The Haunting of Hill House

Last night, Tim and I sat down for a long-anticipated evening with wine, chips and Netflix. A friend had mentioned a new show that had received exceptional high praise, with an impressive 9.1 on IMDB. Little did we know, we were about to watch one hell of a scary show!

The Haunting of Hill House has acquired an international acclaim, appreciation and approval, where Stephen King even called it “a work of a genius”. While I had seen the trailer, I hadn’t thought the series would become such a hit, since the horror genre is a category meant for only a select few who have the iron nerves to endure them. Both us are not particularly made of that kind of material and naturally, the trailer had already freaked me out. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the large number of fans it had accumulated in the short amount of time it was released.  Although reports claim that viewers have rated the shows so disturbing that they’re unable to sleep, had anxiety attacks from it and sometimes even faint or vomit (!), it has been a gothic homerun for the Netflix show.

According to the reviews, its popularity is due to the way the show distinguishes itself from the regular horror ones, by implementing a truly fascinating, in-depth and moving storyline and the ‘little things’ they’ve paid attention to. Director Mike Flanagan, a veteran in the horror genre, based the series on the novel by Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting Of Hill House, although made it mainly his own in the end. In a fascinating interview by The Vulture,  Mike Flanagan sheds some light on the differences between the novel and the series and why he’s made those choices. I think one of the largest changes he’s made is that the ghosts are not actual ghosts, but rather haunting memories of the past. He says, “there’s nothing more boring than a normal ‘ghost’. For us, the ghosts that were the most interesting were the ones that we create ourselves, throughout our lives.” That particular touch provides an amazing psychological depth to every character and the show in general since it reveals a visible ‘traumatic’ experience(s) for every main personality.

Mike Flanagan has given the viewers another extra thing that’s rather unusual but has encaptured many and lead many to rewatch the whole show again (I don’t know how they’d do it). Namely, every episode has a number of ‘hidden ghosts’, that require a keen eye to spot. Some are hidden in the shadows of a corner, whereas others are placed in broad daylight but are still missed since the attention of the scene is not focussed on it. If you’re interested to find them all without rewatching it, The Vulture has found all 29 horror Easter Eggs!

If you’re looking for a perfect show to get you into the Halloween mood, I’d recommend watching The Haunting of Hill House. Although the first episode gave me such a startle that I had nightmares throughout the night and still feel a bit antsy walking around in the dark, I might give episode 2 a go soon. I’ve ordered the book to read, which will hopefully be less scary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perks Of Early Christmas Decoration

It is early October and I’ve been walking around with this unexplainable itch. While the weather in Sydney has begun its rapid increase in temperature, the cicadas have almost shaken off the dust of their wings and the grass mowers make over hours, I felt there was something fundamental missing. During dinner, Tim casually asked me: “Elise, have you already begun playing Christmas songs?” And then it hit me! NO! I HAVEN’T! Now I knew. This persistent yearning in my chest could only be fulfilled with the early joy of Christmas music and decoration.

Although most people seem to not particularly enjoy decorating too early before the holiday -for reasons completely unknown to me, I’ve always tried my best to ignore those traditions. Annoying people with my premature Christmas cheer has almost become a sport, where ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ cannot be played too loudly. Nor can the Christmas tree reappear from the attic soon enough.

And why shouldn’t I be allowed to enjoy Christmas months before the holiday starts? According to science, it is those Grinches who miss out on the real fun. Unilad U.K. spoke with Steve McKeown, psychoanalyst, who said that putting up Christmas decorations early is commonly done for nostalgic reasons. By reliving the magic and associating Christmas to happy things, people deal with anxiety and stress in a way that they remember the happy memories of their childhood. Starting the Christmas cheer early, the happiness starts earlier!

Besides reminiscing about the good old days, Christmas decoration has another function that aids in your happiness. Psychologist Deborah Serani told the TODAY home that the brightness and colourfulness of the Christmas lights might be the reason why we feel happy during the holidays. Since chromotherapy, therapy with light, is used to trigger positive moods, those little lights in the Christmas tree might have a perky influence on your mood in a similar way.  Similarly, the cosy ambience might add to the cheerfulness.

In addition, your seemingly childish behaviour might actually mean that you’re in touch with your inner child and aware of who you are as a person, according to psychotherapist Amy Morin, writer of the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Decorating early “helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity.”

So, don’t be shy to express your deep affection for Christmas a month or two earlier than expected! Get that cute inflatable reindeer, start planning your abundant Christmas dinner and most of all, get excited, for Christmas is only (almost) 2 months away!

The Most Powerful Passports

Living in Australia and having to deal with Visa’s for the first time, made me realize actually how important it is to be able to acquire your right to stay in a certain country. There’s far more to it than just applying for a certain visa. Besides trying to figure out which visa applies to you and attempting not to miss the small, yet important lines, what passport you’re currently holding is paramount.

A report was posted on the 9th of October 2018 by the world leading global citizenship and residency advisory firm Henly & Partners, in which they ranked the most influential country documents that hold the key to cross borders. Considering 227 travel destinations for the 199 passports in their system, they thoroughly researched which passport is the most desirable for any keen traveller, assuming your main purpose is to visit for tourist or business purposes.

They stated that at the moment, Japan holds the strongest passport with access to 190 destinations (of the 227!), with Singapore (189) not far behind. Germany, France and South Korea are placed third with 188 countries to travel to, where Germany has been pushed back to third place since 2014. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden hold fourth place with 187. Powerful US and UK, together with my beloved Netherlands, Austria, Norway and Portugal enjoy the fifth place with 186 accessible countries. Interestingly enough, the US and Uk both held the first spot in 2015, but have been descending ever since the Asian high-performers Japan, Singapore and South Korea started to take the lead. Noticeably, the Middle East, South America and Africa are further down the list. However, the United Arab Emirates has made it from the 62nd place in 2006 to a whopping 21st place this year, currently holding the number 1 most powerful passport of the Middle East. Furthermore, it is interesting to see how the list is dominated by Western-oriented countries, where the Asian countries emerge impressively. Australia holds the seventh spot, together with Greece and Malta (183).

Obviously, being able to obtain immediate access to a country for tourist or business reasons is not what every traveller is after. In my opinion, truly treasured countries are those who offer you the possibility to stay for at least 12 months with opportunities to work and travel, like New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Being a European citizen opens up so many doors as well, where I’d be able to live anywhere in Europe for no particular set period.

Although these numbers do not fully depict a realistic view for a traveller, they do teach us an interesting perspective on how the world is currently set. Richness, power, global influence, peace and natural resources play an important role in why a particular country is able to afford themselves the luxury of tourism. Bonds and connections formed between certain countries create a combined domination of what passports they’ll allow. What would the world be like without borders?

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.henleypassportindex.com/assets/2018/PI_2018_INFOGRAPHS_GLOBAL_181008_WITHOUT_CBI_PROGRAMS.pdf

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/most-powerful-passport-henley-index-2018/index.html

https://www.henleypassportindex.com/press-releases

How Skyrim changed my Life

I used to be an adventurer like you. Then I took an arrow to the knee – Guard

Let me guess. Someone stole your sweetroll! -Guard

When I first started to play this game, I could not have imagined how much Skyrim would mean to me. It sounds unbelievable that any game can have an impact so great on one’s life, though when you talk to Skyrim fans, you know they keep it in a sacred spot in their hearts. And for a good reason! Elder Scrolls V has had a massive impact in the gaming industry in many ways. Instead of focussing on deep character and relationship building, they emphasized an expansive, fantasy world with a huge amount of content to explore. They completely smashed the world by creating such an impressive RPG, which helped open up more games in that particular genre.

I’m sworn to carry your burdens – Lydia

How much content there is to this game, is very clear from the beginning. Immediately after your introductory quest -when you walk out that cave with either an Imperial or a Stormcloak- your character can get distracted by new sidequests. One does not simply go to Whiterun to inform the Jarl about the threat of dragons! Instead, I often found myself wandering off into the woods, whilst slaying annoying wolves and spiders, in search for other quests. And you did not have to walk far.

One of the beauties of this game is that it feels as if you can never fully ‘finish’ Skyrim. I remember one time after I’d already started a few new characters, I stumbled upon a hidden road behind the mountain range near Solitude I had never seen before. There was a whole new quest in that cave, and I was astounded that after so many hours of playing, I’d completely missed that.

skyrim-stunned-with-its-massive-breathtaking-world

No lolligagin – Guard

Skyrim was also groundbreaking by their use of stunning graphics to create a magical world. Glorious snowy peaks and mysterious pinewoods added to the realism of the game. So many times I called someone near me just to show them how beautiful my view from the mountain top was, which they would receive with just a nod- and of course, since they completely failed to grasp the true appreciation of Skyrim as a non-player.

After you play the game for a while, you notice you get a preference for a certain character and a particular way to fight. I remember I wanted to explore the magic in Skyrim with my very first character, though I soon found out that using a bow combined with magic worked the best. My prefered way was levelling up in conjuring so I could summon storm atronach’s and while they distracted the enemy alongside trusty Lydia, I showered them with arrows. I do feel like most people reckoned archery was a good method of fighting effectively. If I could think of any way Skyrim lacked slightly, it was that close combat wasn’t as advanced as it could’ve been. Luckily, the game made up for it in many other aspects.

Some may call this junk, me, I call them treasures – Khajit

Skryim got under my skin from the beginning and still today I love to listen to the soundtracks with an affectionate nostalgia. It enabled me to wind down after a busy day or kept me company when it was too cold to go outside. It made me realize how much I love playing games too. I often wondered whether I would ever ‘fall in love’ with another game like I had with Skyrim, and in the end, I did. Even though I was sceptical at first to let Skryim go for a while, the Witcher 3 is now the game I play in between games. However, Skyrim will always be my first and the one I’d return to at least once every year.

What is better – to be born good, or to overcome your evil nature through great effort? – Paarthurnax

 

 

 

 

 

Eggcellent, Eggelicious, Eggtravagant.

On a Fryday, I indulged into a cheeky baking session in my afternoon off work. Anyone who’s ever cooked, grilled, baked, barbecued or erratically fused multiple liquids together in a bowl, knows that eggs are an unbeatable substance in the science of cookery and bakery. After a few moments of researching, I found a recipe I desperately wanted to crack into (see recipe below). It was going to be an intensely fluffy sponge cake that I could poke frequently so it could exhibit its pudding-like quantities. It required, however, a rather large amount of egg whites, which I thought was interesting. The cake basically consisted of 9 egg whites and a touch of flour and sugar. Intrigued, I purchased the largest eggbox the Woolies had to offer and went whipping.

The cake turned out as feathery as a newly hatched chick and it appeared to me that the secret ingredient must have been the eggs. It was an eggilarating find. Later I learned that by beating the egg white, little bubbles form within the whites, which will help maintain the structure of a cake while it’s in the oven. Using creme de tartar or lemon juice can help increase the stabilty of the foam, which is something I’ll definately eggamine in my next baking endeavours!

I still had 9 egg yolks left after that and decided to eggperiment by making a chocolate custard. I’ve become to love custard, since it has so many different sides to it. It’s a filling for cakes and tarts, a decadent sauce for any dessert and beautiful to use as a dip for strawberries. The yolk’s purpose to the custard is to give it a fatty substance, therefore enriching the liquid with a stronger pallet. Fairly easy to make, though it can be egghausting sometimes on the arms since you have to stir it on low heat for around 15-20 minutes. Nonetheless, it added flavour to my angel cake and I’ll be making it again soon!

 

For everyone interested in the cake:

https://www.tastemade.com/videos/berries-and-cream-angel-food-scoop-cake?utm_source=facebook&utm_account=tastemade&utm_content=post_03-07-2018

 

For more information on what eggs do in baking:

https://www.thekitchn.com/baking-school-day-1-all-about-eggs-and-baking-222479

 

God of War, a Review

Boy! – Kratos

For a few years now, I’ve enjoyed this sudden hype about the Nordic legacies and Viking tales. Besides the fact that it seemed as if everyone wanted an arrow or deer tattoo, I believe it has influenced the makings of the thrilling show Vikings and the games Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War (Skryim maybe too?). I did not manage to get completely into Horizon, despite my efforts. However, God of War got me enthralled from the first quest on.

I hadn’t played any of the previous games, though I felt1 it was not necessary. The game immediately gives you enough information through context -though not so much through conversation. Along with the cinematic views of a frozen Scandinavian land, fairly easy-to-understand gameplay and the (initial) clumsy father-son interaction, I was hooked. The mysterious death of their mother ‘Faye’ is encountered during the first scene, followed by a rather annoying man ‘who didn’t seem to feel anything!’. (Unfortunately, he returned later after I thought I’d killed him).

I won’t pretend I play all my games in legendary mode. Not even the ‘give me a challenge’ one. Sometimes, I degrade myself even further by playing the ‘give me a story,’ when I keep dying trying to defeat these impossibly frustrating poison-flinging revenants. Nevertheless, I do try to challenge myself and this game offers a challenge without a doubt. Kratos fights insanely large creatures! I had sweaty hands the first time I saw this ogre or troll or whatever its called come up to me with his weird wooden weapon. Now, I feel relieved when it’s just a troll, for I rather fight those than figuring out how to defeat another bloody dragon! It’s an enjoyable challenge nonetheless.

What I love about this game too is how the relationship between Kratos and Atreus changes significantly as you continue to complete their quests. With every quest, the player learns a bit more about why Kratos is being so distant to Atreus and why he doesn’t want him to know that Kratos is a demi-god. I am still halfway, so I’ll have to see for myself what will be revealed next!

I would admit I’m always more interested in RPG’s and even though God of War lets you walk and explore a bit, it mainly wants you to follow the storyline. I don’t mind it, but it would’ve been even better if there was more to do in sidequests.

Nevertheless, I’m loving this game and would reccomend it to everyone who likes to fight massive beasts, learn about Nordic Folklore and is not afraid of a little bit of blood.

The artistry of small talk

His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wing. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred – Ernest Hemingway

It felt like an overwhelmed young butterfly in a field of ripe, fragrant and sweet flowers. Uncertain where to fly to first, where to land first and where to dip in my innocent butterfly mouth into.

Small talk is not a craft I have a natural talent for. I am all talk with friends and family, though when I find myself in a new environment with new people, I jam. Lacking confidence, I tend to carry myself awkwardly, clumsily through social events and conversations, where I often remain quiet or mumble something incomprehensible that’s completely off topic. I am sure everyone has their moments of self-doubt and what I’m describing here is anything but new. It, however, was a recent issue I had to overcome, which I thought I had conquered years back.

Hospitality is an area where you constantly work and interact with people. There’s no escaping it unless you opt to dedicate yourself to a life of repetitive napkin folding (which I reckon isn’t too bad; it’s quite relaxing). Yet, either as a waitress, food runner or bartender, I had no choice but to engage in conversation once every 5 minutes; it completely unbalanced me. Even though I’ve been working in hospitality for almost 9 years now, this job required me to socialize more than I ever had to.

With a queer fondness, I think back on when I was just a small, hyperactive kid who one day got struck by the realisation of self-consciousness. I similarly remember the day and the actual situation when I felt shame for the first time, and I’m sure most people do. Anyway, I went from a constantly talking child to a nervously shy one, where I would turn purple any time someone talked to me. On many occasions, I even fled the site of confrontation. After a few years of social anxiety and loneliness, I decided this was not a living and I planned to throw myself into it all in order to gain friends. It worked, despite the occasional failure. I taught myself how to talk, even though it didn’t come naturally. Eventually, it was easy.

Coming into a new environment like I did last year with no one around me I knew well (besides my partner), made me recall those shy days and how I went through a lot of effort to conquer it. And even though it’s not great still, I did put myself out there. The most amazing thing I realised later, is that people generally don’t really care if you act in a reserved way or sometimes laugh awkwardly or remain quiet when you ought to have said something. Besides the fact that most people roughly remember 90% of what they said themselves in the social interaction, they also recognize their own social insecurities and look past them. In the end, everyone’s self-conscious in one way or another.

In addition, it’s beautiful when people do open up to you. I find it impressive and exciting when someone tells you their story. On how they travelled to Australia from Ireland after meeting her Dutch husband. How they’re happy to finally have the weekend so they can celebrate their 2 year anniversary with some champagne. In the end, it’s worth the effort to try to make small talk, for it can be so rewarding getting to know random strangers and making new friends.

The Elephant​ in the Room

Just now I watched the winner of short films, Rat Race by Steve Cutts. The rats, who are obviously symbolizing humans, go through a stressful city life where they’re looking for happiness, whilst continuously being crushed by masses of bodies and intrusive advertisements. It is clear from the moment you start watching the film, it is going to be about how every individual in the current society searches for happiness. The rat that is being followed in particular is trying to find happiness in all sorts of ways, such as purchasing expensive cars, drinking and taking medication. All fails, when he’s being trapped trying to catch a 100 dollar bill; doomed to an unhappy nine-to-five job.

A few days before, I watched a program on television where several famous folk gave their unsalted opinion on social media and its current ‘negative effects’. “Social media is disconnecting us from our true friends; we feel lonelier than ever,” said one artistic looking man who’s a singer-songwriter. “Depression and negative self-views are more common than before,” said another one. “Society is failing to make us happy,” is what they were trying to say.

Both examples are a way of criticizing society. Social media is dividing us. Education is not preparing us for ‘the real world’. How often do we hear similar phrases. It’s not something new, yet it keeps being said without any noticeable changes or probable solutions to the issue at hand.

If I’ve learned anything from art in high school is that everything needs an opposing view. Picasso, who in his younger years painted very naturalistically, later in life opposed to the realistic style of the Renaissance by creating the cubism movement. In addition, realism was a reaction to the extravagant style of romanticism. Similarly, it is necessary that there are people speaking against the current society, social media and education as a form of counter-balance.

However, the arguments are starting the become repetitive and hollow. Spreading negativity about the way we’re living is not going to increase our happiness (if there’s unhappiness at all). As a psychology graduate, I am aware of the large numbers of depression in the world, and although I am very much encouraging the increased awareness of this illness, I feel there can be too much of an emphasis on unhappiness.

There is a need for positivity, contentedness and gratefulness. The world is not all sorrow, hostility and conflict. You’d be surprised how happy you can be (or already are) by having the right mindset. By being content with your day to day activities and accomplishments. If I’ve had a tough day, I always try to make a list in my head where I write down at least 10 things that happened that day I feel happy or grateful for. After a while, it becomes a habit and helps you perceive the world in a much sunnier light.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions – Dalai Lama

When you stop thinking about yourself as an uninfluential gear in a massive factory, but instead believe you have control over your own life and when you try new, exciting things to look forward to and enjoy, you can make yourself find happiness quite easily. Go out into the world, explore, wonder, learn. Emerge yourself into a new culture, lose yourself into a book or a delicious dish. Allow yourself to fail sometimes, though let it not bring you down. Try again. In the end, you will find that there’s so much more to offer in the world that you won’t find any time for negativity and unhappiness.

A happy pear

In a world, bursting with chaos, noisiness, glamour and lights; a world saturated with bubbles, sparkles, flashes, shrieks and popcorn, there was, in the middle of it all, a pear.

A pear, a pear, a happy pear, a blushing pear, a yellow pear, a green pear. A pear dripping with crimson sauce, delightfully fragrant with orange and spices. A beautiful pear, a wonderful pear, a pear lavishly delicious to bite into.

A sad pear, wrinkled, mouldy, lonesome in a bowl, sweating in hot daylight, vibrating on heavy footsteps of ignorant passengers. Left uneaten, unpeeled, a pear untouched, unloved and forgotten. In a bowl where all the other fruit had been chosen.

The pear used to be a handsome pear, sparkling green with lovely light green patches as enticing as a spring morning. Fresh with dew, and with one leaf remembering its heritage of being a newly created pear from a lovely pink pear flower from a pink pear tree.

When caressed, the pear used to have a soft, silky skin with hardly any imperfections, with juicy flesh but not too unripe; just the perfect ratio of ripeness and crunchiness.

A pear, the pear, the lonesome, mouldy, wrinkled and sweaty pear left alone in the bowl. Bubbliness, sparkliness have left the pear, evaporated, like a bygone husky summer evening. Who will touch the pear now.

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