-ripe pear. He half-seriously checked under the sheets, just in case.

A pop, fizz, and a gulp heralded Casimir’s gallant attempt to fight his way back into normality as two noisy aspirin were swallowed with convalescent determination. Next could be heard a snap, crackle and pop, as he prepared his favorite breakfast meal: rice crispies with full-cream milk, honey and banana. Mummy always had boxes of the stuff stashed away in a dry cupboard so it was always only a tug, creak and a snatch away. With Daddy out of town and Mummy on vacation, Casimir would have to bite the bullet and attend his first day of work with feigned intrepidity and an overabundance of self-confidence that would have to go a ways toward compensating for his independence-anxiety. Now if only nobody would notice the hatchet buried in his skull, he should be alright, he thought.

At the ripe old hour of 10:36, by the time the worms had already been caught, devoured, and shat by early birds onto speeding windscreens on the freeway, Casimir made his cheeky and glamorous arrival at his new job, a small dot-com that had been set up just a few months ago. The company had been founded on youthful “I-want-to-be-a-dot-com-too” exuberance, not as yet resigned to its inevitable “I-ran-a-dot-com-into-the-ground-too” fate, and the look and feel of the place resembled a slick ad for what could’ve been a real product. Of course, being an Internet company, there was no real product, just the slick ad. Casimir felt at home, since his other option was to work for a marketing firm. He had also thought of advertising, but he didn’t like the idea of his name being associated with any jingle-driven clichés – the best-case-scenario fate of any successful advertisement, he thought.

Having tightened his buns and sucked in his stomach upon entering the office, Casimir squeezed out his act of self-confidence, this time letting it ooze forth in the form of a wink, a rakish smile and a sideway nod at the first employee he saw. This was rather unfortunately followed by two more of the same cheeky gesture, and then a fourth, so that by the time he offered his tap-tappity-tap-tap on the director’s office door, he had effectively carved out for himself a reputation in the office that usually takes months of social ineptitude and at least one sexual harassment suit to uphold.

The meeting was brief and perfunctory. Casimir already knew he would be working on the new database of triple-A blue chip companies, having talked it over a few days before with the director, who actually happened to be his cousin. Casimir’s uncle had suggested Casimir put in some hours for the company, declaring in the process “if you can’t rely on family, who can you rely on, eh?” And so, remaining aloof to the time-honored dictum “if incompetence cannot rely on nepotism what can it rely on?” Casimir set to his task with a rip-roaring rah-rah spirit that belied everything except his enthusiasm.

As Casimir nestled himself into his cushy new cubicle, he let out a sigh of contentment and satisfaction with his little sinecure. After all, a little money could close the shortfall on his allowance. And besides, he fancied there was some “fit tottie” (as he called it) working in the office, not least of whom would have been the girl in the cubicle behind him, whom he tried sneaking a glance at between his legs as he bent over his knees to pick up the pen that would drop from his hand at shamelessly regular intervals. Casimir felt proud of the ingenuity he demonstrated in being able to make the most of his chronic fidgetiness, especially as he briefly daydreamed of every grade school teacher he ever had regretting and ruing all the “tsk, tsk”s, “tut-tut”s and accusations of dyslexia and hyperactive disorder they had hurled his way; if only they could now see the professional career man that he had obviously become. As the director was heard leaving his office, Casimir finally decided to turn off the daydreaming and turn on his computer to begin his database task, which mainly involved phoning up companies to collect or verify information, and then to store it in an Excel file. In other words, child’s play.

Casimir stretched and cracked some fingers and knuckles, and then began his first calls of the day, swooping in and jousting with one contemptible and assuredly stupid (he thought) secretary after another. With every call, he felt a heightened sense of self-importance, heightened all the more due to his sense of chagrin at having to even exchange words with this execrable rabble he called “secretaries.” He did of course like his daddy’s secretary, but then she was so flattering and charming in her manners, so sincere in her obsequiousness, that she was absolutely adorable. Not like the nasty crones that demanded his name and the name of his company, and then put him on hold, forcing him to bear through another Muzak version of “Hey Jude,” before eventually denying him access to the important people he demanded to talk to. A normal conversation would go something like…

“HELLO I’M CALLING FROM TRIEDANDTRUE.COM, I’D LIKE TO SPEAK TO MR. FEATHERWEIGHT PLEASE!”

“Your name please sir?”

“CASIMIR LACOSTE, AT YOUR SERVICE. IS MR. WEATHERBAIT IN OR SHALL I CALL BACK?”

“What company are you calling from sir?”

“I HARDLY SEE HOW THAT MATTERS, DON’T WORRY I’M NOT TRYING TO SELL ANYTHING OR BUY YOU OUT, I JUST NEED TO SPEAK TO MR. TICKLEMATE”

“Are you dyslexic sir?”

“WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

“I said ‘just a second’ sir”

“YES, RIGHT-E-O”

“…pardon-me-boy-is-this-the-chattanooga-choo-choos…”

“BLOODY HELL, AM I GOING TO LISTEN TO THE-CAT-WHO-CHEWED-YOUR-NEW-SHOES ALL DAY OR WHAT?”

“Sir?”

“YES?!”

“Mr. Micklethwaite is not in at the moment, he’s in the middle of a meeting, can I take a message?”

“YES TELL HIM CASIMIR LACOSTE, JUNIOR DIRECTING BUSINESS ANALYST SUPERVISOR, CALLED FROM TAKETHATANDSHOVEIT.COM AND TELL HIM TO CALL ME BACK WHEN HE GETS IN, OK DEAR? THERE’S A GOOD GIRL!”


The telephone call was usually terminated with a clumsy attempt at crashing the mouthpiece down (even in kindergarten he had difficulty putting the right shapes in the right holes) and was synchronically accompanied by a loud, condescending chuckle that said nothing so much as “I can’t believe I’m dealing with these people.” What often followed was a poke of the head over the cubicle and a snickering glance around at the other employees, spouting off derogatory remarks that seemed to center around the discrepancy in mental agility between others (“Telephone People,” he would call them) and himself, but also in an attempt to foster a sense of camaraderie between himself and his new office coworkers through such presumably shared anecdotes in the never-ending struggle against the “Telephone People.” There would also be the odd spontaneous “OH-OH” or “OH-NO” that followed yet another accident with his complex Excel computer software, and other mishaps that arose with the use thereof. Casimir’s confreres proved too subtle in their silent protestations to even garner a modicum of suspicion from him that they were being less than sympathetic with his cause.

As Casimir’s gap-laced database came along agonizingly slowly, yet another setback even more frustrating than the “Telephone People” came Casimir’s way. A blaring “OOPS… OOOOOOPS…. OH GOD” heralded Casimir’s unfortunate discovery that he had just kicked his computer’s plug out of the socket whilst stretching his legs in as violent and vociferous a fashion as his past two hours of tedious frustration deemed exigent upon him. The knot in his throat was compounded when he came to the unsavory realization that he had also not yet saved his work onto his hard drive, thereby having erased every little phone number, name and address he had desultorily recorded over the last two hours. Even his by now long-suffering colleagues began expressing pity rather than their initial cold belligerence as Casimir proceeded to repeat this truly mind-boggling feat of self-annihilation on two more occasions before it was even lunch time. “BY GOD, I’VE DONE IT AGAIN” would be the dreaded words reverberating about the office, setting eyes rolling and heads falling in post-disbelief resignation to the disastrous challenge fate had hurled into the office that fine, undeserving morning.

Lunchtime came as a savior, and Casimir was positively famished. His ego had taken somewhat of a hit, and he was anxious to drown his sorrow in consumptive pleasure. The object was food. His boss – that is, the director, who was also his cousin – took Casimir with him to a meat restaurant where Casimir engorged himself on half-a-kilo of ribeye steak before digging into the leftovers of his boss’ meal, and then ordering and doing away with yet another corncob, so that by the time he was finished he was truly finished, physically and gastro-intestinally, enclosing himself in the restroom for a solid half hour. After he emerged with water – and not insignificant amounts of sweat – dripping from his face, along with the same glazed look in his eyes as had descended upon him after the third corncob, Casimir was carefully escorted back to the office to carry on with his new job.

By four o’clock in the afternoon, the whole office was working for Casimir Lacoste. The technician had tampered with the normally faulty ventilation for a good half hour as fellow colleagues rushed glasses of carbonated soft drinks and pink peptic syrups back and forth between his cubicle and the kitchenette, all to no avail. Soon Casimir’s stomach cramps became so unbearable that he slid painstakingly off his chair and onto the floor, finally lying supine on the office carpet. By now, the feet that were pathologically propelled away from his body as they knocked out the computer plug from its socket for a solid fourth time was merely passed off as a footnote in the afternoon’s proceedings. Casimir seemed almost delirious, as yet more viscous pink-colored syrup stained his blue pin-striped shirt. Voices rose and fell in the form of incomprehensible blabber and from the distance he sensed he could see Orpheus the cat chewing a shoe and playing a lyre on a train from Chattanooga. He was very ill.

After another few forays into the office bathroom, where he proceeded to drive the proverbial “porcelain truck” with some hefty pit stops along the emesis highway, Casimir Lacoste finally decided to lie down on the conference table in the director’s office, although it was an unstable one that was right next to the floor-to-ceiling windows that afforded a view onto the teeming city street below. And yet, before he could even hear his cousin’s warning, Casimir rolled over onto his side, thereby tipping all his weight off-center, leading to the collapse of the table into the window, thus effectively sandwiching Casimir between a heavy pinewood surface and a fragile glass frame that only just decided not to give way in the face of the full brunt of the table’s collapse in this latest in a tragedy of errors usually reserved for the silent film era. By now all Casimir could venture forth was a whimper – and that was the way his world nearly ended: both with a bang and a whimper. As his cousin and his co-workers swarmed all around to help him from this rather tight situation, the people who had looked up from the bus-stop down in the street stared in bewilderment at the large, plump, apple-red cheeks pressed against a window on the 6th floor of the building that towered above them. They noticed the other white-collared employees rushing to the aid of this poor hapless creature who had so nearly flown out the building on a wing and a prayer… and a substantial amount of Pepto Bismol-soaked ribeye

Casimir was hauled up and led back to his cubicle, and as the director’s office was being set back into order, with Casimir’s fingerprints and facial grease being wiped off the glass, Casimir was becoming decidedly frustrated with his first day at work, which really wasn’t going the way he’d expected, or even adding up to much more than a complete flop. He sensed this was probably the general consensus around the office as well (which for a split-second resembled in his mind a malicious Rube Goldberg device that was out to get him), and this made him irritable. His indignation aroused, Casimir let forth a decidedly audible “hmmph” before storming back to his cubicle (carefully avoiding the imaginary discarded banana peels and idle rakes strewn along his path) and throwing himself at his task with renewed ferocity. Tap-tappity-tap rang his keyboard, and people had just become accustomed to relative normalcy, when all of a sudden the phone rang. It was for Casimir. His desire to work at his uncle’s marketing firm in New York was now in jeopardy because of visa problems.

Panic seized Casimir as surely as frustration seized the rest of the office. Hysterical protestations of “HOW DARE THEY!”s and “HOW COULD THIS BE?”s were followed by an unfortunate amount of audible thinking on Casimir’s part. His cousin, the director, tried to help him. The first task was to call…

“DADDY? YES, HULLO DADDY, I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THE WORK PERMIT, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING… YES… WELL DO YOU KNOW ANYONE THERE? RIGHT… WHO?…. WELL BETTER GET HIM ON THE CASE THEN… RIGHT, OK… BYE DADDY!”

A way would be found. For the rest of the afternoon people called, connected, dialed, redialed and then reconnected every phone-line the company had for the sake of Casimir’s crusade to move to Manhattan by September of that year. Soon Casimir looked like the producer of a TV news show, accepting, declining, offering intermediary ideas, expressing hope and then distress as call after call flew back and forth between lawyers, bureaucrats, geeks, totties, horrible secretaries, Daddy’s sweet secretary, friends, Daddy, Mummy, and whatever hapless civilian happened to get caught up in between. Casimir’s uncompromising English accent belched forth one anomalous expression or comment after another, when finally, by evening, a lawyer was found who would take charge of what had by now become ubiquitously known as “The Lacoste Case”, aided by an insider in the relevant ministry’s bureaucracy, and a push and a shove from Daddy himself. Casimir’s “WHEW, THAT WAS A CLOSE ONE!” followed by his trademark cheeky grin, marked the end of the working day. The show was a success after all, everything worked out, God was in his heaven and all was well on earth.

Casimir gave a big grin, brought his hands behind his head, leaned back in his seat, and – of course – kicked his feet out and knocked the plug out of the socket for the fifth time. But Casimir was a step ahead this time, for he’d saved all his work. Even as the screen went “bleep” and blank, he didn’t hurry to plug the computer back in. After all, it was almost time to go home. He sat there grinning, wondering what that smell of burning plastic was all about. It was a distinctly noisome smell and he wanted it gone. It was then that he noticed there was smoke emanating from under his desk, and that he had a very, very bad itch in his toes. Casimir jumped in the air when he realized that it wasn’t an itch but a burn, and he let out a scream and a terrible cry when he found that the plug and the computer cables and part of the carpet were all aflame.

“OOOH MY GOD, FIRE, FIRE… EVERYBODY RUN!” shouted Casimir with a shrill, panicked voice at the top of his lungs.

The entire office jumped up out of their cubicles and ran around in panic amid more screams and shrieks. The director ran out of his office and wanted to know what was going on. He instinctively looked first at Casimir’s cubicle, and sure enough, his desk, his computer and a good portion of his cubicle were all alight. He saw Casimir screaming and running for the wrong door – and then to the elevator – as others ran for the fire escape. The director – his cousin – grabbed him and shook him, trying to calm him down, but Casimir wouldn’t listen.

“JESUS CHRIST, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” Casimir screamed.

The director slapped him across the face, but Casimir just panicked even more and threw himself to the side where, unfortunately, there happened to be another computer on another desk in another cubicle. Casimir lost his balance as he cowered away from the slap and fell crashing onto the computer. The entire desk collapsed under the weight of his body. The director ran for the nearest fire extinguisher and unloaded it all on Casimir’s cubicle. The fire had already spread to the adjoining cubicles, however, and now the director found himself screaming at Casimir to get up and help him. Everybody else had fled from the office, naturally unwilling to risk their lives. Casimir was in a daze. His stomach churning, his body hurting, his mind spinning, his heart thumping and his hands and knees shaking, he mumbled incoherently to himself.

“are you… Chattanooga, cat, who chewed ya, I should have choo-chooed ya…”

As the director ran past him to get another extinguisher, he grabbed Casimir by the collar and pulled him up, ripping his pink-stained (and now blood and smoke stained) shirt as he tried to shake him out of his shock. Casimir cried out “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY!!!???” and he curled up in a ball and continued babbling insanely. By this time, the director had got another extinguisher and was foaming it all over the rest of the fire which was, within five minutes, finally out. The wailing fire engines screeched to a halt and firemen came marching up the stairwell. They burst into the office to find a smoke-filled mess. The director lay soot-faced on the floor trying to breath, while Casimir rolled around on the floor crying as broken computer parts dug painfully into his ribs.

The firemen took them outside where there stood assembled the rest of their coworkers. They cheered when they saw Casimir and their boss rescued and seemingly alive. At that moment a chauffeur-driven limousine pulled up alongside one of the fire engines. It was Casimir’s father’s driver who had come to pick him up after his first day at work. His face sooty, with the residual streaks left in the wake of the tears that ran down his cheeks, his shirt bloody, pink, black and ripped, his hair frazzled, his right shoe burnt, his dyspeptic stomach in pain, Casimir began walking toward the limousine, still in a shocked daze. The chauffeur dutifully opened the car door for him, helped him in, and then drove off.

Thus ended Casimir’s first, and almost last, day at the dot-com, save for the 3:15 p.m. appearance he put in the next day, just before he had to take off at 6:00 p.m. in order to make it to the Turkish Embassy cocktail. Despite feeling a little groggy, Casimir Lacoste gave good account of himself, tightening his buns, sucking in his stomach and trying his darnedest to remember what the Turkish Ambassador’s name was – yet again…

“AH, MR. AIRGUN PELLET!”

Diplomats, bureaucrats and their wives were impressed by the story of his day at work. They gasped and raised eyebrows as they heard of his brush with death, the time he prevented an entire conference table from crashing through the glass and onto the unsuspecting pedestrians below by throwing himself between it and the window; the time he was given a faulty computer that exploded in his face even as he still managed to fulfill the task at hand; the time he contracted food poisoning yet braved through it all and kept working; and of course the fantastic feat of heroism in which he not only fought a fire but saved the entire office and his coworkers by warning them of the danger, even as he stayed back until the fire was out and his cousin – the director – was safe. As he took a smug sip of his white wine, he basked in the admiring stares of the eminent company around him.

“Yeees,” said one diplomat with a French accent, “working is such a dangerous profession these days.”

Casimir smiled.

“Well of course,” he said, “the people in charge are all so incompetent!”

They all laughed heartily at this, and nodded their heads in agreement. Casimir was the only one unable to avoid spilling part of his drink on his shoe.

11/12/06

My worst dolmuş ride ever


As soon as I hailed the dolmuş I knew I was screwed. It was packed full and the driver was wearing a gold neck chain that rested on a thick teeming bed of chest hair that gushed up through the part in his shirt where there should have been two buttoned buttons instead. His sunglasses pointed in my direction, indicating that he had probably seen me, but he saw fit to stop ten meters down the road instead.

As I ran over to the dolmuş, my laptop swung right and left off my back like a clumsy pendulum, throwing me off balance as I ran, probably giving the impression that I was either drunk or retarded by the time my sweaty red head made its entry into the dolmuş – but only after it first bumped the top of the door. Before I could say ouch, I noticed the automatic door was slowly crushing my thumb with such steady conviction that it seemed to be enjoying it. I just rescued my thumb (though not without letting escape a decidedly unmanly yelp), squeezed into a seat where my knees didn’t fit, put the laptop on my (you guessed it) lap, and tried to look for change in my pocket as I stretched and thrashed and fumbled around to get a single 1 YTL coin out of my sweaty “god-I-wish-I-were-wearing-shorts-instead” pants that were stuck to my skin in the summer heat. I ended up taking out the entire content of my pockets – some bills, a box of gum, and a bunch of coins. No sooner were they out, we hit a speed bump at around 50 km/h, which made me drop all the sweaty contents of my hand on the floor of the dolmuş. It was such an unfortunate event that as soon as I realized it was actually happening, it all seemed as if in slow motion.

Now usually the last thing you want to do on a crowded dolmuş is anything at all except just sitting put until your stop. The very last thing you want to do is look for little coins under people’s feet, trying to act like you’re not some sort of sexual deviant. Well not me, no sir. I relish this kind of stuff... So I gave my laptop to the passenger next to me to hold, and I slowly tried to squeeze my head down into where my knees were, groping around for coins and bills as my face was squashed into the black, sticky upholstery of the seat in front. Just then the driver hit the brakes, and I was thrown off my seat altogether, now on all fours on the floor with my head virtually in the crotch of the passenger who was holding my laptop. Think of beautiful things, think of beautiful things… Halfway as I was getting up, the driver had obviously found some sort of “traffic hole” and relished putting foot to gas pedal, thus throwing me violently back into my seat. Now although my butt made it to the right place, I was still sideways, so my face ended up on the next passenger’s stomach – nose first. Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, beautiful things, beautiful things…

I finally straightened myself up and climbed into my seat with what coins and bills I had been able to scrape up from the floor with my fingernails. The guy next to me stared at me horrified after our Close Encounter of the Disturbing Kind. I took my laptop back and said the only thing a dignified gentleman could say: “Thank you.”

OK, I was cool again, nothing could go wrong now. It was then that the woman in front of me (the one whose ass my face was virtually pressed against while on the floor) decided to close the window next to her, turning to her daughter to add “we’ll get sick if there’s a draft.” The old Turkish “if-the-wind-blows-we’ll-get-sick” superstition strikes again! Now usually, with an open window, you can put up with the smell of a crowded dolmuş. But when that window closes, it’s like you’re suddenly sitting in a massive armpit. As expected, that all-too-common smell of human flesh marinated in its own dried sweat began to take on an almost palpable presence. Before long, the entire dolmuş smelled like a mountain climber’s sock. I pleaded for her to open the window, to no avail. Her look said “Do you want us all to die of pneumonia?” My look said “Of course not… not of pneumonia anyway. Something a lot more painful.”

I was finally relieved when a bunch of people got off at Beşiktaş. We were proceeding along the shores of the Bosphorus, so I could now put my laptop in the seat next to me, slide over next to the window, and look at the beautiful view of… the blurry smudge of hair grease left by the last person who rested their head against the glass. That was it, I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to get off NOW. I told the driver to stop, paid him, and as the door opened and I took my first step out, I felt a ridiculous sense of relief… like a cow that had just had to tap-dance its way out of a slaughterhouse (I said ridiculous). The air was never fresher, the future was never brighter, the dolmuş that was speeding away was never further away from me than at that moment. Actually, I thought, it wasn’t that bad a ride. I mean, I’m sure I’ve had worse rides than that before…

Wait a minute, where’s my laptop?

story - The Wasp


(Based on a dream by J. Alfred Prufrock)

A wasp is a rude creature. It intrudes uninvited, seeking to make my home its home, without paying rent, or a single one of these bills, without lending a hand with the groceries, or helping take the dog out for a walk, without knocking when it enters, or saying goodbye when it leaves. And I’m often left thinking behind it. It bothers me that it has never introduced itself, or kept me even the most trivial company on those long nights after work. It seems not to acknowledge my existence, and that pains me the most. It flies when it likes, goes where it likes, and recognizes nothing beyond its own being.

And if I were not to reason this way (and I believe I have good reason)? Not even attention, let alone an apology. In fact it would further threaten me. It has done so in the past, when I approach to observe its incessant buzzing, its busyness, working, traveling, to and fro. And once, when I approached its nest, it well near chased me out of the room. No, to open my mouth and reason would bring me nothing but a nasty sting in the tongue. If I told the people at work I’m sure they would make fun of me. They take every opportunity for doing so anyway, so why should this be any different? They would think me making a big deal out of nothing, as if I didn’t have the right. Perhaps they would even think me insane. “Just kill it,” they would say, “What’s a wasp?”

What’s a wasp? What is it? An insect, nothing more. A large, flying insect. But I have to admit it’s a graceful creature. And it’s a subtle creature, so much more subtle than all these polite human cattle that surround me, that live next door to me and yet intrude on my sensibilities more than this wasp, this merciless monster in miniature that shares my home. So much more subtle is its pitiless will, a will as direct and unwavering as a straight line and as venomous and unyielding as its own sting. And yet it’s still more comforting in its deadliness than even the most comforting of my so-called friends, who waste no time in saying what they really mean behind my back. The wretches. And this wasp, gliding regally through this room, as if a discoverer, an adventurer, so elegant, so beautiful in colors of black and yellow lifted under the humming blur of its diaphanous wings beating incredibly in the air, an extraordinary cyclone of activity suspending its tiny universe in a balanced, floating stillness. It has no idea of how beautiful it looks, warding off predators courageously, looking danger in the eye without conscience, reason, emotion or fear, doing away with intruders in arrogant fashion, tackling other creatures for the protection of its nest and its future offspring, to reproduce, to bring forth life and then to perish, having run its course and lived its time. I must have looked a sorry sight; me, with my slippers, pyjamas and thinning hair, with a rolled newspaper in my hand, preying on this fine, lean, warlike animal with agile wings, a hard, poisonous sting, its sword, its weapon, bravely holding its ground with nothing but its own stoic countenance, unadulterated instinct and unswerving will.

And here I am, bloated wretch, of dead muscle, numbed nerves, rotted, smoke-infested lungs, of insipid intellect wasted over countless hours behind a desk in an office, a decaying mass of stifled passion, yellow, dead skin, thinning hair (have I mentioned my hair?), and eyes far too snug in their sockets to dare seek more. Here, in the extravagance of my waste, and with all the comforts that sustain this impotence – this affront to life itself that I awake to see every morning in the mirror – here I have the effrontery to prey upon the life of this fine creature for the sake of my own peace of mind, I who deserve none yet have all. And what is my future, what is my goal, where lies my destiny? How could I create new life when I have not even created and appreciated my own? How without a woman? How comrades when hardly a friend? How, when music makes sad and change makes weary? To be weary of oneself is horrific. I live this horror every day of my life.

I once had a dream in those few hours of sleep when oblivion loves me. In that dream I witnessed a swarm of millions in the shape of a giant hammer striking blows – huge thunderous blows – upon a large fatted calf that had such thick hide as deemed it impenetrable and protected it from any harm. It stood its stead and did not budge, standing firm as it had done over countless millennia, impervious and sullen, gradually getting older, the calf becoming a cow, even as the swarm had now merged with all the heavens, with all its angels and demons, to form one omnipotent, solid hammer striking blows that would tear the universe asunder, but not this cow. Like a wrath that had festered in the heart of a dark primordial longing, the swarms inflicted their vengeful force over and over again upon this unholy domesticated beast, inflicting a power that sought only to satisfy its own destructive malice.

And then, in a moment of respite, the thunder of the heavens dissipated. The swarm dispersed and the light shone through, once more, as dawn broke through and spread across the land like a hopeful embrace. And just then, this wretched cow that had suffered and endured the blows of the swarms and the heavens for thousands of years, this wretched cow began to crack and open, without a sound, without so much as a whimper, and it crumbled and fell as if it had all along been made of mere ashes and flimsy sticks. And as the cow was annihilated, from under its hide a cocoon appeared, warm, white and pulsating.

At mid-day there emerged a moth from the chrysallis, without bright, warlike colors, without the long, lean, dextrous limbs, without hard, armored skin. There emerged a moth of soft round body, of grey furry surface, with no penetrating weapon, but soft and yielding, of clumsy, slow beating wings, without the clear, lucid eyes, without the long black unfaltering antennae, without the fearsome beauty, without the hard warlike spirit that could take on and conquer the world.

In fact (and I remember this well) all it had were wings and the light, but it did fly.

11/11/06

What is a Turk?

Like names, religions, birthmarks and congenital diseases, nationality is yet another burden we’re born with and which is – for better or for worse – a major factor in our definition of selfhood. But what the hell does it mean to be a Turk?


You know the dictum “Happy is the one who says s/he is a Turk.” Now, if you haven’t already thrown yourself into the arms of glorious Turkish citizenship upon hearing it, I understand. That propaganda was meant for an overwhelmingly illiterate population which had just come out of over a decade of wars, had lost an empire, and had fought tooth and nail for a homeland in the face of occupying powers. In other words, you’d better be happy, because that’s all you’ve got. So you probably wouldn’t get it. But the problem is, neither do I, and I’m a Turk. In fact it sounds more like someone’s trying to get away with something, like everything is justified for the sake of Turkishness – war, corruption, incompetence, oppression, whatever… “Just be happy and don’t worry about the details.” As a result, I’m often left pondering instead on how “Confused is the one who considers him/herself a Turk.”

Let’s face it, Turks don’t have a great reputation. Europeans used to scare their children by saying they’d feed them to the Turks. In fact you can sum it up in two words: Midnight Express. Very few times have I met someone outside of Turkey who, after I told that person I was Turkish, didn’t at some point in the conversation bring up that they’d seen that movie, usually immediately. In fact that’s all they’d do, just mention that they’d seen it and then look at you expecting a reaction with a slightly malicious twinkle in their eyes. I’d of course just ask where the beer is and move on, but there’d always be a part of me that just wanted to ram an ashtray down that person’s throat. And it would get me thinking what the hell a Turk is – in other words, what I am.

Read up any history book – or our own Turkish high school textbooks – and the Turks will appear to have come from Mongolia. The oldest Turkish inscriptions – the Orhun inscriptions – are still there, and the Turkic languages are included with Mongolic and Tungusic as being Altaic languages (into which some linguists also include Korean and Japanese). That’s all cool, but then I look around me – and at myself – and I see nothing that makes me feel even the remotest sense of affinity with that supposed origin. We don’t have epicanthic eyes, or look anything like those people. In fact we don’t even look like our fellow Turks in Central Asia. Sure they speak a related language to us, but I’ll be damned if I can understand more than a few words of Kazak, Tatar or Uzbek, let alone care to.

DNA research shows that we are most closely related with all our neighboring nations, but then that poses another problem: we hate all our neighboring nations. And they’re not exactly in love with us either. Greeks, Arabs, Armenians, Bulgarians, Georgians, Cypriots and Persians generally define their national identities in opposition to Turks, and vice versa. We all celebrate the time we kicked one or the other out of our “homelands.” And yet we’re all more racially – and in many ways culturally – interrelated with our neighbors than we are with our fellow Turks in Central Asia. A comparison of the DNA of the local population of Selçuk near Ephesus in western Turkey with the DNA from the bones of people who lived in that area thousands of years ago reveals that the local population is directly descended from the people that lived around there in antiquity. So the obvious dilemma arises: those people who were taught to believe they are descendents of Central Asiatic Turks who conquered Anatolia in the 11th century are actually descendents of the local Greeks that lived there instead and whom they’re supposed to have conquered! The ties between southeastern Turks with Arabs and Kurds, of northeastern and eastern Turks with Georgians and Armenians, of Thracians with Bulgarians, of central Anatolians with the ancient Hittites will also be apparent in the same way. Thus, the word “nation” is, etymologically speaking, a lie that comes from the Latin root “nascere” meaning “birth” as in “of the same mother’s womb, of the same origin.” But as our racial mixture proves, this is not the case.

So what the hell are we then? We obviously have to forsake the racial aspect to our national identity. But then that means our whole concept of nationality is just based on language and state, and more significantly the latter. Ultimately language is an instrument of state power, and whatever state holds sway over a population, the language it propagates through its ideological apparatuses (school, media, propaganda, myth) becomes the language – and identity – of that population. But then you can’t help but see how fickle your sense of nation is… all it takes is for another state and language to conquer you and your national identity changes, the way it became Turkish over the last few hundred years. So national identity is really just a convenient means of domination that is upheld by – and in turn upholds – a systemic power apparatus (the State), and is merely a tool for instilling a sense of self-subjugation by internalizing State power into the consciousness of the subject-citizen…?

Maybe, but nationalism does have one magic recourse that never fails to seduce: the printed word. Ultimately, we like to cling to national identity because we want to feel like a part of something bigger, like a part of history, of glorious conquest and empire, success and greatness. Every time we read of our nation vanquishing foreign armies, building magnificent empires, conquering continents, being led by great heroes, we enjoy associating ourselves with that if only to overcome our own inevitable mortality, to live glory vicariously through history books in spite of our average, mundane, ordinary personal lives (which is also why we like football, because it’s basically a self-contained, easy-to-use micro-war). When you get on the bus to go to work and see the people around you, you hardly feel a sense of empathy – let alone solidarity or pride – with your fellow nationals. But when you open a book and see the magic word “Turk,” it’s like you’re looking at your own name as you besiege Vienna, conquer Egypt, defeat the Greeks, do battle at Gallipoli, and so on. The “I” becomes “We” and you feel like you’re a part of something greater. So ultimately nationality is just a delusional narcissistic vanity trip. Sure, there are the horrible things we’ve done in history too, but we tend to overlook those and leave them for our enemies to remind us about, God bless them.

And what if I didn’t have that nationality? What could I be proud of? Writing some silly article in a magazine? Graduating from university? Speaking English well, maybe? I’ll take a tiny part in the Conquest of Constantinople over those any day. So, all in all, I guess I am one who is happy to be a Turk – even though I’m still somewhat confused… and, come to think of it, three-quarters Circassian. Now my head hurts.

11/8/06

Artsy tarts

Introducing the pseudo-hippie art school graduate who’s out to blow our minds and broaden our horizons.


And then there’s the Artsy Fartsy Liberated Girl. In conservative Turkish society where people abide by very set standards of dress and fashion, rarely straying from “the look” they’ve chosen to belong to, it’s no wonder that the Artsy Fartsy Liberated Girl also abides by set standards of style. In fact, the standard appearance can be acquired with a simple purchase of the Artsy Fartsy Liberated Girl Action Kit (“AFLGAK,” pronounced “Afflegack”), thus helping her conform to rigid standards of non-conformism.

Unlike the Yuppie Combo Kit (or “YUCK”) – which comes with a pre-gelled attachable hair set, attachable smirk, adjustable double chin and belly, complimentary collared Polo shirt, and a mirror – or indeed the Nişantaşette All-Girl Set (“NAGS”) which comes replete with lip gloss, nasal congesting spray (for that extra annoying nagging tone every time she opens her mouth), do-it-yourself rhinoplasty kit, and mirror – the Artsy Fartsy Liberated Girl Action Kit has some very different items, although the mirror is still included, albeit in an artsy fartsy Indian frame with painted elephants and fat little Buddhas.

Contrary to the YUCKs and the NAGS, the Afflegack purchaser can expect to find a book in her kit. Literacy is an important differentiation point in the Afflegack. Whereas the YUCKs can only read the sports pages and the daily currency exchange rates, and whereas the NAGS can only read big catchy titles and very short, numbered paragraphs accompanied by lots of colorful distracting photos (i.e. in magazines), the Afflegacks make a point of letting everybody know that their favorite book is the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This, as you might guess, is the book that’s included in the Afflegack, although there is also the choice of the kits which come with The Teachings of Don Juan. She will then mention her painting, her poems, reincarnation, and probably some capoeira. This will of course lead to a short monologue that is spattered with words like “karma” and probably something about being “free from the ego.”

Of course, being “free from the ego” doesn’t necessarily mean one is free from wanting to look hot. After all, the Artsy Fartsy Liberated Girl has to get laid too. That’s why the Afflegack also includes dreadlocks or pink hair dye, a small tattoo, some piercings, and a balanced assortment of worn clothes, ripped jeans and loose exotic “ethnic” items. Thus, although she should be able to have an opinion on everything and impress men with her liberated, intelligent, idealistic views on everything from Iraq to clubbing baby seals, she does still have to nab a guy who’s going to be blown away by her wonderfully liberated artsy fartsyness. Obviously this has to be someone “who gets her” (and you’ll hear about how people just don’t “get her,” being, as she is, yet another one-of-a-kind). So the guy who “gets her,” and thus gets her, has to be 1) just as corny as she is, otherwise he’ll just end up pointing her out to his friends and laughing out loud every time she says the word “postmodern,” and 2) so anxious to get laid he’s willing to put up with all the crap that’s coming out her mouth, even though he knows there’s no hope of it abating in the foreseeable future, either pre- or post-coitus.

Another crucial factor for the Artsy Fartsy Liberated Girl is the need to be spontaneous. A little booklet explains how this can be achieved: For example, to dance especially when nobody else is dancing, acting like you can pick up subtle rhythms in the music which nobody else can hear. This can be communicated through feigning a trance-like state while using a lot of unnecessary and uncalled-for arm, hand and finger movements, unusual footwork punctuated by kicks, the throwing back and forth of the head, all with closed eyes and a perfect “I’m-in-harmony-with-the-universe” expression plastered across her face. This will leave the uncomfortable standers-by wondering how to deal with her, whether they should look on, smile, clap, whoop, dance along or just look away… the confusion of which is of course the intended effect and part of her standard aggressive attention-seeking. Another spontaneous display of Artsy Fartsy Liberatedness includes jumping on random guys for piggy back rides, spontaneously bursting out into song, talking to strangers about Simone de Beauvoir, and taking every opportunity to show off her creativity – something which can often involve drawing things on napkins or making figures out of tooth picks. These creative outbursts might cause you to lose your temper and blurt out “We get it, you’re an artist, can we eat our burgers now?” but don’t, because you’ll just be asking for a rant on how “narrow-mindedly chauvinistic” you are, and you will NEVER win that argument without actually coming out looking like a narrow-minded chauvinist.

Finally, no Artsy Fartsy Liberated Girl Kit is complete without the requisite “I’ve-been-through-so-much-shit” stories, usually involving abusive ex-boyfriends and/or fathers, a car crash in which a close friend died, a spiritual catharsis she once had in Latin America or India (whichever), and a “the-time-I-tried-to-commit-suicide” anecdote, all of which serve to fend off any inevitable “Who’s-this-wanker?” sentiments from those around her. It’s actually a clever ploy, because you never know if it’s actually true or not, so you have to refrain from making fun of her whether you like it or not. But then, it’s just as well you do refrain, because that’s just bad karma, and bad karma has a tendency to come around and bite you on the ass when you end up living your next life as a dung beetle or something.