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The perils of teaching graphic design in the land of the Shapeshifters

The blog stats from yesterday have given me more food for thought. I am actually in the middle of some serious writing, and I am taking out some time here for light relief as it were. God, I love this blog! Why didn't I think about this before? It is such an outlet for emotions and all kinds of assorted palaver. I think I will become a much more pleasant person all around for this. Do all of my ranting and raving here and step out into the world as fresh as a daisy! Totally amazing this is!

So, anyway, where was I? Why do I end up pissing off some of my students to the extent where they still have emotions that are bitter enough for them to hold a grudge against me years later? When they haven't seen or heard from me in a long long time? I think this somehow does relate to what I teach, which is graphic design - pure and simple. No software, no technology - just design. I expect students that take my classes to already know Photoshop and Illustrator and all of those other good things before they sign up. So, unlike some of my colleagues, whose course material neccesitates them to also teach technology and software, I cannot hide behind any objective evaluation criteria as far as the acquisition of any technological skills during my course are concerned. There are no written exams or quizes that I can dish out in a studio design class either. It is entirely based upon project development and evaluation. Now, obviously, there are massive amounts of reading and research involved in doing this, however the outcome of that will need to be transformed into a project's concept, its visual outcome and that is precisely what comes into the classroom and gets critiqued in front of the entire class. So, what I do when I teach is pure critique. And that is precisely where the cookie crumbles.

There are quite a few objective evaluation criteria when you do a design critique, regarding information hierarchies, informational flow, gestalt and so on and so forth. One also asks to see results of reading and related visual research. So all that is tangible stuff that any graphic design instructor with even only half a brain will hold onto for dear life. But then, there is this one elusive component that unfortunately does sneak its way in and that is taste. Now, for some reason, we all have this assumption that taste is something that we inherently posses - like beauty or a good singing voice. We never realize that taste is actually an acquisition, which is solidly grounded in learning. And no matter how accomplished your informational hierarchies are, and no matter how adroitly you have pulled off the visualization of a concept - if you lack taste - that indescribable something, that deus ex machina of all design - you are soooo f.u.c.k.e.d! And that is the bottom line, I'm afraid.

I do have a vitriolic tongue in my head. I can be cruel. And when occasion demands it, I will go straight into the heart of the matter and say that what I am looking at lacks taste. Which can of course be perceived as a huge subjective insult towards that individual, that could go on to rankle inside of them for years and years afterwards, I suppose. But, alas, here in Turkey this can imply something quite a bit more substantial than just a subjective remark directed at one particular person. In fact, I really have been thinking for quite some time now that this lack of taste is more in the nature of a cultural manifestation (I have come here after conducting years and years of design class critiques, where I have seen so many repeat manifestations of this that at this point I have really and truly lost count):

We are designing with the Latin alphabet, ergo we are designing by Western European graphic design rules, that demand a thorough knowledge of Western European typographic history, so that Western European taste can actually be acquired. And the Latin alphabet has only been around in this culture for 80 years or so. And that simply isn't long enough!

We Turks are an originally nomadic people from the Orient. So, our genetic roots are Far Eastern. Our closest linguistic relatives are the Koreans and the Japanese. Roughly 1000 years ago, a very severe draught in Central Asia compelled our ancestors to migrate westward where they encountered Islam and the Byzantinian culture. They must have been quite forceful these incoming horsemen and they ended up conquering both the Arabs and the Byzantinians, became settled and set up a series of Turkish empires in Asia Minor. However, as divine irony would have it the nomadic conqueror ended up becoming entirely conquered by those that succumbed to him. Thus, the shamanic religion was relinquished for a strange adaptation of Islam and civic culture was entirely taken over by what was Byzantinian: Byzantinian cuisine, Byzantinian etiquette and manners, Byzantinian court rules and attire, Byzantinian architecture. And high culture from the Iranians: Miniatures, ornamentation and literature... The poor old nomad with his horse and tent simply did not have sufficiently powerful cultural stamina to withstand the force of what came in from the thousands of years of settled cultures that he found himself surrounded by. The Arabs, the Byzantinians and the Iranians. Ancient, powerful cultures grounded in millenia of tradition. The Turks were really no match.

And why is this so important to graphic design you may ask? Hold on, I'm getting there - slowly I admit but... (hhh)... Roughly 1000 years ago Turks underwent a full cultural transformation and roughly 200 years ago marks the begining of yet another, when Turks started to undergo the process of becoming Western European. So, we are talking about a nation that is highly capable of undergoing vast transformations. On the one hand this may appear to be a good thing but in truth it is also a huge national shortcoming I think. Turks change too easily, too readily. We do not really internalize and identify with things, it all sort of ends up staying on the surface - to be relinquished at the drop of a hat (so to speak - these kinds of hats get dropped over generations of course, but dropped they nonetheless get around here). I think we are quite unique in this too. Is there one other nation anywhere that has changed 2 alphabet systems in one millenium? (I do know that the Koreans changed from Kandji to Han-guel but that is not entirely the same thing since Han-guel is based upon ideograms too...)

Now, one of the things that Turks took on as part of their new cultural identity back then, a thousand years ago, was the Arabic alphabet. And one of the things that they let go off in favor of westernization about 80 years ago is that exact same alphabet. In the 1920's we adopted the Latin alphabet. I do know that there is an awful lot of malarkey in the western mind that the westernization of Turkey was this Jacobean thing, imposed from above and held only in place through the intervention of a powerful military mechanism. Nothing could be further from the truth: Shapeshifting, I think, is just about the only true Turkish attribute. We are in fact totally brilliant at it. There is no ruling class Jacobean enough or army strong enough anywhere in the known universe that could get a nation to change two typographic systems in less than a thousand years, unless there is a predisposition for that type of fundamental change ingrained within that culture itself. Come on folks! Think about it!

There are of course, extremely good attributes that the shapeshifter characteristic gives this nation: Adaptability, intelligence, resourcefulness. An excellent sense of humor. Turks, in general, are very bright and talented people and I really do think that a lot of it is due to this quality of the shapeshifter. But... but... but... Like I said, this has its downside: If you are so capable of breaking from your past, by the same token you are incapable of establishing tradition. 80 years is not even a nano second where the cutltural history of a nation would be concerned. And there is no way that something as vastly novel as the Latin typographic system is going to become part and parcel of a nations heritage to the point where it becomes ingrained into your system as taste. Turkish graphic designers have to learn typographic tradition. In fact they have to work bloody hard at it, since they have to unlearn first: An avalanche of typographic disasters lurks on every street corner here, and furthermore comes into your home in the shape and form of packaging and daily newspapers. Taste is something that you begin to acquire on your mothers lap. But what if the women's home journal your mother was reading while she was holding you is a mine field of unspeakeble graphic design horrors stretching form cover to cover? (Incidentally, your mother could be an astrophysicist in all of this - makes no difference whatsoever: She's a Turkish astrophysicist right? Besides she doesn't really need designer taste in order to be able to get on with her job, calculating star distances and whatnot - you, on the other hand, do!... hhh...) Who is to blame? Your mother? The shopkeeper on the corner with his unbelievable sign? The publisher of the journal? Nobody. It is a cultural phenomenon that happens only here, in this land of the eternal shapeshifters. I go to Arabic countries and admire the typography - just about one of the most beautiful things that man ever invented I think. Then I go to Europe and fall in love all over again with illuminated manuscripts and thousand year old Roman inscriptions. Both to the east of us and to the west of us people have had millenia to assimilate these to the point where it is in their bloodstream. These people do not have to unlearn anything and relearn taste to become good designers - whereas we Turks really really really do. Which is the point where evil old cows like myself come into the game.

I am relentless in this. I will not tolerate the lack of taste that comes from a lack of knowledge, a lack of assimlating tradiition. OK, we are now working with the Latin typographic system and a thing of beauty it is too. So deal with it! Now, there may be very little evidence of its beauty on the streets at the moment - like I said 80 years ain't long enough for that to have come about yet. So, it is your bloody job to sit down and find all the beneficial evidence and incorporate it into your system whichever way you can - if you have decided to come into a university's visual communication design program and find yourself in my classroom, that is. And if you don't, if despite all evidence to the contrary you still happen to insist on thinking that your ingrained taste, the one that you walked through the door with, is quite sufficient for the task at hand, then I will make it my business to blast your sorry ass six ways from Sunday. That is my job! Teaching/learning is so not about namby pamby molly coddling. At its very best teaching is about breaking habit! And a good instructor worth his or her salt will do precisely that. Break your habits. Sadly, the one that I am compelled to break, that I am in fact paid a very decent salary for breaking is the habit of your bad taste, which is a direct result of the shapeshifter culture that you are a part of. Sorry people - tough bagels. But that is how I see this. We are reaping in the untold benefits of being the little old shapeshifters that we are but we have to learn to recognize our shortcomings and deal with them. Or else...

To give credit where credit is due, in 9 cases out of 10 my long suffering brood ends up being pathetically grateful for all the beatings that I subject them to. What usually happens is that I get a totally wonderful email from someone one or two years after they have seen the last of me, thanking me - really really thanking me from the very bottom of their hearts for what I have put them through. I am eternally grateful whenever that happens and like I said, it does happen more often than not.

:))

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To Cheja... (and pornqueen too of course! ;-)

We have this thing here in Turkey called sozluk.sourtimes.org - a website where people can make entries about anything and anybody that the hell they please. I have been intrigued for the longest time that I seem to have quite a few entries to my name, posted by my students of course. And some of them are highly unflattering too, I might add...

I was in for a bit of a shock just a minute ago when I glanced at the stats for my blog from today: The viewings have absolutely skyrocketed! Normally I do not get too many. The blog is simply too new (and also I think way too personal) to have attracted much attention outside of the people that know me already. And how many of those are interested enough to check out my palaverings on a daily basis anyway? So, today's activity was unusual enough for me to click on the details of the stats - and hey presto - there it was! My (at least, I think that this is who she is, can't be totally sure of course) recently graduated ex-student pornqueen has linked the blog to the entry page for my name on sourtimes.org and now my students past and present seem to be trooping in to see what this is all about. There is even a related entry posted today on the sourtimes.org page by a student of mine from almost 10 years ago (in this case I know for certain, one of her classmates spilled the beans on her - she goes by the nickname of Cheja). Anyway, she declares total amazement at my having read Aleister Crowley, at my hanging out in Second Life... (!?! - why, I wonder?)

So, here is my amazement: Either there was something terribly wrong with me when I was their age; or there is something really wrong with those of my ex-students who can somehow muster up this interest as to what I do or say. I do not think that I have ever given any instructor of mine even a minutes further thought when I was at that age, either while still in college or during the decades after that. My own life and all of the nonsense that I got up to was so interesting in itself that I would never have had a minute to spare for pondering upon some "old fogey"s life, you know? These days I have some amazing instructors and I would be lying if I said I did not give Roy and the others quite a bit of thought. But, I am older now and I am a college professor myself. So, in a sense my PhD instructors are also my colleagues. I attend joint conferences with them, I collaborate with them. They are not only my instructors but valued professional associates. Of course, I think about them, follow what they do and write about with great interest. But back then? When I was 20-something? Please!!!! Pffffffffffffffffffffffffftttttttttttttttttttttttttttt... Really!

Really? What the hell is going on here? How can one even begin to explain this weird phenomenon? Eventuality number 1 would have to be that I must be soooo totally, bewilderingly, flumoxingly charismatic and compelling and forceful and altogether so bloody interesting that some of my ex-students simply cannot help themselves and have to think about me non-stop. (Fondly or not - hardly the point here, btw. What matters is that they really still seem to be doing so!?!?) And furthermore, they have to manifest this by posting entries about me 10 years later?... Much as I would love to believe this one, I really seriously doubt that this would be the case. ROTFL, in fact... Which brings me to eventuality number 2: My poor little ex-kiddens (as wolfie called my current students in SL the other day - hhh) cannot be having much of a life, can they now? Not one in the sense that I had one when I was their age anyway. Not one in the sense that I have one today, for that matter. So, in the absence of anything better to occupy their minds with, they actually have the time to sit around and wonder about what I do over here? How sad is that? And if they manage to devote this much attention to me, I don't even wanna know about what other kinds of totally boring stuff is needed to fill up the void of those endlessly empty days and nights.

Of course, I am thankful to be able to say that the overwhelming majority of my ex-students have completely dropped off the radar. Or I hear from them very rarely, at appropriate occasions like when they send me birthday wishes on facebook or whatever. Now, that is nice. I like that. But as for all those that are storming wordpress just to see what I may be babbling about, or indeed the ones that make posts about me on slander sites (sourtimes.org, despite all its good intentions can at times become a sort of a slander site I think). Don't you have anything better to do for God's sakes??? It is a beautiful hot summer's night out here. How about going up to Istiklal for some righteous cruising? Knock back a few beers on Asmali Mescit? Nevizade is also good for that, no? What about one of those nice chi-chi discos on the Bosphorus? And Kadikoy too is like so totally beyond cool these days you know... Hang out and shoot the breeze, crack a few good jokes? Gossip a little maybe?... And not about your old professors either - please!!!

So, here's a good, solid bit of advice from your nasty old school marm: Get a life people! I certainly have one (two in fact - hhh). I really think it is about time you guyz (and galz) did too!
Oh and... While you're at it you may also wanna consider not listening to Jethro Tull anymore? Jesus! Even I don't do that and at least I was around during the time when he could actually stand on one leg and not fall over! :-D
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The Diametric Opposite



We have these things called final exam juries at my university and yesterday I was present during the evaluation of my friend and colleague (and cousin, I might add) Murat's advanced photography course output. The final assignment he gave to his class was one in which they were to create a diptych image, one side representing the exact opposite of who/what they thought they were. Then they had to take that image and working back from there had to come to a definition of who they actually thought they were and take a photograph representing that definition of "self" which had been derived at from the converse image. The assignment was loosely based on one of Roy's Groundcourse assignments and so I was very interested indeed to see the results. The idea behind this is that a definition of what you are not will raise the awareness of what you are, thus raising self-recognition and so on...

Well.. Saying that the outcome wasn't quite like what I would have expected it to be, would be putting it mildly, I suppose... The amount of self adulation that our young brood managed to come up with was really something to behold, you know. I sat there dizzied by the self propagated back patting manifested in definitions such as "I am a creatively charged free spirit. So my converse image would have to be a firmly bolted down object such as a doorknob, or an inanimate doll, or... or..." (We had an awful lot of creatively charged free spirits in there for one afternoon, I must say. Just about as many as I can take in one sitting in fact). Or how about, "I am highly individuated. My diametric opposite would be something robbed of its individual identity - like a sack maybe?...". "I am totally in control... So my diametric opposite would have to be an object I control. How about my car?...". Oh and, here's a really good one: "I am the soul of discretion... As a diametric opposite I think I would be a peeper...". And on and on and on we went, working our way through some 20 projects of total and unabashed self worship!

And then... and then... He came last and put up this image.

Now, I happen to like this class a lot - all of them. And Ufuk is so one of them. I have been observing his hair covered face and have been marvelling at the visual talent that he so patently displays in the face of the fact that the poor kid obviously cannot see the beam or the whiteboard through his bangs (they just about reach his chin - he's brushed them sideways here, trust me, normally they do!). Ergo, he would really not be able to follow any of the lectures that I or anyone else might be inflicting upon him, would he now? So, where is he getting the visual information from; enabling him to come up with the brilliant projects that he manages to turn in, I have always wondered to myself.

And this was the context of the image, the text: "I am fascinated by forbidden content, by the dark and the ominous. However, given that I am a total whimp and a coward I have never dared to go anywhere near it, even when it has been offered to me on a silver plate. My diametric opposite would be the guy who is actually in a postion to offer me that which I do not have the courage to go after".
WOW, right?

And now for the moral of the tale - and a bit of a sobering experience for me this one has turned out to be... I have been sitting here, pointing a really nasty finger at our students, making evil fun of them and their narcissistic little predicaments just a minute ago, haven't I? Truth is, I have actually been ruminating since yesterday as to how I would go about it, if this assignment were given to me. And you know what? I cannot do it. With the best will and intention in the world I cannot seem to formulate this in such a way that I would actually accomplish what Ufuk has. I cannot walk up to the mirror and identify the thing in there that is the huge big pimple - the wart. And I guess, my inability to do just that, is the wart. Would have to be that, right? Don't tell me it could be anything worse than that - please!

Ufuk: You are so not a whimp and a coward. Your instructor here could not hold a candle to your self-recognition and your gutsiness. So hat off to you my old son and I hope life brings you all of the very best and then some...

Oh, and your classmates? hhhhh... Well, I am sharing their predicament, aren't I? Which doesn't mean that we all need to perish just because you're doing so fabulously well over there, does it now? I hope they too (and I and everyone else that is even vaguely deserving of such a thing) get all the best that life has to offer and then some...

Goodbye VACD class of 2009, I shall miss you all when I am on my sabbatical leave next year! (And if you guyz believe that you really need to go and take a good careful look in that mirror over there...)

(but I will)
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The Who



In those days I did not much care for them. They were much too "hard" for my taste back then. I was a Beatles girl, then later on I got into all the psychedelic stuff like Pink Floyd and somehow, one way or another "The Who" completely passed me by. So, I owe a huge big "thank you" to whoever it is that is the big "Who" buff on all those CSI series. I immediately peeled back my ears and listened to the music when I heard it for the first time 6 or 7 years ago. Next thing I was online frantically searching for MP3's. And next thing after that, I was in amazon buying up the CD's. The music has been with me ever since.

I have it on my MP3 player running pretty much on a loop. I walk through crowds, sit on commuter ferries and campus shuttle buses listening and listening, over and over again. And I sit on my exercise bike and listen. Of course, I listen to other things too: Queen and Santana I really like for instance. Blood Sweat and Tears too. Some music I bought in Brazil 2 years ago. Sometimes I really like to listen to Michael Jackson (especially when I am walking). Recently I ripped all the post 1967 Beatles albums, so they get a hearing too sometimes. Michel Petrucciani. But I keep coming back to the Who.

I have the operatic albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia and I love them. But the stuff that really gets me are the individual track albums and especially the later dated ones. "Who are you?" and "Who's next?" are my two favorites. I am actually not very surprised that as a teenage girl I never got beyond "My Generation": This music is really very hard core. It is raw, straight from the gut, and then conversely there are high levels of musical refinement. At this point I must know pretty much every note in these songs by heart and I still never stop being amazed by the orchestration, the way the vocals and the instruments come together and then break apart, and the utter melodiousness that they manage to combine with the harshest of hard rock. The silence bits between the crashing phrases. I especially like the ones that have keyboards. Vicious keyboards. Everything about these songs is hard and relentless, including the lyrics. They have a bitter edge. But, bitter or not, there is also a huge amount of hope in them somehow. Or for me it is like that anyway.

I am glad I discovered The Who so recently. This music belongs to me alone. I have no memories whatsoever associated with it. It is very much about the now and a possible future. When I walk along or pedal along, I tend to feel empowered, like as if there was nothing that I would not be able to pull off, if I set my mind to it. There is an awful lot of energy in there and it feels like as if that energy gets transmitted directly into my system. The hope of rebellion. Hard to explain.

There was also a surprise for me more recently: Pete Townshend turned out to be an alumnus of the Groundcourse, the art educational strategy I am reinterpreting for Second Life. Made me very happy that. Validates my claim.

I have to figure out a way of streaming "The Who" at Syncretia. Maybe not the individual tracks (might be too much, that) but Quadrophenia. Would I need to get permission for that I wonder? Probably...
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Narrative


There is something wrong with contemporary art. People have gotten killed for saying less, but I'm saying it anyway. And I have been thinking this way for ages too; in endless wanders around Biennials, taking in video loops imprisoned in an endless "now", grainy documentational photographs, badly cobbled together installations, accompanied by reams upon reams of text  - all about what exactly? And also of course, my job as an instructor. How difficult it seems to be to get my students to invent stories. At conferences, with colleagues from all over the globe, there tend to be these endless moan sessions: Our students seem to find it very difficult to become involved, indeed to even muster any kind of enthusiasm for the creative process itself. A lack of imagination. A big howling empty space where you would normally have expected to find a bubbling up of wild ideas from a 20 year old. What you get instead is agonized constipation, a writhing around socially anxious truisms and politically correct platitudes.

My father was great. We used to play a game where I would be a lost rabbit and he would be a good hearted bear helping me to get home. All kinds of magical adventures we had. And here I am again, this time with Roy, who got his students to invent stories: "Imagine you wake up one morning to find that you are a sponge. Describe visually your adventures during the day.... Invent a typewriter bird and show the kind of tree within which it could most successfully hide... Create a world on paper with major and minor structural systems. Show a fault occurring in the minor one; design a repair centre to put it right..." (from "A Groundcourse for Art", Telematic Embrace).




The Garden has shown me that gutsy forgers of narrative have found a home in Second Life. Admittedly, not too many of them it seems, but they are out there alright: Nonnatus Korhonen and the "Little creatures that tend to follow you around with strawberries", Madcow Cosmos and "Hetorotroph", Truthseeker Young and "The Singularapture is Near" and Bryn Oh and the "Steam Bath".

This is not really about form. If I had been in search of aesthetic formalism I would maybe have picked out other examples as well, maybe not even picked these at all. What I am looking for is a "story". Not a "concept", mind you! Please, I am really getting very tired of "concepts". It is the sacredness of the "concept" that has brought us into this constipated mess in the first place. What I want is unselfconscious narrative, someone getting totally carried away with the story that is inside of them and spilling it all out as visual form. Something that is not just of the "now" but carries embedded in its being a "past". A personal mythology. Stop hitting me with ideas for God's sakes, tell me something instead. Anything, something - make it up!



Nonnatus Korhonen tells a very quiet whisper of a story. The heroes are shy white creatures of a hard to describe soft reticence. Looking at the white flecked landscape I get a sense of the child that brought these creatures into this habitat. One quite different from Madcow Cosmos that's for sure (hh). The way those dragons spew out into the sky. There is a cruel, humorous story there - I make it up as I go along. After all, the artist is not the only raconteur in the game.



Truthseeker Young does sneak in the teeniest bit of conceptualization into his story of the decapitated head by telling me how the process is painful but necessary. But this is a concept that I go along with anyway and it is so subtly phrased that it ends up becoming something more along the lines of "and the moral of the tale is...", which again, makes the whole thing a very funny story indeed. And Bryn Oh's steam bath, with its peeper at the door and the beetle bathing inside is so endowed with ominous narrative that I stand in front of it completely spellbound.



These are master story tellers and all is safe in their hands. But unfortunately stories do have a way of turning maudlin, of becoming cute, if not downright banal. So the trick would be to tell your story, plaster all of your teddy bears onto your steeple so to speak - and then work the magic whereby they transcend their teddybearness and become part of something that will be quite hard to describe and almost impossible to dissect. Art, one would call that, I guess. Definitely not a game for those faint of heart... And these artists whose work I saw in the Garden today are so not faint of heart.

Are they part of the "serious" art enclave in Real Life? I tend to doubt it. A lifetime habit of self important conceptualization does not get shed overnight, or if it does it is usually only through a very painful process of moulting. But then again, who knows? They very well might be... The creator of the church has certainly had his share of "serious" acclaim in past years. (Which makes the whole teddy bear syndrome even more remarkable in its gutsiness). So, more power to anyone like that who landed themselves here in Second Life to play. The roots of narrative reside in childhood. But children are not yet completely separated from the larger whole, the archetypes snatch at their little heels. Joseph Campbell tells us that in all the world, no matter where you go there are very few basic children's game matrices and they are always the same ones. We must be bringing this knowledge with us from somewhere then. Therein resides the "Abyss" and its ruler, the "Shadow" guides the child. Play is cruel.

The Garden is remarkable. The work mentioned here is remarkable for my purposes in that it relates to narrative. But almost all of the garden is remarkable in its spontaneity. And yet, I fear that soon it may all be over. The "serious" brigade is already making its way in. And then there will be art exhibitions that look quite different from the NPIRL Garden of Delights; ones where the likes of Madcow Cosmos and Nonnatus Korhonen and myself (of course!) will be laughed straight out of the door. Cold, sterile shrines dedicated to intellect. No imagination, no unselfconsciousness, no color, no bizarre associations. No Gestalt even. No narrative, no play. Certainly no teddy bears. Everything brittle on shiny floors. Surgical. Or on concrete floors, virtual spaces made to look like factories. The artist as proletariat. All verrrry verrrry politically correct. Very humorless. Certainly not under a benevolent virtual sun. Certainly not sprouting forth from a rich, humus ridden virtual soil.

Ouch! I hope I am wrong. Of course, I am wrong! The law of attraction tells us that this type of pessimism can lead only to perdition. So, yes: "Play" lies at the heart of the matter of the metaverse. Which means that in the metaverse "play" and the "story" will always always always win - hands down.
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The Shadow

So, what happened to the story? The fairy tale, the "maerchen"? When did narrative become so "un-cool" then?

I think it happened in the aftermath of the second world war, after humanity came too close to the edge of the abyss and saw the "Shadow". The Dadaists still had it, the narrative, as did the early Surrealists. A narrative that originated from the subconscious mind, that sprang into being in the collages of Max Ernst and the poetry of Paul Eluard. But there inside the subconscious, right next to the fairy tale and the beautiful poetry and the mesmerizing collages also resides the "Shadow", present in each and everyone of us. No one is exempt. And, when humanity faced its own "Shadow" at the end of the war it turned away in a shock of recognition. It was simply too hard to acknowledge, too unspeakably cruel to deal with - so we hid behind the impersonal, the non-narrative. Art became non-narrative. It was easier that way. Space became impersonal, a shrine to minimalism. Beautiful in its generic nudity, functional - and resolutely silent, non-narrative. The cold cold climate of political correctness, the safe boundaries with which we try so hard and so desperately (and with such futility) to circumscribe the abyss and the "Shadow" - there inside all of us. The death of humor. The endless loops of flickering video art of the "now", stubbornly refusing to tell stories. Because the "story", the "maerchen" comes from a place that is just too close to home, too close to the abyss and to the "Shadow" waiting therein. Stories lead to imagination and imagination leads to the abyss.

No coincidence then, that it became unpopular to tell Grimm's fairy tales to your child. A bookshelf full of literature in a friends house on the correct way to raise children - grounded in educational toys and realizm. No violent toys, no guns... Little picture books where little rabbit goes out and sees a little butterfly and then... Nothing... "Hello Butterfly!"... "B is for Butterfly"... And then it gets to be night and little rabbit goes home to sleep. No stories... please no stories... Much too dangerous. The roots of narrative reside in the abyss.

Second Life has given me back my childhood. But children are cruel. They stand too close to the abyss with their imaginative little minds turning broom handles into magic swords to... kill! And yet here we are, a horde of children, testing out the waters of narrative, once again. And cruelty is already here, already implied, in the neko merchandise. In the blood soaked wings. The neko crime scene kit. The bloody bandage outfits. The countless spike collars and braces and leg wraps. The troublemaker belt with its paw handcuff. I buy them. I look at them. The fish grate necklace - obviously I must have eaten the fish at some point and now its remnants hang from my neck like the scalp of an amazon warrior. The teddybear hat. Except that the bear is holding two sticks of dynamite in its round little paw. Narrative is cruel. It resides in the land of the "Shadow". And the "Shadow" is the price paid for imagination. I embrace the teddybear - dynamite and all.

wolfie



OK, enough of all the melodrama such as the unexpected alchemical side effects of unrequited love, the merits of middle age versus youth - and all the rest of that malarkey! Time to talk about some really important stuff - such as friends and friendship, which brings me to a currently absent friend, wolfgeng Hienrichs. (Incidentally, I think that I am probably the only one around who has the bloody cheek to call wolfgeng "wolfie" or sometimes even "wolfiekiens"; but to his credit, he does seem to tolerate this with high good nature. Everyone else calls him wolfgeng or wolf - as would indeed be quite appropriate!)
wolfie's human is off in Greece somewhere fixing a leaky roof at the moment. I do wish the blasted thing would fix itself and wolfie would hurry up and come back home where he belongs. The metaverse isn't quite the same without his little black snout in evidence.
It took me some time to befriend wolfie. Truth is I was intimidated by him. (Those horrible boyzz will not believe me when I say this, but I am actually quite shy). So, I would watch his tall dark figure from a distance, thinking to myself that there was something quite regal and sort of military about his demeanor. At some point wolfie asked me to come along while he was talking to a potential tenant for some Klein land. Quite needless to say I was highly flattered by the fact that he seemed to value my opinion on the matter and rushed over, falling over my own boots as I went, so to speak. From that point onward we were friends.

wolfie is the creator, owner and director of the Search and Rescue operations of Second Life, headquartered at Klein, our home sim. I will be writing separately and at length about S+R, for now suffice it to say that the regal and military bearing has a lot to do with this important mission/position in life, to which wolfie rises with aplomb and dignity.

wolfie is very funny, in fact he is quite pricelessly so. There are so many incidents where wolfie had me in stitches that it would be impossible to remember them all. The one that sticks in my mind right now, since it is quite recent, is the little conversation we had about his car: During the early days of Syncretia I stumbled upon what I thought was as a terrible accident: A car had fallen down a flight of stairs into the whale basin! These being indeed the early days of Syncretia I immediately cleared what I thought was the sad remainder of that evil day. However, as time went by I really began to cherish all the debris that the crashes and accidents caused, as well as all the parked vehicles and even (or indeed especially all the bombs and land mines) at Syncretia. So, I have been making a point of keeping them right where they are (the only exception being a spaceship I returned to Hack just last week - he had left it in the middle of the sky and the bloody thing had a couple of hundred prims to it. So, obviously no parking or accident - just a forgetful avatar, getting off a spaceship midflight and promptly forgetting all about it)... Anyway, back to wolfie's car: So, the car was the only accident debris that I had ever deleted and the other day I asked wolfie if he could please do a simulation of it and put it back there.

Well!!! O Boy o boy o boy!!! Did he flip out or what???!!! Was I completely mental? I had done whatttttt???? I had deleted the car? That had not been an accident for pete's sakes!!! Did I not have eyes in my head? He had PARKED the car!!!! Could I not tell an accident from a parked car? That was a brand new car too!!!!... and meanwhile me piping in - "yes yes, but surely we can somehow sort this out wolfiekiens, come to some kind of amicable solution?"... "sort it??? sort it??? Amicable solution???? Go, speak to my insurance guy Alpha! But I can tell you right now it will be gross!!!"

Oh, and of course: How funny is wolfie? He is this funny:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfgeng/2442449025/

wolfie is not only an officer, he is also a gentleman: For instance, there was this one little episode where I traumatized the living daylights out of him with my black ocelot skin. A lesser man would have thrown up into his flight helmet right then and there. Not our wolfie - "oh, very cool Alpha" he said, meanwhile heroicallly managing to hold in his stomach contents no doubt... And of course another evidence of gentlemanly behavior would be his wonderful piano playing, in full tuxedo:
Not only is wolfie an officer and a gentleman, he is also a true friend: He calls me "alph" sometimes, which I totally totally love. Reminds me of Alf. But... it is the diminutive address that just about chokes me up with gratitude: I think wolfie is the only person that has ever addressed me in the diminutive and it gives me a good feeling that is almost pathetic in its intensity.

So wolfie baby... Time to come back home I think! Klein is quite deserted without you; not to mention the fact that Hack is in a god awful mood these days (he really is acting up something terrible you know) and I am pretty sure that at least some of it is due to the absence of your steadying influence!