Movies, misfortunes, and graveyards

27th September, Berlin, 18:28, yesterday I woke up with a mild case of vertigo. It’s been happening infrequently since 2019. The first time was in my sleep and I was falling. A horrible feeling of helplessness. I’m a constant turner when I’m sleeping and every time I turn to a  certain side, I would fall into an invisible vortex. I learned that it’s caused by stress, tiredness, and salty food. This time I know the culprits are the popcorns we had at the movies on the weekend. The moment I realised I can eat popcorn despite my braces I went berserk. Well, I’m paying the price now.

The first movie we watched was “Don’t worry Darling”. Over the last months its trailer was the first one to dazzle us, right after those long and boring ice cream ads. The constant and brilliant sunshine, pretty dresses, perfect makeups, fancy cars and pools, and the promise of a psychological puzzle intrigued us. Our heroine was having a meltdown of some sort and we were trying to guess what might be the reason. Since experiences are subjective and there are no ways to know the cause of her distress is internal or external, I labelled her as an unreliable narrator and waited for more clues. The city, built on a desert, seemingly away from everywhere else, was run by a charismatic leader played by Chris Pine (one of my favourite captain Kirk). The extreme order of the city was close to ridiculousness, and it reminded me of the recent news of Liberland, where a bunch of people are trying to create a new country using the latest technology and fantastical new ideas of social order. 

As the story progressed, the mystery around a hill grew. All the men leave the city in the morning and at the same time, in a choreographed way. They return in the evening to their dutiful wives waiting for them with night dresses, dinner and a drink ready. Clearly an order that can only be designed by a man. I expected what they are doing in the mystery hill is either a genius project, or something we’ve seen before. Unfortunately, it was the latter. On top of that, the movie answers only a few questions it raises and leaves it open to interpretation. Visually, a lovely movie, but it didn’t stimulate me as expected.

The second movie was Avatar. My girlfriend didn’t watch it when it was released in 2009, so we had to remedy that before Avatar 2. It took me way back to the tumultuous years of my life. I remember how its technology blew us away and it still looks good. Especially the flying scenes are always a wonder to watch. What I didn’t realise 13 years ago was the subconscious nudity of the indigenous population of Pandora. Yes they are alien, blue, and have tails, but still the muscles and curves are exposed.

Another difference was the basic premise of humans travelling through space for years to mindlessly mine and destroy a paradise of a planet. Actually one of the characters says “There is no green left back home”. If so, we would be more careful not to destroy a second chance like Pandora. A more believable story would be the rich colonising it after exterminating the local populace. Well, despite its stock characters, broken behaviour, ton of exposition, and predictability, Avatar is still a highly entertaining movie.

At the end, we are given a glimpse into Avatar 2. It was a bunch of blue kids swimming and teasing each other. Some of them were evolved to thrive in water, with their special limbs and lizard-like tails. I must say with 3D glasses the movie looks incredibly real. We were in total awe. It will be another huge jump in animation technology, just like the first movie achieved. Can’t wait to feast our eyes in that gorgeous movie.

On Sundays it’s really hard to do anything serious. It’s almost like my brain loses all its erect stance and turns into jelly, jiggling uselessly. So, we’ve been playing steam games instead of reading or writing or preparing posts, etc. Twitch helps a lot to find adventure games. 

The other day my girlfriend was watching Horizon Zero Dawn and after watching it for about twenty seconds I was already exhausted. All those jumping, sliding, running, tumbling, shooting arrows. I thought doesn’t she ever get tired? Even the fittest person would have to stay in bed for two days after that activity. The person who is operating her with a controller naturally must feel an eternal youth and an inexhaustible energy. I wonder what it would look like if a game really mimics the maintenance of a real body, taking the tiredness, the food, the rest, the heart, the lung capacity into account.

After a bit of searching and watching on Twitch, we found a delightful casual game called “Little Misfortune”. It looked and sounded extremely cute. But after five minutes we learned our child heroine had a drunkard father who beats his wife, a smoker mother who doesn’t care about her child to the point of forgetting her in the mall. It only got darker and darker after that. In her dark and loveless world, little misfortune is led by a voice in her head, and goes on a mission to find eternal happiness which she plans to give to her mom. The game was a mixture of depressingly sad stories and funny moments, and overall a horror game. The quote that hit me was “nobody teaches me how to feel”. We finished it in three hours and in need of a happy game to wipe away our tears.

Yesterday, after work we went to the big graveyard in our neighbourhood. One corner of it, maybe one tenth of the whole graveyard is made a park. During summer it’s packed with families having picnics. Even though it’s small, it’s dense with trees and great for hide and seek. Many interesting paths carved through the foliage, either by design or by the playfulness of the children. And there are still gravestones in the park area. Regularly visited by the squirrels who are not afraid to engage and sometimes climb humans for a few nuts. 

This time we were walking through the graveyard itself. A tranquil place. Perfect for pondering, slowing down. There are huge mausoleums for ancient families of Berlin. We sometimes look them up, wondering what they did in their time to deserve an impressive spot like that. We found innovators, musicians, writers, army generals, mathematicians, and owners of banks. 

Some of the glamorous graves are not maintained anymore, it seemed to us. Broken marbles, tumbled stones, bullet or shrapnel holes on the walls, plants taken over some of them. And there were very small parcels, not enough for a body. My girlfriend said they were for the ashes of the person, perhaps an urn buried. 

Our stroll reminded me of our family graveyard in our small hometown in Turkey. Also a tranquil place. It seems to me that all the graveyards are located in the best parts of the town. Or do they preserve the natural beauty of the place by preventing human activity from spoiling it? I remember visiting my grandfather’s grave with my grandmother. She was in her eighties, already ailing. She seemed to have made her peace with death. There was an empty spot next to my grandfather’s grave. She said “I just want to crawl here and lay down next to my husband”. I was shocked as a young person, but I’m beginning to understand her as I get older. 

“On the shortness of Life” Seneca says, “Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.”.

The one difference between the graveyards in Turkey and in Germany is that there are highly decorated graves here. They put lamps, toys, pictures, personal items, walnuts in small squirrel towers, and many other creative constructs to remind them of their lost relatives. There are so many creative gravestones too. I’ve seen tiny steps going around a huge rough stone, as if a fairy would walk it when no one is looking. I really like this positive attitude towards death. So, we sat next to one of them and watched the bees work a beautiful flower, which, after googling it, turned out to be orpine.

Francis Bacon, the painter, says in one of his interviews: “I have a feeling of mortality all the time. Because, if life excites you, its opposite, like a shadow, death, must excite you. Perhaps not excite you, but you are aware of it in the same way you are aware of life, you’re aware of it like the turn of a coin between life and death. And I’m very aware of that about people, and about myself too, after all. I’m always surprised when I wake up in the morning.

I don’t know why but today I remembered my friend’s blog and decided to check it after a long long time. It looked like it’s almost deserted. He started it in 2010 (oh, maybe watching Avatar caused this nostalgia) and until 2014 there are an average of 140 posts a year. Then the average drops to 5 a year for the last 5 years. It’s a shame because it was a wonderful creation. Looking back, he seems to have captured our prime time in Istanbul. A few other contributors to the blog and I were together most of the time, hanging out together. But somehow I never wrote anything for the blog. I was barely reading it in those days. Now I can’t even remember what I was busy with. Work? Relationships? Games? It’s funny that I’m creating my own blog now. As always I’m a late bloomer.

I messaged him right after reading our past and diving into a heavy nostalgia. Like a good wine, the blog aged gracefully, its value growing each year. It captures our youth beautifully. He didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm and love for the blog. Maybe he sees a burden while I can enjoy it by being detached.

He told me to read his latest posts, a small series. He has written that he was inspired after reading José Saramago’s book The Stone Raft in Lisbon. It was about a fictional event of the old town of Istanbul breaking from the rest of the land, taking the landmarks and its inhabitants with it, sailing through the mediterranean, crossing the strait of Gibraltar with a big friction, and finally coasting next to Lisbon. So, we get a new city that is half Istanbul, all the best parts of it, and half Lisbon. Istanbul brings lots of cats which gave the rats and dogs of Lisbon a hard time. The merger creates an explosion of diversity in food, music, sports, religion, and bad habits. What an imagination. 

I checked the date of the series, they are written in 2020, the year he moved to Lisbon for his studies. It’s only natural to want to take your beloved city, and your connections and favourite places in it, with you. A heartbreaking example of homesickness turned into splendid art.

That made me wonder what other fantastic combinations of cities can be dreamt up. A combination of Istanbul, Berlin, and Dubai? Which cities and which parts of those cities you’d throw in the mix?

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