Saturday, August 20, 2011

Manning Up: Some Things I Can Deal With, And Some Things I Can't

You know, I've told my boy a few times to man up and deal with something. I'm not sure what I mean by manning up, in the larger sense. In the short term, it probably means something like, "Hold still and let me take that sliver out of your foot," or "I pretty well understood you're thirsty because it's all you've said for the last 10 minutes. Quit crying and sitting in the sidewalk so we can get home and have some water already."

But when cultures collide, manning up means something else entirely.
I'm not cool with this.

Needless to say, I had nothing to do with this particular purchase. Naturally, the boy loves it because he wants to be a jandarma fireman when he grows up, thus elegantly combining everything his testosterone apparently mandates: police, soldier, and fireman. Plus, think of the vehicles! He actually believes police help people and only shoot bad guys. Whenever I try to explain the moral relativity of what "bad guy" means in real life, he just interrupts me to tell me his butt itches or whatever.

At least he told his babaanne he has it on good authority (mine) that sweating doesn't make you sick.

Still, I regret not buying him that sparkly tutu he wanted. I was afraid they would make fun of him. As soon as his big toenails grow back (an unfortunate accident with a dropped toy box), he's getting another coat of the pink nail polish he made me buy.

On the other hand, here's a bit of manning up I can deal with. This is the kind of manning up that makes the other kind seem okay.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Etymological Mythology, And A Tale Of Shit

This post covers a few things I really like: Etymology, urban legend, learning about crap on the Internet instead of sleeping, and saying the word "shit" a lot.

Yesterday, I received the following e-mail forward concerning the origins of the word "shit."

Happy shit ship!
Manure : In the 16th and 17th centuries, everything had to be transported by ship and it was also before the invention of commercial fertilizers, so large shipments of manure were quite common.

It was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet, but once water (at sea) hit it, not only did it become heavier, but the process of fermentation began again, of which a by product is methane gas of course.. As the stuff was stored below decks in bundles you can see what could (and did) happen. Methane began to build up below decks and the first time someone came below at night with a lantern, BOOM!
Sad shit ship.

Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening

After that, the bundles of manure were always stamped with the instruction ' Stow high in transit ' on them, which meant for the sailors to stow it high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the hold would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane.

Thus evolved the term ' S.H.I.T ' , (Stow High In Transit) which has come down through the centuries and is in use to this very day.

Isn't that a good story? I desperately wanted it to be true but my Junior Linguist Spider Sense suggested I check Snopes, because they always know about e-mail forwards. Here's what they had to say about shit:

This is shit.
"The word shit entered the modern English language via having been derived from the Old English nouns scite and the Middle Low German schite, both meaning "dung," and the Old English noun scitte, meaning "diarrhea." Our most treasured cuss word has been with us a long time, showing up in written works both as a noun and as a verb as far back as the 14th century.

Scite can trace its roots back to the proto-Germanic root skit-, which brought us the German scheisse, Dutch schijten, Swedish skita, and Danish skide. Skit- comes from the Indo-European root skheid- for "split, divide, separate," thus shit is distantly related to schism and schist." 

Complete dork that I am, I liked the second explanation better, even though it didn't come with animated gifs. Coolly enough, it also explains where we get scat (the one meaning animal droppings, not the one people in the old days said to cats and children, and not the one meaning the thing Ella Fitzgerald and Cab Calloway did so well) and scatological.

Which is totally what this post is. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Stupidest Fish In The World

We've had Pencil for like 3 years now, but honestly, he's the stupidest fish ever. And all fish are pretty stupid so this is saying a lot.

The first time Pencil managed to get caught in the filter, I thought it was a fluke. Poor guy. I gently extricated him and just felt really, really sorry for him. I'm not sure if fish feel pain, but if they do, it sucks for Pencil. I don't know how long he was caught in there. His tail has never been the same since. It was gone for awhile on one side, and then grew back in flowing tatters.

Sucks, if you're a fish.
The second time he got caught in the filter, I felt sorry for him again. I'd done all I could to prevent a repeat episode, by putting the filter right up against the wall and as close to the bottom as I could. Still, he managed to get stuck in there, by one of his lateral fins this time. He wasn't on there for more than a few hours, but his lateral fin was reduced to a bloody stump. It's pretty sad watching a fish try to swim with only one lateral fin. The whole balance thing is off.

Lucky for Pencil, Whitey Ford isn't the kind of fish who attacks sick roommates or tries to eat their bloody stumps. Whitey Ford has never gotten stuck in the filter even once, which proves that either Whitey Ford is extraordinarily clever for a fish, or that Pencil is extremely stupid.

Also lucky for Pencil, his lateral fin grew back, and it looks almost normal. At least he doesn't swim all cockeyed anymore.

Don't read this. No, wait. You should totally read this
So a few months went by, and then Pencil got stuck in the filter again. He could have been there all day, for all I know. This time, he got stuck by his butt. Stuff appeared to maybe be coming out of him. Have you ever read Haunted by Chuck Palahnuik? And there's the story of Saint Gut-Free, the guy who suffered some unpleasantness from masturbating on a pool filter? Well, don't read it. It's disgusting. Pencil's issue wasn't quite as bad as that, but it made me think of it.

The butt-sticking was just last week, and Pencil has been unwell since. I mean, his butt has shrunk back into place and it's not all bloody and gross anymore, but he sometimes does that upside-down thing and he's been drifting around a new corner an awful lot. At least he eats his food.

Nevertheless, yesterday I discovered him stuck to the filter again, by the tail again. I hardly felt sorry for him at all, just shut off the filter and got him off of there as gently as I could. His tail is in tatters again.

Poor, stupid fish.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good TV, For Once

Look, I've almost quit watching TV. Okay, I admit I'm watching me some Sherlock Holmes right now, but only because it has Rupert Everett in it. This is pretty much the only decent TV that's been on in weeks. And technically, it's still a police show. Just way hotter because it's all Victorian and shit. But pretty much the only acceptable TV that's been on Digitürk in the last few months has been police shows. And I'm sick to fucking death of police shows. Even LE is sick to fucking death of them. He doesn't even care anymore that they have guns and they shoot people.

He still likes Columbo though. That's my boy! Columbo doesn't seem all that old to me, but it clearly was made back in kinder, gentler days when the TV viewing world was more innocent and gullible. In Columbo, when the murderer decides to move a corpse that's been sitting in his garage for 5 days, and the corpse falls onto his face as he's loading it into the trunk, he doesn't freak out and puke and go "Oh my fucking God holy shit a fucking rotten wet corpse has just fallen on my face!" So maybe that's why LE likes Columbo. It's clear who the good guys and bad guys are, and Columbo may or may not shoot someone at any given time. But he hardly ever does, which makes it extra exciting.

Anyway, one thing I like about Turkey is the completely surprising movies that turn up on TV from time to time. Really, utterly atrocious crap that I absolutely can't turn away from. At 10am, I was treated to none other than 1984's Breakin'.

 A dreadful movie by all accounts, but it was Ice-T's film debut (and my, was he little and skinny), plus there are some pretty talented (and surely forgotten) people in here, most notably "Turbo," whose big moment consisted of a fantastic dance with a broom. Fortunately for breakdancing, it has developed quite a bit since 1984.

As though that weren't enough, Breakin'  was followed by 1983's Valley Girl.

An even more atrocious movie than Breakin', Valley Girl might at least help explain my whole Nicholas Cage thing. Well, that and Peggy Sue Got Married. Oh, and Raising Arizona. Pretty much anything with Nicholas Cage before Hollywood made the mistake of trying to get him to be a cool tough guy.

Nevertheless, I still plan to cancel Digiturk once the contract is up and begin living life TV free. Except for DVDs, of course. I'm not completely insane.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sounds: Or, The Minutiae of Ramazan

I am completely in love with Radiolab, a science-based radio show from NPR. I have all the podcasts saved up, along with This American Life, Car Talk, and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. All of these together kind of serve the same function as the somewhat newly released Calve peanut butter, which is that they act as a kind of slow-release for the building pressure of homesickness that comes from missing little things. And one thing I totally miss is driving around with my parents listening to NPR.

Radiolab is my favorite, though even though it's never been on during family drives. Every episode contains a million thrilling factoids about how things work and what your brain is up to and the completely chance events that exploded to make the world how it is now. Anyway, seeing as how both the hosts are Oberlin graduates cum professional radio and production guys, they're really interested in sounds, and what sounds do and how they affect us. One of the most pleasing episodes discusses, among other cool things (like how mothers use their voices the same way to talk to their babies no matter what language they speak), is how sound is "touch from a distance." Which it is. The vibrations of sound cause air to touch the cilia in your ear making them move, which sets off a series of reactions and echoes that your brain eventually interprets as something meaningful.

And not to keep going on about babies, but sound is how we touch our babies before they're born. And to totally go on about babies, you want to know something cool? All of us have lived in the bellies of our grandmothers, in a way. That's because egg cells form in the female fetus before birth. So the egg that made you was in your mama while she was still in her mama. Cool, right?

So that's why I like Radiolab. There're all kinds of nifty things to know about the world.

Is it making a sound?
Anyway, sound. I like sound. Isn't that a stupid and vague thing to say? I like smells, too. If I had to choose my favorite sense it would be a tie between smell and sound. But here's one thing I like about sound: A single thing doing something makes a small sound. Hundreds of those things doing something makes a totally different sound, or even a synergistic sound. Like leaves. If you rub two leaves together, they just go "sssht sssht." But thousands of leaves on a tree make the sound of wind. I suppose that wind is completely silent unless it has something to rustle or whistle around on. And even if there were none of that, the only sound it would make is the one of hitting your ears.

Which means that the sound of wind maybe doesn't exist unless someone is there to hear it.

Zen moment.

Chomping coral is what I do best!
Okay, I'm done.

So I really like what happens to sound when it gets repeated by lots of things. For example, once I was snorkeling in Hawaii on a shallow reef. I didn't want to go back on shore and deal with the annoying company there, so I decided to follow this one parrot fish around and see what it got up to. I followed it for a long time, and what it mainly got up to was scraping at the coral with its beaky mouth. Then I realized its beaky mouth was making a tiny, dampened sound on the coral. After that I saw another parrot fish doing the same thing, and I could hear it too. Then I noticed all around were parrot fish scraping on the rocks, hundreds of them, and they were all making the same sound. So under the sound of the water and the waves was the dull echo of all the parrot fish scraping the coral all around me.

Even tasty fish are fucking scary.
And then I realized I had swum out past the edge of the reef where it dropped off sharply and I was suddenly in very deep water. Parrot fish were scraping away below me farther than I could see down. When I looked out I swear there were ominous giant shadows of monstrous giant fish that maybe were something innocuous like tuna, but maybe were some sort of 4 meter predators of parrot fish. So I made my way back, sort of slowly so as not to draw their attention. The fact is, even though I like fish, deep down I'm fucking terrified of being in the water with them, that one may come up from below, or come up next to me and look at me. Or eat me. Or decide to play with me. Whatever. It's scary. I have bad dreams about that fairly often, actually, of being surrounded by malevolent fish, or falling into dirty water I know is full of malevolent fish. Also baby animals multiplying out of control and some of them are dead and some of them can talk.

Okay, then.

Not the worst birds ever.
Another example is once I was standing a safe distance away from a flock of Canada geese. On the one hand, geese suck because sometimes they get inexplicably pissed off and chase after you flapping and hissing, and if there's one thing birds shouldn't do, it's hiss. On the other hand, they're slightly less unnerving than other birds because their eyes are a little less beady and they don't have the awful, jerky movements of chickens or pigeons. They don't turn their heads quite so suddenly, looking at you and not looking at you at the same time.

These particular geese were pecking at the grass. At first I heard the sound of one goose pecking, and then all of them pecking and it was so nice, all thumpy and still. When I pointed this out to the fellow I was dating at the time, he wasn't the least bit interested, which was probably one of many early hints that things weren't going to work out between us, but like many such hints, I let it go and then the relationship took another two years to die an explosive death but it all led to me coming to Turkey in its way, so you can see why the geese were important.

Get it?
You know, I started off this post thinking I didn't really have anything to write about so I was going to talk about Ramazan sounds for a couple of paragraphs and hit "publish" without really getting into it too much. Now look what's happened.

Ramazan in the summer must be a bitch. I'm sure you're not to put those two words together in a sentence, but check it out, I just did.

Seriously, though, you would have to be either really freaking religious or really freaking superstitious to put yourself through this ordeal. And I admit I don't quite know where that distinction between "religious" and "superstitious" lies, but I'm always surprised by who fasts and who doesn't and I make myself crazy wondering why they fast and wishing I had known earlier about that particular predilection because maybe I would have handled certain things differently or if it would have mattered if I did.

Still, I kind of like the Ramazan atmosphere. I like these early weeks of it when it seems to be making everyone happy. The later weeks they start getting a bit frayed and tetchy, but in the beginning there's a celebration feeling around. And I'm guessing this feeling doesn't come so much from religious fervor as it does from the sense of a special once-a-year thing is taking place, a time where people do the same nice things they've always done at these times, and maybe they think back on previous Ramazans and how the steps of their lives are marked in a way. I mean hell, I totally love Christmas even though I don't love Jesus. I even love singing LE Christmas songs, and I relent a little on the "No Jesus" and "God Is Not A Given" policies I otherwise have in my house, because how else would I get to sing LE "Away In A Manger" and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing?"

Pretend it's the view from my house, okay?
Before the sunset ezan that signals when everyone can break the fast, the tension starts to build. I've liked hearing it in my neighborhood on these quiet clear evenings, when everyone has the windows open. Mothers start screeching for the kids on the street a little more frequently, and there's a crescendo of crashing in all the kitchens. You can even hear the sounds of all the food, plates, and cutlery being laid on tables. Right before the ezan it all goes a little silent, when everyone just sits, poised at their tables. Even most the babies seem to know not to bother crying, and if they do, their mothers just glance at them with tired smiles and assure everyone the baby is fine how it is.

And then the ezan. I don't know if you can feel or hear the collective sigh of relief as everyone chugs a big glass of water, or if I just imagine I can feel that because I know what they must be feeling. After that, there's only murmuring and the chink of metal on plates for awhile, until people start to loosen up and talk more. The cigarettes all get lit around the same time, and the kids explode back onto the street where they will stay until around midnight.

The other night I was out on the balcony and I could hear several neighbors in my building as they started washing dishes after iftar. Naturally all the men were still at the table having manly conversations while the women continued in the massive effort that is iftar, which was serving in my mind as further reiteration of the point that being a woman here kind of sucks.

Not happening near my house.
And then I realized I could hear all the dishes being washed next door too. And across the street. Since the guys in the minibus yard were still relatively quiet, I could hear the dishes being washed a few buildings over. And up the hill behind me. And across to the next street on the other side. I listened some more and I was pretty sure I could even hear dishes being washed way across the valley and up and down the hills over there. It made a pleasant tinkling cacophony with regular crescendos and periods of near quiet, with all the water running and women's voices in the background punctuated by the occasional crashing and laughter. How cool is that, that enough people would be doing something in their houses at exactly the same time that you could hear the music of it? It's a hundred private spaces converging into a single sound.

Anyway, it took a long time to get to where I started with the title, but that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Thrilling Adventure

So last weekend LE and I hopped on the city bus to see where it ended.

This village has a big tree in the middle of it, as they all should.
It turned out to be a good idea.

It wasn't a total mystery where the bus ended, not like the time we hopped onto a dolmuş a few months back and ended up in the loveliest little village with a beach. I mean, I knew there would be a beach because the dolmuş sign said "plaj" at the bottom, but I had no idea the drive out would look like Oregon, with rolling hills and trees and different shades of green and the occasional farm and the cutest old farmhouses ever. We wound around through a village that may or may not yet have had the misfortune of being incorporated into Istanbul.

Eventually, LE and I were the only ones on the dolmuş. We got to the end of the line and the driver, a big fellow with an enormous mustache, suddenly noticed us and was like, "Hey what are you doing here? I thought you were getting off in Zekeriyaköy!" Zekeriyaköy is the place where the foriegners usually get off. And I was all, "No, we're going to the beach." And he got all happy about that, perhaps because we weren't some lost foreigners who were his responsibility, but also because I had a kid with me and kids love the beach and he wasn't the sort of fellow who would worry on my behalf that my kid may get cold or dirty on the beach, on an unseasonably chilly day. He pointed us the way, and then he refused me when I offered him the fare for the place we had got to, rather than the place he'd thought we were going to when he took my money.

I'm never quite sure what to do in situations like this, as it seems like "offering the money," or "not offering the money," could both be construed as rude in a myriad of ways, but in the end, I never want to be the one who didn't offer to pay up.

The beach was nice and empty, with lots of sand and very few tarballs. On the way back, the driver, who apparently lived in this village, pulled over the dolmuş a few times to greet passersby and show off the vehicle. Then some women got on the dolmuş and asked him to wait because their friends were still up the road, and he did them one better by backing up the road to fetch their friends. They'd all been out gathering wildflowers. I'm enormously pleased that there are still people in the world who make a day out of going to pick wildflowers. It was an joyful trip back into town, like a party dolmuş with everyone cheerfully telling everyone else off and trying to get LE to say his name or age, and then some little girls figured out I speak Turkish, so it all became the sort of thing you read about in other people's travel journals and it was all fine and good.

But we didn't get any pictures. There's a çeşme along the road I'm dying to take a picture of, but I won't tell you what's written on it because it's better as a surprise.

Last weekend's trip was to another village that was okay in its own way. Back to the tree.
There are only men under this tree.

This is a really freaking nice tree, which is why I just had to post two photos of it. Its shade seemed to pretty much cover the entire downtown of the village. Now look, what I don't know about trees could fill a book, but I'm thinking this must be one of those çınar trees I'm always hearing so much about. So many places here are called Çınaraltı, and whenever you read books about Istanbul, there are always lots of plane trees, a tree type I'd never heard of until I started reading books about Istanbul.

This one rises up out of the concrete and has benches built around it, and the village planners were also kind enough to build the streets and buildings around it too. How could they not? It's truly a magnificent tree.

It was a hot day, and LE and I had traipsed awhile from the bus stop. He was fixating on every display of beach toys we passed, assuming my plan of going to a surprise place meant he was going to get a toy. I was thinking some time spent under this tree would be a good idea, and surely there would be some tea nearby.

But when we got up close I looked around, and realized there were only men under the tree, and near the tree, and in the large tea garden not far from the tree, and in all the businesses and restaurants around the tree. Lots of sons, but not a single daughter, of any age. I counted 2 women in the area-- one in a headscarf scurrying away, and one in her early 20s sitting at a table with like 5 men. And it seemed like all the men were staring at us.

Look, I still pretty much really like living in Turkey. But, on a hot day when you find a shady spot and realize it's yet another freaking Man Place, and all the men are staring, well, it kind of sucks. Big time. Especially when I'm not sure why they're staring. Do I have a stain on my shirt? Is it my boobs? Is it because I'm blonde and foreign? Or maybe because my kid is so damned cute? Maybe it's just because I'm not from these parts. It's enough to make one want to cross one's arms over one's chest and scurry out of there, like the headscarf lady was doing, because standing tall and proud to be yourself and a fellow human is definitely not the thing to do in such a situation. I've been here long enough to have figured that out, at least.

But it also occurred to me that the prevalence of men could have been Ramazan-related, because this was on the Sunday before Ramazan started. Maybe the women were at home doing some big Ramazan preparation thing. There was definitely a holiday celebration feeling in the air. And an awful lot of imams, and imams-in-training. We saw like 3 carloads of imams go by, so it could just be that we came on a bad day, woman-wise, and in fact there was just some sort of religious doing afoot that got past me entirely.

Anyway, LE lately seems to be directing much of his linguistic abilities towards bitching. And whining. When he's not telling me about some nice thought in his head, or some little idea he's had, he's btiching and whining. So by the time we actually reached the tree (it was only a 5-minute walk from the bus stop, mind you) he had informed me in the whiniest of voices that he was hot, sweaty, hungry, thirsty, and tired. Oh, and the minor owie on his knee where he'd scraped it a couple days before, not even enough to bleed, was apparently devastatingly painful and in need of a bandage. He also wondered why there were so many men everywhere, so at least that shows my influence has worn off onto the little mite somehow.

To distract him, I gave him the phone and told him to take some pictures.

Not bad...

Action shot!

Of course, LE takes pictures of the stuff he really likes the most.

I can pretend it's the strawberries, but it totally isn't.

I made him quit taking pictures when we got to all the men, because I didn't feel like drawing any more attention to ourselves. So when we went down some stairs and there was a young bull walking by, he still had ahold of the phone and wouldn't give it up because he was so thrilled about the bull. Daily farm life sightings in the street have not inured him to the coolness of seeing farm life in the street.

Then, the best part.

The kids standing around laughing at the dog were freaked out that LE was taking a picture.

A dog that had cornered a cat and was barking at it, but too afraid to come near. The four-year-old world order has had enough Tom and Jerry in it to know that a dog being afraid of a cat is extremely silly. It kind of blew his mind. When you're four and you see a dog being afraid of a cat, it probably suddenly seems like the world has been turned upside down and anything is possible.

LE was still going on about the dog when I spotted a restaurant that had women in it, so we went there. And they had calamari and balık köftesi, one of the yummiest köftes known to man, plus there was cheese inside so all in all it was a pretty good day that turned out to be a thrilling adventure.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Very Bad Bug

Okay, so I've shared my feelings on bugs I have issues with. Included in the list were dead bugs, black shiny bugs, bugs with creepy legs, and bugs larger than a lentil. That being said, I felt I ought to post my open letter to Mother Nature, following a bug sighting the other day. I was too scared of it to hold my thumb up next to it and give you a sense of scale, but it was about the size of my thumb.

The swarm of ants doesn't show up in the photo as much as I'd like, but LE found the whole thing both thrilling and terrifying, which I think is a nice feeling to have in certain situations.

I definitely didn't kill it. It must have made a crunching sound.
Dear Mother Nature,

I'm normally not someone who wishes ill on your creations (except the really awful ones, like flesh-eating bacteria and those parasitic fish that swim up your pee), but seriously, were the pincers necessary? Would this bug not have been terrifying enough to any living creature, both within and outside of its weight class, even without the pincers?

And the fact that its wings look perfectly usable, well, I can't get over the feeling that you're totally fucking with us sometimes.

With sincere apologies about the enormous American carbon footprint-- I really didn't know until it was too late!