Duck Lips

The main function of lips is to suck. This skill comes at birth as a primitive reflex -and it is fundamental to our survival. Via the means of evolution, babies are now born knowing how to suck and no learning of any sort is required. Lips, the hypersensitive pinky tissue is the main (visibly) entrance to human’s body. Albeit, lips serve some other functions such as: food intake, drool prevention, speech, and playing musical instruments. Lips also have a considerable impact on beauty and visual aspects of the face.

In the past few years, we have found a new function for lips: The Duck Lips pose. Often, when I closely look at poses in pictures, I detect a new trend: people stick their lips out in a fashion that looks like duck’s beak. This photographic expression enhances cheekbones and causes pooched-out lips and sucked-in cheeks. In this pose, the body is usually positioned at 45 degree, the arm closest to the camera is placed on the hip, one foot is slightly in front of the other, the toe of the front foot is pointed towards the camera, and the weight is placed on the back leg.

I’m not a style-caster, but honestly, some people look good with this pose in pictures. Out of curiosity, I tried to find out how the duck-lips pose burst out into pictures. Apparently, this pose became very popular after broad publication of pictures from Ashley Dupre’s, Eliot Spitzer’s mistress.

Models and other imaginary creatures have always exaggerated facial gymnastics in the name of fashion or entertainment. That’s fair game and to a large degree necessary with any notion that has to do with creativity and imagination. Nevertheless, let’s try not to out-suck the main sucker.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Technically, San Francisco is not a valley. The city doesn’t consist of a flat and low area between mountains. No river runs through the city either. Albeit, add people to the mix, and suddenly, this beautiful city fits all aspects of a valley. The city homes many flat dolls surrounded by a few mountains of iconoclasts. For the dolls, the name of the game is indifference, which manifests itself by a false sense of confidence and lack of care.

There’s absolutely nothing confident about indifference and vanity doesn’t count for confidence either. Indifferent individuals make no choices because they can’t bear the possibility of being wrong. Failure becomes too personal of a thing that fucks with the depth of their being. These dolls stray away from this burdensome thing called life. To them, life is a game everyone is playing. In this game, if you screw once you’re already Casanova.

Lately, a friend of mine decided to back away from these transactional beings. So there is still hope beyond the valley of the dolls.

Playing Violin for Maple Trees

Several years ago, I was traveling from Genoa to Bologna and I happened to drive through a city on the north bank of Po river called Cremona. Like many other medieval cities in Italy, time seemed to have stood still in Cremona. No tourists, no fuss, and no urban commotion of any kind. It seemed life was flowing through the city with the rhythm of pedestrians and bicyclists.

It only took me a few minutes of walking around the main street to realize that Cremona is actually famous for one unique reason: violin craftsmanship. It is a highly celebrated profession for its traditional process of fashioning and restoring violins, violas, cellos, and contrabasses. Violinmakers from all around the world go to Cremona to attend a specialized school, based on a close teacher-pupil relationship, before being recruited to local workshops. It is believed the violin is invented in Cremona, not just because of the local mastery in craftsmanship, but also because of the rituals that construct the rhythm of the environment. Cremona’s citizens cherish this culture because it plays a fundamental role in their social fabric. They believe the process of making perfect music requires (a) an instrument (b) craftsmanship and (c) rituals. To Cremonese, a Viola is merely a tool to produce a perfect sound. They believe the joy comes from listening to the sound, and not from the Viola itself.

These craftsmen also go a long way to make sure they have perfected the art of making well-sounding instruments. They make the instrument from local woods, which is mostly maple. They believe the acoustic quality of the local wood is unmatched. They cut the trees in the right season and in the right way. And, one more thing: during fall the violinmakers take turn to play violin for the trees for hours. They believe such ritual changes the acoustic tone of the wood. The actual making of the violin only takes a few months, but the whole process starts from the time the tree is planted. The ritual of playing violin for the trees has to do with the belief that: it’s best to put the violinist’s soul into the root of the instrument.

Every emotional quest simulates the same pattern of requiring an instrument, craft, and ritual. When it comes to relationship between human beings, feelings are merely an instrument. Notions like respect and trust are the craft. The element (ritual) that glues it all together has to do with the ability to be altruistic and benevolent. To some, these concepts seem as ridiculous as playing violin for maple trees. So they laugh at such notions not only because these meanings seem unusual, traditional, and strange –but also because ordinary minds disappoint to reconcile present hardship with future rewards. Every emotional quest needs a part of the violinist’s soul.

Rotten Tomatoes

Steve is an engineer. I mean that in its fullest sense of the word. Steve wears washed up jeans and t-shirts with funny quotes. One of his t-shirts has his phone number on it. He works for a very, very important company that has been in its pre-IPO stage for four years. He doesn’t drive a car, but when he does, the car must be a big truck that can move many cows. In discussions, Steve is officious, narcissistic, and driven with an extraordinary ego. Steve goes to burning man every year and hallucinates with Jack Dorsey. He thinks he’s very smart because he talks fast and doesn’t leave any room for give and take during the course of conversation. He works long hours and has very strong feelings about alternating current. Steve believes grooming for men is a sign of moral weakness but he thinks it’s adequate to smell like a goat. Steve also drinks lots of coffee.

San Francisco is a city where people, both in lore and reality, can be hard to understand. San Francisconians are famously outspoken about their grievances. Obviously, there’s plenty to complain about when you live in a big city: overcrowding, potholes, high prices, train delays, cyclists, homelessness, and rotten tomatoes. In San Francisco, add the existence of hipsters to the equation. Those who act like little cute dictators -with no intellectual substance and a bloated sense of self. These guys portray all that’s gone wrong with our socio-economical standards. With their transactional behavior, short attention span, and a trendy sense of fashion that’s next to tacky, hipsters aim to shape the future.

By definition, future is defined as an accumulation of events and facts that are yet to come. We don’t know what happens in the future, but we know that any permutation of the future has two characteristics: (a) it’s a continuous tail of the present and (b) it’s different. If true, chances are low that trendy hipsters are the ones who will get us there. Shaping the future requires serious intellectual intake, focus and persistence, and the ability to see the present differently. That inherently assumes you’re connected to the realities of the present time beyond the shackles of ego and vanity.

The Theory of Everything

Unexpectedly, the movie is about people, and not a composition of notes on physics or cosmology. It is intended to portray Stephen Hawking’s personal life. I went to see the movie because of my interest in theoretical physics, and I walked out of the theater with puffy eyes.

Both male and female lead-actors deserve an Oscar nomination for their deep immersion in method-acting. Lee Strasberg would have been very proud. The female actress is shamelessly a piece of sugar on the screen.

Though there is enough conflict in the script to seed excitement and thrill, the director has moderated the conflict masterfully. An American version of the movie would be full of betrayal, malice, and fuss. This film however depicts the other side of the coin.

What a Mess

If all goes according to plan, I will eventually turn out to be a person who has sufficient experience to deal with the idiosyncrasies of this lifelike dream. So far in my adult life, I’ve never managed to grasp the main point of each decade until long after it was over. For instance, I was not supposed to spend my 30s anxiously trying to adhere to Cindy’s article of likeability and conformity. According to my friend Zach, I should have spent my 30s learning how to be a rude man in the short term, and a responsible man in the long term.

It seems as if each experience invited its own brand of self-divided personality to the party. You find yourself feeling compelled to do things you would rather not do. For example, you feel compelled to socialize with people you would rather not see because you have been influenced by peer pressure. Or, you feel compelled to hold back and not express interest in others because Zach said so.

What a mess!

What are all these experiences aimed toward -with all the contradictions and twisted logics? Are our experiences supposed to make us indispensable? Well, the graveyards are full of indispensable men and the bible is full of innocent ones. I’d rather let someone else filling those roles.

Teacher’s Pet

A lifelong friend of mine, Kai, owns a market corner in my heart. For as far as I can remember, he has been a pure and impeccable human being. A few weeks ago, he called me to share that his decade old relationship had gone through a crisis, and though everything is now back to normal, he struggles to feel the relationship in the same way.

Kai never got to be a dumb kid. Dumb maybe, but never a kid. Everyone called him a “little grownup” and he was so proud of that: being good and following the rules. He was so faultless that he ended up being a teacher’s pet. But then he grew up to be an adult, and there was no teacher to please. That’s why he made up some idea of what people expect from a noble man. Making a nice home and raising well-behaved kids … not making waves … not making troubles, and keeping his voice down. And he went along with that wanting to keep on being good. He mostly stayed quite. So quiet that he forgot the sound of his own voice. People almost forgot that he was there. His wife forgot he was there.

Years passed in the same manner more or less. Through a series of social interactions, Kai found Gemma who didn’t like him very much. Gemma didn’t consider Kai to be kind or good. And Kai went along with it. But he struggled with this thing he’s been afraid of all along. The fear that someone would think less or ill of him. Then oddly, he found Gemma’s ill-feeling towards him to be a relief. At least someone saw him. Someone didn’t think he was invisible. Jumbled and unsettled, he no longer knew where he stood with Gemma and their dry fling dissolved.

Kai’s happily-ever-after project resumes. But it doesn’t resume on the same terms. He got to sense what it means to be perceived as imperfect. Though he has patched the relationship together, the patches show.

Under My Skin

Unlike many, I never quite understood the concept of “under my skin”, until I felt it in a visceral experience. It has been one of those counterfactual lessons, where my intuitions and emotions are forcing themselves upon my reasoning. I wonder if this unfamiliar reaction contains some hidden intuitive wisdom, or it’s just a blind encounter.

As time goes by, I’m increasingly getting convinced that there is an intuitive wisdom somewhere in there. Of course there is. It’s a brand of wisdom that makes you jaded as if you don’t want to let anyone close to you. Or, you don’t want others to know your name -because that can end up in pain, too.

Someone is under my skin. What has happened, can’t be undone and that challenges me and tests my character. Sadly, there is respect for humility, which is not letting my desire for her get in the way of going against my impulses. It’s the battle of fighting against vanity and desire for certainty. It has become a moral enterprise.

Character tests are omnipresent in today’s life. It is possible to be heroic if you’re staying on the sideline. It is possible to be strong if you’re just waiting to be chased. But those things don’t make for a late-night blog post.

Making a Splash

Narciss

I used to feel bad that I didn’t use my potential to try to cure cancer. Then I realized that with the selfie culture I’m growing up in, at best, I would have been an assistant to someone curing cancer … hey at least we’re Making a Splash with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Half-Truths

There is a specific brand of charm about individuals who always seem to be right about their opinions. This brand of charm entertains a few infamous attributes. First, it veils a great dose of intellectual dishonesty because it leaves no room for reasonable discourse and pragmatism. Second, convictions cost the convinced disconnection from others. Third, charm as a concept has a very short lifespan if it’s not built on top of inherent values and intellectual curiosity.

If one has a modest sense of own rightness, and if there is a belief that solutions are generally a competition between half-truths, then one needs opinions of people on the other side. Because valuing dissimilarity of tastes locates great ideas that come from balanced tensions.

Ultimately, the character of a person is the basis of his/her opinions. Pragmatism regards a fundamental modesty to know that you might be half wrong. If you have an egotistic latitude that dictates I’m always right and others are always wrong, then that’s a failure of modesty about one’s sense of rightness or wrongness. Failure of modesty is at the core of the misleading charm.