Author: Michael Eyal

introduction to ITP

right.

its er.. week 5 or six I think. I’m starting to lose track. NYC sucks you into its great gleaming skyscraper-edged maw and leaves you wondering what, how and most importantly why…

ah yes, why… well, I started figuring out the why about two weeks ago today when we started classes at ITP. If you don’t know, the acronym stands for the Interactive Telecommunications Program at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Whew! ITP. let’s keep it that way.

after a week of orientation which climaxed with a three hour long official welcoming ceremony where we witnessed firsthand the insanely high quality of musical theatre writing, acting, filmmaking and dance that is being created at tisch, the wait was finally over!

I started last week with four classes – Applications of Interactive Technologies, Communications Lab, Introduction to Computational Media and Introduction to Physical Computing. And you thought that the name was the only mouthful. these guys sure don’t understand how to string together a course name with under 20 syllables. the amount of students is surprisingly large, considering that this is a master’s program. in the first year alone there are 117, most of whom have extremely varied backgrounds. we’ve got one Iraqi painter, a bunch of Japanese girls who used to work for Sega, some Japanese guys who still work for some enormous broadcasting behemoth from Tokyo, many Koreans, a gaggle of Taiwanese, a bunch of Israelis, some Brazilians, some from the Phillipines, some from Philly and some from the ass end of Mid-West America. Mid-fucking West as they say. Oh yes, there’s also a couple of students from New York, ha, silly me.. forgetting that little minority. All in all, under one roof I have met more people from more countries at one time than I ever did before.

In fact, the first week is spent walking around saying “Hi, I’m from South Africa, yes we have wild animals, AIDS and Nelson Mandela – where are you from?” It’s quite ridiculous the amount of people in the program, thankfully, after we started doing classes together and hanging out a bit, I managed to pick up most people’s names by osmosis. Although in New York, you tend to meet new people almost everywhere you go. or at least I do, because I don’t know anybody. So remembering everybody is a challenge in itself. but enough rambling, my real reason for writing is to tell you that Americans are crackpots.

huh? what? Did I hear somebody say I told you so? Well, its not like you think. Cultural difference has never held too much of an impressive office in my attention bank, until now. Being an outsider, I live, eat, sleep, breathe, smell, taste, feel, translate cultural difference. Everything becomes filtered through a uniquely South African set of perspectives and values. So what? Well… for one thing, I never realized how genuinely wasteful the people here are. On rubbish day, entire living room sets without a scratch on them are curbed, turfed or kerbed if you prefer that lingo and left to the hobos and students. I have stumbled over perfectly working televisions, lamps, radios, enormous queen size beds and many other artifacts just lying on the pavements.

I reckon with a decent sized rowboat and a few lads to help me out, one trip to the Upper East Side on garbage day will yield enough valuable booty to fetch a king’s ransom in some African kleptocracy like.. er.. South Africa or Nigeria. No, seriously, the stuff is unreal. Many of my fellow students are using discarded electronic equipment ranging from toasters to full size fans to microwave ovens as the basis for their projects. damn. Dan even found a pair of semi-new computer speakers outside this office that was turfing all their equipment. its sheer madness.

even the marketing people are getting in on it with ikea reputedly conceiving of an entirely new campaign to convince people to junk their old furniture. don’t take my word for it – ask the new york times.

In fact, this strategy has worked so well for me that this girl at ITP gave me a brand spanking new ikea desk yesterday. kif hey? Feel the difference in the quality of email? I’ve become Edward Norton from Fight Club and I love it. My life is no longer empty, I have swedish furniture.

okay since reading this will probably take longer than most of you are at work, I’ll rein my little rambling fingers in smartly. heel! fingers! stay.

in the meantime, if you get the urge to email me. fight it! fight it I say, until you canna fight it any longer.. its always lovely to hear from you…

if you want to read my weekly journals go to http://stage.itp.nyu.edu/~ms1671. this is where you will be able to track my progress as I go from making tiny little LEDs glow to creating super neutrino death ray blasters! ha ha!!

love to all

mike

(belated) thoughts from a new city

Alright, I’m a lazy globber blogger. i’ll admit it readily. below is a message that was distributed a while ago. don’t hate me for publishing it.

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hello far flung friends, relatives and people that I might have met at a party somewhere..

excuse the mass email format – just think of it as your own personal little message from me.. or not..

new york is the shit! it is soooo coool!! and soooo expensive!! aaarrgh!! there are so many awesome shops, things to do, people to see, things to eat – everything – it just makes you want to be a capitalist piggie!!!

I arrived on saturday morning after enduring a 17 and a half hour night flight, it’s all night, so just when you expect the sun to rise, it stays black.. very sucky. we had our own little entertainment systems – which was quite cool, and the time passed pretty quickly after watching a couple of movies and chatting to the christian missionaries from zanzibar who’d invaded the flight..

we got off to a rollicking start and after the seemingly endless night, I made a deal with them to let me sit at the window seat for the touchdown in new york. what a useless view that was. atlantic ocean, then eastern seaboard – like little bits of crappy coastline, then lots of little boxy houses, some mansions, and then the airport. I was so disappointed. didn’t even see manhattan skyline or anything. phoey. slept about all of two hours on the plane.

spent the first day – saturday – hanging out with Simon and Suyen (my mildly suffering hosts – big ups to Andy) who took me to this amazing vegan / vegetarian restaurant where they make every single thing on the menu with the most amazing soya stuff I have ever tasted. It was brilliant – we had like cajun chicken to start, and then I had black pepper encrusted beef with teriyaki sauce. You don’t understand how yummy it was – it was amazing. I can’t describe it more – the textures were unreal – I’ve never tasted anything like it. And another thing – I could finally eat anything on the menu!! ha ha!

afterwards we walked around washington square park where we checked this guy with a ‘I’m with schizo shirt’ who was performing some mesmerising street theatre, balancing bicycles on his chin, juggling knives upside down and the like. also checked out some old hippies playing speed chess and a lot of black homey drug dealers..

we ended up drinking margaritas at this mexican place across the road from simon’s place when my biological clock caught up with me and showed me who was boss. Luckily I managed to stumble across the road into bed before my world came to a grinding halt..

sunday was more chilled, went for a run in the morning along the harbour and saw the world’s largest procession of harley davidson breakfast thugs slowly idle past. it took them about 45 minutes just to drive past us, there must have been around 5000 enthusiasts ranging from the die-hard live-the-harley-dream types to your average schmo who’s just discovered that he can have fun with both hands at the same time..

if there’s one thing I can say about NY, manhattan in particular – its like you see in sex in the city – only a few hundred times more intense. on that note, the stars of sex in the city are regarded as demigods, being seen as living the new york dream and consequently idolised. it’s pretty common to see shops posting huge signs like “Thanks to our star customer and wonderful friend – Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex in the City” or advertising themselves in an upcoming episode. Indeed, started watching the new season on sunday night and its turned into a bit of a commercial with krispy kreme donuts and fedex deliverymen the subject of the show… oh well it was inevitable I guess..

yesterday I finally took a walk to the place which I signed up for – NYU. the NYU campus isn’t really a campus in the sense that most of us are used like a closed off area like Wits or UCT – its more like a sprawling collection of about 45 buildings all located in the same 40 block radius.. and don’t be fooled by those evil dinky maps you see at home – most self-respecting blocks in manhattan are a good km or two long…

The main area of NYU is set around Washington Square – and it’s beautiful.. also they are extremely organized – I suppose I shouldn’t really be amazed – but it�s a nice change. My school – Tisch is actually just off Broadway and was preparing for new admissions. I went up and saw some really great student and professor projects – like greg shakar’s lightning organ – which generates notes by using eletrical sparks across these huge tuning fork things – and danny rozin’s wooden mirror – which acts as a regular mirror by moving small little wooden panels to create an image..

afterwards, caught the subway uptown to 48th street, where I gawked in utter amazement at the enormous ads urging you to go see Anne Heche’s latest broadway show or check out FCUK. I am nursing a strained neck and severely damaged ankles after tripping over myself so many times. laugh if you will, but I dare you to be nonchalant when you hit broadway or times square for the first time..

ended up meeting an ex-south african in the lower east side, then checking out this great free jazz band at Frank’s in Brooklyn, they were great, but I’ve never really seen a band which has drums, hammond organ and two lead saxophones.. hmm..

and that is that for the moment – its about 9 in the morning here – about three in the arvie your time and although I have just woken up, I feel like I have been gang raped by a herd of extremely horny bull elephants so I think I need to take some guronsan..

love to all

[:]michael sharon
[:]signatureless… again

In the space of a heartbeat on late tuesday afternoon my life went from idling in neutral to 3000 km/h in 10th gear.

last year i applied to a master’s program at New York University in Interactive Telecommunications. this week i finally received my letter of acceptance after four months of nail biting, caffeine abuse and playing computer games in my pyjamas.

I’m IN!!! Yay!!! whooohooo!!

okay so extreme euphoria was instantly replaced by extreme shock and nervousness at the enormous amounts of money involved. i have developed a nervous twitch in addition to a number of untreatable pyschiatric disorders as a result.

daniel has also been accepted and so two lone africans from the southern tip of the continent will be winging their way to the Big Apple sometime in the next three months for an extremely exciting two year stretch. i will probably take a sojourn in Israel for a month or so to bask in the warm glow of a holy war and visit my family before i go.

thanks to all of ya for being there and i’m sure we’ll have mucho grande parties before i go.

in the meantime, if anybody knows of any large sums of money casually sitting around accruing dust particles – please let me know ASAP – otherwise i will be keeping myself busy perfecting my vaultcracking techniques, learning how to rappel with my new grappling hook and working out how to make myself irrestibly attractive to venerable old men who administer vast sums of money on behalf of dead people.

all donations welcome. (except for the usual bodily fluids of course.)

sand. sea. seals. mike’s holiday adventures

Namibia… ah… Namibiaaaah… land of dust devils, wide open spaces and a gazillion fisherman. Not to mention the sand, the sand dunes, the largest sand dunes in the world and a couple of snakes. And that’s still leaving out some rather hermitic (or is that hermetic) scorpions, entire coastlines full of writhing seals and the world’s largest non-unionised population of anglers.

hmm.. where do i begin… do i start by telling you about getting on the bus for a 28 hour trip to another country when alba asks me if she needs her passport. Or do I skip straight to our lovely little camp site nestled at the mouth of the swakop river on the beach (and on the municipal sewage outlet if you believe the rumours. bah poppycock!).

as we stepped off our bus into the schizophrenic namibian weather we were greeted by what we thought was an immense frozen tidal wave poised to crash down and wreak enormous havoc on the unsuspecting innocents who inabited swakopmund. this tsunami on pause was in fact the morning fog bank retreating into the ocean since the climate of swakopmund is a shotgun wedding between dry desert heat and the cold atlantic ocean which eagerly rushes to savage it.

swakopmund has a unique climate which we dubbed “the stumbling drunk” because it never seems to be able to commit to a specific direction for any particular day. mornings are generally overcast and cold. fogbanks disappear by about 10 or 11 in the morning and the sun takes the reins. however, if there are clouds, expect to freeze when standing in the shade and roast when stepping into sunlit patches. weird man. very weird.

apart from that, the town is a cheery little replica of a fairy tale village with a few additions. there are the quaint german landmarks, houses which were erected back when namibia was der bundesland’s pinkie finger in africa. there are a host of bog standard seaside flats (i think the plans are published in architects weekly) and a number of rather bizarre modernist monuments like the kristall gallerie which would have been out of place in anything but a reimagining of hansel and gretel on PCP.

highlights include running loose on quad bikes throughout the namib dune sea – i was fortunate enough to have a bike with a loose front left suspension and a girlfriend who thought that holding on tight involved changing positions and clutching like a limpet first at the right arm, then the left. it was like a convoy of bedouins wandering through the desert on camelback, with the odd one at the back suddenly making sand donuts and veering off into erratic directions at regular intervals. other news: sandboarding is not all its cracked up to be. actually boarding down the sand dunes on some masonite is a pleasure, its the walking back up that kills you. every step you take turns into a monstrous 3cm of distance from your last position due to your foot sinking until your thighs into the sand. we hatched the brilliant concept of creating sand lifts which would be the desert equivalent of ski lifts. at the moment the concept is fully conceptualised and we are looking for seed money. any venture capital or offer of hard currency will convince us to finish this masterwork.

a little known fact which became glaringly apparent after an hour in swakop is that it is home to the largest non-aligned tribe of anglers in the southern hemisphere. possibly the northern hemisphere too as there were jumbo jet loads of french, german, british and australians all hellbent on transforming themselves into ernest hemingway’s heirs. so, when in rome, you become a fisherman. i am proud to say that i too – a confirmed leaf eater, a herbivorous hardhat became a fisherman. well i caught some kelp. lots of kelp. big bony belligerent kelp that looked as though it would take out a shark given the slightest hint of provocation. and i didn’t touch any of those stinky little pilchards that attach themselves to hooks and are supposed to be sweetly attractive to everything that lives in the ocean. i’m a proud card-carrying member of the outsourced anglers society. damn proud.

i see that my little missive has become like a sumo wrestler in training and become bloated out of all proportion. very well… consider this Chapter I of “Mike’s Crew Crawls the Namib”. more to follow…

love to all

mike
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master of the masthead
acolyte of angling
demon of the dust