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*

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fly away

Just 2 more hours and I'll be on the plane! To SYDNEY!! How cool is that! And I can tell you, I'm going to see it all: The Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, maybe even the Blue Mountains. But that's all in a few hours, now I just have to wait.

The time before departure is always like a twilight zone to me: you are preparing your leave, rounding up your business, make sure every thing's tidied up, loose ends need to be finished, you rummage through your stuff to see if you've got all the essentials packed and after you come to the conclusion that you indeed got all your essentials and you are good to go, you just wait - anxiously and excited!

So now I'm filling the void of waiting with some music, strangely I pick the most easy listening music I have, it strangely makes me think of elevator music: not obstructive, not particularly interesting, it just plays.

Ooohhww clock! TICK HARDER! I WANNA GO!!

See you all in Sydney!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Box

Life is full of surprises. Who expects a box waiting for them when they come home from work? We all hope for one, but how often will it really be there? Well today it was there for me! A TPG postal box, including stamps and labels here and there. After the jumps of joy came the thrill of opening it. I picked the box off of the ground, and it was the oddest thing.. it had a faintly familiar smell around it, a bit ylang ylang, lotus flower and jasmine undoubtedly (or at least that is what the label from my favourite Ritual shower gel says)

And after ripping the tape off and lifting the cover, all these goodies peered at me:

Chocolate letters! (Look! There is one for everyone in the house! A L for Liam, A T for Tara, an A for Aki and a J for me! My mom is the sweetest!) A cd! (Oohh the cd by Sting my mom told me about, I was looking online for that, but couldn't find a torrent!) and yep! My favourite shower gel! (Finally! I was running out of the one I had. Pity the cap came off and it spilled a bit in the box, oh well, not too much is lost and it makes everything smell nice) Toothpaste! (I remember how I was all upset at my take-off for Oz that Laura gave me the shower gel and toothpaste, but that I couldn't take it with me, because of those stupid regulations at London Heathrow's customs) A book! (In Dutch, Schijnbewegingen by Floortje Zwigtman, sounds good, definitely chosen by my mom, similar taste, we almost never pick a wrong one for each other) And letters! (A sweet note by my parents! I miss them... what's the rest? IB Groep.. brr.. Postbank.. brr.. T-Mobile.. brr.. thanks mom... drawer!)

THANKS DAD, MOM AND JOB!!! I love and miss you

Jacarandas are the most splendid trees ever

Did you know that? Well, the Aussie or South African people reading this might know it, but for the rest of the world: It is truly splendid. Here in Adelaide all the jacarandas are in full bloom and they are gorgeous! In Europe we have some amazing magnolia's but they can't beat the bright purple bang of the jacaranda. Even more funny, here in Oz the blossoming of the jacarandas is a herald for Christmas! Purple snow, I guess it kinda makes sense in a way

(my camera is flat at the moment, so I grabbed an image of the web, sorry.. Ill upload one of my own pictures somewhere soon)

Loreena is back

To herald my return at my old blog I think everyone deserves a treat! As you all know, my taste in music is unrivaled *chuckles* and I am always on the look out for new gems. Instead of spamming people on msn with these gems, I will just post them here for everybody to enjoy. I will try and upload all of the songs I post in my blogs, so you can enjoy them in your own time instead of rummaging through torrent sites, eMule, Kazaa, LimeWire or any other P2P backalley. Buttt remember! The links will only work for a short amount of time so be quick, or request them again to me.

This first song however isn't a download, but a video. Of the new single "Caravanserai" by Loreena McKennitt, one of my favourite artists. For those familiar to her I can say: you'll feel like coming home when you hear it! (and Jan, the cd should be on its way! See it as a pre-Christmas gift from me :) For those of you unfamiliar: give it a try and be swayed by one of the best Celtic/worldbeat artists around!

well.. go ahead.. click it!

Conversations with myself

Hello everybody!

Missed me? Probably not, u might have never known I was here in the first place.
And O M G! In English!

"I thought you were Dutch right? Jago van den Akker, masters student in New Media & Digital Culture at Utrecht University, right?"
"Yes, that's still me."

"And.. didn't you start on writing a Dutch travellog? With pictures and everything of your travels in Australia?"
"EXACTLY! I am the guy you mention."

"So why this place? Why Blogger? Why did u venture here?"
"Well you know, sometimes things are thrown before your feet and u can't just ignore them. Like today: my colleague Katie Cavanagh (or at least I think colleague is what comes most close - academic boxing ball might be a good second option) gave me this book by Rebecca Blood. As morbid as her name may sound, Katie told me that she is THE guru when it comes to blogging and after having read a couple of pages, I think she is right. It became crystal clear to me that this travellog I keep track off, is just one of the aspects of what I could be communicating with the world! There is so much more to me, than just some infrequent posts about the wonders and amazement I find here in Australia. So I decided to move myself back to my old blog, dust it all off and revitalize it with more frequent posts about more topics."

"Sounds rather ambitious.. You think you can pull it off?"
"Well it just takes confidence I guess, of just making yourself important and strutting all that I find interesting through everybody's throat. Don't feel shy and just keep posting and linking and eventually some people will probably appreciate the twists and turns I take."

"So what can people expect to find in your 'revamped' blog?"
"Oh a lot! *laughs* but that's what we all like to say, don't we? I think it will primarily focus on being a travellog and a medialog. I want to share my musical tastes with people, some designlinks every now and then, interesting articles, some academic stuff, my encounters here in Australia, maybe some late night philosophical thoughts. I'm just trying to open up to the world more, does that make sense?"

"Do tell"
"Well, most people know me as an extrovert person, cheerful, funny and sociable, but on the other hand I am very introspective and a navel gazer at times. As dark and solitary those periods may be, I also come across the most marvelous things - sometimes in my own head, sometimes on the outskirts of the web, in music, reading or film. It would be a waste to keep that all to myself! I should just take everybody by the hand and guide them to the good stuff. And the whole web is already full with people who do that on their blogs, so why shouldn't I do the same!"

"True indeed"

"Well Jago, thanks so much for elaborating all of this to us, I think most people will have a clear idea about what you are trying to achieve, good luck with all your further endeavours and we are bound to hear more from you in the future!"
"It was my pleasure and I'll be back indeed!"