A sight for sore eyes

Today, I went up to the Blue Mountains with mum and pops. For those who don’t know, this is a mountainous (duh), naturey region a short drive outside Sydney, complete with rolling fields and mist-wreathed rainforest. It’s usually a few degrees colder than the city due to the whole altitude thing, which made it refreshingly cool today. Admittedly, today’s weather wasn’t perfect for an outing of this sort – the sky was mostly grey and there were occasional showers of rain. But then, the Blue Mountains is just one of those places that looks good no matter what the weather’s like.

We’d decided to go visit the Jenolan Caves, a group of beautiful natural caves deep in the Blue Mountains region. It was quite amazing to be inside an actual bona fide cave, with dripping stalactites and glittery crystal sheets and all the rest. But what I enjoyed most was driving there and back again, looking out the car window at the green fields and forests. Growing up in Sweden and Norway, I was never far from nature. Even when we were living in Oslo, there was a big forest virtually on our doorstep. I knew that I’d been missing that closeness here in Sydney (which, to be fair, does have a good bit of greenery, though not the sort of wildness that I’ve grown up with), but it was only when I was sitting there looking out at all that wonderful verdure that I realized just how much I’d been missing it. It made me feel instantly at peace with the world.

Perhaps the best experience of the day, however, was had just outside the caves. There’s a big, man-made lake up there, which they use to generate hydro-electric power. It’s a very pretty lake, if you ignore the huge concrete dam at one end of it, so we were standing around looking at it for a while, waiting for a guided tour of one of the caves to start. As I was looking at the water, I saw an animal pop its head up and start to swim about near the surface, and I was all like, “Hey, they don’t have beavers in – PLATYPUS! PLATYPUS! IT’S A PLATYPUS!!!” For that one moment, I was transformed into an excited five-year-old boy, jumping up and down and pointing, with a huge grin plastered across my face. And that, my friends, is the story of how I got to see a wild platypus.*

*I know I said it was a man-made lake. It totally still counts.

A somewhat random post on… cold weather

It’s starting to get ever so slightly colder over here, and for once I’m feeling genuinely excited about it. I’ve pretty much had a double summer this year, and – shockingly – summer can get a bit boring. Mostly I’m enamoured with the thought of snuggling up in a nice, thick jumper with a hot cup of tea on a windy afternoon. I’m becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I have a bit of a thing for comfort; comfort food, comfort clothes, comfort entertainment (escapism), and so on and so forth. This is something I’ll have to be careful about in future, I think – too much of a good thing and all that jazz.

The only problem with colder weather here in Sydney (which isn’t that cold, admittedly, compared to the winter weather of my Scandinavian home country) is that the people here have yet to learn how to build insulated houses. The focus so far has been on making buildings that can keep the heat out rather than in, the consequences of which we got to enjoy for a short while when we first moved here at the end of August. But I guess this’ll just give me even more snuggling opportunities.

Still, I am slightly wary. I know that the whole Swedish thing means I should be impervious to the cold n’ all, but I’m only half Swedish and I’m also ridiculously skinny (I have the body of a freakishly tall twelve-year-old). Being skinny isn’t pleasant when the mercury starts to drop, let me tell you. But I will survive!

 

Almost missed a day!

I managed to forget about the fact that I was blogging daily, but caught myself in time! This post will just have to be of a slightly lesser quality, I suppose.

I’m not entirely sure why, but yesterday’s post was quite well liked – I guess it wasn’t as terribly maudlin as I was afraid it was. Anyway, I’m in a far more positive mood today. As said, sometimes you’ve just got to ride it out.

My appreciation for escapism has received a slight boost thanks to the whole emotional slump thing. I feel like escapism has a bad reputation, and I know that you have to get yourself engaged in reality if you want to have any sort of lasting well-being, but an occasional “vacation” seems quite healthy to me. When life starts getting to me, a bit of good-quality comedy or fantasy can make me feel a lot better about things. Sometimes, we need separation to allow ourselves to look at things more clearly, and that’s something escapism allows us to do.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on happiness lately, to prepare for my mid-semester philosophy essay; yesterday I started reading Daniel Haybron’s “The Pursuit of Unhappiness”, which is a fantastic book for anyone interested in the topic. It’s a serious work of philosophy, and at times it gets pretty dense, but his aim was to create something that anyone with a decent level of academic intelligence can read. By the way, when I caution people like that it isn’t because I think non-philosophy students are stupid. It’s because philosophy, like all academic subjects, has its own technical jargon. Mostly it involves oversized words and random bits of latin.

Anyway, Haybron has reminded me of the importance of taking pleasure in the simple things in life. A walk on a rainy afternoon, a good cup of tea – that sort of thing. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make life worth living, wouldn’t you agree? Maybe you don’t. That’s what the comment section’s for!

This is not particularly easy…

I am finding this increasingly difficult. It doesn’t help that as the difficulty steadily increases, the traffic on here is decreasing. I was considering skipping today, but I’ve decided that I will see this out at least until the end of the week, so that I can feel like I gave it a shot. After that, I’m not sure what system I’ll adopt. I might post regularly, once or twice a week, or a might just write a post whenever I feel like I actually have something to say.

Blogging is not something that comes particularly easily to me. When I was in my mother’s womb, it seems the gene-fairies decided – for reasons unknown to man – to save the lion’s share of the available self-confidence juice for my sister. I guess, seeing as she’s the one interested in pursuing a career as a musician, that that was probably a good decision. But my lack of confidence can at times be crippling. When I try to write a blog post, I worry about whether it’s well-written, and I obsess over whether the content is good. I’m pursued by a constant, nagging fear that I’ll wind up posting something that will make people hate me. I know, of course, that it just doesn’t work like that (unless you write something extraordinarily provocative), but I haven’t managed to internalize that knowledge.

Anyway, I’m in a slightly wistful mood right now. That sounds horribly maudlin, and I don’t mean it to; I’m just a little down in the dumps. The stress from my university studies is getting to me a little as I’m realizing how long it’s been since I did any of this stuff. I shall endeavour to cheer up before too long, but in my experience I just have to grin and bear it when I get like this. Eventually my brain’ll get bored with it and find something to distract me. But I really, really don’t want to sound ungrateful! I consider myself extremely lucky to be where I am right now. It’s just a funk – sort of like an emotional version of a cold.

Fantasy!

Okay, so yesterday I bought a season pass for the third season of Game of Thrones on iTunes. And then I watched the first episode. And then I spent some time wallowing in the sheer awesomeness of it. There is something deeply satisfying about watching Game of Thrones. It appeals to my inner nerd whilst also pleasing the sweaty, hairy macho-man that resides deep (deep deep deep) within me. My inner macho-man doesn’t get a whole lot from me, what with me being substantially less masculine than a pink bicycle (with a flowery basket on it), but suffice it to say that the Game of Thrones franchise has improved his life considerably. I do also read the books, by the way. Just saying.

In conjunction with yesterday’s GoT watching, I indulged myself and took a break from my uni readings to read a bit of fantasy. It’s been a while, and I must say, escapist literature feels good. It was a sweet release, I tell you. Not that I don’t like reality, ’cause I do, but it’s nice to have a little break once in a while. The book I decided to read was Innovera Yakov, The Journey of a Thousand Eyes, which has been soundly endorsed by some of my family. You can read a more complete post about it on my dear aunty’s blog. The short version is; it’s a thoroughly enjoyable book. Read it. It’s a very original story that takes place in an extremely colourful and imaginative world.

I have to go now! Be well!

Re-reading Crusoe

robinson-crusoeI finished re-reading Robinson Crusoe last night. I read it once before, a long time ago, but now I have to study it for my Travellers’ tales unit and figured I should give myself a bit of a refresher. This time around, I actually enjoyed reading it more. Last time I read it, I was doing so because I wanted to be able to say that I’d read Robinson Crusoe, and spent the entire time wanting to get it over with so I could move on to something else. Somehow, in being forced to read it – rather than making myself do it – I was able to submerse myself a little more properly in the story. It’s actually a very interesting read!

Robinson isn’t quite the book most of us think it is. We all know about the central shipwreck story, which is the main part of the book, but most of us probably haven’t heard of all the stuff that comes before and after the castaway bit. My lecturer made an interesting point about these sections: they’re both very factual, showing journeys that sound very realistic, between places that are (and were at the time) quite well known. This embeds the more fantastical part of the story (Robinson Crusoe washed up on an uninhabited, unknown tropical island) in strict realism. This is something we’ve been discussing quite a lot in our lectures and tutes for Travellers’ Tales – the whole intersection between fact and fiction that’s so common to travel writing. The two clearest examples of this that I’ve come across so far are Robinson Crusoe and Utopia.

Something else I found interesting about Robinson is the similarity between some of the more action packed sequences in the novel and modern literary fight-scenes. It seems the people of Defoe’s day had the same love of fictional violence that we do, and enjoyed reading about a good shoot-out just as much as a modern reader. My feelings about this are, of course, mixed, but ultimately I don’t think it’s so bad. Violence is just something that’s been bred into us by thousands of years of evolution, and to my mind the fact that we can satisfy our urge for it in a vicarious manner is a good thing. What are your thoughts on the matter, if I may ask?

I Like to Watch

video-game-accessories-ps3-sixaxis-wireless-controllerDoes this make me weird?

I barely ever play video games (I have a mac, and no gaming platforms whatsoever, which makes it pretty difficult), and I’m really terrible at them. And yet, I spend a substantial amount of my spare time watching other people play them. I’m subscribed to two gaming channels on YouTube! And I watch videos from other channels as well! It’s not just on YouTube either; whenever people got together to play video games in high school, I was that guy who sat in a corner and said “I prefer to just, like, watch”. And it wasn’t solely because I was shy – I genuinely preferred to watch. What’s up with this video game voyeurism?

These days I am starting to like the whole idea of playing games more, and when I do play them I generally enjoy myself (sometimes a little too much). An exception to that would be “Braid”. I have never encountered something quite so wretchedly frustrating and stressful as that game in my life (it’s a great game n’ all, just horribly difficult). As a rule, though, I dig it. But not enough, somehow, to justify all this time spent watching “let’s plays”. I’m still really not that into gaming, but you wouldn’t know it from my subscription feed. There’s just something about video game commentary that appeals to me in a peculiar way.

My theory, for the nonce, is that it’s the sense of camaraderie that does it for me. When I’m watching these videos, I feel a kind of companionship  with the people playing the games (in a totally non-creepy fashion, I’m sure). It’s the same reason I like watching vlogs – it’s like hanging out with someone, except you don’t have to do anything or worry about how you look, and you certainly never have to stress out about keeping the conversation going. Some might be inclined to say that’s an example of how the internet’s ruining our ability to form meaningful connections with people – the idea being, I suppose, that eventually we’ll all just be sitting around watching each other on screens in some bleak, dystopian high-tech future where no one ever goes outside. That might be the case. Or it might not. All I know is that in the hustle and bustle of modern life, the online communities I’m a part of make me feel more connected, not less.

What’re your thoughts on the subject? Are we losing our ability to connect with people? I really don’t think so, and presumably most bloggers will agree with me, but I’m always interested to hear other people’s opinions.

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