Some photos from Stocznia Gdanska [Gdansk Shipyard]

A week ago, March 6th, I went to Gdansk for the first time in a long time. And I visited the Gdansk Shipyard for the first time in my life. You can now tour the area where Lech Walesa and Anna Walentynowicz worked in the 1970s and set up Solidarnosc following the new Kaiser Shipyard Trail (Szlak Stoczni Cesarskiej) in Gdansk.

Here’s a selection of photos which I hoped would spark interest among some of you.

Here are Rzeźby wychodzące z morza [Sculptures walking out of the sea], which you can read more about here. They are sculptures made of metal scraps found in junkyards, created by artist Czeslaw Podlesny.

Next, old signs on some shipyard building. The bigger sign announces that “the shipyard will employ: production manager, painters, carpenters, locksmiths” and other vocations. The smaller, horizontal sign announces the internal street name – “ul. Przy Pirsie”, which means “Next to the Jetty Street”.

This is the main entrance to the Shipyard. The red building in the back is named the European Solidarity Centre. Just yesterday they closed it again for visitors, but you can read more about what the Centre does here.

Next, the pretty cool (it’s cool, isn’t it?) souvenir kiosk, right outside the main Shipyard entrance (see: previous picture). There, you can buy magnets with Walesa and Solidarnosc logo. I don’t know what else is there, because well, I’m not that much of a souvenir gatherer anymore (the space in my room is finite, after all…), and we’re living in a pandemic (which seems to never end). Nonetheless, the sign on the kiosk is the sort of cool vintage that people are into these days. At least they were in the 2010s.

Are people still into vintage fonts, or did their popularity pass with that of kale and turnip smoothies?

This is the inside of one of the shipyard buildings, the closest to the historical crane that’s marked on the trail. The interiors of most of those buildings are derelict just like this. You can look into some of them through the broken windows, like I did. Just make sure you don’t cut your hands. (I didn’t. I was careful).

The broken window pictured below:

And to finish, a general view of the main horizontal street of the Shipyard:

It was a good and informative visit. There are information boards in both Polish and English distributed across the area. I strongly recommend the trail and am wondering what future awaits those glorious buildings.

Remembering my last week pre-pandemic

It’s been almost a year since all normal activities stopped in Edinburgh because of covid… and I sort of remember the first days when I started cutting out my outings, although I still went out relatively frequently – I went to Tesco once a day to get some fresh vegetables (I remember I was into celery sticks and cream cheese back then), and soon after they advised not to go shopping frequently so instead I started going on early morning walks around the Meadows… but I wanted to check what I did before all those precautions came in. The last moments of enjoying the freedoms I didn’t know we’d all lose!

So I checked my trustworthy MacBook calendar and here’s what I did…

Saturday, 7 March – I start on a Saturday because Friday 13 March was really when my ‘normal life’ ended. That day I went to the post office to pick up a parcel – it was from my mum – and I think afterwards I went to Costa to sit and read. Or maybe I didn’t? Who’s to know? I think in the parcel there were coloured fineliners I asked my mum for.

~11 am, 8th of March coffee. EasyCoffee, Haymarket, Edinburgh. Cost: cheap.

Sunday, 8 March – That day I remember well. First of all, it was my dad’s birthday; second of all, I was working at a rugby match. It was one of the Six Nations matches. We were starting quite early, around noon, and the day was beautiful and sunny, so I decided to treat myself to a takeaway coffee on my way there. It was the one and only time that I went to easyCoffee in Haymarket. I got a stamp on my newly acquired loyalty card, and I bought an iced pumpkin spice soy latte. A mouthful, isn’t it? It was great, very cold and it matched the sunny, cheerful day perfectly. And easyCoffee has really cheap coffee, for Edinburgh coffeeshop standards at least. (Sure, it’s a chain. No, I’m not afraid of chain coffee, as you can see. Actually, I used to go to chains most times I went out for coffee).

The match was really fun to work at because my friend from S College St place was working as we were short of staff, so I super quickly recruited him that morning! And he’s a very fun person, so that was a pleasure to have him on the team that day. So all in all, that was a great day. I’m glad I got to experience it just before the pandemic.

My Instagram story, 8th March, after a successful work shift at a Six Nations rugby match. Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh.

Monday, 9 March – Well, my calendar tells me I went to the dentist that day. I don’t remember it. Other than that, a PALS debrief and a meeting in the evening. I don’t remember those things either. My memory is patchy.

Tuesday, 10 March – I remember this day probably the most vividly. My friend was campaigning to be our university’s student union president, and that day was the last day to go around student halls door-knocking to talk to potential voters. After dark (it was around 6pm, I think) we went door-knocking in a couple of student halls in central Edinburgh.

When I reflected on that after covid hit, I thought: what a dumb thing to be doing just before the pandemic! Like, we could’ve spread germs, we could’ve caught it, we could’ve made it worse… Did we? Well, that we’ll never know! But I do remember banging on the doors until someone opened, and talking to those students having pre-drinks and getting ready for going out (it was a Tuesday evening after all).

Afterwards we went to our (my) beloved place in S College Street and I think we had rocky road or tiffin squares, or the sort, and I think I had coffee and he refused to have either tea or coffee because he doesn’t drink stuff like that. He doesn’t drink it because of the colonial/imperial legacy of tea and coffee. And for that reason he doesn’t really eat chocolate either. What an interesting personality, right?

Well, I can tell you he has an interesting personality, and now he even has a quite successful business! It’s still in its early days as it’s a few months old (though I think closer to a year now than a quarter), but he’s such a determined person that I’m not surprised at how well he’s been managing it. He obviously wasn’t voted the student union president, but it’s probably good for him – I feel sort of bad for the student union reps who had to work this year, and probably weren’t aware their entire terms would be affected by a pandemic… must suck. But correct me if I’m wrong.

Wednesday, 11 March – That week was some sort of talks organised by the student and lecturer strike, as it was the last week of the strike. We were meant to start lectures on Monday 16 March… which never happened. Nonetheless, I used the opportunity to go to some talks. On Wednesday it was a talk+discussion on the ‘commodification of student lifestyles’. It was really thought provoking, though I must admit that none of the things that were mentioned should’ve come as a surprise… There were some people I knew at that talk, too, so that was nice. We were sitting in a big circle of chairs in the gym where our conservation society had the charity ceilidh in February 2020.

It also says I had another dentist appointment that day. Seriously??! I don’t remember that either.

Thursday, 12 March – That day I went to a discussion group in an independent bookstore next to the university’s main campus. We talked about peer learning, related in a way to the PALS volunteering I was doing that year. I remember I said some stuff, as there weren’t many people there (there couldn’t have been because the bookstore has very limited space…). Also, I never really went to that bookstore before for any longer than to go in and out. (It’s probably too radical for me, come to think of it).

Friday, 13 March – Friday the thirteenth! The crucial thing is I did laundry that day. And laundry back in those days really was a challenge, because – to make sure you had a vacant machine – you had to get up really early and claim it before anyone else did… I was also meant to go to the election results night, but because covid got serious that day, I didn’t go. So I stayed in my flat all day.

And that’s where normalcy ended.

Thanks for hanging out and reading about my last week of pre-covid life. I don’t know what’s there in it for you, but I wonder if you too tried to remember the last week before covid came into your life. Or perhaps you’re always thinking about it? Either way, let me know. I’d be glad to hear anything.

Climbing Mount Komorebi – 3 screenshots

My views have SO DROPPED lately, there’s barely anyone here!

So, to start off the month right, I’ll post three screenshots from Mount Komorebi. Precisely three. However, I find them screenshots of high quality, as they gorgeously present the gorgeousness of Mount Komorebi and its snowy environs.

I took them while sending the Ito family parents up to climb the summit of Mount Komorebi. It was snowy. At the middle point, it was so snowy even I, the player (the god!) couldn’t see through the thick snow. I felt compassion for those Sims, after all not that long ago I myself was ploughing through such blizzards on my pitiful bike… but they made it, and the views sure rewarded them for their persistence.

Or so I thought. The views rewarded me, but not them. These Sims didn’t get any moodlets after climbing Mount Komorebi!!! Other than those coming from a successful expedition. There were no moodlets associated with climbing to the mountain peak and seeing all these fabulous views. A massive oversight, if you ask me. Evidence proves that the feeling of standing on top of a mountain is exhilarating, and the views are amazing. Why didn’t the designers include it in the game?

Forgetfulness, I’d say! Luckily, there’s always room for patches.


Komercjalizacja harcerstwa

Serce mnie boli, że Dzień Myśli Braterskiej (World Thinking Day, 22 lutego) się skomercjalizował. Widać to dobitnie w newsletterze (który będę nazywać “biuletynem”), który dziś rano wylądował w mojej skrzynce mailowej. Nadawcą jest Składnica Harcerska ZHP 4 Żywioły.

W mailu “druhowie” ze Składnicy napisali:

Już na horyzoncie Dzień Myśli Braterskiej,
to wyjątkowe święto przyjaźni.
W taki dzień warto obdarować swoją bliską osób
drobnym upominkiem.

Z tej okazji sprawdź naszą ofertę.
Poniżej mamy dla Ciebie kilka propozycji.

Dalej biuletyn płynnie przechodzi w promocję kubków, czapek, maseczek, puzzli (z wilkiem!) i T-shirtów z nadrukiem.

Może DMB nie ma zapisane w genotypie, że jest świętem antykonsumpcyjnym. Ale czy istotą DMB nie jest braterstwo i przyjaźń? A sprowadzanie święta przyjaźni i braterstwa do kolejnej okazji, żeby to kupić coś nowego, nie jest zjawiskiem pozytywnym? A przecież harcerz i harcerka powinni oddziaływać pozytywnie na swoje środowisko, całą swoją postawą i działalnością.

Przekaz z tego biuletynu wypływa taki: jeśli nie kupisz swojej druhnie/druhowi nowej koszulki, czapki, puzzli, czy kubka, to nie wyrazisz w odpowiedni sposób swojej przyjaźni. A to nieprawda.

Zastanawiam się, jaki wpływ harcerstwo miało na mój stosunek do dóbr materialnych. Z jednej strony widzę z perspektywy czasu, jak bardzo miałam obsesję na punkcie rzeczy – to było przede wszystkim ciągłe chcenie gadżetów typu notes z ulubionym anime, koszulka z ulubionym muzykiem, przypinki, kubki… i cała masa niepotrzebnych rzeczy, których dzisiaj nie dałabym sobie wcisnąć za nic. Z drugiej strony właśnie obecnie mój stosunek do rzeczy jest raczej sceptyczny, a zawsze uważałam, że prezent zrobiony własnoręcznie to powinno być coś standardowo wyżej cenionego niż przedmiot ze sklepu. Na obozach zawsze robiliśmy mnóstwo rzeczy własnoręcznie, a na wigilię drużyny co roku dawałyśmy sobie prezenty właśnie robione samodzielnie, w domu.

Jedną rzeczą którą na pewno wyniosłam z harcerstwa to to, że pieniądze nie uszczęśliwiają. Oczywiście oficjalną ideologią było to, że służba bliźniemu i ojczyźnie (i teoretycznie Bogu) uszczęśliwia, ale też że to się po prostu robi. Bez oczekiwania na coś w zamian. A na pewno nie na wynagrodzenie materialne. Rzeczy materialne, dawane np. jako nagrody w turniejach czy grach, były cenione za to, co można z nimi zrobić – z pałatką można było zrobić szałas z zastępem, z grą planszową – fajną zbiórkę, a kompas zawsze się przyda do zajęć terenowych.

Dlatego nie podoba mi się zwrot harcerzy w kierunku takiego gadżeciarstwa. Nie jest to zachowawcze na dłuższą metę, i nie promuje pozytywnej postawy wśród młodych ludzi. Jeśli chcemy zmniejszyć swój negatywny wpływ na środowisko jako ludzie, musimy porzucić przywiązanie do ostentacyjnej konsumpcji (ang. conspicuous consumption, konsumpcji na pokaz, szpanu – termin wymyślony przez Thorsteina Veblena w 1899). Zwłaszcza, że ostentacyjna konsumpcja narodziła się w klasie próżniaczej… a próżniactwo raczej nie jest pożądaną cechą w ZHP, ZHR, ani nigdzie indziej.

Shinrin-yoku a egzotyzacja

Co znaczy shinrin-yoku? Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) z japońskiego tłumaczy się na “leśną kąpiel”. Ma mieć (i z pewnością ma) właściwości lecznicze, praktykuje się ją zarówno indywidualnie, jak i w ramach zorganizowanej “terapii naturą”. (Co ciekawe, artykuł o shinrin-yoku na polskiej Wikipedii jest bardzo dobrej jakości i rozległy, podczas gdy na angielskiej jest o tym tylko wzmianka w artykule o “nature therapy”).

Czym różni się od shinrin-yoku spacer? Zwykły, polski spacer?

Słowa mają takie znaczenie, jakie wynika z ich użycia – nie ma jakiejś esencjonalnej istoty słowa, która zawsze i w każdym kontekście pozostaje niezmienna. Wydźwięk słów zależy od tego, co chcemy nimi przekazać.

Ja dzisiaj poszłam na “spacer”, co ktoś inny mógłby nazwać shinrin-yoku. Zatrzymywałam się często, wsłuchiwałam w odgłosy ptaków, wiatru, szumu drzew, i płatków śniegu uderzających w kaptur mojej kurtki. To ostatnie było naprawdę hipnotyzujące. Moje oczy skąpane były w bieli, z której wybijały się czarne sylwetki drzew. Tak naprawdę te drzewa nie były czarne, bo po przypatrzeniu się widać było głęboko zielony nalot i popękaną ciemnoszarą korę. Ale na tle całej tej bieli wyglądały na zupełnie czarne, jakby ktoś namalował je atramentem, cieniutkim pędzelkiem, na białej kartce papieru. To był ich pewien japoński atrybut – przywołały mi na myśl dziewiętnastowieczne japońskie ryciny. Te, które ludzie wieszają na ścianach i drukują na okładkach zeszytów, bo tak subtelnie wyrażają piękno tego, co nazywamy “przyrodą”.

Utagawa Hiroshige, c. 1836. Evening Snow at Uchikawa. Source:

Jeśli o leśnym spacerze myślimy automatycznie jako “leśnej kąpieli” zaczerpniętej z kultury japońskiej, kultura słowiańska usuwa się w cień. A przecież lasy w Europie Centralnej stoją od tysiącleci.

To nie jest tak, że tylko kultury “niezachodnie” (a zresztą, czy my jesteśmy Zachodem?) mają jakieś głębsze powiązanie z “naturą”. (Jako “naturę rozumiem tu świat pozaczłowieczy, niezbudowany ludzką ręką, choć niekoniecznie nią nietknięty. Z reguły odrzucam istnienie czegoś takiego, jak “dzika przyroda”). My, Europejczycy, nie jesteśmy przybyszami z kosmosu.* Wzięliśmy się z tej ziemi i z nią mamy powiązanie. Nie musimy uciekać się do praktykowania “shinrin-yoku” – wystarczy, że będziemy praktykować “leśne spacery” lub “leśne kąpiele”.

Używanie wyrażeń takich jak shinrin-yoku w kontekście lokalnym, nieodwołującym się do japońskiej tradycji, niesie ze sobą zagrożenie egzotyzacji zarówno przyrody, jak i społeczeństw pozaeuropejskich. Grawituje ono zbyt blisko pojęcia “szlachetnego dzikusa”, wyobrażenia człowieka pierwotnego jako istoty nieskażonej cywilizacją, bliskiej przyrodzie, i dzięki temu czystej moralnie. Jeśli zwrócimy uwagę na przestarzały już, choć nadal obecny w pewnych sferach, linearny model “postępu cywilizacyjnego”, który za początek postępu wskazuje przyrodę, a za schyłek – społeczeństwo zindustrializowane i ‘zmodernizowane’, koncepcja shinrin-yoku jako wytworu wyłącznie azjatyckiego wzmaga stereotyp kontynentu azjatyckiego jako bardziej ‘zacofanego’ niż Europa, czy Zachód.

Dlatego nie chodzę na shinrin-yoku

A na koniec wrzucam obraz pt. “Żyto” (Рожь, 1878) pędzla Rosjanina Iwana Szyszkina.

* Przynajmniej z tego, co nam wiadomo…

Iwan Iwanowicz Szyszkin, 1836. Żyto (Рожь). Source: Wikipedia.

Are we earning too much?

Hear me out before you rebuff!

On New Year’s Eve I met a random guy at a pedestrian crossing. He asked me for help with his bike tire, as at the time I was at work (in an orange suit, with a bike and a big thermal backpack). He spoke to me in English, and it turned out he was a postdoc staff at the local university, who had just moved here from Chicago, Illinois.

We kept chatting but stopped after two weeks when he told me he had just bought a snail-shaped paper weight in a second hand store. It wasn’t the reason why I stopped reaching out, it’s more that at that moment I decided he wasn’t a very interesting person. Anyhow, before that happened I learnt a few things about that guy.

The main thing that threw me off was that he dabbled in stock exchange. Stock exchange. Not stock as in livestock, that’d be even weirder, but stock as in buying and selling three-letter non-physical entities. He recommended me trying it myself, as he disclosed he would earn as much as 9,000 PLN in a month. What on earth can you do with 9,000 PLN in a single month? I understand you can save it up for a big trip, like to Japan or something; but how many people happen to earn 9,000 PLN in one month?

I think about all the people who do really hard and undesirable work, and think that life must be really miserable for those who don’t enjoy their jobs and don’t get to enjoy things outside of their jobs, because they can’t afford it.

Of course, you have things like meritocracy and the survival of the fittest (or whatever today’s equivalent of ‘fit’ is), but let’s admit it – does it always work this way, that the smartest and most capable people are in the best positions in society? No.

Equally, I do not think that learning when to buy a three-letter non-physical entity and when to sell it is a skill beneficial to society. Sure, you can invest in organisations that do charitable work, like WWF or other environmental agents. But I suppose people who are in stock exchange are not in it do to that.

Stock exchange is concentrated on increasing the private monetary wealth of a single individual. It’s selfish, inconsiderate, and meaningless.

This was not meant to be a tirade on stock exchange, but that’s what it turned out to be!

I hope though that you too agree that earning 9,000 PLN is far too excessive. Better stay put and earn less than wreak even more havoc on this planet; you can’t compensate yourself for guilt.

zimno, zimniej, zimnooooo – a quiet day on Philadelphia Boulevard

Today was a day for chill, and this is what resulted from it.

It was literally chill.

Super chill. Super cold.

Location: Bulwar Filadelfijski, Toruń

We watched the ice floes on the Vistula river. We could hear them crash against each other. It was quiet, it wasn’t windy (if it was we would have frozen) so all you could hear, really, was those ice floes. They say that when there’s snow outside it absorbs sounds from the surroundings. I think it must be true, because when I lean out the window on a snowy morning you can’t hear the trams or cars or dogs that I always hear. It’s even quieter on a weekend, obviously. A Sunday morning can be so quiet that I feel like I’m not on Earth anymore.

Stuck in the Colonial Age

It felt like a bat of an eye and I’ve found myself in the Colonial Age in Forge of Empires. I’ve been playing this game and been planning on posting about it for ages now, and by ages I mean ages – ever since the Spring Event in 2020, which was in April. I wanted to post about it because the event was truly adorable, hanami-themed (花見), with cherry blossoms everywhere. It was my first Forge of Empires event, and since I’ve taken part in several (though none in the summer, because I took a break from playing). The current one is Forge Bowl (a FoE version of Superbowl), it goes without saying that it’s nowhere near the adorableness of hanami, though I can see how it must be appealing to the young- and old-male part of the game demographic, which is certainly the majority.

Anyway, I was very excited about entering the Colonial Age – it was somehow meaningful, because my country’s history has no memory of colonialism (at least not of colonising places) – rather, a memory of subjugation and erasure. Therefore, as much as the Iron Age and Early to Late Middle Ages felt somewhat believable, the Colonial Age feels like science fiction to me. I invested my Forge Points into researching technologies such as porcelain, muskets, industrial goods (allowing me to build a tar kiln and wire mill), gambrel roof and arcade houses, and clockmaking.

However, in the Colonial Age I’ve also researched colonies, new crops, plantations and plantation goods (in the game, it’s paper and coffee), exploration, fashion, imperialism (unlocked by researching trading charters), and the Malthusian Theory. I’m really on top of it.

One thing I’d love to see in Forge of Empires is some sort of narration when you place your cursor on a specific technology. As it is, the pop-up window will show you the resources required for researching the technology (typically some money, some building resources, and some goods, though the latter does not always seem relevant to the technology) and the rewards from researching it (e.g. researching Plantation Goods allows me to build a Coffee Roaster and Paper Mill). I’m aware that a paragraph for each technology would turn this game into a highly interactive history textbook. Though, education is required to be critical, and we could do with some more critical people at the moment. (And always, really).

Before I noticed, I had finished the last two technologies required before moving onto the Industrial Age. But I don’t want to enter the Industrial Age just yet. I’ve got plenty and enough of industry; I want to revel in being a Colonial Power just for a little while. Also because I’m not finished with my Aztec Cultural Settlement yet, and shouldn’t I kill off the Aztecs before I start the Industrial Revolution?

I think Forge of Empires is really great. After leaving school I didn’t have too great of an idea of the human technology progress timeline; this game gave me an idea of it, and let me reflect on how we present human history and what narratives are excluded from straightforward representations such as this one. Imagine that a FoE-style game which starts and follows a place in Mesoamerica would take quite a different shape. Although I wonder whether the base format would remain the same – researching new technologies, acquiring “expansions”, attacking others’ settlements and motivating their buildings for money? For now, I think that it would. If you think otherwise, let me know.

I just read this amazing paper by Anna Tsing on mushrooms and plantation crops. It really opened my eyes (although some of it rang familiar with the Economic and Political Geography course I took in 2nd year of uni). Now, I’m waiting for the lecture on the transatlantic ship.

Looking to the rivers

In BluHum, you are encouraged to think oceanically – but, as it was pointed out, when you think of everything as ocean, and of the ocean as everything, then you really lose the sense of what really makes the ocean the ocean – of what defines it.

A question popped in my head – would the ocean exist without rivers? A secondary question – would rivers exist without the ocean?

I am not the master of hydrology or physiography, I cannot answer either of these questions. I suppose an ocean could exist without rivers. But rivers have to go somewhere, they must have a destination, and that destination is the ocean.

Are rivers less important than the ocean, then?

I suppose you can’t say that any part of the world is less important than the other – they’re all important in equal measure, though important in varying measures to each and every individual.

File:Vistula river map-clean.png - Wikimedia Commons
The Vistula River and some of its tributaries. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Rivers delineate my country, roughly 50% of it. Rivers have been important to trade and movement of people since the archaic times. Rivers can be polluted. Rivers can carry death. Rivers can carry pollution into the seas and oceans. What we put into rivers matters to the marine environments, even though they are hundreds of miles away. Rivers flood. Rivers destroy livelihoods. Rivers work as settlement enablers. Rivers are blue bodies. Rivers create blue spaces. Rivers make habitats. Rivers are navigable. Rivers lead places. Rivers connect.

Poland beach map
Map of the waterways of Poland. Author: Paweł Ciechański

I am not from the UK. Poland’s coastline is 1032 km long, while the Vistula River is 1047 km long. There are thousands and thousands more of kilometres of riversides. While the sea is important, it looms over us that rivers may actually be more important to local histories and identities (collective and individual) than the sea.

The sea is always out there, but more often than not it is abstract or limited to a week by the sea spent each year on overcrowded beaches by the Baltic.

Thoughts of week 2

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):

New family! Political murals in Newcrest

Poor quality image off the Gallery, accessed online.

The main argument behind my dissertation is that games are empowering through the storytelling opportunities they provide. Tired of reading theory, which felt like spinning round and round in the same circles, I realised that it’s been a while since I told a story I wanted to tell. So I created this family – for the sake of a name I named it “Cool Ppls” – made of young women at different stages of life, who all have different personalities and goals. To show that women can come in all the diversity and there is no single mould they have to fit to remain just as womanly as they were at the start.

From left to right, we have:

  • Gabe Gonzales (child) – vegetarian
  • Marianna Symanski (teen) – unflirty and mean
  • Zahra Saeed (young adult) – maker, bookworm, self-assured
  • Jade Hall (young adult) – genius, recycle disciple, bro
  • and Sacheen Cruz (teen) – unflirty and hot-headed.

Only after I put them all together into one big family, I realised that almost everyone is wearing some sort of a knitted sweater… It must be that Jade is rather warm-blooded. I just wanted to make them all comfortable, that’s it…

The family settled in the town of Newcrest, because I wanted a blank slate to tell my story. I’ll tell my story through people, events, and environments I’ll design. I started building a maker-space on the other side of the road from the Cool Ppls’ house, and it’s coming together nicely. I’ll share it with you once it’s ready.

Night view of the Allotment Living Space.

I dubbed their house the ‘Allotment Living Space’, which I call Allotment in short. The thing I had in my head when building it were these semi-living structures people have on their allotments in Poland. Most of the structure is semi-open, the main ‘living space’ as such is surrounded half by walls and half by tall wooden fence. The bathroom has no door but an arch, and the ‘inside room’ sadly has only one sleeping space. For the sake of gameplay, I put four camping beds outside the house in case my Sims got tired. The beds are uncomfortable, but I actually had limited household funds so they’ll have to deal with them.

However modest the house might be (though from some perspective you could see it as not being modest at all), it has several things to occupy the Sims – chess, an easel, a keyboard, a boat, and a BBQ for socialising. There’s also a perfect fishing spot right behind the house, which Zahra has enjoyed the most. That’s where most of their neighbours usually hang out.

Power shot of Sacheen with her mural.

When looking for some creative equipment for my Sims, I also stumbled across the mural kits. I had space for two murals, and because Sacheen and Marianna were the least tired, I got them to paint murals first. I got them to paint political murals. (Graffiti is a form of painting introduced in The Sims 4: City Living).

Sadly, I discovered there are only two political murals available for Sims to paint, and Sacheen and Marianna painted them both on their very first day. The next ones I got them painting are the nature murals (here you’ll find a helpful catalogue of all murals available). Seeing the teens paint those murals right next to the bins made me think of the YA novel Green Valentine by Lili Wilkinson, which is about two Australian teenage guerrilla gardeners whose troubles eventually lead them to establish a community garden.

While the family’s asleep, the teens keep on painting…

Generally, I am discontented with how so many Sims players get the idea of decent living or ‘eco living’ completely wrong. It’s not about having a meat wall and replacing antiques with clean-cut modern furniture. It’s not even about having the most plants on your lot, because your plants might actually be of an invasive species or be extremely water-needy and bad for local wildlife.

I really love my little allotment living space and I’ll give you updates on any additions I make.

Old books, surf magazines, dust

Starting a new subject in a new semester makes a good excuse to go through my parents’ old books… again.

“That sounds like a nice activity”, my friend from Finland said, and I told him that sure, as long as you ignore the dust flying all around you. Go through old things on a cloudy day, not in bright sunshine like today, at least you won’t notice what will stuff your nose and tear your eyes up. (Apparently an average home collects 40 pounds of dust per year? I don’t know if it’d be true for us, our flat is only 48 sqm, though given our hoarding habits it might still be this high despite the size).

The subject revolves around the ‘blue humanities’, a way of studying the sea from a humanities perspective. It’s “a movement in literary and cultural studies that, drawing on critical practices and theoretical approaches from new historicism and new materialism, focuses on the presence of the ocean in cultural texts” (Buchanan 2018, Oxford Reference).

My dad has always been an avid water-goer and sportsperson. What hasn’t he done? He’s gone canoeing, swimming, yachting, sailing, windsurfing, paragliding, skiing, and got a black belt in karate. Most of these things revolve around water. A year ago he bought a boat house to store his two sailing boats.

We have very, very many books about random stuff. That’s because in the past you had to read books in order to learn something. We also have a large collection of fiction, some of the books falling apart and some seeming like they have never been read before.

First of all, going through these books is fascinating because they don’t make book covers like that anymore. Today, book covers are too clean, their colours too bright, their stamping too 3D. Just look at that cat cover (the cat’s name’s “Myszołów”, Buzzard in English, by the way – isn’t that a great cat name?) – isn’t it wonderfully minimalist without trying to be? At least not the 2020-type-of-minimalism, you know, the uber-Instagrammable type.

My dad’s got a great collection of sailing fiction, mainly open sea and around-the-world-ocean kind of sailing. I’ll never get to read it all, it’s a bit too dull for me. But I’m looking for something to nail down my interest in blue humanities, some sort of pivot that’s closer to me than surfing in Hawaii or the Polynesian Islands. I think of myself as a water spirit, too, but I have to find my own way of thinking about the sea.

May I mention before the end that stepping into the ocean was always among my greatest dreams. I sort of fulfilled that in the Acadia National Park, but I don’t think it was fully realised. It was in an inland bay, it wasn’t the full-fledged ocean. I keep on working towards it, although of course covid’s not helping with moving around. I hope to go to Ireland one day and have a proper oceanic experience.

I recommend this article about the blue humanities on the National Endowment of the Humanities website (Gillis 2013). Also this one (Bakker 2019) on the Counterpoint Navigating Knowledge blog.