Monday, November 23, 2009


transition |tranˈzi sh ən; -ˈsi sh ən|nounthe process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another
Although it's been nearly 2 1/2 years since we left Atlanta, our move to Australia is still going on. Sure, I am now used to so many things that originally were foreign. I have learned a great deal about Australian pop culture, the government, the economy, traditions, and the geography. And I now know enough about my university's policies that I feel comfortable when I complain about them. We have several friends (some are even Aussies!) who have also become a sort of second family to us. V. and I are both happy in our jobs. And when Will's friend apologised to him the other day for taking away his train, Will cheerily replied, "that's OK, mate!"

Despite this successful transition, I often think about whether we should return to the U.S. Some aspects of my job are terribly frustrating, but they are endemic to the Australian higher education system so they are unlikely to change. V. still has to take a huge medical exam next July (so that she can finally do exactly what she was doing in America), and this involves a continuation of the months of intense studying and practice workshops she's already put into preparing for it. We are still at least two years away from having enough money saved up for a down payment on a house, as homes here cost nearly 2-3 times more than they were in Atlanta, and we're still paying off the debt associated with selling our home in Atlanta for less than the mortgage. I also miss the North American flora and fauna. Seeing green lawns on an American television show, for example, seems downright exotic to me. And, I really miss being able to see my family more often than once a year.

This is going to be a long transition.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dreaming of a New Blog

I always seem to be coming up with ideas that I feel that I just have to act on. I know they are good and original ideas, but it usually turns out they would actually require more time and effort than I am willing to sacrifice. As an example, for several years I have planned to write a major theoretical paper on a model of prejudice that I have talked about at several seminars conferences. If I were to do a good job on this, it would probably be a well-cited paper, but I have yet to start it. I have also thought long and hard for at least 2 years about writing a book on social neuroscience. Again, I have never started it and, honestly, I probably never will.

My latest 'brilliant' idea is start a blog to monitor the awful stranglehold that News Corp. has over Australian news. Nearly all the major newspapers in Australia (e.g., The Australian, Sydney's Daily Telegraph, Melbourne's The Herald Sun, Brisbane's Courier-Mail) are owned by Rupert Murdoch's company, and in some cities, such as Brisbane, there is no real competitor. News Corp. also owns, of course, the UK's The Times and The Sun, as well as The New York Post (and now The Wall Street Journal). And then there are the biggest beasts of all, Fox News and Sky News. Of course, as we watch newspapers die all over the place, all this consolidation of various news outlets makes sense from a business point of view. It's clear that News Corp. makes good use of its various assets by circulating the same story in each of its papers. The stories on the international pages of the Courier-Mail, for example, are typically attributed to The Sun, The Times, and The Post. The problem, however, particularly in this country, is that one reporter can have an immense effect with one little story because it can be immediately picked up and passed along to all the News Corp. outlets worldwide.

Such was the case when Britney Spears came to Australia. In the week prior to her visit, one of the News Corp. papers ran a story about how some fans were willing to pay hundreds of dollars to watch Britney lip-sync. That story appeared in every city's paper, and the morning television stations even chatted about it. The pump was now primed, and all it took next was Britney's first concert in Perth to ignite a bigger story. A News Corp. reporter in Perth showed up to that concert (ostensibly to write a "review"), and published a story the following day about the "hundreds" of concertgoers who walked out of the concert because of all the lip-syncing. That story appeared with a big headline in all the News Corp. papers in Australia, which, in turn, was picked up by the British papers. Before Britney woke up the next morning, a worldwide controversy had erupted, dubbed by some (at News Corp.) as "Britney-gate." It didn't matter that Britney's lip-syncing had been going on for months during the tour and that everyone was well aware of it already (as evidenced by the story that appeared prior to her arrival in Oz). It also didn't matter to News Corp. that some of the people leaving early did so because they were upset about other things like their bad seats, or that it was nearly impossible to find evidence of these walkouts at other concerts. But the story got bigger and bigger, and soon the non-News Corp. outlets were reporting the story of Britney-gate (all based on the Perth reporter's article). On the basis of these stories, singers John Mayer and Michael Buble rushed to defend Britney, providing even more fodder for the News Corp. machine.

I have watched several similar news cycles come and go since I have arrived here, and I am still amazed how successful they seem to be for News Corp. For example, sixteen-year-old Jessica Watson's solo trip around the world on a yacht was initially praised by the News Corp. reporters, but then it went through a stage where they focused on how unprepared she was, and now they've gone back to a cheering role by providing regular updates of her progress (mainly by paraphrasing from her blog). I guess this is what happens when the readership is relatively tiny, the pool of "big" news stories is small, and the competition is weak. And don't even get me started on the lingerie and bikini photo galleries that feature prominently on Australian news websites.

Well, when I figure out how to clone a more energetic and youthful version of myself, perhaps I can convince him to start that new blog.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The All-Australian Playlist

It was nearly two years ago when I first mentioned my affection for Australian musicians. (By the way, "musician" is often shortened here to "muso"-- another wonderful example of the Aussie tendency to abbreviate words and stick on an "o" as the suffix). Since that first post, I've continued to broaden my education, and I realise that I am now playing Australian music on my iPod at least half the time. I even have an overplayed Aussie highlights playlist, made up of both old and new acts. Here's a sample of that list:
  1. Missy Higgins, "Peachy"
  2. The Waifs, "Lighthouse"
  3. Faker, "This Heart Attack"
  4. Silverchair, "Straight Lines"
  5. Empire of the Sun, "Walking on a Dream"
  6. Katie Noonan, "Blackbird"
  7. The Veronicas, "Untouched"
  8. Jessica Mauboy, "Been Waiting"
  9. Dash and Will, "Out of Control"
  10. Josh Pyke, "Make You Happy"
  11. Hoodoo Gurus, "Come Anytime"
  12. Kate Miller-Heidke, "Caught in the Crowd"
  13. Sarah Blasko, "All I Want"
  14. Angus and Julius Stone, "The Beast"
On Friday night we got to see Kate Miller-Heidke in concert at the Lyric Theatre in QPAC. I only very recently discovered this incredibly talented muso, who hails from Brisbane and went to school just a short distance from where we are living. Kate's music is best described as eclectic, but it's also thoroughly musical and full of comedy. Her voice is beautiful. Opening for her was Skinny Jean, another band from Brisbane (which has also produced Powderfinger, the Veronicas, Katie Noonan, and Savage Garden, among others), which V. and I quickly became enamoured with. As soon as the monthly cap on our bandwidth is lifted, I plan to buy Skinny Jean's album, as well as one from Hunz, who--you guessed it--are also from Brisbane.

Assuming that my American readers will not have heard most of this music, please check out the video for Miller-Heidke's, "Caught in the Crowd," which won the 2008 International Songwriting Competion, by the way:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Still Here

It's been more than two months since my last post.

All is well. We have renewed our lease on this old Queenslander near the railroad tracks, complete with rats. We continue to pay off of the debt incurred when we sold our house in the U.S. for less than what we owed the bank. Classes are over and I have just one final exam to mark next week. The honours students are done. I'm nearly finished with a chapter for an edited volume that has been terribly difficult to write. And Will has been teaching us about the six white boomers that pull Santa's sleigh. It's nearly summer, and I can hardly wait.