Daily mythology: Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

-Heraclito: Everything changes and everything moves, the opposites follow one another in a perpetual cycle and cycles, of which the fire is responsible. “You can not bathe twice in the same river”.


How we are used to the common roles of women and men! The women’s everlasting feelings, the male exemplars of us stuck inside ourselves and inapt to express any emotions… It could remind us of Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo, couldn’t it? It is about time to aproach sex and gender with a fresh mind. It did begin though! Don’t we love the appearance of David Bowie, Brian Molko (the frontman of “Placebo”), Boy George, Tilda Swinton, Michael Stipe, Tanita Tikaram, k.d.lang, Marla Glen, Annie Lennox, Michael Jackson and meanwhile many other singers and actors playing deliberately with genders? Anything seems possible like in the antiques, where nobody was wondering about Hermaphrodites. They were even worshipped as holy people and prophets – see Tiresias, being first a men and changing into woman.

Jeffrey Eugenides’ book is all about this matter. Even the title, “Middlesex”, though mainly an adress of Detroits suburb Grosse Pointe, can be an allusion to the third sex, the gender in the middle of female and male.
Callie Stephanides, our hero, is expieriencing this in her own body, being born as a girl and turning into a boy with 14 years…
She is the teller of our book, sometimes omniscient narrator too, beginning the story even before her birth or conception, telling us about far away Anatolia, the burning inferno of Smyrna, the doings of her parents while away in California or even going inside Father Mike’s head. Actually she/he is 41 years old, living in Berlin, just finding a new girlfriend, doing big flashbacks into the story of her family, her grandparents Desdemona and Lefty, her parents Tessie and Milton, her brother Chapter Eleven, her aunts and uncles.

“Grow up in Detroit and you understand the way of all things. Early on, you are put on close relations with entropy.”

There is but a big life space in between Bursa in Anatolia and Detroit. The unifying motive is the silkworm, doing it’s metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly and doing this by spinning itself into cocoons…. In my opinion this is the hidden motive of the whole book.
The main theme though is sex and gender, and we get aware again, how fluent the borders in between sexes are. At one point it even is said about hermaphrodites: we are the new gender, the one of the future. But even samples of the past are cited: The Oracle of Delphi, Tiresias, Homeros, Heraklit with his “panta rhei”, the nymph Salmakis (whose pool,by the way, is to be found in Bodrum!) turning to Hermaphroditos, the poet Sappho…

Eugenides though is very less didactic but always good for a joke. I like his wry sense of humor:
“She didn’t surrender until after Japan had.”
“The days of the harem were over. Bring on the era of the backseat! Automobiles were the new pleasure domes. They turned the common man into a sultan of the open road.”
“I crossed to the intercom and put my mouth against the speaker and said in a deep voice, ‘I’m not going into that church.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Have you seen what they charge for those goddamn candles?’”
“The slight gracelessness of my walk, which Dr. Luce had commented on, predisposed me to join the graceless sex.”
“Sing, Muse, of Greek ladies and their battle against unsightly hair! Sing of depilatory creams and tweezers! Of bleach and beeswax!”
“On sunny days the lake still managed to look blue. Most of the time, however, it was the color of cold pea soup.”
“By April of 1972, Desdemona’s application to join her husband in heaven was still working its way though a vast celestial bureaucracy.”

1st Encore:

Some have the opinion, only the initial story of the village near Bursa, the war in between Turcs and Greeks, the terrible end of Smyrna and the escape of sister and brother to the New World and finally to Detroit is catching, the rest of the book rather boring. I am not in that opinion: I red this thick book until the last page like a police-novel.

2nd Encore:

The figures emerging all along the plot are quite interesting: Peter Tatakis, Jackie Halas, Father Mike, Sourmelina, Aunt Zo, Dr. Philobosian (“Dr. Philobosian smelled like an old couch, of hair oil and spilled soup, of unscheduled naps. His medical diploma looked as if it were written on parchment.”), the prostitute Irini, Captain Kontoulis, Jimmy Zizmo, Sophie Sassoon, Marius Wyxzewixard Challouehliczilczese Grimes, the Charm Bracelets, the Obscure Object, Maxine Grossinger, Mr. Da Silva, Zora, who doesn’t want to be a woman, Bob Presto, Julie Kikuchi and many others.

3rd Encore

All along the book the thesis of the surroundings, the education being important for the gender of someone against that of the genes (“I try to go back in my mind to a time before genetics, before everyone was in the habit of saying about everything, ‘It’s in the genes.”) are elaborated. But finally the author solves the opposite theories by stating, that everybody has her/his own will.
What’s the reason for studying history? To understand the present or avoid it?”

Lets end with the motto on the flag of Detroit: “Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus. ‘We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes.’”


Daily mythology (readme)

Today starts the fourth chapter of daily mythology. In here -as before – I try to shed a new light on daily words and things. As well etymology – how did these words sound 600 or 2000 years ago? What was their origin? – as semantic, as our rather die-hard blinkers, the traditional habits of our thoughts to be shaken, should appear. Here we go.

Oft ist hier die Überschrift “Mythologie des Alltags” zu lesen. In dieser Serie möchte ich ein Licht auf unsere alltȁglichen Worte und Dinge, ihre Etymologie, ihre Semantik sowie auf die zumeist eingefahrenen Traditionen unseres Denkens werfen. Zusȁtzlich sollen auch wenig bekannte Leute vorgestellt werden…

Daily mythology: “As near as my feet”



There’s one secret in technique (not to mention the 999 others here): the wheel. It cannot be explained by the activities of our feet, it is from fundamental different genesis. Maybe from snowball rolling down the hill, the fireball, the rolling stone? The sun maybe (I just came under god Apollo’s influence….)

What’s about our feet? What do we know about them? They are so far away from our intellect, and often too far to tighten the shoelaces

First of all they always know where to go. They are writing our biography on the ground (about writing: poetry and walking are tightly connected: french „le talon“, the heel, is from to „tell, tale“, and this means to count, french „raconter“. A certain rhythm of verses is called „jambus“ – from „la jambe“ the leg – and another dactylus „with fingers“. And even prose means „to proceed straight forwards“).

Secondly thoughts thought by walking are quite different from those thought while sitting or laying on the bed. A poet always needs to walk to get the rhythm, and maybe a musician too.. Happy if your walk of life got music! And whole populations wrote history by walking, by migrating to unknown places, from Cengiz Khan up to the village people of nowadays.

And it is a very old tradition to carry the dead out of the house with their feet first. Because the feet know where to go.

We use to say about great people, like Kemal Atatürk, like Christian Morgenstern for example „they are too far in our future, aman!“ But let’s try to walk in their footsteps.

Daily mythology: Nobody



Being tired of heads, the author sits on the beach (the season just starts, sezon başlıyor!) and sees some bodies on the shore

We all know the gigantic head-sculptures at Mt.Rushmore at least from photographs. Well, in a certain sense these presidents are literally nobodies aren’t they? Let’s forget them for a while, it is spring, body and soul are longing for the sun (while the head’s protected by a hat).

In fact tourism is a matter of exposing our skin to sunshine, all the office-workers, cellar-crawlers, computer freaks, book worms and night owls feel an aching hunger for sunshine. Modern summer-tourism is happening on the beaches (of Mediterranean climate zone) The beach is a border – as our skin is – and borders are fascinating zones of liveliness. Just a few examples: there are more flowers at the border between woods and meadow than inside of both of them. There is more traffic on the roads in the morning and evening than at noon or at night. There are colours emerging at dawn and not in the darkness or the bright light. In fact our whole living sphere is a small borderline between the petrified inner of our planet and the vacuum of space. And the beach! What colours, what life, what noise during summer holidays in Bodrum, in Bitez, in Göltürkbükü and Torba, while Kizilaĝac, Mumcular and Dörttepe are sleeping beauties in the glast of summer heat……


(Photograph: Shower-bodies at Turgutreis © Thomas Kutzli)


Come on! Let’s meditate about bodies!!

Like about heads here a bit of etymology:


German “Leib” – life, like (like a body), “Körper” – corpse – “Leiche” dead body. Interesting connections are: corsage, corset (size of the body); corpulent; leprechaun, the Irish dwarfs (little body); nobody, anybody and somebody; member (of parliament); limb (from Proto-Indogerman “lei”) = any visible part of the body, labour = exertion of the body, today used in sense of to plough or to give birth, some countries got even a labour-party…..; meniscus = crescent shaped body; hocus-pocus (from lat. “hoc est corpus meus” = this is my body)….

(see: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php)


Should the body be the bearer of life (as much of these words suggest), and the skin the zone where we get conscience of it? In my favourite lokanta here Şadi Bey just plays “I got you……. under my skin…. ), and the head, the face, the brain, the impact of individuality, would be carried around by the ever serving body and its members?


In modern times now another part of us has been separated from our entirety . I may be allowed to take a short ride into matters of criminology: As big communities were organizing themselves there was need to identify individuals in the crowd of people. First it was done by names. But it was not difficult at all to take a nickname, a false name and start anew (after some crimes for example). In some countries – let’s take the Osman Empire – there were not even second names.

Around 1880 Alphonse Bertillon, a French anthropologist, had the most nearby idea for an identification: the photograph of the human face (see my  article “Headroom” about the face and head in Bodrum Observer, issue xx)

Then the hierarchy of human body parts changed: Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, created the method of fingerprints…..Fingerprints offer an infallible means of personal identification. That is the essential explanation for their having supplanted other methods of establishing the identities of people.

(see history of fingerprints: http://www.onin.com/fp/fphistory.html)

But in much more ways we got into a „finger-age“. It began with the finger on the trigger of fire weapons, then the shutter of the camera, then the keys of the typewriter…. nowadays we mostly just use one fingertip, be it for telecommand, keyboard, wireless mouse or touchscreen…. We are immobilized – in front of monitor or under the sun of the beach, because technique became independent from us, has run out of our bodies…..

The whole world of machines is – as I’ll try to develop in the third part of this article – an extension of our hands and feet……

Mythologie des Alltags: Na, logo

Von einer alten Kirche wollte ich die Krypta besuchen, zum Teil aus kunsthistorischem Interesse, zum Teil, weil ich gehört hatte, dass die Alten da den guten Wein gelagert hätten. Der Eingang zu dem Gewölbe aber war verschlüsselt! So musste ich ausser den beiden Oinologen (ein weisser, ein roter) auch noch nen Kryptologen mitnehmen, und da dieser schwere Probleme mit seinem Innenleben hatte auch noch nen Psychologen. Dieser wiederum wollte nicht ohne seine Freundin kommen, die Liminologin war, sich aber nebenbei auch mit Geologie und Gerontologie beschäftigt hatte, man sollt ja fürs Alter vorsorgen, nicht wahr? So schritten wir gesammelt die Stiege vor dem Chor herunter. Auf dem Weg vertraute mir die Freundin des Psychologen – sie hiess Hertha – an, dass sie Flexitarianerin sei. Ich dachte immer, die Klempner seien das? Nein, es hiesse, flexibel mit Fleisch- und Gemüsekonsum umzugehen, weder Vegetarier noch Anthropophage noch Currywurstliebhaber zu sein. Was es nicht alles gibt! Das geht ja auf keine Kuhhaut……

Daily mythology: Architecture in human shape

Since the night of times architecture mirrors human needs. Even the stairs are telling us who climbed them. The height of the ceiling tells us about the class of people living in those buildings.

But don’t forget the following two exceptions:

  1. for defense-purposes (against weather and enemies) doors and windows were narrowed and the walls reinforced and isolated. The flight towers to protect from invaders had their doors even high above the ground.
  2. To frighten and intimidate people buildings, included doors and windows, were oversized. Examples are easily to be found in real and virtual world (Hitler’s buildings in Berlin, the residences in Bucharest and Ankara, the halls in “Games of Throne”…). Obsequious guards are opening the huge doors for the landlord…

But in which buildings one feels at ease remains to learn. Every good architect is researching it lifelong.


Von altersher war die Architektur auf den Menschen ausgerichtet. Selbst die Treppenstufen geben darüber Auskunft, wie gross die Menschen – und deren Beine – zur Zeit ihrer Errichtung beschaffen waren. Die Deckenhöhe gibt wichtige Auskünfte über die Klasse der in diesen Rȁumen wohnenden. Zwei Ausnahmen sind allerdings anzutreffen: zu Verteidigungszwecken wurden  Türen und Fenster verkleinert oder verlegt – der Fluchtturm hat seinen Eingang in luftiger Höhe – und die Mauerdicke verstȁrkt. Zur Einschüchterung von Besuchern werden Gebȁuder, Türen und Fenster überdimensioniert: und schon haben wir Palȁste, die ein sicheres Zeichen für das Vorhandensein von Gewaltherrschern sind. Zahlreiche Beispiele in der realen und in der virtuellen Welt sind vorzufinden (Hitlers Prachtgebȁude in Berlin, die Residenzen in Bukarest und Ankara, die Sȁle in “Games of Throne”…). Dem Hausherrn werden die riesigen Türen von beflissenen Leibgardisten geöffnet…

In welchen Gebȁuden man sich wohl fühlt, hȁngt wohl von den Bewohnern ab.

Mythologie des Alltags II: Diane Arbus


Trotz all ihrer Berühmtheit war sie letzten Endes verloren im Leben, genau wie die Leute auf ihren meist schwarz-weissen Fotos, Leute der Halbwelt, Bettler, Zwerge, Transvestiten, Prostituierte, Zirkusartisten (die meisten davon freilich in “Harper’s Bazaar”, “Esquire” oder dem Sunday Times Magazine zu sehen), Leute in einer Welt, die letztlich so viel reicher ist als die Welt der armen Reichen, die heute mit einem Glas Sekt in der Hand Arbus’ Ausstellungen frequentieren, manche davon eher, um sich selbst zu zeigen, als um die Photographien anzusehen.
1971 schon wӓhlte die Künstlerin den Freitod, indem sie sich die Pulsadern aufschnitt.
(Michael als Photograph kann sicher mehr zu Diane Arbus sagen.)

Diane wurde unter ihrem Mӓdchennamen Nemerov am 14. Mӓrz 1923, also vor ziemlich genau 94 Jahren, in New York am Hudson geboren. Sie heiratete ihre Jugendliebe Allan Arbus, ebenfalls jüdischer Abstammung. Allan wurde nachgesagt, er habe zeitweise Klarinette im Orchester Benny Goddmans gespielt, wir kennen ihn aber eher als Schauspieler – etwa in M*A*S*H. In Wirklichkeit arbeitete er als Photogaraph. Diane, die zwei Töchter grosszog, schloss sich seinem Studio an, wurde aber viel berühmter als dieser selbst. Bis heute ist sie uns als “Photographin der Freaks” bekannt. Als erste Photographin wurde sie auf der Biennale in Venedig ausgestellt. Norman Mailer sagt von ihr: “Der Arbus eine Kamera in die Hand zu geben, ist, als ob man einem Kind ne Handgranate gӓbe….” (Wobei die Wirkungen der Kamera eben denen der Handgranate vorzuziehen sind….)