30 Day Yoga Challenge

Anyone who has ever  joined a yoga class knows that it’s a fairly expensive exercise to start. To begin, you have to dedicate yourself to purchasing at least six weeks of classes. Then you need to buy a decent mat; an outfit that doesn’t fall down and expose your undeveloped middle during downward dog; and that’s before the instructor is spouting the necessity in buying yoga blocks and belts. During the  shavasana of week six you begin to wonder if it is worth dragging all this equipment to office for the twice weekly class. Wouldn’t it be cheaper and make you happier to spend the money on wine?  Getting up from the mat I agree with my thoughts. I quit, commit myself to my correct decision to choose alcohol, avoid the instructor’s “where are you” emails and never walk past the studio again.

Thankfully the internet has changed my usual exposure to yoga and allowed me to pursue an interest without leaving my bedroom. A plethora of instructors are now online producing introductions for beginners that are slowly developing my abilities. It’s a whole approach to exercise in which I don’t have to talk to anyone or worry that I can’t straighten my leg as well as the others.

The choice of instructors online is huge, so through a little trial and error you can find one producing content that appeals to you. Don’t like the grating tones of a thirty something Californian? Not a problem when there’s whole families of Indian yogis instructing in many styles. Is your instructor too attractive and it’s hard to bend without being aroused by the computer screen? Also not a problem because the internet is for everybody, including ugly people.

Currently, I’m on Day Ten of a thirty day challenge and I’m starting to feel more flexible. Taking the time out of my day to focus on breathing and slow movement is a great boost to my mood. The only downside to yoga at home is not being able to walk past people with your mat. Strangers no longer know how healthy I am or productive in my personal life. I’ve had to find new methods of communicating how fantastic my lifestyle is, such as being photographed in my most pretzel like posture or writing blog posts about yoga…

 

Reading List

Through the mystery, whim and mercy of our great universe I have been gifted with the rare three day weekend. I have no doubt that my fortunes will shortly run out. Tuesday will be rife with torrential rains, cancelled public transport and home invasions. In spite of the horrors next week has in store I shall whittle away my days of rest reading as much as possible and placing a book order. I thought I’d share my long weekend reads with you. Hopefully you’ll get one yourself or leave a suggestion.

Amélie Nothomb– Hygeine and the Assasain

My Canadian friend recommended this next book by the Japanese born, Flemish author. Written in French it was Nothomb’s first novel and for all the searching in the world I cannot find an English language version of the text apart from on Amazon. I’ve tried two e-readers, four book shops-I can’t even download it onto my Kindle. The plot is a mystery but I’m going to have to place an Amazon order just to get hold of it. I confess dear reader, I am only writing this blog post because I want more book suggestions to pad out my online basket.  Free shipping is essential.

Plato- The Symposium

I started my journey into philosophical texts in random places. Firstly, I dove into Simone de Beauvoir and Camus. Then I  stepped back into as much Nietzsche as possible. As much as I enjoyed and appreciated their lessons I had the feeling I started in the wrong place. To fix this I went to Youtube and found a series of lectures that intended to be a rough syllabus to a first year undergraduate course.

The videos sent me back to Plato and over the past year I’ve been making my way through many of his writings. I’d recommend Plato as an accessible introduction to Philosophy. His Socratic dialogues are easy to follow with their conversational structure but still contain fresh ideas to ease open your thinking. Finally, I have reached the symposium. I’ve saved it for last because it sounds the most entertaining: slightly liquored people making speeches about love- an ancient Greek gay wedding reception.

Agatha Christie- To Be Confirmed

There’s no need for panic my confused Agatha fan. To Be Confirmed is not the secret Christie title you never read. I just haven’t decided the exact book to settle down with yet. I’m open to suggestions except The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Everyone knows the policeman was the killer all along and if you didn’t it has been spoil for you just as it was for me. But I can hear you dear reader querying through your screen, “Why Agatha Christie?” The reasons are numerous and complex: I’m English, she’s apparently pretty good and my favourite episode of Dr Who centers around her.

 

Civ V: My Favourite Sink Time

I have a terrible habit with video games of restarting half way through. I haven’t finished the main story line in Skyrim due to wanting to create a new character. Similarly, whenever I play Sid Meyer’s Civilization V I find myself starting a fresh game after an hour of playing. As soon as my capital city begins to approach glory my mind drifts to all the other empires I could be ruling and I’ve exited to the main menu to find a new great leader to role play.

My desire to want to be all available Civilizations means that after playing for five years I have only recently finished a game. Completing a game was partly hampered by my laptop’s processing limitations, which was solved by Steam offering a less intensive touch screen option. However, the technical barrier was far less of an inhibitor than my itch to restart. After defeating both problems I have finally succeeded at all victory conditions and am able to recommend CivV as one of my favourite games.

The appeal of CivV is largely in the level of choice available. You’re offered over twenty Civilizations to choose from, allowing you to pick your favourite current or historical faction. You can resurrect The Vikings or Bablyon and continue their journey into the modern world, defying the ruling of time. Most current countries are available as well. America can be made a scientific beacon for the world again and Trump doesn’t have to be President.

In order to win a game there are several options. Naturally, war is an option for those who want to rule the world with a sword or a nuclear bomb. You can be Genghis Khan and trample cities under a Monglian war horde but it affects the happiness of your population and is a large economic drain. If you’re like myself then and war isn’t always the way then you can win through Diplomacy, Culture or Science instead.

Ultimately, CivV is a unique offering among Turn Based Strategy games. There are a myriad of intriguing mechanics to be considered such as Religion, Tourism and voting in the United Nations. Civ has given me some of my fondest gaming memories and hardest won victories. It’s not every day you that you can launch India to the moon as President Ghandi or be voted Leader of the World whilst role playing the King of Sweden.

Last Exit to Brooklyn

In 1967 Last Exit to Brooklyn was trialed for obscenity by a UK court for its graphic content and depictions of cruelty. The jury consisted solely of men because Selby Jr’s narration of prostitution, homosexuality, violence and drug taking was deemed potentially embarrassing to women. After deliberating on the novel’s content the trial concluded it unfit for public consumption and prohibited sale and publication. Fortunately, this verdict was reconsidered, only to be overturned the following year.

Last Exit to Brooklyn is still a challenging book to read. Selby Jr treated his characters with the contempt they treat each other. Every person in the novel is dragged along by their base desire for sex, violence or securing a chemical high, often leading to their demise in a pool of their own blood.
Overall, it is a brilliant but uncomfortable book to read. The character’s lives are fast and you’re pulled through the pages by the sentences missing full stops and chapters lacking paragraphs. The foregoing of traditional punctuation lends a unique style, as if a friend is telling you graphic gossip at a bar.

Two years of Goodreads

I first joined Goodreads in September 2015 and have been using it on & (mostly) off ever since. In the last eight or nine months my activity on the book review site has accelerated. Before opening the first page I immediately update my “book shelf” and after final sentence I award the author my stars. My visits to Goodreads have probably increased due to ‘Reading Challenge” function. This feature allows the user to set a reading goal for the end of the year, so that whenever you complete and update your latest favourite you’re also reaching a goal.

For this year’s reading challenge I set myself an attainable target of 45 books. Now we are roughly half way through the year and I’ve managed a respectable 27 titles (60% apparently). This pile of books has been bolstered this year by being able to update eBooks from my kindle devices. Opening up my Goodreads to electronic texts has been helpful in finding new books as well. Sometimes, one of the worst aspects of being a heavy reader is that you simply run out of books, or rather you can’t see the wood for the trees. Perhaps a more subtitle metaphor for this stage in the paper’s production would be ‘not seeing the pages for the books’? Whichever allusion you choose, it’s handy to have a community of people, across several platforms with varied reading interests that mirror and inspire your own.

The other function I’ve recently discovered (I shall exorbitantly name) is multi-platform reviewing. This allows me to share my recent Goodread reviews on my WordPress blog. Sharing the reviews onto my blog is something I am excited about because it enable me to join two areas of my writing experience together. Now that the reading challenge is slowly rolling downhill towards the goal I intend to focus more intently on the reviews and hope you enjoy them.

Happy Reading

Stockholm still surprises me

Today marks the anniversary of the first time I got on a plane and left the little island known as England. My first journey to another country was for a second date at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest. Fast forward twelve months and I’ve flown to Sweden over a dozen times because the second date transfigured into relationship. As usual I step off the plane knowing exactly when the Flybussanar arrives; I’m aware the time it takes to grab a filter coffee from 7/11; how I jump from the coach, take the tube and always laugh at the stop called Aspudden. The routine is now scarily familiar but is the central reason why Stockholm feels like my second home.

On Saturday afternoon we wandered into central Stockholm for food supplies. On the way I detoured into the city library to get a smell of old books but was distracted by the road completely lined with people. There was a commentator with a crackled microphone whose every third word I understood. He was commentating the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s student’s parade. I soon learned that every three years the scientific minds carnival the streets with a procession of floats. The whole city seemed to turn out for an exhibit of adapted cars and dancing. It lasted about an hour and when the last vehicle passed a trail of the public followed the music into the distance.

My last visit demonstrated an important lesson. It taught that cities are large with a plethora of people living within its boundaries. The lives of these people interact, collide and change. In each 24hour cycle a multitude of new events occur, making every day different. No matter how familiar you are with your roads there’s always another to wander or maybe a parade will stumble across yours. I’m excited for the new possibilites the city has to offer. I’ll sleuth our some more of your secrets Stockholm when I see you in three weeks.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

If you’re among the two people who read my previous post you’ll know how nine-year-old me failed to become The Hero of Time. My inadequacy in completing my first Zelda game has haunted me ever since. At night my sleep is disturbed by my conceding of the Kingdom of Hyrule to Ganondorf. The failure repeated itself in several of the games and every incarnation of Link I played ultimately lost. In Majora’s Mask I couldn’t prevent the moon from plummeting into Clock Town and in a Link to the Past I gave up at the first dungeon. However, just as the Zelda games keep reincarnating the hero for fresh adversity, so I continued to pick up my sword and console to face the varying Avatars of Ganon. There’s an anecdote that stipulates that a room of monkeys with a typewriter will eventually write up the works of Shakespeare. This claim is accurate because after trying my sixth attempt at Zelda I finally succeeded in defeating the darkness. I became the saviour of Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Some may argue that this is an easy game and a true Hero is the one who can dispel the tide of Evil on a television, not on the dual screens of the Nintendo 3DS. Others may postulate that it is cheating to use an online walk-through and to rage quit when defeated in order to preserve hired weapons rather than wasting Rupees on purchasing items again. To these combatants I respond that I am the Hero of both Hyrule and Lorule with no defeats. To save two kingdoms from despair any means must be taken.

A Link Between Worlds is a classic Zelda title, relying on the usual tropes and story I have come to expect and adore. As Link I save the Princess, obtain a decent enough sword to cut up bad guys and defend the triforce. The map is reminiscent of a Link to the past and it isn’t an offence in saying Nintendo has built on old work. The unique mechanic of this game is the ability to merge into walls by become a painting. This technique allows you to walk between Hyrule and Lorule, accessing areas that cannot be reached in one plane alone. Jumping between the parallels is a unique feature that adds an interesting facet to the game and a new complexity to dungeon puzzles.

With the newly mastered ability I imbued the master Sword with ore and defeated the recent aspect of Ganon and his androgynous benefactor Yuga. As the title credits detailed victory my chin raised in pride. After fifteen years and countless defeats I had finally grown into the Hero of Hyrule. With new pride I may return to the past, be awoken by Navi and rectify the mistakes of childhood.