Sunday, December 31, 2006


I don't particularly like eggs, but this is making me change my mind :)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas - The Days After

Did everybody enjoy their Christmas lunches, dinners, get-togethers and other social events? Have ties with faith (yes confess it: have you been to one or more Christmas masses while you normally steer clear from church?) family and friends been tightened again?

Well far away from home, I have been trying to get into contact with home a lot. People calling, texting my fingers off, long chat sessions and emails brought you all a bit closer to me - what I desperately needed! Yes it has been weird to not be home during Christmas, it has been painful to realize that my family would be sitting all cosy and warm together in our house in Belgium (including my little cousins Zomer, Jonas and Zosja) but the people here have been good for me and I highly appreciate that.

So what was Christmas like for me? The day before Christmas, Aki left for Sydney. Before she left we of course gave our presents to each other. I got Othello, Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth by Shakespeare (in an edition which has both the original and a modern translation, how thoughtful) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and an aboriginal instrument, consisting of: two sticks! I think that Tara and Liam judged my music playing capabilities quite right ;) It has nice bright colours though. After the presents we all went to the airport to wave Aki goodbye, she was quite emotional and I think that secretly she was kind of sad to go now that the moment was there.
Christmas Day itself consisted of visits to the parents of both Liam and Tara. Christmas lunch was at the house of one of Tara's aunts. We were filled to the brim with food and drinks and although Liam, Tara and me were the only young ones there, we enjoyed ourselves - Tara especially, but she got help from a bottle of wine. Since Aussie Christmas lunch is what Christmas dinner is to us Dutchies, it took quite a while before we left there. Next up was drinks at one of Liam's uncles down somewhere near Noarlunga. You probably don't know where that is, but let's just say that it took around an hour's drive. The drive and the digesting of food made all 3 of us sleepy, so drinks kind of passed us by.
We picked up the pace again at Sophie's. Lots of people were there and during the evening I was pleasantly surprised to receive calls from both Astrid and Patrick. It was good to hear them both and hear how everything was going back home.

Boxing Day (or Second Christmas Day) we did absolutely nothing, well.. almost. At 9:30 I was roughly woken up by Liam who decided now was the time to assemble the outdoor setting and BBQ they got for Christmas from their parents. After first calling him crazy and annoying, I decided that there was no use in going back to bed and could help him instead (my anger evaporates rather quickly) So we assembled all of it and then I was again tired, so I slept the rest of the afternoon (in peace :) Dinner at Sophie's again and that brought the Christmas days to a close!

Only New Years Eve left to go and then all can come back to normal. Sounds good!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Day and I think everybody should go and enjoy themselves with friends and family and not reading blogs or other web-stuff.

That's why I'll be away over the next couple of days as well!

Miss you all, Love you all and I'm with you all in my mind!!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Third Box


It came in yesterday, filled to the brim with Christmas gifts! A cardigan vest (very neat), boxers (I needed those for yoga, keeping it all in when you are bending and twisting can be hard sometimes), a book on Australian customs and traditions (it was cool to have lots of 'aha!'-erlebnises' during its reading), a nifty pan-holder, but best of all: a FM-transmitter for my iPod!! I put it to immediate use and it works great, very clear sound and it has quite some range.

So folks and bro: THANKS!!

(oh and As: your card arrived from Switzerland, thanks :D

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Boiling the blood

I sweat.

You sweat.

But I sweat a lot

Especially during yoga and especially on a humid day. Today during yoga I was completely soaked. I had to wring the sweat out of my singlet as if it dropped into a bucket of water, it was unreal.

Spread it!

But according to Ashtanga yoga guru Pattabhi Jois I was well on my way to enlightenment by sweating that much:

"Breathing and moving together while performing asanas makes the blood hot, or as Pattabhi Jois says, boils the blood. Thick blood is dirty and causes disease in the body. The heat created from yoga cleans the blood and makes it thin, so that it may circulate freely."

Keep up the boiling!

Delerious Regina

More musical input:

Regina Spektor
Born in Russia, family moved to New York when Regina was 9. Catchy singer-songwriter stuff, very distinctive voice. Has some occasional Russian vocals. Tracks are from her new album: Begin To Hope



Apres Moi

A new album by Delerium! Nuages du Monde (Clouds of the World) released in October, but didn't reach my attention until yesterday. With reason, because unfortunately it isn't great (as is the cover art, yuck!). Couple of songs are very nice though, so I'll share them here with you!

Tectonic Shift



Monday, December 18, 2006

The Art of Machinima (...what?)

Besides working on the Global Citizenship stuff, I'm also slowly getting back to my master thesis. That research will concern itself with machinima. After having to explain several times to a lot of people what it is, how it's done and why people do it, I thought I might as well post a bit about it here, so you all know what I'm doing.

Machinima is linguistically made of the words: "MACHINe" and "anIMAtion" (some also think that cINema should be part of it) and machinima are basically films which are made inside video games. So not films ABOUT games, like Tomb Raider, Street Fighter, Doom, Mortal Kombat or other really bad B-films, but films made WITH games, or better: game engines. What machinima makers do, comes down to 2 options:

1. The maker rescripts the game to make it do what they want, they give actions to the in-game characters in a timed fashion, they make or use modified game levels and characters to give the whole a look that want and they can be the directors of their own movie all on their own. (several games which are used for this: Half Life 2, The Sims 2, Unreal Tournament)

2. A bunch of people go online in a certain game, they meet each other and play out a script just like one would with a real life film. One or more of the people in the game will function as cameraman. Their point of view of the game will be recorded by a piece of external software and that will render out actual video footage. (several games which are used for this: Halo, World of Warcraft, Battlefield)

Half Life 2 machinima shot.

After this stage of shooting, the process of editing, sound and after effects begins just like any other movie.

Machinima touch upon several interesting things about gaming, game culture, film and do-it-yourself culture. They use the original game to make something new out of it. In a sense they cut the 'game' part out of the game. They use the video and audiomaterial from inside the game, but loose the "play". Also, machinima makers can only use what is inside the game to make their movies. For instance: if you take a game like Battlefield with all its tanks, explosions, desert regions, planes, guns and soldiers, you will be making a war-movie. If you want to make a romantic comedy set in a city, Battlefield won't supply you with the possibilities to make it. That's because the video and audio inside a game are tailored to suit the 'play' part of the game. Only those things that are necessary for the play of the game are put into the video and audio engines.

So for different kinds of movies, machinima makers turn to different games and the visual styles of these games determine the look and feel of the resulting movie.

Bloodspell, made with Neverwinter Nights

Of course a lot of the machinima movies are made by geeks and nerds who think their favourite game rocks and think they are the bomb by making a movie with it. The resulting movies are of course extremely boring, but occassionaly precious little gems surface and they show real potential. Interesting plots and characters, good sets and camera work, generally enjoyable. I am very interested in where all this is going. With new games coming out every week, with every week more sophisticated graphics, better physics and better character moves, the possibilities for making convincing and interesting machinima will also increase. Also a lot of games are coming out with game-editing possibilities already build in to provide machinima makers and other people who would like to re-work the game with easier access and possibilities to do what they want to do!

So take a look at some of the movies I've listed down here to hopefully see what I find interesting about them!

The Days After - Mankind has been swept away by a deadly virus, the last survivors live the final days of their lives on the rooftops and mesmerize what has happened to the world around them. Made with Grand Theft Auto (moody music by Bloc Party)

The Internet is for Porn - A great classic, bit tacky, still funny though. Made with World of Warcraft

The Fixer - One of my favourites. Made inside the Sims 2, but nothing is 'suburbia' or 'domestic' about it. It's an action packed series with a pretty cold hearted lead role.

The Adventures of Bill and John: Danger Attacks at Dawn - The big winner at the 2006 Machinima Awards. ALMOST funny comedy about 2 air force lieutenants messing up big time in the high rising skies. Good cinematography, effects and voice-acting though (be it in French, English subs)

June - A story of love in shattered times made with Half-Life 2. No words, just beautiful music and emotional cinematography.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The troubles of a researcher

For the whole week since my return I have been trying to get my head around my research. Basically I need to find a way to make an online community happening for the Global Citizenship Project. Sounds easy enough, get a bunch of students together, tell them to do something online and there is your community. Of course this attempt is doomed to failure. No community, online or off line will thrive without commitment and active participation of its members. At the basis of any community stand several important aspects: shared interests, social presence, a sense of belonging and updates (/ content). Not all communities need all of these, but 3 out of 4 give a good chance of survival.

If I look at myself I like to think that I belong to several communities. I don't make the same amount of effort for all of them, but they all take work and time. This blog for instance. It is not only the writing of it, it is also the searching on the web for things to post, the summarizing of my events of the day, the comments which are posted, the links, the pictures, the pushing myself to write etc. etc. It takes EFFORT to make it work. Sports, friends, family, hyves profiles, dating sites, book societies, embroidery clubs, volunteering, you name it, it all takes Time and Effort.

And now I am to research a way to make yet another community come into being and try and move people into making an effort to let it thrive. All of the prerequisites of a community seem to be quite absent:

Shared interests. Ok.. all of the students in the Global Citizenship Project will do a semester of study in Global Citizenship, but would you bother joining a community about it? They get 7000$ / 4500 EUR to do it - I would study ANYTHING, from Sumerian to molecular biology for a sponsored semester of study abroad!

Social presence. None of the students will know each other, they will be introduced to each other during a 3 day workshop and after that they will be separated again for their studies at different universities. Is that basis enough to check and come back to a website and socialize? I reckon they will just swap Hyves or MySpace profiles... Maybe even MSN addresses if they really fancy each other.

A sense of belonging. Will you belong after you met strangers 3 days? Thought as much...

Updates (/ content) The members will need to contribute to the community to keep it alive. This can be hard.. My blog will cease if I don't keep up with the posts, but every community is faced with this crucial aspect of content and updates.
Take my study society "SV Contact": we've got like 300 members I guess. All doing the same course; we have pretty much the same interests; several social engagements in the form of lectures, work groups and after-hours activities like drinks and trips, but our website and its forum are, besides the occasional boost after camps and trips, pretty desolate.

With 80 students on the Global Citizenship website I fear the worst..

The only real card left is the 'assessment' card I'm afraid.. give them points for joining, the game of numbers. It's sad but true. The web is a competitive place, and to keep your audience, we need desperate measures: the high social control of sites like Hyves and MySpace, the potential love of your life on dating sites and the constant stream of updates on news portals and blogs.

Or simply a pass or fail.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hoe krijg je het verzonnen..

- this is only for the Dutch readers -

Vanmorgen lag ik voor 2 minuten helemaal dubbel om iets ontzettend stoms. Ik kwam het boek van Wiegertje Postma: 5 strippen tegen. Oud-columniste voor die nu met haar eerste roman komt. Of het was is, vraag ik me af: het zou moeten gaan over de levens van een groep mensen die elkaar niet kennen, maar wel iedere morgen in dezelfde bus zitten voor een half uur. De verdere strekking weet ik ook niet, maar wat ik wel even ONTZETTEND komisch vond was de ondertitel, kijk zelf maar :)

Ok.. and now.. back to work..

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Swinging books

Last night I did something new - I tagged along with the Dutch girl next door, Meral. She is heavy into swingdancing. Yes, they still do that, you could even say it is going through a revival! With jazzy tunes and clothes from the 1920s - 1940s, they tap their feet and swing along. Normally I'm quite a dancer, but this was way out of my league. Jazz for me is not real dancing music, but they all went for it, very cool to see. Meral even teaches it, so although I didn't do any dancing last night, I think I'm practically obliged to go to one of her classes.

Her friends were all lovely people and with one girl, Inken (a West-Frisian name! Her parents are German) I really clicked, she studied English literature and did a media degree as well, so we had a lot in common. We talked about books and history and we found out that we both loved Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke!

It's a great book - a history/fantasy novel, but very different from what you expect when you hear 'fantasy'. Yes, it has fairies, magicians and alternate realities, but in the end it is just British! The setting is England in the late 1800's during the French war. The main plot is about 2 English magicians working on the revival of English magic. This process is regarded by every character in the book, including the magicians themselves, with an air of British up tightness, suspicion and curiosity at the same time. You can imagine that this leads to very funny and comic situations. I highly recommend the book. By the way: Sophieke, if you read this... Don't buy it ;) I will make sure it will be your Christmas present if you don't have the book already.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, together with Schijnbewegingen made me aware of the fact that I've read quite a lot of history novels, but haven't really read the original writers of those eras. That's why I plundered the bookshop yesterday and placed orders for a lot of classics! Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare (I've never read Othello and that is the piece where my name Jago comes from, it's appalling!) and Edgar Allan Poe. Luckily most of them are cheap Penguin pockets, so no real damage to my already depleted funds.

Because! I did my Christmas shopping! It took me yesterday and today to find stuff for Jan, Ak and Job, but! I've got it and it's on its way as we speak. I hope everything arrives before they leave for Belgium. Only time will tell, I guess.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ozzie pride

We've seen a fair share of Ozzie music stars over the years: INXS, Savage Garden and of course Kylie Minogue have world fame. In recent years we saw Missy Higgins and The Veronicas. But Ozzie music has a lot of things which haven't really made it across the ocean as of yet. Two of them are particularly to my liking. Both have a very different, but distinctive sound:

The Audreys, a young South Australian folk/country pop band. With instruments like the banjo and violin most of their songs do have a folk sound and are often quite melancholy. The singer Taasha Coates has a very pleasant voice and backed by her boys it's a soothing ride.

Click and search in my dump folder:

* Oh Honey

* You + Steve McQueen

Sneaky Sound System is a big hit in the undergrounds of Australia. An electro/club/hip hop formation of two DJs enriched with a different array of hip hoppers, mcs and singers. Funky beats, funny voices and lyrics every now and then, makes for an interesting whole.

Click or search again:

* I Love it

* Hip Hip Hooray

Monday, December 11, 2006

Home is where the heart resides

It's Monday evening and I'm back home in Adelaide. My flight and everything went all pretty smoothly, my bag survived the flight in one piece as well and the welcoming committee of Liam, Tara and Aki was heartwarming. But still I have been a bit off these last couple of days. Everybody around me here is getting into the Christmas mood, but I just feel a little out of place. Christmas in scorching Australian heat - that doesn't make sense! Foul weather, winter clothes, erwtensoep, hot chocolate, SNOW! that's Christmas, not shorts and thongs!

But I'm back here on my blog again and I see that as a healthy step in overcoming my homesick depression. What also helped, was the book my mom has given me: Schijnbewegingen by Floortje Zwigtman. Karsten - you were right! It's a great book and I finished it in 2 days. Set in fin-de-siecle England, the story is about Adrian Mayfield, born in East-London but dreaming of a life of fame and fortune. He finds that artists can indeed be bemused, but not so divinely as one would hope: by lust and sex. Adrian begins using his body to squeeze his way into another life which was not supposed to be his. The description of his inner struggles give Adrian and the other characters enough depth to begin caring for them and you get sucked into the world of great English poets, writers and artists like Oscar Wilde.

Another interesting detail I found was that the different sections of the book all had a poem by a famous English writer as a sort of red thread running through it. It was funny to find The Lady of Shalott by Lord Tennyson in the second section of the book. I know that poem by heart, because Loreena McKennitt has set it to music on one of her earlier cds. It's a beautiful song and to be honest - the original text is much better than the translation in Zwigtman's book. Have a listen to it: Loreena McKennitt - The Lady of Shalott

For now I finish off by saying that everything is back to normal again and you can expect the posts to become more regular again!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

From China to the Blue Mountains and back again (takes approx. a day)

I've moved again! And yes, I am staying at Xinni's place at the moment. I've got the spare bedroom with a very comfy bed and I definitely made the place my own, because my stuff is basically everywhere. Normally I'm quite orderly, but for these last few days I just can't be bothered. It will be good to have my own bed and my own room back in Adelaide!

Xinni's place is very homely and it has all sorts of little Chinese touches like arranged flowers, bamboo mats here and there and it has a very Asian smell as well. Each house has the fragrance of its owner and here there is a hint of the strong Eastern flavours they use for their food, like fish and oyster sauce. The last but really not least peculiarity is the fact that they keep hermit crabs in their bath!! I had never even seen an actual hermit crab, but in Australia you can keep them as pet animals, they are very low maintenance and eat almost everything. Who would have thought that...

LOOK! A hermit crab in my hand, isn't he cute!

Xinni and John are both very kind to me and it's continuous fun to talk about all the cultural differences. For instance tonight we went to a Chinese restaurant. I'm quite good at eating with chopsticks, but sometimes I've got trouble to get a good flexible grip on them, so at those occasions, I place the tips of my chopsticks in my mouth to keep them even and then adjust my hands. After I did that, Xinni politely but clearly said that I should not do that, it was very impolite for Chinese people.. oops! And after that incident they elaborated a lot more Chinese etiquette: always eat from your side of the plate, because everyone eats from the same plate and is supposed to get an even portion. Men never prepare or give each other food if they are of equal or higher standing (I thought I was very polite to make John a rice pancake with duck, since Xinni had been making them for John and me before, but no.. wrong move!).
You should try not to touch your chopsticks with your mouth, only the food you hold on your chopsticks. And so on.. I felt like a barbarian hahaha! Oh and in case you were wondering.. the story of Chinese people burping to express their appreciation of the food: ancient custom, never ever do that!

But that was tonight, the day itself was also great! Xinni and John had to go to work early and since there is no spare key, I had to leave as well. Which was good, cause I decided to go to the Blue Mountains! The big national park 2 hours away from Sydney by train. The trainride was already spectacular, but it was nothing compared to actually walking on the cliffs and down in the valley. I bought tickets for the "Scenic Ride" but those were pretty boring, so most of the day I have been walking from one splendid lookout point to the next, soaking up the views and the scenery.

First lookout point, in the distance you can see the Three Sisters, three big cliffs which were formed by erosion over the course of thousands of years.

I also encountered some wildlife! After I had walked 5 minutes along the cliff I was so amazed at the enormous view of the valley, that I didn't look where I was placing my feet and suddenly I heard something brushing in the bush and one second later a HUUUGGGEE skink was running over my feet!! AAAHHH!! I really screamed, I was wearing my thongs and now I had that huge reptile crawling over my feet!! It was over in seconds, but still it was pretty shocking and I was too petrified to think of making a picture.

After that encounter I was pretty anxious about what more I would get to experience, but besides a beautiful green tree python along the cliff and some small lizards here and there, I was fine.

The big skink's little brother :)

My other pictures were too blurred, but this was the green tree python, I think it was about 1,5 metres long, very beautiful! When I discovered it in the foliage I really felt like I was the new Steve Irwine ;D

I also walked "The Furber Steps" - a 1000 steps up from the valley to the top. It was quite a walk (I should've worn closed shoes!) but very well worth it. The biggest part of the Blue Mountains is overgrown with eucalyptus trees which ooze a special oil that evaporates and causes the blue haze over the region. The part where I was however, had several waterfalls and rivers running through it and that made it into a rain forest area, which means that there was a lot to see! Here some more photos:

The Three Sisters up close

The Orphaned Child, another rock which has been separated from the rest of the cliffs by erosion.

The Katoomba Cascades.

This is the top of the waterfall which was also on the previous picture, this was the most impressive point. The water was streaming at my feet and right behind me was the cliff...

...which falls 200 metres down to the bottom of the valley!

The Witches Leap, with a little imagination the formation does indeed look like a grumpy old hag!

Today has been great, it was good that I went alone. Along the tracks there was almost nobody else, so every time I rounded a cliff and found another new wonder of nature, the sensation of being there alone made me feel like I was an explorer finding unknown treasures (or to put it in more modern terms: like I was in Tomb Raider!)

Tomorrow will be my last full day in Sydney and I want to use it yet again to see something I haven't seen yet: Bondi Beach - the beach everybody talks about! It's supposed to be really warm tomorrow, so a dip in the ocean will do me good. And now off to bed with me!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Ayu! :D

A little while back, my profile was delighted to receive a message from my musical friend Kworb. It contained a link to Ayumi Hamasaki's new album: Secret!

Ayu..what? Who's that? What are you talking about!

Ok, ok, I know that my musical taste is somewhat odd at times and Ayumi is part of that oddity. Ayumi Hamasaki is The Queen of Japanese Pop! Selling millions of albums, she is definitely the biggest Japanese star around. Most of you will probably hate it, but I can't help it - I like her!

Give it a go I would say! My favourites are: Until that Day, Momentum and Kiss o' Kill. Tell me what you think!

download album

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Go with the fl0w!

Yet another funny thing I found!

A little game called:


It's a flash game based on the idea of flow-theory. Flow-theory is the concept that humans can be completely soaked up by what they are currently doing that they loose track of time and devote all their attention to what is going on. The game fl0w is based on that idea and is supposed to be completely intuitive and engaging.

You start as a small little (sea)creature and during the game you devour all sorts of other creatures and you become bigger and stronger to go up against all the evil creatures which lurk on lower levels, just remember: the red lights take you a level down and the blue lights take you a level up.

The game's claim of being completely engaging and intuitive might be up for discussion, its nevertheless quite enjoyable, be it quite hard to play with a touchpad instead of a mouse...

So people, download it and give it a go!

The Curse of the Golden Flower

Or: "Men cheng jin dai huang jin jia" in Mandarin. Zhang Yimou's new film!!

(Xinni tried to explain the original Mandarin title, but I got confused half-way trough. Chinese has some many implications in its language, its unbelievable. Huang jin jia is what I do remember: it means: golden armour!)

Gong Li as The Queen and Chow Yun-Fat as The King (how obvious :)

but anyways:


..but this is one of the downsides of living in Oz.. Although Asia is just around the corner, Asian movie releases take months and months longer than in Europe!! So I probably won't see this until late June or something... bummer!

Soak up some culture

When one is forced out of one's daily habits, there might occur all sorts of reactions. You could develop an eating disorder - exemplified by, for instance, buying loads of chocolate coated TimTams. Or you might sit around in your living space and stare blankly at the wall or, horror! Turn the television on and actually watch it - including the advertisements! It's also possible that you go out for walks about town, have some food and just ask passing people to sit down with you and have a chat about nothing in particular, resulting in interesting and sometimes peculiar situations. But the best is deciding that it is time to soak up some off line instead of online culture!

That's why on Sunday I paid a visit to the New South Wales Art Gallery. Preparing myself for yet another one of my famous pep talks to convince the person behind the counter to give me a student discount, I was pleasantly surprised that the gallery was free for the public! Good start! The gallery had a fairly interesting 'old masters' section, but it was nothing special. The Australian contemporary art section however, was very interesting! Inspired by the same tendencies that inspired "European" and mid-century Popart, it does have interesting differences and influences, mainly by the Australian landscape and Aboriginal culture. Of course I should have scribbled the artists and titles down on something, but I only had my phone with me, so the pictures will have to speak for themselves!

This and the following 2 pictures are from a really large work by Brett Whiteley called Alchemy. It's an autobiographic work with scenes which are inspired by his own experiences, it was really impressive and beautiful to behold in it's entirety!

One familiar piece though: one of Marini's 'Rider' statues!

On Sundaynight I went yet again to the movies, this time with Dan, a really nice guy I've met here. He had a Dutch boyfriend once, so he knew quite a lot of Dutch expressions, very funny. A Scanner Darkly was the feature of that night. Weird is the word I would use. It was something really different from what you've ever seen. The movie was made with an animation technique called rotoscoping. What the filmmakers basically did was shooting the actual film itself with the real life actors first. After that and the initial edits, the animation process starts. Using Rotoshop software, the animators 'painted' the film frames over with the software, giving them a so-called 'cel-shaded' look, which some of you may recognize from certain games which use this technique (Zelda: the Windwaker on the GameCube, or XIII on the PC)

Keanu Reeves completely rotoshopped.

Where the use of cell-shaded graphics in games is fairly easy (You basically leave out certain texture and bump-map filters) it is entirely different for film footage! The animation process of A Scanner Darkly took loads of time and it has been postponed several times, but it's here now for all of us to enjoy.

Although turned into a rotoscopic animation, Keanu is still smokin' hot!

The plot of the movie by the way is about the near-future where a new highly addictive and dangerous drug gets the best of people, letting them see hallucinations etc. Megalomaniac enterprises want to exploit the drug for profit, provoking all sorts of questions, but giving no answers. I told you it was weird!

Monday then was pretty slow, been working, had some dinner in town, c'est ├ža!

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Ja Hao - meaning: Elegantly Masculine


Wo shi Ja Hao!

Hi, my name is Jago - in Chinese! Is that cool or what. But why do I need to open this post with that? Well.. I learned my Chinese name from Xinni, my Chinese colleague at Macquarie Uni. Amongst others, she was there last Friday when we had a farewell dinner for Maud with her colleagues in Newtown. It was a really nice evening, the people of Macquarie are all very nice and interesting people and the conversation didn't fall silent for one moment. During the evening I also dropped that I need a room for the last couple of days of my stay in Sydney. Just as a fact, not really as a cry for help. But still, a little while after dinner, Xinni called Maud and asked to talk to me. And she offered me to stay with her and her Chinese partner John! HOW SWEET!

I was of course reluctant to accept it and said that I would look elsewhere before resorting to her offer, but now that I'm thinking more of it.. it will probably be super funny to stay with them. I am very interested in Asian culture and now I can be part of it for a couple of days ;) All in the comfort of Sydney! So probably I'll call her tomorrow or Monday to ask if the offer still stands.

After the dinner and the call, Maud and me went into town. Again Oxford St. and we tried a new spot: Slide. That place was really wicked! Super stylish interior, a dancefloor with coloured lights and lots of beautiful people (= gay men ;) We had a fun time there, but we also wanted to do something else. Maud was interested in seeing a strip-show and while walking down the street I saw a bill which said that "Caesar" was going to perform tonight at the Midnight Shift, the show was on at 1:00am, so at 12:30am we left Slide and walked to the Midnight Shift. We were about to walk in, when the 2 security guys stuck their hands out and said:
"No mate, you're not going in"
I was surprised and said:
"Why not? Me and my friend really wanna see the show"
"Because you are way too intoxicated man!"
"EXCUSE ME? What are you talking about?"
and then it hit me.. They assumed that me being cross-eyed meant that I was drunk! WTF!! I was infuriated! I really felt discriminated and handicapped. So after a storm of swearing me and Maud took off furiously. The party mood was of course completely gone, so we just took some coffee and after that we both headed home.

And now it's Saturday and the day has been really slow. I guess it's the weather, it has been raining a lot and the city is covered with gray clouds. Today's highlights were yoga in the morning, a visit to the hairdresser in the afternoon and a nice healthy salad at Maud's. I reckon I'll be going home in a bit and just have a quiet one tonight. Everybody: enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Friday, December 1, 2006

Internet rehab

It is horrible to confess, but yes.. I am an internetjunkie.

Last Sunday I moved into my new room on Flinders St., Darlinghurst, besides being quite hot the room also has no internet-connection, which sucks. It's shocking to experience how much my life revolves around having access to the internet. It's not that I need to be chatting all day long with the whole world, but also for say: checking busschedules, checking my mail, keep up on the news in both The Netherlands and Australia, to surf the web for goodies, music, images, resources, look up nice places to go, see what movies are on, read reviews of books that I would like to read, watch some clips at YouTube and last but not least: just basically keep in touch with everybody I know!

So as a sort of substitute, I have been sending txt-messages like crazy over the last few days, just to keep on top of everything that's happening. I also feel it as a real handicap when it comes to exploring Sydney. MSN has really become my booking agent for arranging meetings and all, but now I just have to rely on my phone, or mere walking around and bumping into people.

But anyway, the location of the room is great, so that really makes up for the lack of internet (well.. almost) it's in the heart of the gay suburb, which not only means that it is packed with gay bars, but also with really cool shops, open minded people, great food, a really nice atmosphere and just a 10 minute walk from the city center. Because of this and of Maud's company, I'm basically only in my room to sleep. So here's a brief of what I have been doing over the days.

Tuesday and Wednesday, Maud and I were free from work, so on Tuesday I went to the ABC pool in the Botanic Gardens. It overlooked the bay and was really stylish with a lot of people who were there to see and be seen. It was filled with salt instead of fresh water, which was really weird. I forgot my goggles, so after 2 lanes my eyes were completely sore. I'll give it another try, when I do bring my goggles... I went to the pool with Maaike (the girl I shared the room with for a couple of days) and 2 other girls, Yvonne and Monique, who live in the same complex as me. With them and Maud and David, we went to have dinner at The Gaff, THE backpackersbar in Oxford St. We scored free food tickets, which was good of course and after the food we moved inside to have some drinks and dance a bit. At 10pm it was PACKED with people, you could barely move and it was freaking hot, so at 12am, I decided it was enough and headed back home.

Wednesday was a day of shopping (again) I am going crazy here, normally I don't buy a lot, but they've got some much good stuff here. I bought 2 second-hand pairs of boots and they are rrreeeaalllyy cool! I know it will be summer soon, but you have to agree that after having bought great jeans I really need good boots to go with them :) And in this shop all the boots were just great and I couldn't decide. Together they were $280 ~165EUR, and that's what you would pay for 1 pair of cool boots in NL! So I thought: what the heck! and got them.
After the spending spree I went with Maud and Claire to "A Good Year" with Russel Crowe (or Rusty as he is called here in Oz) which was entertaining and after that made a stroll around my new neighbourhood by night.

Thursday was a long day of work, followed by a very well spent evening at The Welcome Hotel in Rozelle with Maud and her friends and neighbours as a sort of farewell party. Next week, Rick is coming and Maud will be on her way up the Gold Coast. It's her last day today! It's so weird that she's going already! It will be different when she's gone -no Dutch friend "nearby" anymore to talk, gossip, and who can be called at the same time of the day!

So Maud: I really enjoyed our time together and all the shared experiences over the last 2 months. It has been great and I wish you all the best together with Rick on your travels in the coming weeks and good luck with settling back into your normal life again! I will miss you :)

Monday, November 27, 2006

In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed is King

As most of you know, I'm shortsighted, very shortsighted. Most will also know that since a year and a half I am wearing contacts. While I am extremely happy with them and the fact that they've improved my looks considerably, they cause the occasional trouble...

I forgot my glasses in Adelaide and since Murphy's Law always kicks in at those times, I now also have problems with my contacts! During the conference Friday, my left eye was getting sore and red, normally not a real problem, but when I came home it was really hurting and I just had to take my contact out. I thought that leaving my contact in the solution for a night would make it all better, but unfortunately that was not the case.. When I tried to put it in, it hurt even more.. So for 3 days straight now, I'm perceiving the world half sharp / half blurred, quite an experience I can tell you. I asked Tara to put my glasses and new contacts on the mail and hopefully they will arrive shortly, because this is really tiring.

Other than that, everything is great here! Saturday I went to Manly Beach together with Maud. To get there we needed to take the Ferry and it was a beautiful trip!! We took off from Cicular Quay, rounded the Opera House and we could see all of the city, reaaallyy cool!
Me on the Manly Ferry! Is that a splendid view or what!
Manly Beach itself

Manly was really nice, lots of people, nice beach, good weather, it was lovely. Back in the city we had to hurry to be in time for the Tri-Nations rugby final! Maud, Claire and me had a blast at the stadium. It was the Kiwis against the Kangaroos and the Aussies won!! The crowd went wild of course!
Us at the Aussie Stadium.

The atmosphere was really nice and it was just a cool experience to be there. After the match we went back into town and since the Aussie Stadium was quite close to the neighbourhood where my new room is, we decided to have a look around Darlinghurst. We ended up in several different clubs and pubs and had a great time.

Sunday was my last day at Maud's place. We had a really slow Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon we had lunch at a very fine-dining French restaurant Le Grande Bouffe. The three of us all chose the barramundi (a local fish) and it was absolutely fantastic! To make it even more perfect, we also succumbed to order a dessert and my pear tarte-tartin was fabulous. After this very satisfying lunch I went to the outlet-center together with Maud and I bought a t-shirt and another pair of sunnies. It was an outlet Sunglass Hut and they had these slightly damaged sunglasses for 30% off. I found a pair of Raybans and they were really cool, but the scratch on one of the glasses was rather big. The scratch however didn't show at all when I put them on. I went up to the counter and showed the scratch to the girl there and see said that the scratch was really big and that they would make it a 50% discount instead of the 30%. So I couldn't help myself and bought them, for 120 dollars, instead of 260 :D! Happy me, I might even go to an optometrist to get the scratched glass replaced although it's not really necessary.

After the spending spree, it was time for me to go to my new room in Flinders St. Darlinghurst. A girl Maud and me know from our studies back home, Lizet, was leaving her room for a couple of weeks to travel around the country with her mother, and she offered me her room for that time, which was of course super! I do have to share the room for a couple of more days with Maaike, Lizet's roommate. Maaike was of course home when I came and she and some of the other residents were really nice and made me feel right at home. The room itself is quite big, but quite hot and has no internet, but I'll manage.

As an act of getting to know each other a little better me and my new roommates went all to see the Grand Idol Finale at the Opera house. We had a good time, although we could hardly see anything and fools as we were, left before the fireworks! So when we turned the tv on when we came home, we saw it just starting!! Oh well, tough luck..

And now it's Monday and it was a quite dull day in the office, but I won't need to go until Thursday, which is good!

Friday, November 24, 2006

The art of the now

Although I'm of course very busy with exploring Sydney and having a great time, I came across an interesting item tonight on, about a project called Google: Art - a collaboration by 5 French artists. Their project consisted of a wallpaper which was made out of the results which were provided by Google when you search for the word "art" on Google.

What a splendid idea!

It has been Google which reshaped our ways of approaching the internet completely. When somewhere in the mid-90's the internet-bangs, -booms and -bubbles came, banged and burst, Google survived and was our beacon of hope in desperate times. Millions and millions of search inquiries are made to it everyday We have come to rely on Google to give us the answers we seek, to provide us with the knowledge we need - and maybe even to give us the 'truth' about the things around us. Consider for instance that we don't even say we search anymore, no, we "google". "Googlen" has even become an official verb in the Dutch language as well - that has to say something about the esteem with which we address Google.

As you all know Google's way of searching the answers to our questions, relies for a large part on 'linking': if a certain web page is being linked to a lot of times from other webpages, it will probably host credible information - why else would people link to it? This Darwinian logic of the most linked to, is the most credible, made obscure however if this credible information is at the same time valid. Google doesn't edit, moderate or guard the validity of the information it provides, it merely provides it. As a result, we have to become our own judges of what is valid and what isn't. We are shaping our own truths with whatever information Google provides us. The web has become too vast to be navigated and filtered without services like Google. That's why Google has become our oracle - and it speaks with the collective voice of everything and everyone that's on the web. Credibility has become validity - truth.

So of course it makes perfect sense to ask the Oracle of Silicon Valley to give us the answer to that one question which has eluded us for centuries: what is art?

In 0.08 seconds Google provided the answer, consisting of 6.960.400 hits. The artists converted all the pages into rolls of wallpaper and pasted this wallpaper on the walls of an exhibition space for the audience to explore.

I don't know if it will be on display in the Netherlands somewhere soon (probably not in Oz) but this picture already looks pretty thought provoking!

But you know what the greatest thing is? At each moment in time, we can get the answer to the question "what is art?" for ourselves. Just look at the results from Google yourself! But each time you search for it, I guarantee you that the answer will have changed, vastly or slightly. Because like the internet, art is fluid and undefined; it will shift and shape itself perpetually and Google will tell us where it's heading.

Idols galore!

Ok, so in case you hadn't figured it out yourself, international environmental governance, isn't the most lively subject, especially when one isn't familiar with it and have to attend a whole conference about it! After a dreadful wake up at 6:45, we left at 7:45 to go to the Opera House for the last preparations prior to the conference. At 8:30 we were introduced to all the people and did a check up of all the available resources and of course at 9:00 we were done with that and had to just wait another hour.

SO! We went wwwiilldd with the cameras!! :D The photos from Xinni's camera (another colleague at Macquarie Uni) will come later, but here are Maud and me in front of the main building (the Opera House consists of 3 buildings, in case you didn't know that)

Maud and Jaag in front of Main Concert Hall, impressive huh?!
(note to my dad: it is definitely concrete, but I couldn't find out if it was ferrocement, wikipedia didn't provide me an answer ;)
The IUEU ladies. From left to right: Jan, Xinni and Maud.

After the pictures it was time for the conference itself. Nothing special for us there, but during the first coffee break something really funny happened. I went to the toilet and who was standing beside me? DAMIEN FROM AUSTRALIAN IDOL! Ok.. I know that all the Dutch people are now thinking: "What are you talking about..." Well, this Sunday, in front of the Opera House there will be the Grand Australian Idol Final with the two finalists: Damien and Jess! Maud and me want Damien to win, so it was of course very funny to stand next beside him. I did not peek by the way, I have courtesy! After that encounter I went back inside and had an actual coffee during the break. Maud was nowhere to be found so I just waited. After a little while Maud, Jan and Xinni came back and were very excited: "WE SAW DAMIEN AND MADE A PICTURE WITH HIM!" but that of course couldn't top my story ;)

So the rest of the day was filled with anxiously waiting for breaks to go outside, have a look at all the going-ons around the stage that they were setting up, the soundchecks, all the contestants who were there and just be excited, Maud and me are definitely trying to get a spot somewhere to see the concert on Sunday night! We're insiders now ;)

Damien, the Irish guy (including funny Irish accent) and one of the 2 finalists.

No, it's not Laura ;) It's Jess! The other finalist, she's a bit plain.

And this is Dean, he was the last drop-out and as you can judge by the picture: all the girls are crazy for him. I don't particularly like him, enormously self-obsessed and when he smiles you just see wwwaayy too much of his gum! Its disgusting.

The stage, with the other contestants who were voted away in the previous weeks.

Well, I guess I've bored you all enough with this Idol stuff, I know it's boring and a sign of particularly bad taste, but it was really the highlight of our day!

Later in the afternoon Maud and me both did our exercises - Maud running and me yoga. Afterwards some showers and we were ready to head back into town. In the Rocks (a suburb near Circular Quay and central Sydney) we went to a late night market, which was really fun! All these little stalls with handcrafts, trinkets and souvenirs, it was a bit crowded, but there was a really nice atmosphere.

The whole of Sydney has a nice atmosphere I must say - the different harbours are all beautiful, there are lots of people, its just bustling with life and cosmopolitan!

Tomorrow Maud and me will be heading to Manly Beach with the ferry! Should be a beautiful trip and and an equally beautiful beach, so I'm really excited for that. Saturday night we'll go to the rugby, that's ought to be interesting as well!!

Take care everyone!

Thursday, November 23, 2006



Well.. barely, I should say.. You all know how well organized I am and in yet another display of this, I pictured in my mind that my departure time was 18:50. In my previous post I said that I was wandering through the house, waiting for Liam to come home and take me to the airport. We agreed that he would be home at 17:50 the latest. It was a domestic flight, so no need to be extremely early. At 17:40, with still no sign of Liam, I decided to get out my flight details and just read them again, OF COURSE I knew all that was in it, so it was completely unnecessa..... WHAT!! 18:25!!!


Then a few things happened really fast and they all concerned my bodily functions: a major tantrum, shaking hands, foam in the corners of my mouth, uncontrolled screams, twitches in my eye and a mental neon light flashing in my brain:


Totally panicked I called Liam:
"Stuck in traffic"
"I'll miss my flight."
"O.. well I'll step on it then!"

5 minutes later there were screeching tires; the slam of a car door; a whirl of green linen, gray cotton, a blue polyester backpack, a brown bag and a laptop-case all swirling into the car; followed by again screeching tires and a blue Nissan was on its way to the airport. After a drive which cost me all my fingernails, I ran with my 3 bags into the departure hall, tossed my passport and reservation number at this guy behind a desk and exclaimed: GET ME TO SYDNEY! And you know what? He got me there! I was the final check-in, just 1 minute before closing time. As you can imagine I was filled with adrenaline and stress, so the whole flight went by in quite a blur, but I did get to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge from the plane! My first glance at my new home for the coming weeks!

After arriving in Sydney (domestic flights are the best.. you can just walk straight on! Like you're taking the train, we should get that in Europe!) Maud was there to pick me up, with of course the happy exchange of kisses and "how are you's?'" We took the train into the city and since we had to take the bus from near Circular Quay, I could see the essence of Sydney up close and personal: The Opera House and Harbour Bridge!! We got out and there they were, the two icons. It was dark and in Photoshop I could only lighten them up a little bit without color distortion, but you'll get the idea, I'll make proper ones tomorrow:

Harbour Bridge

The Opera House

And I'll have that opportunity tomorrow, because tomorrow Maud and I will attend a conference in the Opera House itself, yes we do! But don't get too excited.. It's about International Environmental Governance.. "O" Not my particular field of expertise (or interest) BUT it is in a way the reason why I'm here, because me, Maud and her colleagues will work on putting up a small website which will host audio and video files of all the lectures that will be given at this conference.

But that's tomorrow. Today was interesting and busy as well! The first half of the day was of course filled with introductions to both people and the web site project. The project will probably take more time then we have scheduled at the moment (as usual..) and we will have to rely on a few external sources to provide us with material and that always delays things, but I will definitely take enough time to enjoy myself and see Sydney. Each day has 24 hours, why waste them on sleep, right?
Besides the project I also got to see Christina Slade, the Dean of Humanities who made this internship available to me in the first place. She is the most tight scheduled person I have ever met and also the one who is most interrupted by other people during her scheduled time with, for instance, me! During the day I had two very short talks which were both interrupted by more important matters. At the end of the day however she managed to have 15 real minutes for me and we put them to good use and came to good conclusions, but wow! She is a busy lady.
Tonight I went with Maud and Claire to "Borat" at the cinema on George St (one of the main streets in Sydney CBD/City Business District) It was H I L A R I O U S! All the nonsense he exclaims and the ease with which those Americans believe it, remarkable! Of course it's extremely biased and edited to give it that appearance, but in essence it's probably still valid in a way.

And now my first Sydney day has come to an end, look:

Maud and me are both working on our blogs at the moment and Claire was so sweet to take a picture of us, mediajunkies! I'll finish off with some words about Claire and Maud's place. It's in one word: GORGEOUS! It's a very luxurious apartment, designer kitchen, designer water taps, nice furniture - finally someone with some taste! The apartment is Claire's (well.. Claire's dad) and Maud rents her room (including her own bathroom!) from her. Her flatmate is a nice girl, but she knows she's got money and is a little self-obsessed. If you just ignore that however, nothing is wrong at all! And I guess that pretty much sums it up.

So guys, I'm leaving you to it! I'm off to bed - 6:45... *moan*