As if this journey of ours hadn't facilitated enough Flight of the Conchords references (e.g. the title of this post), Nija asked me if by deciding to sit down and write a blog entry to write about "what's going on with me right now" I was hinting that I'm going to start my own breakaway blog called "The Original Atlanta to Sydney." Wrong there, Nija. It's going to be called "Piggly Wiggly Down Under."
Actually, no, there'll be no splinter blog. I just like what Nija's been doing with the blog and felt like I should put in a bit of work myself.
Things have been going well here lately. Our lives seem to be progressing toward some kind of structure as we get further settled into our home. Today is Nija's first day of work (as the coordinator of Sydney's biggest food co-op; what a badass), and she's been busy with web design jobs from people in Atlanta. She still intends to investigate the prospect for a Master's program here.
Meanwhile, I've been doing my best to look like a busy research student, to little avail. Fortunately there seem to be enough regularly-scheduled events, like meetings, trainings and conferences to fill up my agenda. I finally got a desk of my own and have started to decorate it with the requisite political propaganda and band posters, and I must say it's shaping up. I'm surprised at the psychological effect having a desk has imparted on me. It's like the final confirmation that I am here to stay, at least for a few years. It inspired me to finally get on the ball and try to inject some structure into my otherwise free-wheelin' life here at the Centre [sic]. I got some books and have given myself something of a "lesson plan" to brush up on and broaden my grasp of the fundamentals (quantum mechanics, semiconductor physics, optics, etc.)
In the meetings I just keep wondering how I managed to hornswaggle my way into the company of some of the most outstanding and accomplished minds in science, people who win medals from presidents, for God's sake. Frightening! It's intimidating right now, but that's mostly in my head, because everyone has really been warm and welcoming, but maybe they just think I'm the janitor.
Oh, and another report on the fine textures of Aussie life. Sydney's best TV station is Television Sydney (TVS), the public access channel. Like most public access channels and radio stations, it is manned by a small group of committed weirdos who are pretty certain that their programming choices are both top-notch entertainment and immensely important contributions to the social tapestry. TVS, for its part, seems to be dominated by a group of Sydney residents of Indo/Pakistani extraction who produce talk and news programs on the cheap aimed at informing and entertaining the South Asian demographic. Of course, these shows are just as you'd imagine them, with bad clothing, almost no set design to speak of, and generally terrible production value with an overarching delusion of grandeur on the part of the hosts.
TVS also presents quite a few non-locally-produced shows, some of them quite good, like "Concert Hall" (Nick Cave this week) and "Euromaxx" (a wrongheadedly-titled pan-European daily news magazine show from Berlin). There are also quite a few movies, cooking shows, art instruction shows and so forth.
However, the highlight of TVS' schedule, without a doubt, is "Ma Cherie with Essan Laurent". The description on the website says "Ma Cherie is an Art TV Show that is devoted to Art, Music, Beauty, Photography and much more." Essan is a thirty-something German transgendered person who hosts the show, usually in a flowing red wig, in front of a psychadelic green-screen backdrop. Imagine if 60s David Bowie had never been famous or talented but instead got a public access show in Berlin and you're on the right track.
The first episode we saw featured Essan performing a "makeover" on an obese white woman, whom he dressed in a swimsuit and subjected to a photo shoot on some god-forsaken rocky beach. Watching her writhe around uncomfortably on a pointy boulder as Essan shouted instructions at her and took photos was a truly astounding moment.
The second episode we saw was mostly Essan performing a monologue of sorts (actually just a stream-of-consciousness ramble), except for a short film/music video of a lithe, nude young man wriggling around sexually in front of a psychadelic/"iTunes visualizer" greenscreen backdrop as short phrases like "I am all alone" flashed on the screen. We definitely saw this guy's pubic hair many times. It was a benchmark of quality TV, to be sure.
The best part is that the credits of the show are exactly what you would hope for: "Written and produced by Essan Laurent, Music by Essan Laurent, Directed by Essan Laurent, Film Clips by Essan Laurent, Wardrobes and Makeup by Essan Laurent." If you're really interested, check out www.essanlaurent.com. Please.