Friday, July 10, 2015

An Unspecting Source for Mad Outdoor Skills

I enjoyed reading Live From Mongolia, the tale of one woman pursuing her dream of becoming a news anchor by quitting her job and heading to Mongolia to read the news. But I stand by what I wrote: I'm more of a do it now, scale later kind of guy. A news anchor, of all things, is something you can be in an hour or so: grab cell phone, record news, post to YouTube. Bam! you're a news anchor. A watched and beloved anchor? Not exactly, that takes years of work to achieve.

In that same vein, I give you: AlfieAesthetics. Alfie is a YouTube personality I've recently discovered and pretty much adore. He has a series known as Camp Aesthetics that's worth your time and solidly demonstrates my point above.

Consider camp aesthetics #1. This video is little more than a bunch of cheeky blokes fooling around on camera. This is the equivalent of grabbing your camera and pretending to be a news anchor. It kind of works because Alfie is so not your standard mountain man: he's more of that goofy sidekick in a British TV show that provides the comic relief.

But if you stick with it, you'll see that Alfie ups his game (as he likes to put it). By Camp Aesthetics #13, we've come to learn that Alfie is more than the goofy anti-outdoorsman. He's got skills. Mad skills. And rather than just talk about them, he's all about demonstrating them on camera. In one later episode he makes bread from scratch around the campfire. As in, picking the wheat, scratch.

Apparently he has a graduate level knowledge of mycology and a disarming way of teaching you about it. The result is that I know far more about fungus than I'd ever imagined, and I've watched him eat stuff on camera that I just assumed was totally off limits. During one episode he brought up a scientific paper relating to one type of mushroom, and talked about how there's evidence of important health benefits being suggested. Not many folks can mix scientific papers and the outdoors. Combine this with his eye for quality audio and video and his continued cheeky style, and you have a really compelling YouTube channel. His work is far better than anything I've seen outdoorsy on TV.

Our most recent hike was made far more interesting because I had Alfie's fungus lessons rolling around in the back of my head. No, I didn't sample anything on the trail. But I did treat fungi with a new respect, looking for different varieties and traits. Anyone who can help me see the world through a fresh lens is more than worth my time.

But it's not just that he's good - it's that he started blah and got good. He's got a unique personality on the subject, which I think very much works for him.

Even if you're not interested in what a giant puffball is, or want to see a dakota fire hole in action (versus described in the Scout Handbook), Alfie's videos are probably worth your time. Use them as inspiration to find your own path.

One word of caution: Alfie's humor seems, well, Frat Boy'ish. Which sort of works because he's not in a Frat Boy scenario. But, occasionally he does get too off color for my tastes. Bottom line: these aren't videos for your kids to watch. Which is sort of a shame. Maybe someone needs to get Alfie to make a kid friendly version of his videos.

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