Last week I had plenty of time to sit and read at home. I couldn’t go to work because I messed up my knee (no bones fractured, just a big road rash). However, that made my days between 14-24 January feel like one giant black hole. You don’t realise how much space to think those umpteen hours of cycling per week give you. If I could, I’d spend all my time reading, and that’s more or less what I did. No wonder then that my brain started to hurt severely, and now, on Monday of week 3, I don’t know what to put my hands into.
I thought a little retrospection might help. What’s the point of reading dozens of articles if you don’t even remember what they were about?
Using metaphors inspired by my more interesting subject this semester (out of the two), I’m going to take a swim in last week’s memory and try to catch whatever floats to the surface.
- Amber. I read a lot on that, coming from a point of thinking: ‘what do I know on coral reefs? I’ve never even been near one. I’m not from the coast, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time by the sea, and after all my country has marine traditions. There must be something closer to home that I could dive into.’ And amber it is. It’s the ‘gem of the Baltic’ or ‘gold of the North’. It’s super old, like 40,000 years old. You can buy fake key rings that pretend to be amber but are actually plastic made-in-China. People destroy coasts in Ukraine to hunt for amber, as far as I know. There’s a good story. The only issue is finding literature on amber, but I’m working on it – there’s a Pomeranian reading room in the local university’s library, and I’ve found out that I can use it even as an outsider, so I’m planning to go there this week.
- Sea and underwater photography. I started reading the book Coral Empire (2019) by Ann Elias. It’s really interesting and I’ve found it highly relevant to my degree. It’s about the evolution of sea and underwater photography (well, you can photograph the sea both from the shore/ship or from underneath the surface), the story of which revolves around two men – John Ernest Williamson and James Francis Hurley. Funnily enough, they both died in the same year, which made me wonder what was so special about the year 1966 – or whether they both died in the same place, in the same accident, perhaps devoured by a man-eating octopus?
My favourite fragment of the book so far is about advertising the Bahamas and the Great Barrier Reef as “destinations”, “paradise”, and primarily “places to play” – “fantasy destinations for the Western body to lose itself to the rapture of clear turquoise and emerald water” (Elias 2019, 210). Through analysing advertisements, Elias shows “how the leisured body in the tropics is a horizontal body, not a vertical one”, ready “to see and think the underwater from within it” rather than from the shore (ibid). The visions of these “tropical destinations” were underpinned by the “possibility of becoming one with nature”, which was quite literally expressed by re-imagining women as mermaids (ibid).
These advertising images, both “glamorous and seductive” and promising “days of aimless drifting on the surface of a calm, clear blue sea or playing like fish in the underwater” (still Elias 2019, 210; it was all in two paragraphs), are a literal description of the images of The Sims 3: Island Living Expansion Pack (released in 2013). I don’t like The Sims 3 for many reasons, but this is certainly one of them. It simplifies the image of an island as “paradise” where you can buy a holiday resort, which is conceptualised as a generative practice, but is in fact more extractive. Much like in the real world, you increase your resort’s star rating by purchasing more ‘luxury’ items, such as a hot tub, a spa service, chlorinated pools, and gym equipment (in a beach resort??? oh yeah, that’s a thing I should know this from the last Gilmore Girls episode I watched). In that sense, I like The Sims 4: Island Living (2019) an infinite times more. Even though it doesn’t come with boathouses.
- There’s so many things I’d like to say to Sims ‘fans’. (Sorry, I just jumped on the Sims train of thought…). Cars should never come to The Sims 4. If you can’t imagine a world without cars in The Sims, how an Earth can you make one happen in the real world??! Y’all have to fix your attitude. Cars suck because we have too many of them and rely on them too much, while there are so many alternatives within reach. Just be slightly more open-minded, could you?
Anyway, it’s gotten to 12pm on a Monday, and I have some errands to run. These of course are not my only thoughts from last week, but the first two were key. (Although I am quite upset about the whole car debate, and will surely remain so).
As a see-you-later treat, there’s a picture of an island paradise for you (click to be redirected to an online textiles store):