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Back to the fancy stuff


So, I have spent most of last month playing around with casual wear for avatars. Which is all very well and good up to a certain point, but after a while boredom does set in. I usually wait to stumble upon something to give me an idea, and this time it was a big series of vectorized vintage flowers that I saw on vecteezy, one of my favorite resource haunts. So far I have ended up with 4 skin based outfits that are based upon these drawings. As is often the case with floral elements they all have historic overtones, one nearer in time to present day than the other three - more Art Deco than medieval, so to speak. But, in the end, all of them belong to a different age.

I think I have finally gotten the hang of making things for mesh avatars. And especially mesh heads, which is quite tricky actually since there are so many different brands out there and with most of them the UV maps don't exactly match. What one has to do therefore is have a whole range of demo mesh heads on which to test the skin until a common denominator that works for most of them is found. Hopefully I now have that. At least no complaints from the customers so far, which is all to the good.


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Üsküdar

 I have been working on the Istanbul Facebook page quite diligently. However, so far I have not really ventured much outside of my own hood, Beşiktaş, where God knows there is enough material to fill not only one but many Facebook pages. The thing is that I want people to see other things too, of course. Especially other lifestyles.
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Dress-up Games


I have been in SL more of late. Finally managed to make the transition to the mesh body and the mesh head for Alpha. Wasn't easy to do, I still miss the scurrilous little face that the classic avi used to have and that, for the life of me, I cannot seem to achieve with the mesh head. Far too perfect. Far too smooth.
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Bıdık the Crow


My housemate Hafize has been taking care of a young crow for the past few weeks. And the relationship is becoming so hilarious that I want to make a note of it.

Bıdık, as the crow is named (means little one in Turkish), was found between two parked cars in the dead of night in a neighborhood called Çağlayan where Hafize had gone to visit her sister. Baby crows are actually quite big, you know they are babies from their wings which are still unformed and their beaks which are thin and relatively soft. He was kept inside for the first few days, but then we realized that he would be OK outdoors provided he was near an open window in case he needed to flee inside. He has grown very quickly, can now fly (after a fashion - he still cannot gracefully glide the way adult crows do, quite a bit of excessive wing flapping there), he gets fed raw chicken, cheese and meat as special treats but his main food is cat kibbles which he seems to thoroughly enjoy.

And he is an absolute delight to have around. Very funny, very mischievous, extremely inquisitive. I had always heard that crows are highly intelligent, but I had no idea they were this intelligent. Far more intelligent than the cats and the dog, as far as I can tell. And a very pronounced personality. Scurrilous, deceitful, playful, obstinate.

I hope he learns to eventually fend for himself, not live his life as a pampered house-crow (if there is such a thing). He has been flying further and further and there are plenty of crows around here. So, my big hope is that he will somehow hook up with them. But meanwhile he is with us. Hafize and the neighbors have been taking a lot of videos of him, and I have started to collect them on youtube here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvbK8Vus5VDV8rrPcLqReow/videos
There's some other stuff there as well, of course, but the bulk of it is crow and cat stuff. And I will go ahead and embed one of the funniest ones here:


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Beşiktaş


I am not terribly patriotic when I think about Turkey as a whole. Sure I want the country to be OK. Sure, I want it to get out from under this yoke of oppression and tyranny - which I am fairly confident that it will, sooner or later. Sure, I like hearing the music, or eating the food. But, I do not well up in tears when I see the flag or anything like that. I do not think we are better than anyone else on the globe.

I become a bit more involved when it comes to Istanbul. But, when it comes to my own neighborhood Beşiktaş, I become a card carrying, flag waving, fully fledged patriot. I love love love where I live. The people. The mixture. The congestion. The animals. The sweet young things that flock from all over the city to congregate in the cafes and bars. The black and white that designates the colors of the soccer team around which everything here revolves. The un-elitism. Very important that.

And that brings me to "Çarşı" of course. The soccer fan club whose world view centers on anarchy, whose motto "Çarşı herşeye karşı" translates as "Çarşı is against everything." I know nothing about soccer, wouldn't know the difference between a goal post and a center field. But, "Çarşı" is something different. Something that goes beyond soccer. Something that brings together humor, kindness, protest and a deeply selfless love for a team - not because it wins, but also because it loses. I linked to a very good article on Çarşı (which I really do think is an international phenomenon) above, so I will not say more myself.

Long and short of it - I love my hood. I identify with it. I feel great wandering its many crooked unkempt streets. Going up to the park that has become one of the emblems of the Istanbul protest scene. And so, inevitably many of the Istanbul FB page pictures are taken from around here. At least initially, for now they are. 
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My city is Istanbul


I may have found a way to put my street photos to some use. Not in terms of creativity, or design. I still have no ambitions or confidence in that regard. But there is something else that has been bugging me for ages, and there I may be able to do something with them. Which is trying (against all odds) to change the perception that people have of my city by starting a Facebook page (awful design, but nothing to be done about that, it is the thing that has the reach) where I simply post what I capture around me. And also a tumblr where I post the pictures in a much nicer way, mostly in order to satisfy my own designer cravings. Doubt that too many people will be looking at that one.

Funnily enough it isn't only foreigners who have a very warped perception of this place. Locals have it too. For me, this city is magic. For the Western tourists who come here it is what they see in the historic peninsula and what they see from the top of the tour bus. They come here with a mis-perception that this is an exotic, oriental city and there is plenty to re-enforce that if all they see is the Grand Bazaar, the palace, the historic mosques and the flocks of Arabic tourists who tend to congregate there and whom they will invariably mistake for locals. 

For the locals the city is a nightmare of traffic, of congestion. And there is something in the psyche here that involves a lot of self-deprecation. I see this in my students, my friends, my relatives. A deep deep dissatisfaction with who they are and what surrounds them. Very low self esteem. A lot of "we will never amount to anything" nonsense. I have been to lots of big cities. From Hong Kong to Sao Paolo. And of course all the usual suspects like London, Rome and Paris. And yes - 30 years ago Istanbul was a very provincial sister to these. I have actually written about how the city transformed and re-invented itself right here on this blog

Today, it rocks. It is the metropolis to end all metropolises. It rocks with its youth, with its street animals, with its protest politics, its anger. Its humor. Its resilience. I live in, and therefore I obviously wander around in areas that are congenial to me. I know that there are vast neighborhoods where life is quite different. I know that there is lots of poverty for example. That poverty I do not see where I am. The city is huge. You could spend a lifetime here and not see most of it ever. But I have decided to show what I do see everyday. And hopefully to enable an alternative way of looking at this society. Neither as an orientalist fantasy, nor as a "we will never amount to anything" negativity. We do amount to something. Something energetic, funny, wild, contradictory and provocative. And that is what I want to show. 
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Julian Assange


I am very upset about this. In fact, I obsess about it. For the man himself and what he has been subjected to obviously, but I also obsess about what this means. In Gordon Dimmack's words "this is the biggest story ever, in ever ever - bigger than Brexit, bigger than anything else" - speaking as someone from the UK. As someone from Turkey, Brexit has never been high on my agenda anyway, but looking at it from here, it is bigger than all the horror stories we are currently undergoing in this country also.

I do not want to romanticize this by posting a picture of Assange and his cat. It is simply one of the most expressive pictures of him that I could find, that it is all. What is happening here is far too serious to romanticize. I have been aware, for a long time now, that freedom of press / expression, democracy, human rights are gone from the entire globe. We, here in Turkey, get extremely worked up about what is happening here, in our own country. As we should! What most of us here fail to see however is that we are only a part of a much bigger global pattern. The powers in the West do it far more subtly, that is all. Or that has been the case up until recently. But now with Julian Assange all pretense, all subtlety has finally been tossed out of the window. It is staring us in the face.

What I am especially very upset about is the lack of reaction. Here, as I said, we are so engrossed in our own tragedies that we don't see it. And also, I think that people who do see it prefer to not show it in order to maintain this illusion that all is still OK in the West and that once we break out of this yoke of tyranny that we are currently subjected to, and once again join the "free world" all will be fine. Except that the "free world" is no longer free.

So, why are there so many journalists, academicians, and politicians jailed here and not over there then? Could it be that over here there is far more dissent? That the propaganda that we, in this country, have been subjected to has been so clumsy, so ham fisted, so overt, that it simply hasn't worked? That we have seen beyond it - journalists and all? But that instead, the masses in the "free world" are so far propagandized, and in such a subtle way (again journalists and all) that there isn't that much dissent? Ergo, no imminent need to throw people in jail en masse? What was it that William Casey said to Ronald Reagan in 1981? "We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."

And then along came Julian Assange. To whose plight (which is actually their own plight, their own freedom, their own future!) no one is reacting. So, obviously the plan has worked.

And, I am very very very upset. 
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Going out on the streets


After exhausting home and cat photo topics I have ventured outdoors with the phone and have started taking street photos. I still get nervous when I point the thing at people but I am also realizing that, unlike a real camera, the phone does not seem phase anyone. They probably think I am just texting someone when I hold it up like that.

The results aren't great or anything like that. No Cartier-Bresson in the making. But I do enjoy it. I am also finding (as I also did years ago when I was taking photos for a conference web site) that taking just a single shot doesn't really capture the spirit of the streets. So, I am stitching together series of photos into panoramas. Seems to work better somehow.

No idea how long I will keep doing this. Not sure if it could be some sort of creative activity for me. There are lots of urban photographers I admire (my darling Murat being not the least among them), but I don't think I am cut out to be one of them. I will probably grow tired of it at some point. However, for now it is a lot of fun. Gets me out of the house for one thing - which I really need to be doing far more. 
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The Selfie


Whenever I see a photo of myself taken by someone else I have a massive shock. This isn't something new, or something that is age related. Obviously I no longer look as good as I used to, and I wouldn't expect to come across as a glamour puss in photos. And like I said, it isn't a new thing anyway, I have had this experience for decades. The shock has less to do with how I look in these snaps than it has to do with my expression. Really really sour. Bad tempered. A very nasty old woman stares back at me.
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Starting to take photos


Never done it before. Never had the slightest interest, in fact. But now that I have the phone camera I have started to explore, starting with my own home and my cats. Which is probably how most people start with this. Their homes and their cats. And it is a lot of fun, I must say. A new toy, a new playground.

Although it proclaims to have a high resolution (4000something pixels) it isn't a very good camera, as I found out when I looked at the photos at 100%. But it is more than enough for my purposes, which is to basically take souvenir photos. Home for now, but I will probably eventually venture outdoors - and we shall see how that goes...
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Finally - a smart phone


For years I had a Blackberry. Something like 15 years. And then in the end the battery gave out and because it is such an old model it could no longer be replaced. At least not here in Turkey where HRH has banned Blackberry phones because they refused to hand over the user data to the government. So, I have had no choice but to go out and purchase a new phone. Being a consummate hater of all things Apple, I went for a Samsung A50. Android, a google product - which makes it hardly less criminal (even possibly more), but what is a person to do?

Seems nice, lots of toys obviously. But, I intend to use it pretty much the way I used my old phone, mainly as an actual phone, and SMS messages for online banking. I will install whatsapp because if I don't my sister will kill me. The internet stuff I will probably leave to my desktop computer entirely. Why fidget around on that silly little screen when I have this huge big thing in front of me? And I do not sit glued to FB and twitter (no instagram at all, I should add - loathe that little contraption!) all day long anyway. Hardly sit in front of it at all, to be honest. To the extent where I feel guilty about not showing enough interest in what my friends' posts.

I do like the camera however. So, I may start to take photos. We'll see.

They are lethal these things, and not least because of how very badly they can affect creativity by not leaving any room for idleness which is the incubator wherein creativity breeds. Without sitting around and doing nothing, without in fact being bored, creativity simply has no room to grow in. Real creativity killers they are - those nice cameras notwithstanding... Which is actually my real big reason for intending to keep this thing where it belongs - inside my bag. Even gave an opening lecture for the university on this very subject last year - here's the presentation for it, if you want to take a look.
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So, we won the election


By a landslide, no less. HRH has been defeated, and defeated very badly indeed. At least here in Istanbul, at least for now. Last night the city turned into one big party, and my 'hood was once again one of the center stages of the celebrations. I was out for a bit too, but it was so crowded and so hectic that I didn't last long. Dancing everywhere. Belly dancers, halay dancers, disco dancers. Dancers and dancers. Young and old. Rakı glasses raised all over the place with the famous chant "to your health Tayyip." Dogs dressed in victory t-shirts being paraded around. Our beloved Çarşı soccer fan group out in full force in their black clad magnificence.

Of course I am very pleased. Am I hopeful however? Of the politicians who won this round? Nope. Not with this lily livered opposition. The fact that they got their acts together for once doesn't tell me much. They will be back to their usual cowardly ways in no time at all. It will not take "him" a long time to figure out new ways to divide them, to manipulate them. And unless they stand united, they fall. And they will not stand united.

This is as far as the politicians goes. No hope whatsoever. Am I hopeful about this society itself however? Oh yes. Way way way ahead of the politicians. So, in the long term I am very hopeful indeed for this country. But then again - am I hopeful for the world? Nope.

So...
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Kikas and Marmaduke!


I am back from my travels. Porto first, then Greece, where I spent a few lovely days down in Kalamata where Katerina and Fotis have a village house up in the mountains above the city. Just gorgeous!
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Intimate Spaces for Metaverse Avatars?


I am going to Porto in a few days to make a presentation at the Consciousness Reframed 2019 conference. It is a trip that I am looking forward to especially since I will also be getting together with CapCat Ragu (Catarina Carneiro de Sousa in RL - and we have met before). But this time I will also be meeting with her mother SL artist extraordinaire Meilo Minotaur (Sameiro Sousa in RL) - and that will be a first time encounter which I am anticipating with a lot of pleasure.
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The big alpha.tribe update


I did not want to switch over to a mesh avatar for a very long time. I have had the Alpha shape and skin for years and I have really identified with Alpha, in that appearance. She looks like me. Or rather she looked like I looked 20 years ago. But, then a few weeks ago I decided that the switch had to be made if I wanted to keep up with SL as a fashion designer. I had to know how this stuff worked. It all had to do with what I have talked about on this blog from time to time. About no longer feeling up to scratch in SL, about a feeling that the world had overtaken me technologically and that I found it hard to be creative in it. So, among some other changes, I made the switch.

And almost had a coronary!

I have been using a skin template for years which has worked very well on the classic SL avatar. But when I rezzed the skin on the mesh avatar what I saw was nothing short of a monster. Very obviously the UV maps on the mesh heads and bodies had changed drastically and nothing that had been created specifically for the classic SL avatar was in place anymore. A grotesque mouth stretching from ear to ear. Eyes that were no longer where they were supposed to be. So awful looking, in fact, that I do not want to sully the appearance of this blog by posting before and after pictures. Instead I have posted a selection of the new skins at the top of this post.

Now, I take some pride in my SL store and my reputation as a SL merchant. So, once the shock was over I decided to update my entire store inventory. Which is what I have been doing full time for the past 3 or 4 weeks. I am now done. Only very few things left, and I am not sure that I will actually bother with those since they were never very big sellers.

Everyone, who can provide proof of purchase will get an update on things they paid good money to buy. Especially things that they bought since the advent of mesh avatars. I can just imagine how disappointed they must have been when they put on the skins and outfits. Akin to how one feels when something that one has ordered online arrives and turns out to be nothing but crap. I feel really ashamed. And whatever I can do to make it up to these folks I will do. Obviously the place to announce this is in SL itself, through the alpha.tribe group. Which I will do very shortly. But, if you are an alpha.tribe customer, send a screenshot of your inventory for every item you purchased from alpha.tribe to alphaauer@gmail.com and I will see to it that you get your update (and my big apologies) shortly. 
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Kokopelli

I love it when a software gives me ideas. And Sculptris does so. While I am playing around with the clay suddenly it looks like something and...

So, here we have the trickster god Kokopelli, who had been on my mind before as a figure I might want to look into a bit more. But, I never knew exactly how. I even tried a few things in photoshop last year but they went nowhere. And I know why: I started out with that intention, and that never works for me. I need to go in round about ways in order to catch the thing that is in my mind's eye.

I don't know if Kokopelli had dogs but I decided to give him a whole pack anyway. Will probably add a few more too.

And it isn't only Kokopelli that I have encountered in Sculptris. The other day, those fat ladies I made. They are a bit like Kybele. Not that I want to get all mythological here or anything. I will continue to play and see where it all leads.

But, I have come out of the creative doldrums - and that's a fact! And one that I am totally thrilled about, of course.
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And very well behaved they are...

Yesterday I finally got over all my inhibitions and went into 3D software, after remembering that Cica Ghost had once told me that she was using Sculptris. And after muddling around for quite a while, watching a lot of tutorials, I did get some results - the critters in the photo here. Had a hellish time with uploading the textures that I had also made for them into OpenSim (which is where I am testing all this before I spend a fortune in SL), at which point further investigation told me I had no other option but to install the dreaded loathsome Blender. And from there I could actually export the models with the embedded textures.

Not that I stuck around in Blender. I was in and out so fast I left skid marks. Just long enough to learn how to import an obj file, add the texture and export to collada. Which is probably all I need for now because Sculptris is really great. Because guess what? It is intuitive! Which is the thing that has always bugged me about 3D software. That one has to be methodical somehow.

I suppose one can do really detailed things in it too. But, I don't want to do that. Couldn't if I tried anyway. But luckily that is not what I had in mind to begin with. I want to make a whole bunch of these thingies, both 2 and 4 legged that can then populate the minimal world I have been thinking about for a while anyway.

So, today, for the first time in a long time I am once again happy with what I do.

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The dumbing down of the World Mind



I have been teaching graphic design at 3 universities, good ones that are tough to get into, for 26 years. The thing about graphic design is that it is a complex field to be an instructor in. Contrary to popular misconception graphic design is not about visuality, it is actually about words. Or rather it is a field that lies at the intersection of words and images since the job of a graphic designer is to transform the spoken word into a visual artifact. Which is a highly sophisticated process, of course. How to go about doing that is what you teach. So, naturally, this involves going into all sorts of adjacent fields such as art, literature, cultural studies, history, mythology, semiotics, philosophy and so forth. In short, it involves an intertwining with the Humanities.

My students are not only local kids. In every class that I have recently taught there have been international students since my current employer is a part of the European Erasmus exchange program. So, I have had the opportunity to observe at first hand what the effects of the post Powell memorandum educational system are, not just on young people here but on European youth as well. I have been able to do so since, as I said, my field of expertise relies on an application of knowledge that is based in the Humanities. 

How many students do I encounter who are familiar with Greek mythology, for example? How many know what the Peloponnesian wars were all about? How many know that before adopting Islam the Iranians had a vast Zoroastrian empire that goes back for millennia? And what is Zoroastrianism to begin with? How many of them have read Balzac? Or Omar Khayyam? Or Kafka? Or Dostoyevsky? How many know why the first world war happened? Just random topics here, I can extend this list of unknowns ad infinitum, but I think this much is enough to make my point. They will know about these things to the extent that they are covered in popular culture, TV series and the like. But, unlike my generation, they did not learn about this stuff as part of their high school curriculum.

Not their fault that they don’t know, or mostly don’t even have much interest in this stuff. They are usually bright kids (whizz math test results, most of them) who are simply victims of an educational strategy that diverted almost all of their attention to STEM subjects.

I have observed this. But, I did not know exactly why taking the Humanities out of the curriculum had been deemed to be a good thing to do. I did not even know that there had been a deliberate policy to do this. Maybe, I thought, it was just an outcome of an increased interest in STEM. But, then I encountered a historian named Ellen Schrecker. And things fell into place.

There is a fascinating interview with her that I would advise all who are patient enough to be reading this ramble of mine to listen to from start to end. (To American friends who may be reading this and are worried about Russia these days: Yes, this is on RT, but please bear with me on this one. She is an emeritus professor at Yeshiva University, which is hardly the sort of institution that would foster untoward or dubious activity of any kind...)

What Schrecker (who, incidentally, is also the one who inspired me to use the term "dumbing down" as a title for this post) tells us is that education, particularly higher education, was changed quite deliberately to exclude the Humanities and the qualitative part of the social sciences beginning from the 1970s. She is talking about the US, but I know from personal experience that the strategy that originated there spread to the these parts of the world very quickly. 

In my own country this was a big part of what the 1980 coup was all about. Turks who went through the educational system before the coup, learned completely different things than those who went to school after 1980. A very large part of the curriculum for the pre-1980 generations were literature and history. After 1980 these were whittled down to a bare minimum. Before 1980 literature and history classes meant not just Turkish history and literature but world history and literature. So, we spent the whole first year of high school studying antique history, for example. That is why someone my age who received a high school education in Turkey will know about the Peloponnesian wars, or the Zoroastrian Empire. Whereas the poor kids post 1980 will have no idea.

Why was this eliminated? It was proclaimed that it spread communistic, internationalist ideas, that was why. The student movements and the workers union movements that led up to the coup would not have happened if these people had not heard about such things. Had not read Dickens and Maxim Gorky. So, they had to go. They were replaced largely by STEM classes that focused on solving tests rather than on scientific inquiry, and then added to that were a small selection of classes which were more in the nature of nationalistic indoctrination sessions rather than the sort of education in history and literature that we had received. The result is the mess that we are in today.

According to Schrecker a similar thing happened in the US, where the political activism of the 1960s led to great concern among the ruling elite who looked at the educational system as the root cause of a questioning generation. While they talk Chris Hedges mentions the Powell memorandum and she says “exactly!” and then explains what happened, how corporate interests reshaped intellectual life starting from the 1970s onto today. Her concern is mainly higher education, that is what she talks about – how universities were transformed from being the repositories of knowledge into STEM cultures in which for decades now only quantitative research and teaching have curried favor and have gotten funded. 

And, as part of this destruction, she goes into the Humanities in detail: She adds to the all-important mission of the Humanities, which is learning “how to think” rather than “what to think” (an issue that Chris Hedges brings up during the interview), by quoting from a book by Martha Nussbaum where it is said that the humanities give a “taste for the other” by getting into the head of the other through literature, through history and even through disciplines such as sociology. And this, Schrecker says, makes you a better person, one who can relate to others which is something that leads to “good citizenship” in that it gives a solid foundation for looking for connections with others that go beyond just “me me me.” And that, she says, is what is being lost. 

It may have originated in the US and the things that Powell proposed may well have been the strategy that was implemented. Was the strategy then deliberately spread out to countries like mine? That were seen to be prone to communist influences? Did European countries adopt it to curb their own rebellious youth? After all, one of the biggest student revolts of the 1960s happened in France and Germany. Big enough a revolt to give a name to that whole generation – the generation of 1968.

Something happened to education over the past 50 years. And Schrecker gives me a huge insight into what that something may have been. That it wasn’t just a random thing. Or that it came out of a bigger need for STEM education for which the Humanities had to be sacrificed. That it was a well-intentioned search for something better. But you see, I have never been a big believer in the good intentions of rulers anyway. And Schrecker validates this belief of mine: What took place was a deliberate quest to dumb down the populace.

And the effects of it are devastating. The level of contemporary political discourse, for example (something which I intend to go into in some detail in the next post). The isolation. The loss of purpose. The confusion. The apathy. The “hypernormalisation” that Adam Curtis talks about. You cannot explain any of that without looking at what appears to be a planned strategy (and here I am going to humbly add to Ellen Schrecker) that at the end of the day, aimed to eliminate “good citizenship” altogether. Because good citizens tend to want to come together and instigate social change. They are capable of going beyond “me me me.” But “me me me” is probably exactly where they wanted us to be and where they want us to remain. 
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Change the light - and...

The alpha.tribe sim keeps niggling at me. It is making me face my shortcomings. But something that I did today helped. Well, helped a bit.

Binge watching Adam Curtis - but critically...

Well, binge watching is an exaggeration. But I did watch the episodes of a series called "the power of nightmares" back to back. And I have also watched "hypernormalisation" - but that was a while ago.

Obviously they are extremely well made documentaries. And obviously Adam Curtis identifies some very important things. But, therein lies the rub: He just identifies them. Nothing further. Or nothing deeper I should say.

He nibbles around the edges of a huge amount of stuff. Tries to connect it. And, because he does not reveal the underlying web that instigated most of what he identifies, he fails. He especially fails in almost all that he has to say about the Muslim world. The ideologies that brought forth jihadists and suicide bombers did not grow out of local influences. They were enforced from the outside. Or rather they came into being due to regime changes that were forced upon their countries from the outside. They are the direct result of a big green plan to counteract the rapid spread of socialist movements and leaders in the Muslim world, that was implemented especially from the 1950s to the1980s - and then continued even after the Soviet Union had collapsed. Onto today really.

The grandiose idea was to pump Islam to defeat communism. There was even a NATO-like pact called CENTO among a number of Muslim countries (led by the UK and the USA of course - God forbid that they should be left to their own devices) to do this with. Happened right here in my own country. Turkey was a part of that pact. That is what the 1980 coup here was all about.

That is why Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown and replaced with an Islamist Junta in Pakistan. Mossadegh in Iran - same thing. Get rid of the PLO (a marxist movement), replace it with Hammas... And on and on it goes. Until we get to Gaddafi who wanted to break away from the Euro and establish a gold based Dinar for African oil trade.

Adam Curtis doesn't (or can't - he does work for the BBC after all, which is hardly a monument of truth when it comes to matters of 'empire') go into any of this. And so, it doesn't gel. Doesn't come together. At all, if you ask me.

And I think all the really remarkable things that he identifies as malaises in Western societies don't come together for the very same reason. Hypernormalisation (or hyperindividualisation, as he calls it in an interview somewhere) didn't just happen. It was made to happen when the Anti-War and Civil Rights movements got to be too left-leaning to be tolerable for the Western power elite. When the issue of 'class' began to enter their discourse. They had to be squelched. First and foremost by changing the educational system. Then the academic world. The media. Setting up think tanks to control public opinion. I don't think you can look at any of this stuff without reading the Powell memorandum first.

Which, I am certain he did read. Just as I am certain that he knows that a whole bunch of secular governments with socialist agendas (that had been elected by their own people no less) throughout the Muslim world did not just get randomly overthrown or dismantled; after which their countries turned into failed States. That didn't just happen by itself. It was made to happen quite intentionally. To stop the spread of what was perceived to be a communist threat (as in the case of Bhutto in Pakistan), or to stop these nations from controlling their own natural resources (as in the case of Mossadegh and Gaddafi). Or both, in many cases.

And then out of that chaos and desperation came the jihadists and the suicide bombers. Just as hypernormalisation in the West is the result of a deliberate 'dumbing down'* strategy implemented over many decades. Sure, he knows all of that.

But...

.........................................

* I owe this term 'dumbing down' to Ellen Schrecker. And I intend to talk more about what I learned from listening to her at some point.

** Two days later: I just listened to one of Robert Scheer's brilliant podcasts. If you go to the 23rd minute, the interviewee Professor Juan Cole from Michigan University says something that confirms what I said above about the nature of Muslim societies before regime change wars dismantled them; saying that if one were to read Iraqi newspapers from the years before the Gulf war and the subsequent invasion one would see that the discussion was not about Muslim sectarianism but about political and economic issues revolving around communism versus capitalism.

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Internet cats

My twitter account is anonymous, I do not post, I only follow news. That is, this is how it was until recently. I have been adding more and more cat accounts to my twitter and am actually far more interested in the cat owners who post than in all the "important people" I used to follow exclusively.

I avoid the "cute cat talk" brigade, those are quite obnoxious of course. But people who post in a grown up language (including those who speak on behalf of their cats in a grown up language) I seem to find far more fascinating than all these journalists, commentators, politicos, academics, bla bla bla.

I do not think that I am alone in this. This "cats are the owners of the internet" thing that is being talked about probably has something to do with a general disgust that a lot of people feel for pundits, truthsayers, opinionated pontificators, politicians, experts - and dare I say it - humanity in general.

So, I think we have turned to animals. Animals make us more imaginative, they make us better. They bring forth our innocence. And they give us back our humor.

And since cats are closest to us they get front center of the stage. And also because they are very photogenic, of course. Which is why I think they have such an advantage over dogs - let us face it, they do look better than most dogs.

And also - and this I think is probably the most important reason as to why we are so obsessed with them - they represent an independence of spirit that we may no longer have ourselves. 
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A small stage


I have been making these things. I am collecting them on a tumblr to see what they look like as a group.

I am working on them at the same time as I am making the curly stuff, going back and forth between the two. They look quite different (these look more "artsy" so to speak) but to me they are really the same thing. In fact the first one was meant to be a curly thing with the faux-Japanese typography. And this one too, with the script font, although I have not put it on the curly page.

I will just keep collecting them. See what happens. If anything.
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Produsage


There is this, in my view terribly misplaced, myth that while using off the shelf software is an unavoidable evil, everything that gets built inside that software should be made by you. Painstakingly. Path by path. Or writing the code (that particular myth especially). Taking your own photos. Sculpting your own 3D models.

Otherwise you are not really the "real thing" as a designer or an artist or whatever. I am not a big proponent of this idea that it is somehow more virtuous or more creative that one should make everything oneself, from scratch.

Instead I am a big fan of using resources. Things that others have made, that they either give to me freely (usually with an attribution request) or that I buy and I can then build on, combine with other things, transform. That my stuff has this both implicit and explicit relationship to all this other stuff. That creativity today, at its very best, is a collective effort. It is an exchange stretching over time, between people who are unknown to each other. And yet the collaboration flows from one to the other. A bizarre and quite wonderful link and node relationship.

I wrote a paper about this some years ago and intend to do an update on it at some point since these chains of creativity (that I am most willingly a part of) really intrigue me. The whole process actually has a name in academia - it is called "Produsage." The person who coined the term is Axel Bruns, and he even wrote about Second Life as an example of collective creativity. The two most intrinsic properties of produsage, acording to Bruns, can be described as follows: That the output is community-based and that within this community the roles of creator/user remain fluid and interchangeable at all times. So, according to Bruns we are both content creators and content users at the same time, since in order to create the content we also need to be consuming pre-existent content.

And that is how I see this also. Not this rarefied, slow moving, effete, exclusive thing. But something that is quite dynamic and also unpredictable since what you find very often also informs what you make out of it. Influences you.