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Nov 27, 2021
Raise your hand if you tended plants and baked a ton of banana bread during the pandemic. Me too. And damned if I don’t keep making it. But there are people out there who do stranger, more thrilling things in their spare hours. Of course, hobbies existed long before COVID-19 gave many of us weird extra time at home. We loved them then and we love them now: the many odd, wonderful and sometimes terrifying ways to pass the time.
In today’s Daily Dose, we’re taking a look at the lengths people go to satisfy their creative cravings and calm their monkey minds. We speak to urban explorers, guerrilla gardeners and learn about the shiny little Japanese mud dumplings making it big in New Mexico.
Curious? Read on to learn about the ways in which our hobbies are changing.
— Based on Reporting by Zuzia Whelan
In Search of Adventure
1 - Exploring Forbidden Zones
Coetzer Juge Rautenbach was into urban exploration — scouting out hidden and off-limits places and abandoned structures — for 13 years before he found out there was a whole community behind it. His favorite spots include the illegal area of the Paris catacombs — where the South African native was caught by police — and a colonial-era hotel in Vientiane, Laos. In the last seven years, he’s noticed a bump in popularity, which makes him uneasy since not everyone follows the rules. For the “urbex” curious: Visiting abandoned places can be dangerous, Rautenbach warns, and asbestos is still a real threat, so it’s always best to research areas first. And if you do decide to explore, he adds, follow the ethics of the hobby: “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs” — and don’t force your way in.
2 - Tornado Tracking, Hurricane Hunting
Chasing after extreme and dangerous weather might seem like a bad idea, especially in the wake of recent hurricanes Ida and Nicholas. But it’s a pursuit — chasing tornados, hurricanes — that appeals to both amateur thrill-seekers and professionals. Storm chasing can be traced back to the 1950s, starting with Dakotan pioneer David Hoadley, who also started Storm Track magazine that helped shape the chaser community. It’s a hobby that obviously draws meteorological experts who enjoy combining adventure with scientific research to collect on-the-ground data. Others do it for fun, community and for the great pictures. Want to know more about extreme weather and those who seek it? Read about it on OZY.
3 - Adventures in Nature
It’s the world’s biggest treasure hunt. Geocaching involves using GPS or mobile devices to track down “caches” or objects hidden in locations around the world. Players register online — the Geocaching HQ site was set up in 2000 — then use coordinates and clues from those who hid the item. They’re generally made up of a waterproof container and a logbook to track names of the “finders,” and sometimes an extra non-valuable item for fun. For best results, go equipped with a GPS tracker, the geocaching app and a good old-fashioned map (or your phone). There are about 3 million caches around the world — up from 75 in 2000, while the pandemic has also fanned the flames.
4 - Toys Trip of a Lifetime
How many bears can say they’ve visited China, Germany, Iran, Qatar and Australia on holiday? OK, we’re talking about toy bears. Strawberry Bear — a berry-red stuffed toy — was already into traveling when he got involved in the ToyVoyagers community in 2016. This wholesome hobby involves sending toys on worldly adventures: they’re left in random places to be discovered, handed off directly or mailed to other hosts and taken traveling with their owners who document their globetrotting online. The project, now with 6,714 global members, was started to see how far these little mascots could travel. Each is given a tag with an ID number. If you happen to find one, check the site to chart the toy’s progress — and see if you can help it out with its “life missions.”
Making a Scene
1 - Get Your Hands Dirty
You’d be forgiven for thinking hikaru dorodango are beautiful spheres made of marble or semi-precious stone. In fact, they’re globes of mud, meticulously polished till they gleam. The origins of this traditional Japanese pastime aren’t known, but it was revived in the 1990s by Fumio Kayo, a professor at the Kyoto University of Education, and popularized by Japanese media. The process is simple: pack some mud into a sphere, smooth it and rub more mud on it till it dries, put it in a plastic bag and when it’s fully dry, shine it up like a little bowling ball. This hobby has captured the imaginations of artists from its native Japan all the way to New Mexico.
2 - Plant Banditry
Richard Reynolds met his future wife, Lyla, in 2006 while gardening in an unusual space: on a traffic island in London (he proposed at the same spot five years later). Guerrilla gardening, or the illicit cultivation of someone else’s land or neglected public spaces, has a covert but devoted following. Think throwing seed bombs into vacant spaces or planting trees or flowers in grassy patches in the city. Reynolds’ aim is to “try and normalize it to the point where the risk is minimal, and neglected public space is fair game to improvers,” he tells OZY. Gardening, both guerrilla and standard, has seen an uptick during the pandemic, he says. “I hope landowners become more tolerant. ... There are places and contexts where it's better for a community and better value for a landowner to let people do it voluntarily.”
3 - Big Little Bites
Think you could eat a whole stack of flapjacks at once? What if they were the size of your thumb? It won’t fill you up, but tiny cooking is the latest sensation sweeping TikTok. The food is real, just crafted to be super small — and that goes for appliances and utensils too. Viewers have been feasting their eyes on shows like Walking With Giants, and the wildly popular Tiny Kitchen for about six years. But TikTok has breathed new life into the miniature-mad hobby since about last year. So what’s the attraction? The popular theory is that it stemmed from the Japanese idea of kawaii or “cuteness,” which inspires nostalgia, or a feeling of calm. That sounds about right for two years of pandemic life.
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They're Just Like Us
1 - Pigeon Passion
“Baddest man on the planet,” Mike Tyson, is also a devoted pigeon enthusiast. The former heavyweight boxing champion even got into his first fight because of a pigeon as a child after an older boy took one of his birds and violently killed it. Tyson even clocked a garbage man once for throwing away his recently deceased winged friend, Julius. Tyson describes racing pigeons as his “first love,” since being around the birds from the age of 9. As of September 2020, he had 1,000 pigeons in New York City, keeping a couple of hundred in his home.
2 - True to Character
It’s no secret to fans of Parks and Recreation that actor Nick Offerman is a master carpenter in real life. His character, everybody’s favorite mustachioed libertarian, is a hobbyist woodworker that is particularly adept at making canoes — but can also build just about anything else. Offerman has been operating his own workshop, where he crafts furniture and other pieces, for almost two decades. Speaking to Men’s Health last year, Offerman said that lately he’s been working on ukuleles.
3 - Lucy Liu
Actor, activist … also artist. Lucy Liu, known for her roles as a Charlie’s Angel and assassin O-ren Ishii, is also an accomplished artist. The actor’s paintings — she’s been creating since 1993 — are inspired by Japanese erotic art, and she has experimented over the years with photography, silkscreen print and textiles. In 2019, Liu had her first museum art exhibition called “Unhomed Belongings.”
4 - Bee-yoncé
The puns write themselves. Musical megastar Beyoncé Knowles has 28 Grammys — the most ever won — and, as of 2020, some 80,000 bees. The “Single Ladies” singer keeps hives on her roof and uses the honey to help with her daughters’ allergies. Knowles told Apartment Therapy in August that her apiarist pursuit has been a health-based ritual during the pandemic, and that she’s in the process of building a honey and hemp farm.
Quote of the Day
“The art of bread making can become a consuming hobby, and no matter how often and how many kinds of bread one has made, there always seems to be something new to learn.’’ - Julia Child
What’s your favorite way to spend the holidays? Share your thoughts, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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