It is 20:35, and I am waiting for the sun to set and then some additional minutes until I can eat, until Iftar. I don’t have the three dates, nor did I fast since dawn, which in Vienna is 5am, nor have I prayed as I don’t even know the prayers and anyway, I’m an atheist, so what am I talking about here?

A few years ago now, it slipped out in a conversation that my grandmother – my father’s mother – was Turkish and Muslim, something like, “Oh, that’s why she couldn’t stay with you, because the kitchen wasn’t Halal.” Living in Berlin, living especially in Wedding has meant seeing a lot of daily Turkish life on the street, which in turn has led to a lot of probably meaningless questions such as, “What does it mean to be the grandchild such as this, who was named because of her, who has fundamentally no idea about any of this?”

It was earlier this year I started thinking about Ramadan, or Ramazan as it is in Turkey (according to WikiPedia) and thinking perhaps I might attempt it one year, maybe this year. As the date lurched nearer, and I began doing some study in earnest, and then came to Vienna, I decided it was all a little ambitious of me, and thought instead I’d spend the month perhaps occasionally fasting, and much more importantly learning about these two things: Turkey and Islam.

To reiterate (and perhaps protest too much), I’m an atheist, and I’m not doing this out of any crypto-religiosity. I think to be concise, it’s perhaps like this: my grandmother, being Muslim (and because of our haraam kitchen, I think not Alevi) observed Ramadan, and being Turkish observed it in that particular way. Besides these two things, I know she lived in Jo’burg in South Africa, married an Afrikaner, had at least one child, and was named Aişe. And couldn’t stay in our house because of the kitchen. I’ve had a curiosity about things Central Asian, Persian, and so also Islamic for much longer than I’ve known about her, and living in Berlin my interest has obviously shifted westwards to Turkey and to the history of Turkish immigration to Germany and my current home city. It turns out I know nothing about this.

It was only recently I learnt of the existence of Alevi in Turkey; I thought I was doing ok having some general understanding of the Kurds and knowing a bit about why there are also Kazakhs living in western Turkey. But not even knowing of a group comprising around a quarter of the population (depending on which estimate one ascribes to) fairly well illustrated complete lack of knowledge.

So. Ramadan. Not doing it. Kind of paying attention to it. Probably will do a bit of it before the month is up. I mean, the fasting from dawn to dusk is such a small part of it – and probably the easiest – when I know nothing of the culture, the habits, routines, not to mention how to properly do Iftar in the evening, Sahur in the morning, Kadr Suresi, let alone the prayers. The prayers of which there are many and varied even before the Ramazan Terâvih namazı additions.

Spending the month of Ramazan, when there is also an emphasis on reflection and contemplation, learning about Islam in Turkey, be it Hanafi Sunni, Alevi Shia or any of the others, if nothing else seems like a fun way to reduce my stupidity. Also, because I wonder how she lived, and what it was like for her.

So, the sun has well set, it’s Iftar, I have no dates, and I should say, “Allah’ım! Senin için oruç tuttum, sana inandım, sana dayandım, Senin verdiğin rızıkla orucumu açtım. Yarının orucuna da niyet ettim, benim geçmiş ve gelecek günahlarımı bağışla”, but I can’t even translate it properly; something to work on for the month then. I can say, “Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun!”

sunday morning avoiding-work blogging

More stuff I’ve read in the past two weeks for your amazement and occasional pleasure, though because everyone’s taste is different, no porn links. I do have a major grant application due tomorrow that I’ve been putting off since Friday when I posted off three other big applications, and since have felt a complete resistance to answering such questions as, “Why do you want to do it?” preferring instead to have my newly opened comments spammed by a Viagra-spewing, Norfolk-dwelling transvestite.

Because it will soon be in the old media, probably as a filler story at the end of the news, dressed up as some evidence of emerging property rights and consequently democracy in China, and because it’s been all over Chinese Blogistan for weeks now, and largely because Feng37 turns it all into a story about Guangzhou, here’s the 钉子户. That’s ‘nail house’ to you, as in the sticking-up nail that tears a hole in your nice clothes, or is the house that pesky proles should but won’t leave so the to-get-rich-is-glorious capitalists-with-communist-chinese-characteristics (I think that should be the other way around) can’t get on with getting rich.

The always exceptional China Digital Times 中国数字时代 looks at the extremely photogenic Chongqing nailhouse as a fomenter of citizen journalism. 在桥下流 says, “Speaking of which of which, gz got one too, on Longjin East”, and points to Global Voices Online for the definitive coverage of the Chongqing house. All this makes me anxious for Liwan, my favourite part of old Guangzhou that for years has been eaten away at by property barons and political corruption. Liwan doesn’t need Hong Kong cash to rebuild, especially when the south-of-the-border types think historic reconstruction means pulling everything down, filling in the harbour and selling it off to their government-friendly cronies.

A bit over a month till Sunn0))) and Boris play in Melbourne, and all I’m listening to is Southern Lord, so of course I downloaded Burial Chamber Trio live at the WORM in Rotterdam, and could see Emile there smiling with un-joy.

Nicholas Pritchard, blogging intelligently on performing arts in Sydney does a quite reasonable evisceration of a recent play he saw. He accuses the director of carrying the Plague of Realism, that reminded me of a remark in Realtime by SPILL festival director Robert Pacitti in London, equally applicable to Sydney or Melbourne. “The city likes to ‘big itself up’ as a wild theatre capital, but in reality it still exists within very safe territory. This is clearly evident in the current plethora of site-specific work being made by younger artists who seemingly lack any desire to present content.”

Is pornography free speech? This is an American, as in United States question, that is beholden to a very specific set of jurisprudence born of their constitution. Any country can engage in such a question, but freedom of speech refers strictly to the First Amendment. My reasons for making such a delineation comes from my recent or on-going brushes with civil rights (and linguistics) in regard to transsexuals, that are simultaneously presented as universally representative from within America, and accepted as such by those of us outside. There is a strong lack of appreciation that circumstances are very much dependent on your geographic location, and that even countries that nominally share similar values can in fact have a wildly different appreciation of the issues. Pornography, or how American cultural hegemony determined how we get off.

No Quarter has a huge post on Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the diaspora leaving them spread across the globe. It’s a fascinating read, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, a concise introduction to their history, culture, religions, the political machinations that led to them being dispossessed in three acrimonious nations.

Tranny stuff!!! Cool!!! That’s why you come here anyway.

Harisu, everyone’s favourite Korean tranny is performing in Beijing. And Feng37 sent me a piece about Lili, not Chen Lili though, who was in this week’s oeeee supplement of 南方都市报. The difference between the media’s depiction of transsexuals in China and my own experience, compared to the often undisguised hostility that comes out of the American culture is … If someone gave me a research grant, I’d hang out in China for a few months just writing about this.

Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus. Yeah. it’s nice to know there’s a biological basis, but … the search for explanations in this way can easily impress the notion that this is an abnormality against which a particular type of physiology is measured. Whatever it means to be normal, there is far more difference between you and the person you are currently nearest to than between any spuriously assigned categories of human.

The world of teenage trannsexuals, the ones with no family support who become the gutter of humanity, and all that it entails is one I flirted around the edges of. Salon Magazine interviewed Chris Beam, the author of Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers, that I’ve mentioned before, and if you come here because this interests you, it’s really worth a read.

Another standard story with a nice picture about a transsexual, mainly a weekend filler piece that at least isn’t sensationalism, though is it really necessary to have pieces like this done every couple of months, it’s not like someone gets interviewed because they’re gay or married, but the transsexual thing is always presented as the defining characteristic of a person’s identity.

Sex!!! Or why the Age of Reason was a better time for smut and fornication than the early 21st century.

[(δU/δL) / (δU/δC) | Sp=0] ≤ w – [(δU/δr) / (δU/δC) | S = 0], or using calculus to assess whether prostitution is your best career choice.

That’s enough for one day. no?