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A feeling of not belonging


Dedicated to the anonymous reader of this blog...

... There is a woman playing the piano. You probably cannot hear the notes but you see her from far away. She is playing Claire de Lune. It takes a long time for the notes to emerge, she has to start over and over, from the very beginning. Little did she know it at the time, but it turned out that she was giving a recital to an audience of only one. I suppose she did have an inkling of sorts... That sense of knowing when someone else is there... Over a distance of hundreds upon hundreds of miles.

She was born as a man. Made her appearance clad in those unsightly black shirt and jeans, hair combed sideways, staggering onto Orientation Island. That was one year ago. She/he did not need to hang around there, after all, his/her human knew her way around Second Life. She teleported to the mainland, stood lost at an info hub. And then he/she was discarded. Until quite recently.
She is an odd one, this woman who was born as a man. It is taking her quite some time to find herself, to figure out who she is. She rarely talks, she has no friends to talk to anyway. Belongs only to one group and that one out of sheer necessity.

I, on the other hand, am Alpha. I have friends. I belong to groups. I even have a real virtual job for God's sakes, writing for one of the most prestigious blogs of Second Life. And then of course there is my life's work, my building. I am Alpha Auer, Resident of Second Life. Not a mere cipher. I have an identity.

But do I really? If all of this is so cast in stone, so indisputably real, then who is she? Why is she around even? Why is she the one giving nocturnal recitals? Why is she haunting my human imagination? Filling my dreams with her unreality?
...

I was at a lecture on Second Life last week. One thing that was said stuck with me. That Real Life is no more "real" than Second Life. It is all a projection anyway. Plato's Cave. Second Life gives us a novel understanding of our imprisoned condition, facing the shadows of our so-called "reality". Our minds.

We do not belong. Neither here nor there. Meanwhile, she will continue to play the piano.

Sometimes.
...

When I was a child I knew a wolf. We lived on the outskirts of the city, and somehow this feral puppy made it into our garden. For months and months all I could do was to leave food for her, knowing that she would eventually venture forth in the cover of darkness. In time she approached me. She never became fully domesticated but she was there, on the periphery. There was even love in her beautiful yellow eyes, or so at least I thought.

And that is ultimately how we do belong. In the affection we perceive in alien yellow eyes. For a time.
...

My Beautiful RL


I am really more of a much-rather-stay-at-home kind of a person. I will happily spend all of my days right here, at home - as long as I have a good computer, a decent ADSL line and the roomies of course...

And yet at the same time I know that I happen to be living in a magical city. So, how is that for a contradiction then?

Fall is here, and somewhat early this year too. In fact, I have already had the heat on ever so slightly in the evenings for the last few days. The days are getting noticeably shorter and there are absolutely glorious sunsets that break through all the rain clouds, sunsets for which this place is famous for in the fall. I hate the summer and I love the fall and even the winter. The day I put on the first woolly socks of the season is a feast day. So, this really is the greatest time of the year for me and to my mind the greatest time of year for Istanbul as well.

I love this huge, congested, confusing, ugly/beautiful city and the funny thing is that I thoroughly detested it until about 15 years ago.

...

Istanbul was dead during the years that I grew up here: It was a provincial city of a million people or so. And yes - no doubt architecturally speaking it was far more beautiful then than it is today. The hills of the Bosphorus were still largely forested and most of the old gingerbread houses were still struggling to stand in their big pine tree gardens on the Asian side. And yes, people were far more polite and well mannered - the famous old guard Istanbul bourgeoisie was alive and well, daintily sipping their tea with crooked little fingers, sitting in the "Cercle D'Orient" or the "Grand Club", or indeed all the refined drawing rooms of well bred Istanbul ladies. Faded and pathetic grandeur... Turkish is a language with a formal "you", as well as an informal "thou" - and boy, was the "you" much in evidence back then... My my... Yeah... yeah...

It was boring! Elitist, uniform, stuffy, stultifyingly conservative, effete, outmoded... So stilted in fact that most people of my generation - at least the ones that had even one single, even remotely rebellious bone in their body - once they hit their twenties could not wait to get out. Either by becoming revolutionaries that desperately tried to throw the whole dilapidated social structure on to the garbage heap where it really and truly belonged, or by just simply physically wanting out. I personally went to London first for a couple of years and then ended up in New York where I lived for 7 years. And New York is, to this day, my other big love city - except that unfortunately this other big love has ended up breaking my heart, deceiving me very badly in fact, by metamorphosing into this "obey the rules whilst pretending to be hip" sort of an old fuddyduddy city... So there, in New York, the love is the woe of lost love; whereas over here, the then so deservedly shunned upon, sniffed at conservative Istanbul of my younger days has ended up revealing itself as the true wild lover?

And it all happened because at one point, in the 80's came a visionary prime minister, who opened up the economic barriers that Turkey had literally been suffocating under up until then. And millions came flooding in from the impoverished countryside into Istanbul in search of employment at the newly raised industrial parks and factories; bringing with them their cultures, their food and their music. True they were extremely rough around edges, true they were uneducated but they were also bright, innovative, ambitious and hard working. The hook nosed, blond Laz from the Black Sea and the Kurds from the east; and then of course the small, round faced Turkish peasants from central Anatolia. They worked, they wheeled and dealed, they confiscated government land on which they raised their favelas, and then they worked some more and turned the favelas into perfectly civilized middle class neighborhoods - albeit unbelievably ugly ones, that now stretch across the once unspoiled, beautiful horizon. Today Istanbul is a vast, and at times very ugly city, a megapolis of 15 million - grown to that size in less than 30 years. With horrifying traffic problems, and crowds possessed of an energy that people say is akin only to what is encountered in places like Shanghai and Hong-Kong these days.

And the kids of those once immigrants are now my students. And the students of all my colleagues employed at some 20 universities in this city. Close to half a million university students in Istanbul apparently... Blond big Laz boys snogging dark small Turkish girls. Kurdish mommy - Laz daddy. Turkish daddy - Kurdish mommy: The parents of the backpack brigade.


Today I was out and about all day. Various chores and errands that then turned themselves into an absurd sort of a shopping day where I ended up buying my 5th black backpack. And then came back to Besiktas, my 'hood, quite late and sat in a small Lahmacun (sort of an eastern anatolian pizza with ground beef on top) place and wolved down two of those while watching the "other" members of the backpack brigade saunter by in the rain. And eavesdropping onto this completely absurd and very funny conversation between the two lahmacun guys in their little red paper hats concerning soccer results and predictions, waving around rolling pins and little balls of dough to emphasize their points. I very badly wanted to take a photo to put in with this post (which I sort of began writing there I guess) but there was this heavily necking couple sitting directly dead center in my FOV and I figured they would not really appreciate all the attention, so I left it...

...

The backpack brigade: This must be the city of the backpack. I don't think I have ever seen so many of them sold or used anyplace else. Every second street vendor is selling backpacks it seems and seeing someone without a backpack is almost an oddity. Reason: Well, 65% of the city is under 35, you see. It is a city of youngsters, all stomping along with their backpacks, some of them with sometimes almost waist long dreadlocks (boyz and girlz - I have no idea how they manage to grow dreadlocks of a quality that would easily be the envy of most Rastas, given that hair around here is usually quite straight and fine), yet others with shorn heads, and then all the others with comparatively tame looking, nicely kept long tresses. And then, every once in a while, a scarfed Muslim girl amidst all the hair swaying crowds, one who somehow manages to contrive a totally punk combination with her all-star high tops, her jeans - with a mini skirt on top and then the scarf to complete the whole outfit - as likely as not to be seen busily cuddling a spiky haired boy with ear cuffs, whose baggy jeans look in grave danger of slipping south at any second. Countless piercings and grungy black t-shirts all in place. 10s of thousands if not 100s of thousands or indeed yes, even millions of them; filling the streets day and night. Filling entire soccer stadiums in colored face paint, busking on city ferries, busily reading their little underground fanzines, texting SMS at the speed of lightning, scouring the internet, clogging up both MSN and ICQ, eating and drinking in the thousands of bars and cafes that fill entire neighborhoods large enough to be cities in their own right, talking talking talking. And big worriers they are too - worry about everything, they do - hhh. Like I said, there are 15 million people here and 65% of them are under 35... So, go do the math. It is a huge huge number, creating a huge cultural wave, one that has brought a dead city back on to its feet - and then some...

They have created a formidable music scene. Turkish folk music amalgamated with heavy metal and hard rock. Then the Turkish rap scene. Blue collar parent's kids with jelled up spiky hair, singing a harsh mixture of Turkish tunes to rap rhythms. Then the ones that create crossovers between Thracian gypsy music and hard rock. The ones that mix up arabesk and western ballads. And then of course all those more serious and intellectual types, who take their ney and their tambur out on the streets and play Sufi jazz. Buskers everywhere it seems. I love it.

...

And yet it is a city living under the pall of an imminent and colossal earthquake. The geologists are saying that the huge fault line underneath the Marmara Sea is due for a break within the next 20 years or so. And when it does, the magnitude of the thing is expected to be 7.5 or even over. They have torn down entire neighborhoods that are in the direct danger zone (where I live is not anywhere near that category - thank god) and are re-structuring those areas. But still hundreds of thousands live in secondary danger zones that are also under grave risk.

...

After I ate my lahmacun I dragged my old and new backpacks filled with all kinds of absurd goodies up my hill (a very nice black beaded necklace, 2 leather wrist braces that I would certainly not be sneezing at in SL either, a brand new and ominously worn out looking black t-shirt that has "Turkish Rap Underground" written on it front and back, some shampoo that promises to make my hair curly... hhh). Opened the front door to find an army of roomies complaining loudly at my prolonged absence.

...

So, can my RL get any better than this? Not that I want to seem greedy or anything like that, or not that I am not immensely grateful for all that I have already - but... I should bloody well hope so!

hhh

...
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Enter Grapho Fullstop


I am not sure how I managed to get to Grapho in my convoluted thought patterns. Bett made a post on the neko gym on the NPIRL blog. From there I started to think about my avatar family, for whom I have in fact built that gym. Not that the lazy sods ever use it or anything like that, of course. Except for Xia... I wouldn't be at all surprised if Xia was sleep walking me over to the computer and logging her in for some nocturnal ab flexes in there. But other than her, no one ever goes near the place. Not even to rezz a bomb!

So anyway, for some reason all this has made me think of Grapho, my ill fated male alt avatar who is after all part of the family. Grapho came into being as a result of a dare. During one of our PhD tutorials last year Roy suggested that it might be a really eye opening experience for me if I created an avatar whom I would have a hard time understanding. After mulling over various extra-terrestrial beings and such I came to the conclusion that this would probably be best achieved through the rezzing of a man. And boy, was I right!

I have found it very difficult to become Grapho. Even his appearance gave me much trouble. Unlike Xia, whom I whipped into shape within a half hour, I worked on him almost as much as I worked on myself. And I am still working on myself, I should add. I have recently started wearing a home modified version of the Eloh Eliot skin and much as I like the skin itself I cannot stand my expression, especially the thing that happens with my mouth. It seems almost impossible to make my RL mouth in SL, I find... Anyway, back to Grapho: Yes, I did work on him for days. And what I came up with is actually the sort of guy that I really do not like the looks of at all in RL. Grapho is pretty, if not indeed downright effete. And I do not like effete. When it comes to male looks I am really not into pretty! At all!

So, in order to compensate for his looks, I decided to dress him up in the strangest cyberpunk clothes that I could find. June Dion made a killing the day we went shopping with Grapho. Every unimaginable (some of them pretty scary too) costume we got. Most, if not all, in black. Grapho has gray scale skin, so together with the strange clothes and attachments he really has ended up becoming an ominous figure - until you zoom in into his face and there is the sweet pretty boy, playing dress up horror games. Ridiculous...

I tried to invent a pretty bizarre history for Grapho, where he is this man from a hard core poverty stricken ghetto background, who has somehow worked his way up to become a hot shot architect through sheer talent and maybe even ruthlessness. (Except that Grapho looks about as ruthless as a bunny rabbit - but no matter). So, the way I made him speak was laced with a lot of curses, colloquialism. And in my attempts at trying to fill the role I overdid it to the extent where Mossy suggested that it might be a good idea to wash out Grapho's mouth with soap every then and again. Indeed Mossy had a gut reaction of dislike to Grapho, whereas Hack did not even become friends with him. Didn't even want to know the guy.

So, I wandered the grid with Grapho for a few weeks and then finally gave up. There were a couple of staggering observations that I made along the way though, the most notable one being that I was pestered with attention from female avatars, to an extent that I never ever am by men as Alpha or indeed drop dead gorgeous Xia. So, that tells me something about a kind of a role reversal in sexual patterns between men and women, I guess. Strangely enough, I read an article along this line just around the time when I was walking Grapho on the grid, in some women's magazine I gobbled up in the dentist's waiting room. So, there may indeed be some truth to this? Anyway, not my concern.
My concern is my inability to become a man. So, this is leading me to think about men and my relationship to men. Does my inability point to a failure to grasp the workings of the male psyche?
Here is the thing: I really like men. I become very good friends with men, in fact most of my close friends are male. Women, only very rarely. I work better with men, all my professional collaborators to date have been men. I trust quite a few men, and conversely only very few women. This probably goes back all the way to my father, whom I loved and whom I trusted implicitly. And my father never betrayed my trust, not even once and not even for a second. But did I ever understand my father? Or more to the point: Did my father ever allow me to understand him?

The essence of my relationship with my father, the thing that it was built upon, was play. My father had two qualities which have ended up becoming my sine qua non of life: One was that he had a tremendous sense of humor and the other was that he had imagination to burn. So, he used to play with me. When I was very young they were intricate make-belief games, the favorite one being the rabbit and the bear but there were many others also. We also used to build a lot of props for these stories. He was a very talented guy, who had wanted to become an architect but ended up becoming a law historian instead. As I grew older the games changed and one favorite was discovering things together. He had a VW beetle car and we would undertake these dusty long trips discovering archeological sites all over Anatolia. After all, he knew the subject well enough to make some significant contributions to the field, although he was not formally educated as an archeologist. Discovering an archeological site with my father was magic. He would see in his mind's eye how it had all been way back then and tell you about it all so vividly that you literally saw what he saw. Stones would come to life with his stories - some historic fact, some made up, based in what he already knew. He loved animals, he treated them as fully individuated personalities, equal in status to humans and a lot of my time with my father was spent in the company of animals.

So this man, who could talk for hours about things that happened thousands of years ago, who could transform himself into a bear and me into a rabbit and sustain the story for days and weeks on end...  This man who was really nothing less than a huge bundle of feelings, some straightforward and others deeply complex; running the gamut from vast love to vast anger... Did he ever tell me anything personal? About how he felt? Nope... And if I ever tried to broach any subject that would involve information on what he felt, how did he react? With a masterful sleight of hand of course: Before I even knew it we would have moved on to some other fascinating subject, with me left none the wiser concerning the thing that I really wanted to know: What he felt!

to be continued...

a la guerre comme a la guerre...

(... except that I do seem to be meeting my Waterloo over here, aren't I?!?)
...
To say that there is some considerable cause for concern is putting it really mildly. Here is what I have been having to do since yesterday: Cleaning out 1000 year old CD's, opening them up one by one. Most of them have totally had it after all this time, of course. Furthermore quite a few of them are left overs from the old Mac days (man, am I glad that fancy little contraption is out of my life for good btw...), so I have had to install MacDrive in order to be able to open those and the blasted software keeps making the computer crash every 5 minutes. I mean what is the point in inventing a software that proclaims to read the MacOS format on Windows, if it incurs the virtual equivalent of an epileptic fit the second it encounters a corrupt Mac CD?

So here we are, buried in mountains of old CD's going through each and every one of them. And this is all down to her influence isn't it? This... this... this... this housewife thing she has going on over there, this compulsion to keep things nice and tidy, to economize!!! Oh and here is what's really important: It is a dark dark day when I begin to refer to myself as the woman or as she: I'm telling you, this is the thin end of the wedge people... The woman and I, Alpha, are supposed to be one - or as good as anyway... Right? Has anyone ever heard me talk about a separate woman over here before? So what is this all of a sudden? That I need to talk to the woman about Xia? She is splitting us apart!

I did. Talk I mean. Not to put too fine a point on it, I said to her, hey listen, you gotta delete her... I mean it really is getting out of hand: She is living inside this computer now, constantly fiddling around with folders, organizing things, deleting, making copies, starting sub folders. Two jpegs, even remotely connected and boing! - we have yet another new little sub folder! (Has anyone seen her post on clean inventories btw? Now, if that isn't anal-retentive I would really like to know what is?!?). Then, as if all of that isn't enough already, suddenly she decides that she needs to clean up the entire computer environment. CD's, external hard drives, and all the stuff that is in all the other computers (quite a few around in this joint)... And does anyone realize what that means? What it means is that we (here is that bloody we again, just in case it escaped your notice...) will be sitting here for ever looking at mountains of defunct CD's  - one by one, I might add! Just because her ladyship wants to have order in her life. Oh yes, ostensibly we are supposed to be looking for some old files that are needed for some building work in Syncretia - a likely story, if you ask me...

So, I did speak to her/myself and to my absolute horror she/I sided with her! Xiamara is a good, steadying influence it was decided and she will stay! That there are things that we can learn from her? Apparently? So whatever next I wonder? We will be learning how to cook and swan around the kitchen baking cookies? Start serving the cats home made food maybe? And then the next thing after that I will be expected to wear a dirndl, I guess. Well, I suppose one can always buy one from the place where Hack got his... And if push comes to shove I could always accessorize it with some nice spiky neko leg and arm braces or indeed a clockwork brain? Or two?... I really have to think on my feet here - this is something of an emergency - I am being taken over! By someone with a penchant for floral prints and sub-folders no less!
...

But then again, it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good: That famous photosphere tutorial post of hers, that according to her (hhh - and I mean really hhhhhhh), tout le monde is waiting for with baited breath? Well, that's not too likely materialize these days either now is it? With us rummaging around in hundred year old CD's?
...

Hmm...

Hmmmmmmmmmm...

I suppose she does have her points, old Xiamara. I just wish she wouldn't be quite such a bloody goody-two-shoes, girl scout little preacher about them all you know?... I mean, when all is said and done, when I put my hand on my heart and am totally honest with myself, the CD's really were overdue for a clean up. Even the cats were peeing on them every chance they got...

And furthermore, it will be a cold day in hell before anyone catches me in anything even remotely reminiscent of a Laura Ashley gown... Ever!

teeee heeee...
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