Archive | January 2015

Celebrate The Small Things: 30 January

f5f01-vik-smallthings2

  • Met up with a few friends and had a great time out. Got to catch up with some people I haven’t seen in a while.
  • I’ve had to make hospital visits and doctors appointments – general stuff that we all find unpleasant – over the last couple of weeks, so I’m glad to have those behind me now.
  • My corset arrived and seems to be the perfect size for me, yay! Now I want to buy more; I can see this becoming an obsession, lol.
  • I now feel confident that I have finally learnt how to play the card game Android Netrunner (that game has a lot of rules, lol.) We’ve been making the effort to play a couple of games each week.

What I Took From Into The Woods

When I was younger I had this friend who was obsessed with films like The Sound of Music, Oliver, Annie and Mary Poppins. She tried to make me watch them but I didn’t find them very interesting, and so regretfully I grew up adamant in the belief that musicals were just not for me. Well I was proved wrong a few years back when I went to see Sweeney Todd (because I like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the songs and will happily sit and listen to the soundtrack. Last week I tried another musical called Into The Woods (which also has Johnny Depp in it) and the songs have been going around in my head ever since. Stephen Sondheim worked on the music for both Sweeney Todd and Into The Woods so this might be part of the reason for why I enjoyed it – well that and Johnny Depp of course.

I watch a lot of films and I’m often drawn to things that are different to what I’ve experienced before. I had no idea what Into The Woods was about and the trailer seemed to reveal very little. I just knew that it contained a number of different fairy tale characters. It isn’t your typical ‘happy ever after’ however and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this film wasn’t going to shy away from injecting the darkness back into those stories. Even so, there was also a sort of humour that ran through it.

Towards the end of the film I started to feel like there was a very interesting message behind it. Many of the stories we hear as children offer us black and white viewpoints and idealistic outcomes. I’d recently heard that perhaps such stories don’t really prepare us for real life. In real life there are very rarely any right answers and what might seem like a good choice for one person can harm another. This is a concept that I’ve come to struggle with as I’ve gotten older; I suppose it’s easier just to believe in simpler ideas such as right and wrong. Into The Woods demonstrates this idea by creating moral questions around the fables that we’ve grown up with. For every upbeat and happy song there is another that works against it.

There was a song in the second act called ‘Your Fault’ where the characters are trying to place the blame on each other for a situation. The witch then breaks in to show just how futile it all is for it won’t bring them closer to a solution. In a lot of situations everyone could be held accountable and none of the characters thought they were doing anything wrong at the time. There’s a song towards the end called ‘No One Is Alone’ that suggests that while your family cannot always guide you, you’re never really alone because somewhere, somebody will always be on your side. I also took from this film that while we may wish for a lot, things will not always turn out to be as perfect as we hope.

“People make mistakes
Holding to their own
Thinking they’re alone

Honor their mistakes

Fight for their mistakes

Everybody makes

One another’s terrible mistakes
Witches can be right
Giants can be good
You decide what’s right
You decide what’s good.”

That’s the best that I can try to explain this without giving away too many spoilers. There’s an article ‘Into The Woods Has Always Been For Adults, Not Children‘ that does a much better job of providing an explanation than I just did.

I love it when I’m left surprised by something like this. Out of all the films I’ve been to see recently this is the one I was the least sure about, but it is probably the experience that has stuck with me the most. Now perhaps I should give some other musicals a try.

The Chimp Paradox – A Very Helpful Book About Mind Management

A couple of people recommended this book to me called ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Steve Peters. They had gotten the book for various reasons such as helping them to cope with depression or just to find a confidence boost; Apparently it really helped them. I often struggle to deal with my own storm of emotions, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give this book a go.

I can be a bit wary because some books can promise too much and people are often drawn to quick solutions. ‘The Chimp Paradox’ is not one of these books however. In fact it is probably one of the better ones I’ve tried. It admits that the ideas it suggests may take several months to work if at all. Building our confidence isn’t a sprint, but a marathon where we have to monitor our behaviour and catch ourselves from time to time. It’s normal to slip up sometimes too. ‘The Chimp Paradox’ helps to explain how the different parts of our mind works and in turn how to manage them. There’s the logical part that is us and then there’s the chimp that manages our emotions and sometimes causes us to act inappropriately. Since reading this I have found myself putting it down to chimp behaviour whenever I’ve had an off encounter with another person; Thinking in this way seems to really help me to deal with these situations better.

I would also suggest that this book could be of use to anybody, not just those of us that are struggling with low confidence or anxiety/depression. We tend to wait until out self-esteem has taken a knock before considering learning about these things, but we’re all effected by our emotions from time to time. Improving our ability to manage our minds can help us in many ways. The book covers topics such as how to connect with others, dealing with stress and making plans to reach our goals. There are also suggested exercises at the end of each chapter to help you to follow along.

A major problem that I tend to have with these books is that while some of the advice seems pretty solid, I can’t always apply it to my own situation. My mind has a way of finding loopholes and arguing with certain suggestions. It did happen a few times during ‘The Chimp Paradox,’ but overall I still feel like I’ve taken a lot from it. It also gives example situations to explain how to apply some fo the concepts. Since finishing the book I have continued to follow what I’ve learnt from it. It could just be a placebo like effect (sometimes after reading help articles It’ll give me a temporary boost,) but so far its advice has been helpful.

Knowing When To Stick Things Out

When I was taking art classes – a while ago now – my teacher would be really critical; It wasn’t because he disliked my work, but that he wanted to get the best out of me. One of the things he kept telling me was to ‘be more loose.’ I never really understood what he meant at the time. I think I’ve recently started to learn how to loosen up though. Rather than focussing on small details I’ve been putting down blotches of colours with a large brush and finding that it does eventually all come together. Doing things this way can make me feel a little uneasy though.

I never use to like people seeing my images until I was finished. The reason being that things can take a while before they start to look good. I use to always keep an arm over my sketchbook to try and hide what I was doing. My sketchbook is also filled with lots of drawings that aren’t very good, but it’s all a part of the process of learning and experimenting. I would also sometimes throw my work away before it was done because I just couldn’t see it getting any better. We can’t always tell unless we stick something out though.

I love creating portraits for that reason. For a long time a portrait won’t look like much and then suddenly (usually after adding that speck to the eye) a face will emerge, staring back at you. It can be worth braving it and sticking until the end, even when we cannot yet see the sparkle. I’ve found that I cannot always predict how well my own work is going to turn out. There is usually always that turning point, where it comes to life.

Read More…

Celebrate The Small Things: 16 January

f5f01-vik-smallthings2

  • Went to the cinema to see Taken 3, which was pretty good. There seems to be a lot of films coming out that I want to see at the moment.
  • I got a free cookie. 😛
  • I finally ordered my first proper corset. I have tops that look a bit like corsets, but not the real thing. I always wanted one, but I was never allowed when I was younger. Just hope it fits when it arrives.
  • Got myself a new album by Korpiklaani, I think I’ve just discovered a new favourite band.
  • I’ve been more motivated to exercise this week. Something about getting new music to listen to and clothes to fit in to seems to encourage me to put more into my fitness.
  • I actually finished painting a portrait this week. I have a tendency to flit between ideas and projects, so to complete things is good. 😛

Listing The Books I want To Read

As it is one of my goals to read more this year I was originally considering attempting some sort of reading challenge, inspired by Emma who managed to complete the Goodreads 52 book challenge. If you like books you should check out her awesome blog at http://bluchickenninja.com/2015/01/08/on-reading-challenges/. She also mentioned another type of reading challenge called Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge, which I did consider, but some of the points on the list seem a little odd.

The problem is that I already have a good idea in my mind of a selection of books that I would like to attempt to read, and on finishing one I tend to already have an idea of what I want to move onto next. While I want to read more in the sense that I stop taking long breaks where I don’t read anything at all, I’m also not sure if I want to read under pressure or if I’d have the time to. So I’ve gone and made a list on my Goodreads account that I can follow through at my own pace instead – https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/38957084-jo-osborne. I’m not sure if I’ll get through all of these books within the year and I’ll probably be adding more at a later point, but it’ll be fun trying to tick some of them off.

I would still like to attempt a reading challenge some day, as I seem to enjoy trying these things out. I’m just not ready to take that on yet. I have been reading a bit each week since the new year began however. I’ve found that you can fit a little bit of time in here and there, such as reading while I’m waiting for my dinner to cook or during advert breaks on TV. Sometimes a bit before I go to bed. Just so long as I remember to keep my kindle by my side :P.

Are People Taking Too Many Photographs?

Thanks to phones and tablets there has been an increase in the number of people now taking photographs. With this increase I’ve also noticed a rise in the number of complaints about people taking photographs. We have to bob and weave down a street so as not to disrupt those wanting to capture the moment. I’ve been barged out the way by people wanting to take a photo, or had my own view covered by a raised camera. Some even throw themselves into harms way just to get a selfie, or now encounter every event in life with a back turned and a camera raised. Does nobody experience real life through their own eyes any more? Along with this comes the concern that photography is no longer the art that it use to be.

For the most part I think that cameras along with the internet have added to our lives. There are many events and wonders in the world that I would have never known about if it weren’t for the person that was there to capture it. I love to share my own images because I know that somewhere, somebody might take a lot of pleasure in seeing them just as I have felt from seeing what others have captured. Through sharing a photo I have taken I am also sharing my passion for the subject matter.

There has been concerns about how observing an event through a camera lens can lessen the strength of our memory of that time, but I would also argue the opposite. When I was in Conwy I stayed out and sat on the castle walls for a lot longer than I would have usually, just waiting for the sun to move so that I could see the scene in different lighting. I also kneel down or stand on top of things to alter my perspective. One of the reasons that I developed an enjoyment of photography was that it encouraged me to go out walking more and I found myself looking around at the smaller details, trying to find that thing that would make for an interesting image. It’s also the difference between wanting to take photography as a serious hobby and just wanting to capture quick snapshots as we go. Even if we now have cameras that do a lot of the work for us, composing an image well is still a skill that can take time to master. I’m not a professional though, so others probably have more to say on this.

I still think there is a time and a place for cameras however. I’ve been to numerous gigs where I’ve had to stand behind a person who was attempting to film the whole thing. At the Whitby Gothic festival an argument broke out behind me because a person with a massive camera was obscuring the views of the people behind them. The rest of us just wanted to experience and enjoy the music first hand. Official photos and concert videos of a much higher quality are often released later on anyway. Another example I often see are people taking photos of artwork in galleries – despite the no camera signs. I have heard that this can damage the paintings and it’s never going to be the same as going to see them in real life.

Even though I love photography, I am also incredibly wary of when it is not appropriate to get my camera out. Cameras are capable of opening our eyes to something, but can also put a barrier between us and what we’re experiencing. It’s great that people want to capture and share so much of the world around us, but we also need to choose when it’s better to experience an event fully for ourselves. Every once in a while it’s good to question whether or not we should be getting the camera out.

Related Links:

Celebrate The Small Things: 9 January

  • f5f01-vik-smallthings2Started back at the gym (took a couple of weeks off after Christmas.) Wasn’t easy, but I’m determined to get back into shape again.
  • Went to see The Theory Of Everything. It was a wonderful film, really recommend it.
  • Went to the book shop and treated myself (although this is becoming a bad habit, but oh well.)
  • Got a Minecraft server set up. Having a lot of fun on there at the moment.
  • I haven’t been feeling too well this week, so I’m just really glad it’s the weekend and starting to get back on the mend.

Suffering From Simulation Sickness

So it might seem kind of strange that I’m an avid gamer, have been playing them for most of my life and yet I suffer from DIMS (Doom Induced Motion Sickness) or rather Simulation Sickness; more so than all of my gaming friends seem to. It does sometimes determine what games I can play. First person games tend to be the most problematic, but I’ve also had bad experiences with cartoony 3D games like Croc and Spyro (I haven’t gone back to these types of games since the Rugrats made me throw up – I wasn’t able to watch the show again either.) It also means that I sometimes miss out on highly praised games or what my friends are all playing. Portal made me really ill for instance, which has sort of coloured how I feel about that franchise. In fact most games on the Source Engine do seem to affect me badly, while I can play other first person games with no issues at all (like Prey for example.) Amnesia actually got to me a little, but then Outlast was fine. Blocky games or older graphics tend to bother me. Although I can play Minecraft, but I can’t watch other people play it. Smoother cameras positioned slightly further away from the character are usually preferable. I can also tell when I’m coming down with something by how badly I’m affected by Simulation Sickness. If I’m not right in myself then games that wouldn’t usually bother me will suddenly become unplayable.

Simulation Sickness is why some people just can’t come to appreciate games or can be reluctant to be around a person who is playing. My family suffers from it worse than I do and so I’m often restricted to playing in my room so that it won’t affect them. I love games too much to let this issue prevent me from playing them though. It is also possible to overcome it if you’re persistent enough. I’ve found from personal experience that If I continue to play a game in short bursts it will eventually get better to the point that I can play for hours without becoming ill. The other solution is to simply stick to genres and games that don’t make you ill.

I was happy when I saw Extra Credits attempting to tackle this issue in the video ‘Simulation Sickness – Causes and Cures For Game Headaches.’ It was one of the first times that I’d noticed the subject being talked about and it gives some good advice on how to deal with it (although I’ve personally found that turning down the lights makes it worse, which is problematic for a survival horror fan.) VR devices are also a concern for me. I seem to be the only person amongst my friends who is not looking forward to using one as I can imagine it making me really ill. I hope that developers do start to consider issues relating to Simulation Sickness more because it does affect accessibility and enjoyment of the game.

If you love games, but suffer from Simulation Sickness, don’t let it get you down. I still enjoy a very active gaming life despite DIMS. 😛

Celebrate The Year 2014 And New Year’s Resolutions

What I remember about my year 2014

  • Ran Race For Life and raised over £200 for Cancer Research
  • Treated myself to a new camera and rediscovered my enjoyment of Digital Photography
  • Put together Share And Bake, a website where people can share their own baking recipes
  • Helped The Stoops with their website
  • Completed an online Creative Writing Course and got some decent feedback for my final piece
  • Came in the top three for my writing in a Pokemon Art/Writing contest.
  • Managed to write 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo
  • My adopted Hippopotamus Douglas from Born Free made the transistion back into the wild
  • Attended my first Comic Con. Also got to see Lion King in the theatre at the start of the year and have attended a few gigs too (including Whitby Gothic Festival.)
  • Started this blog and have written 115 posts so far

My Goals For 2015

  • Read more. I’ve actually already started this and have gotten through a few books in the last part of 2014. The thing is, I have a tendency to read a lot over a short space of time and then to not read much for a long time. I enjoy reading though and there are many areas where I could probably squeeze in the time to keep it up. I can’t keep using a lack of time as an excuse for not doing it; sometimes if we really want to do something we just have to find a way to make the time for it.
  • Eat more healthily. I’ve actually been attending my gym for over a year now. It was a previous resolution of mine a few years before to get more fit, and while its been a bit up and down I’ve overall been more active since. Eating is where I tend to struggle and let myself down. I have an addiction to pizza (and cheese,) which has become a bit of a comfort food for me. My boyfriend also wants to live a healthier lifestyle so it’ll help us both if we try to keep this up together.
  • Keep up with my card/board games. I actually really enjoy playing card games (things like Race For The Galaxy, Pokemon TCG, Android Net Runner and Dominion.) The thing is, the only time people get together to play games seems to be around Christmas, so I find myself taking advantage of this time and then not really playing them for the rest of the year round. Some can take a while to learn too so by the time I get the box out again I’ve forgotten the rules and have to go through the arduous process of learning them again. If other people are interested, I’d like to make the effort to play more of these games during the year too.
  • Make more me time. Recently I feel like I’ve been making a lot of compromises to make other people happy and then in turn feeling guilty for doing things for myself. I’d like to try and be more assertive about what’s important to me and to make a bit more time for myself to enjoy. That’s not to say that I don’t want to invest my time in other people, but It’s important to learn how to get a balance between the two.
  • Keep working on my confidence. I still have a lot of self-esteem issues that I need to learn how to deal with. I believe that the happier and more confident we feel within ourselves the more creative and productive we’ll feel. It’s a bit of an on-going process, but like trying to stick to a diet it can be all too easy to let it slide and give in.
  • Appreciate my backlog of games. I should really play more of what I have in my games library already instead of rushing to buy new games all the time.