There are those who bemoan the "old days" of the Net, when it sometimes felt like those online were members in a secret club, where people shared a common lifestyle, interests and vision. No more: The Net, we all know, is home to millions upon millions of people of all ages, backgrounds, creeds and colors who have very little in common except for the fact that they all know how to use a mouse.
Yet every once in a while, the Net is struck by a widespread mania, something that cuts across all borders and hits all in-boxes. We've already enjoyed the Hampsterdance, the eerie dancing baby that made it all the way to "Ally McBeal," and that ubiquitous $250 chocolate chip cookie recipe that has been making the e-mail rounds for years now.
But the Net's latest craze is not a silly animation or a practical joke. Rather, it's an unassuming man who lives in Turkey and plays the accordion, and who has suddenly become the most popular guy on the Net -- at least for the moment.
Early last week, a URL started making the rounds of mailing lists everywhere. It was the home page of a Turkish man identified only as "Mahir." The site greets visitors with a hearty "Welcome to my home page!!!!!!!!! I kiss you!!!!!" and boasts a cornucopia of amusing photos depicting Mahir with his friends; it explains in enthusiastic (if somewhat questionable) English that this "jurnalist" likes "to take foto-camera
(amimals, towns, nice nude models and peoples)" and goes on to list his travels (including such exotic locales as Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran) and his hobbies. He writes, "I like sex" and offers an invitation to all potential friends: "Who is want to come TURKEY I can invitate ... She can stay my home."
Something about Mahir's home page tickled the Net's communal funny-bone:
Last Tuesday, when I was first forwarded the URL by a co-worker, the site counter boasted 11,000 visitors. By the end of the day, when I had received the page from two more friends, it had topped 100,000. By Monday, when my sister forwarded it to me, it was topping half a million. And at last count, Mahir's site reported more than 700,000 visitors. Not bad for an anonymous guy from Turkey.
What's so appealing about this page? Perhaps it's Mahir's guileless desire to make new international friends (especially those of the female persuasion). Perhaps it's his abundant gusto for life -- check out the pictures of him playing ping pong, the accordion, and unself-consciously lying on the beach in a tiny Speedo -- and his open-armed love of the camera. Or perhaps it's just his winning appearance: Tall, skinny, shiny-suited and generously mustachioed, with perhaps the most abundant nose since Cyrano de Bergerac.
Mahir's page initially included an e-mail address and several phone numbers; two of the phone numbers have since disappeared. Is he getting messages and calls from around the world? Hard to tell: I called the phone number listed and got a pager message; my one e-mail has gone unanswered thus far. But Mahir is already inspiring fan clubs, including one lusty lover of the "Turkish stud" who put together an (tongue-in-cheek?) animated homage inspired by his Web page.
It is, of course, quite possible that "Mahir" is an invention of some huckster kid with an intriguing set of photos who wanted to make fun of foreigners. I like to think that he is just some homely guy whose dreams of making new friends online have been wildly exceeded. Whatever the case may be, may Mahir live in infamy forever beside the Hampster, bringing us all together for a quick giggle one more time.