{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

September 6, 2016

Book Review || The Cult of Elizabeth by Roy Strong

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Elizabeth-i-rainbow-portrait
I've always been partial to period dramas, possibly as a result of my studies in English literature, and Roy Strong's 'The Cult of Elizabeth' was waiting for me at the library. I find the Elizabethan era utterly fascinating for many reasons, chief amongst these the fabulous and intricate handmade clothing worn by the elite, but the way of life is so strange by our modern standards. Can you imagine not having access to a toilet? Not even the Queen had access to an indoor toilet.

Apart from these very domestic cares, Queen Elizabeth I and the intrigues of her court are so intriguing. How did she manage to rule for over four decades (right up to her death at the age of 70), especially in a world that believed that women were lesser beings? Certainly she was surrounded by many more experienced, but all the literature we have on her shows her to be an intelligent and shrewd ruler. It may have been tough for her at the beginning, but 'The Cult of Elizabeth' shows how she managed to hold on to the crown for much longer than she should have been able to, considering her age and her chief responsibility of providing an heir.

Elizabeth's supporters created a near-religion around their queen: She became the Queen of Love and Beauty, representing a chivalric code among her knights and courtiers; while she was ordained by God as the leader of England, her reign of peace served to settle her in the hearts of her subjects - then she defeated Spain; and finally, she became a symbol of the 'true religion', a saviour of her people's beliefs from the anti-christ of Rome.

nicolas-hilliard-man-amongst-roses'The Cult of Elizabeth' alludes to so many facts, events and names that it shouldn't really be seen as an introduction to the Elizabethan age. If you're interested in this, I would recommend 'The Elizabethan World Picture' as a start.

Roy Strong's book starts off with a look at the art that represented the Queen, that was done in honour of the Queen or, done to honour good works in serving the crown, showing how art in this age should be taken as symbolic and idealistic, and never representative of a single event. Art in this age did not take perspective into account, nor did it understand scale or reality: representations were more about the subjective experience of the onlooker than about any reality.

Strong looks at The Procession Portrait, initially thought to be representative of Elizabeth attending the marriage of one of her courtiers, and shows that it is really a subjective representation of Elizabeth in the context of her court. Showing all the most important people who surrounded her during the final years of her reign, it concerns Elizabeth the Triumphant and the 'dance of state'. Nicholas Hilliard's Young Man Among Roses comes next, and Strong describes the chivalry with which Queen Elizabeth's knights honoured her, as their favourite and most beautiful, yet unattainable, woman, pointing to various portraits of the Queen and explaining the symbolism within them. Finally, a look at Sir Henry Unton's memorial portrait is the perfect portrayal of Elizabethan attitudes to art, subjectivity, and honourable deeds.

the-procession-picture
The final chapters show how the workings of the court ensured Elizabeth's reign for so many years. Firstly, Elizabeth's Accession Day was celebrated by the entire nation. No governmental legislation demanded such festivities, but they were undertaken by the masses in every major city, in churches, and even in small towns. The revelries reached such a pitch, particularly after Britain defeated the Spanish Armada, that orthodox Protestants began to worry that the 'worship' of the Queen was comparable to the Catholic worship of Mary. Secondly, on Accession Day, elaborate tourneys were held in the honour of the Queen by her knights. These occasions saw the Queen's knights put on Masques in her honour before tilting in the lists with the aim of gaining her favour. Finally, The Order of the Garter was pursued as a way to instil chivalrous codes among the pageantry and reinforce the medieval feudal hierarchies.

'The Cult of Elizabeth' is an excellent choice if you'd like to expand your knowledge of the workings of Elizabethan England. The only drawback to the edition I read was that none of the artworks were in colour.

{Image credits: Elizabeth I Rainbow Portrait - Attributed to Isaac Oliver - http://www.marileecody.com/gloriana/elizabethrainbow1.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3074044
Young Man Among Roses - Nicholas Hilliard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Procession Picture Attributed to Robert Peake the elder - http://tfeanda.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/elizabeth-i-her-people-national-portrait-gallery-london/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31801577}

August 31, 2016

DIY || Crochet Daisy Chain

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It's officially Spring tomorrow and there's nothing prettier than a daisy chain! While I made this for Emma when she was still little, you can follow my instructions to create a crocheted daisy chain, which you can make into a headband or bracelet. You can also simply make the single daisies on their own to use for other craft projects.

Note that you'll have to have a basic knowledge of crochet. If you're lacking in this department, check this link for help.

The size of the needle and the amount of yarn really depends on what kind of project you want to finish. I used remnants and would say I used about half a 50g ball for two bracelets, a necklace, and a headband (just a longer version of the bracelet), as well as some single daisies.

How to make the bracelet:

Start with a slip knot.
Ch 13.
Insert needle into 9th chain and pull thread through to make a circle or loop.
circle
**Ch 6.
Insert needle in centre, pull thread through, ch 1.
pull-thread-through
Rep four more times.
repeat-for-flower
Ch 7.
Insert into 4th chain, pull thread through, ch 1.
Rep from ** twice.
second-flower
Ch 16.

completed-braceletTo finish off, you can crochet a bead onto the end using a simple slip stitch or create a knot. Then turn the first set of chain stitches on themselves to create a loop. If you are doing the beaded or knotted version, you will need to ensure the loop is the correct fit for the bead or knot. 
You can also add another two or three daisies, extending your final chain for about 12cm, or more if you prefer, so you can simply wind the bracelet around your wrist or finish off with the knot or bead to make a headband.

----

How to make the necklace:

Start with a slip knot.
Ch 10.
Join 10th chain with first.
Ch 44.
Needle into 40th chain, pull thread through and ch 1.
Work as for bracelet between ** five times.
Ch 41.
Attach bead or make knot.
Finish off.

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Let me know how it goes! I would love to see your finished results!

August 25, 2016

DIY || Reuse || Fave T-Shirt Design to Mock Biker's Insignia

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t-shirt-design-reuse-collage
I love t-shirts, especially the designs and sometimes the slogans. Because choosing a t-shirt is so personal, I find it very difficult to be rid of items that are faded or no longer fit or are never worn.

If I do brave the emotions that come with ridding myself of a t-shirt, it's technically not getting rid of it because, a) I cut up the back and other straight pieces to make my own t-shirt yarn; and b) I keep the logo or slogan.

But what to do with my pile of t-shirt designs!? I decided to make myself a polar fleece vest for braving the cold when I head to the gym and using one of these for the back seemed the perfect idea. I found a vintage pattern at a charity store and decided to make use of it.

What you'll need for this project:

t-shirt-design-notions

- An old t-shirt with a favourite design;
- An item of clothing without any detail or seams on the back;
- Thin batting;
- General notions, such as sewing cotton, pins, and sharp-pointed scissors.

What to do:

1. Choose the design you'd like to put on the back of your item. If you haven't cut it out yet, give yourself a lot of leeway on all sides of the design for pinning.

layered-design-and-batting

2. Cut a piece of batting the same size as your cut-out and lay the design over the batting.

design-batting-clothing-pinned

3. Centre the two items on your base item of clothing. Pin generously.

sewing-maching-painted-design

4. Now you will have to sew over your design to anchor it to your base item. I chose to do some thread painting with my sewing machine in the colour of my design's border. You could, however, applique it or if you're really brave handstitch it. It does also depend on the design you've selected. If, for example, you have a perfectly circular design, you could simply glue the item on and then applique around the circle. Another option would be to glue to design first but this depends on your fabric.

Note: If you're choosing to applique the item, remember to make your batting a little bit smaller than the design so you won't need to worry about the batting sticking out when you trim the t-shirting away.

scissor-on-design

5. With my chosen method, I ended up with a lot of loose threads. Time to trim them! Remember not to trim too much on the inside of your clothing item (ie. where the bobbin stitches are) as they will keep the top stitching anchored.


6. Once you're satisfied with how your design looks, you will have to trim the batting as close to your stitching as possible. Pull back the t-shirting and the fabric of your clothing item so you can access the batting. Don't cut around your design yet to ensure that you don't cut too much where the batting may be difficult to trim.


7. When your batting is trimmed, cut away the t-shirting that you do not need. If you've appliqued the design, you'll just trim as close to your stitches as possible.

And you're done! I'd love to know how your project came out! Please share in the comments!

August 22, 2016

Five Things I Learnt At The Dentist

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I was never a fan of going to the dentist. I'm not actually certain why, but it could be linked to the fact that my parents showed an extreme dislike of going to the dentist and I possibly caught the fear from them. I think I only ever saw my father go once throughout my conscious life and my mother has not been since before she and my father married, which was over 30 years ago.

I don't remember having a particularly traumatising experience with the dentist of my youth but as an adult I rather enjoy it. And perhaps it has to do with the dentist himself: my dentist is so interesting to talk to and forthcoming with all information about teeth and dentistry. As such, I always leave with the feeling that I have not only received excellent care for my teeth but have also learnt something.

Some of my favourite lessons include:

nitrous-oxide-historical
1. The reason 'laughing gas', or nitrous oxide, has such a giddy effect on our system is because it is giving your body a heavy dose of oxygen without all the other things we breathe in normally. And what does your brain do when you're breathing well? You feel calmer and may even think clearer. According to this article, however, it appears there is no certainty as to why nitrogen and oxygen in this formulation provides an anaesthetic effect, although it may have something to do with how tension is created in the brain between the gas, the alveoli, and the blood in the brain.

2. Why does it seem as though your the whole side of your face feels numb after an anaesthetic injection? At least for me, it was because the needle with the anaesthesia was injected into the main nerve that controls the feeling of the side of the jaw. Imagine the talents of the person performing the injection to get it perfectly numb?

3. Feeling cold on a tooth means the nerve inside is still alive. My dentist tested whether the nerve inside my wisdom tooth with the filling I had done last year was still alive with intense cold.

4. Have you ever wondered why a person has all of their wisdom teeth removed at the same time, even if it's only one tooth that's an issue? It's because these teeth require some opposition on the opposite jaw if they are to avoid erupting: something needs to be creating pressure from the other side.

colgate-plax
5. Using an anti-bacterial mouthwash is not actually as beneficial as advertisers would have us believe. We have natural bacteria everywhere in our bodies and our mouths are no different. Using an anti-bacterial mouthwash makes sense if there is a wound or other issue but if we have otherwise healthy mouths, a simple flouride rinse is actually better. If you'd like to read more on this subject, here is something about the benefits and disadvantages of using a mouthwash, a comparison between mouthwash and fluoride rinse, and a guide on oral rinses.

What are your best (or worst) experiences with dentists?

{Image credit: 1. By Marco Antonio Aguilar Lizarraga - Template:Empresa dentadec, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8709732
2. By http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/f9/b7/8b6378e59c2c136332816e827d33.jpg Gallery: http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/image/L0005630.html, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35870248
3. Colgate Plax By Editor182 (talk) - I (Editor182 (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.Transferred from en.wikipedia, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16407847}

August 19, 2016

Book Takeaways || Like the Flowing River by Paulo Coelho

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cover-like-the-flowing-river
'Like the Flowing River' is a collection of anecdotes and notes by the esteemed author of 'The Alchemist', Paulo Coelho, and as such, it is filled with lovely inspirational stories and life lessons. It is always interesting to dip into the minds of some of the most celebrated authors in the world and this exploration of a few select records is no different. We are given a unique insight into the thoughts of a man who is knowledgeable, intuitive, and perfectly able to see not only the beauty in the world but also its secret meaning.

Coelho's anecdotes speak of everything, from milk replacements to the artistry of archery. What follows is a list of my top ten records from the collection, anecdotes that made me think, reconsider, muse, or mourn:

1. A story about how we are filled with the potential of the pencil and how we must remember: we can do great things but there is always a hand guiding us; a pencil is made better through being sharpened (or experiencing adversity or trouble); the ability to be erased (or the pleasure of retrospection) allows us to see the obvious path to justice; the graphite inside the pencil is what is really important; and we always leave a mark.

"The fool who loves giving advice on our garden never tends his plants at all." [28] 
2. The person who follows such a person's advice will only tend someone else's garden, and will miss out on valuable life experience.

3. A tale about friendship: Genghis Kahn went hunting with his falcon. He became thirsty and came across a stream, but his falcon would prevent him from drinking it. He became upset and killed the falcon, only to discover that a carcass was rotting upstream and the falcon was merely being loyal and attempting to save him. The lessons are: a friend is still a friend even when he does something you do not agree with; and, anything done in anger is destined to be a failure.

4. A beautiful statement about 'hope':
"That word that so often rises with us in the morning, gets sorely wounded as the day progresses, dies at nightfall, and is reborn with the new day." [31]

5. Confucius says: 'Be clear'. Lay down the law, set boundaries, communicate.

6. As an owner of many books, I felt a little guilty reading the thought that hoarding books or keeping them in a personal library inhibits the journey the books are meant to make.

biwa-lake-sunrise-wikimedia-commons-A-giâu
7. Considering the distrust and terror taking place in the world today, this phrase was poignant for me:
"When a stranger approaches and we think he is our brother and all conflicts disappear, that is the moment when night ends and day begins." [82] 
The moment where we recognise our fellow man as a friend before believing he is a foe is the moment we can change the world.

8. Using the story about a meditation school believing cats were necessary for meditation practice, we are reminded that sometimes the reason we continue behaviours is unknown or has passed and the behaviour is thus no longer necessary.

9. We are told about an old man who is constantly insulted and abused by the people in his village. He does nothing but bless those who mock him and when he is asked why, he answers,
"We can each of us only offer what we have." [127-8]

10. There is a story of a new Emperor of China who needed a wife. To determine which woman in the land would be best suited, he asked them to nurture seeds that he gave them and the woman with the most beautiful flower would become his Empress. A maidservant was in love with the Emperor and did everything she could to care for the seed but it would not grow. On the day all the women returned to the palace, she was the only one without a beautiful flower to offer the Emperor. She became the Empress because of her honesty: the Emperor had given all the women sterile seeds.

Do you have your own favourite quotations from Paulo Coelho's works?

{Image credit: A-giâu, CC BY-SA 3.0 Biwa Lake Sunrise}

July 28, 2016

DIY || Simple Crochet Hanger Cover

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finished-crochet-hanger-cover
Plastic hangers are so annoyingly useful and unattractive at the same time. While the end result of this DIY tutorial does not entirely disguise the plastic hanger, it does make it a little prettier, while it also provides additional friction for those delicate and knitted items. This is ideal to add some pizzazz to hangers holding skirts from those cotton loops on the seams as well, as the hooks on either side are still showing. I've made covers with fabric and lace, but can only hang items over the top, or fuss with the cover over the hook.

What you'll need for this project:

A plastic hanger
A crochet hook of any size
Yarn in your colour and thickness of choice

How to crochet around the hanger:

step-1
Start off with a knot around your needle.
step-2
Place the yarn under the hanger...
step-3
...bring it over the hanger and the needle...
step-4
...and pull through the loop with the crochet hook.
step-5
Then take the yarn over and under the hanger and pull through loop again, pulling tight.
step-6
Repeat this until you've covered the whole hanger with the yarn.
close-up-complete-stitches
The stitches should look like this - close together and covering the plastic hanger. When you reach the joints in the hanger, you use the same technique, pulling the stitch to the new position before pulling it tightly.

Do you have any other ideas for covering plastic hangers?

July 25, 2016

Book Review || Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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far-from-madding-crowd-book-cover
Thomas Hardy became one of my favourite writers after reading 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'. I fell in love with his passionate depiction of the natural world, with his detailed depiction of a fictional town in the 1800s, and the representation of his characters. 'Far From the Madding Crowd' was no different in this regard, and I wonder why it took me so long to open the cover.

The book follows the trials and tribulations of shepherd Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene, the woman he has fallen in love with. When the pair first meet officially, she rescues him from suffocation. He is in a somewhat better position financially than she is and asks for her hand in marriage. She rejects him, however, on the basis that she does not love him. By a strange turn of events, Oak soon finds himself in a lower position than she after she inherits a farm from her uncle. She hires Oak knowing of his business savvy and his knowledge of sheep while Oak's feelings for her remain through all of Bathsheba's poor choices.

My favourite aspect of Hardy's novel is its enamored representations of Mother Nature in all its seasons and glory. His descriptions of the weather, such as the storm that breaks as Gabriel and Bathsheba rush to save her stockpiles, as well as his sketches of the beauty of forests, pastures, and coasts, dotted with beautiful portrayals of the sun and stars' movements is certain to leave unforgettable imagery in your mind.

He also presents lively debate on religion and philosophy as he describes nature, through the debates and conversations of his characters, mostly those who are classed as servants, and his descriptions of woman or man.

bathsheba-rescues-gabriel
Bathsheba rescues Gabriel (Helen Allingham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Bathsheba is such an interesting depiction for me for Hardy does not represent her as only a woman, but so much more; even as he talks in the same breath of her feminine vices and sometimes thoughtless mannerisms he has placed her in an exceedingly powerful position for a woman of her time. Indeed Bathsheba's only downfall is falling in love with Sergeant Troy and marrying a man whom she knows very little about. However, he juxtaposes her collapse with that of one of her suitors, William Boldwood, who is a prosperous farmer until he becomes obsessed with Bathsheba to the point of ruining his farm and his life.

When it comes to talking about the people of Weatherbury, they are all interesting and amusing, from having double vision problems to being known only as a woman's husband to absolute loyalty, these folk are straight from a simpler world where there is a respect for one's place in it, a respect for oneself, and a respect for others.

In all, 'Far From the Madding Crowd' can now be seen as an elegy to the dreamlike world of agriculture and rural life before industrialisation, where the farmer and his workers lived to the tune of the sunrise and sunset, of the seasons, of the wet and dry; where time passed according to harvests and stock sales, to a time when life was simpler and man lived in harmony with nature.

While I had committed that error of errors by watching the film before reading the book, it made no matter - I turned page by subsequent page because Hardy's writing was so good! And if you're looking for one of the greatest romance novels of all time, this is one: it's tenth on theGuardian's list.

Have you read the novel?

July 21, 2016

DIY || Origami Crane Mobile

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origami-crane-mobile
Just after Emma was born I was obsessed with folding paper. I think this image was to blame and my idea was that I would fill the entire ceiling with origami cranes.

While I didn't get around to decorating the entire ceiling with cranes, because it slowly filled up with glow-in-the-dark stars and planets and mobiles from family, I did make an origami crane mobile hanging from a dreamcatcher.

I made two, one for my niece, which had the cranes spiralling around a centre point, and one for Emma. I wanted the latter to be random as though the cranes were flying all over the place. Sort of like it would have been had I followed through on my idea.

What you'll need for this project:

Origami cranes (I made mine out of magazine paper to add colour, but you can use origami paper or plain printer paper, too. Follow these instructions on Wikipedia to fold an origami crane.)
A steel or wooden embroidery frame
Yarn (I used DMC tapestry wool)
Clear beading thread

cranes-yarn

First, you will have to wind the yarn around the embroidery frame. Try to wind it as tightly as possible to cover the frame. Start by holding the thread on the frame with your thumb and wrap the yarn over this thread to keep it in place. When you are finished wrapping, use a sewing needle to pull the yarn through some of the loops.

Making the dreamcatcher:

dreamcatcher-knot-step-1
First tie a knot on the frame with the yarn, then place the yarn over the frame at the position you would like the web to begin.
dreamcatcher-know-step-2
Pull the yarn under the frame and downwards.
dreamcatcher-knot-step-3
Pull the yarn under and over the starting thread...
dreamcatcher-knot-step-4
...pulling tight to create an anchor. Continue in this way all around the frame...
dreamcatcher-knot-step-5
...and as you continue in the centre of the frame to create your web. Pull the yarn quite tightly to ensure that the web keeps its shape, and then knot it in the centre with a slip knot. You can also add a bead in the centre if you like.

Making the mobile:

The length of the thread the cranes will hang from depends on the effect that you would like. If you would like the cranes to hang uniformly around the frame, cut the threads the same length. If you would like the cranes to spiral around the centre, cut each thread longer than the last. It will take longer if you would like the cranes to fly haphazardly around the frame, since you will have to hang the frame up and position them as you see fit, adjusting the length of the threads as you go and ensuring the frame remains balanced.

The most difficult part, however, is pulling the thread through the centre of your cranes without tearing them. You will be pulling the thread through the middle of the bottom of the body and through the top. The easiest way to prevent the thread from pulling through the crane at a later stage is to put a bead at the bottom. You can also knot the thread several times, securing it in place with some clear nail varnish. Secure it in the same manner where you join the crane to the yarn of the dreamcatcher. Drop a bead or two into the cranes if you're having trouble balancing everything out.
completed-origami-crane-mobile
I would love to see your efforts!

July 14, 2016

Addendum: Movie Review || Rosemary's Baby (1968)

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Facebook/Rosemary's Baby
After reviewing the television miniseries reboot of 'Rosemary's Baby', I have finally watched the original and absolutely agree with everyone who says that it is much creepier than the reboot. The direction, the actors, and even the music all contribute to make this film feel much more complete and well put-together than the television miniseries.

Firstly, the music: Oh my word! 'Rosemary's Baby' is supposed to be a horror movie, or at the very least a thriller, and it felt to me, after watching the 1968 version, that those behind the reboot had completely forgotten the importance of the soundtrack in creating tension and communicating terror to the viewer. If I have to think back on the miniseries, there is not one moment that stands out because of the music. In contrast, the original is filled with notable pieces that only add a greater depth to the film. Take the first and last piece (which are the same): the almost robotic way the mother is singing a lullaby is freaky in itself. The most thrilling piece of music is that employed when Rosemary attempts to escape from Guy and Doctor Sapirstein: the notes become faster and higher reaching a crescendo just as Rosemary manages to shut the door on them and end their pursuit. Then there is also the use of absolute silence, such as when Rosemary is in the dream sequence: the only noise is Rosemary's own plaintive cries that, 'This is no dream!'

Facebook/Rosemary's Baby
Secondly, the cast was much better for the story that was being told. The film follows the novel in this area and as a result Ruth Gordon's Minnie is the ideal annoying and pushy neighbour. At no point do we come to suspect that she and Roman's intentions are untoward in any way, at least until she appears unclothed in Rosemary's dream, and even afterwards she is not pushy enough to make Rosemary suspicious. John Cassavetes as Guy is also perfectly sleazy for the role. Whereas Patrick J. Adams seems too disinclined to put his needs first and leaks with remorse as soon as the process of impregnating Rosemary has begun, John has an air of selfishness and narcissism that makes the possibility that he could allow what was done to Rosemary much more likely. Of course Mia Farrow is extraordinary in this role: she is almost too angelic to be real, but little nuances such as the way she pulls her face when Minnie brings the mousse makes her feel more real.

Facebook\Rosemary's Baby
Thirdly, I love how the story is that much more simply put through Roman Polanski's direction (Isn't it odd that he shares the name of the main witch, Roman Castevet?) It holds your attention through simplicity and did not have to resort to excessive gore or obvious fright to maintain it. The fact that the couple are in a city they are familiar with, speaking a language they know, and not surrounded by strangers makes the fact that Rosemary didn't catch on sooner completely plausible, whereas the foreign setting in the reboot should have made her that much more suspicious and less quick to trust strangers.

While it is difficult for me to pick which I like most, since I like aspects of both versions, the original certainly has top place for being the chiller the book deserved, while the reboot has top place for the chemistry between the lead characters.

If you've seen both films, which did you like more and why? Please comment below and let me know!

July 12, 2016

Special Guest Post: 5 Great Books We Could All Learn Something From

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book-omg-sculpture-see-ming-lee-flickr
The power of the written word is a magical one; through tales, we are given the opportunity to live vicariously and learn valuable lessons that we could never otherwise be exposed to. However, this is a scale, and some books are by far more enlightening than others.

This is a list of five truly life-changing texts, which will question the way you see the world and give you a truly unique insight into some of the biggest questions that plague our existence.

They’re all available on Amazon, but if you’re an international reader and are having trouble gaining access, then it might be due to geo-blocking in the country you’re in. You can circumvent this by using a Virtual Private Network. Check out this Secure Thoughts review for more information.

1. The Prophet – Khalil Gibran

the-prophet-kahlil-gibran-cover
The life lessons and ideas are too numerous to summarize in such a short space, but this masterpiece by Lebanese-American writer, Khalil Gibran, harks back to the spiritual poetry of the ancient Persian world. Written in 1923, it’s one of the earliest examples of inspirational fiction.

The story is that of Almustafa, a well-liked yet mysterious outsider who resides in the foreign city of Orphalese. When one day a great ship arrives on the horizon, the townspeople sense that the cherished, enigmatic presence of the prophet might soon be gone. Before he boards to leave, Almustafa serenades the town’s people with some essential life advice, broken down into 26 essays throughout the book.

It’s a unique and succinct format and delves into valuable questions and ideas about love, marriage, giving, work, freedom, pain and much, much more.

2. Wild: An Elemental Journey – Jay Griffiths

There is an ancient wisdom in this world that most of us have forgotten. Indigenous tribes all over the planet hold skills, knowledge and a connection to most wild veins of existence that have been lost in modern society.

This fantastic release by Jay Griffiths documents her epic adventure to all four corners of our planet to stay with some of the world's most remote tribes. It's a passionate search for the true nature of the human spirit and an illuminating reflection on the impact of industrialization on our world and our souls.

Oxford educated, Griffiths addresses history, geography, etymology and philosophy to form an argument that never preaches but merely enlightens readers to the hidden secrets of the social microcosms that exist in the wildest reaches of our world.

3. The Tao of Wu – RZA

tao-of-wu-cover
What happens when urban street-smarts meets ancient Shaolin wisdom? Robert Diggs (a.k.a RZA) was born in the projects of inner-city New York but moved all around the country throughout his turbulent childhood. Never finding much luck in his family and home life, he turned to knowledge to free his mind from the strife.

Although an esteemed chess player and mathematician, Diggs still spent much of his youth gang-affiliated and into drugs. Throughout this time he searched the scriptures of many religions and philosophers to escape from this world. Finding solace in the spiritual ideals and morals of Kung Fu films, he finally found his key to freedom in music, cementing international success and forming one of the most well-known rap groups on the planet.

This book structured into the “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” documents his spiritual journey and the valuable lessons that every facet of his life taught him. From Brooklyn to the Wudang mountains in China, Diggs' reflections are a truly wonderful insight into life as we know it.

4. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – Robin Sharma

monk-sold-ferrari-cover
Ex-lawyer turned self-help writer Robin Sharma is a shining example of practicing what you preach. Somewhat reflecting his experience - although the limits to where it becomes fiction are unknown - Sharma tells the story of John, an over-stressed and uptight lawyer.

One day John’s colleague, who left work recently after suffering a heart attack, makes a surprise return as, seemingly, a whole different man. Appearing at John’s house one night, dressed in traditional orange robes, Julian Mantle divulges that he’s been staying with monks in the Himalayas.

John listens in awe as he recounts the many secrets to good living and long-life that he's learned from the Monks and provides practical examples of how the reader can translate this into their day-to-day lives.

5. The Zahir – Paulo Coelho 

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From the author of the world-famous 'The Alchemist', this equally poignant release also brilliantly explores some of the most philosophical questions of life as we know it.  The word “Zahir” itself is an Arab concept, meaning the external or obvious. In Coelho's book, it refers to his obsession with his wife, who up and leaves out of the blue one night.

Their relationship was not a good one, but without her, his whole word changes. His search to understand why she left and discover just where she is takes him all over the globe and into some of the most abstract echelons of society. From homeless people on the streets of Paris to native villagers on the Kazakhstani steppe, readers are illuminated with a whole host of unique perspectives.

This book has some crucial lessons to teach about marriage, but also how we view ourselves, as individuals, and as part of society.

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Know of any others that deserve a spot on this list? Be sure to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas.

About the Author: Caroline is an entertainment blogger for Culture Coverage. She loves books and has spent her whole life immersed in their pages. She loves sharing her favorite novels with others and always has a great recommendation on hand, no matter the situation!

{Main image credit: Flickr/See-Ming Lee (CC BY-SA 2.0)}

July 8, 2016

Addendum: Movie Review || Rosemary's Baby (2014)

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After reading the novel recently, I decided to binge on the miniseries version of 'Rosemary's Baby' and I have to correct my previous statement that the novel and film were exactly the same (I have not seen the original directed by Roman Polanski and it is on my to-do list!). The miniseries version might not have the same creepy tension as in the novel, but it is noteworthy for the impressive modernisation of Rosemary's context and situation, and a more macabre view of Rosemary's destiny.

In the novel, Rosemary and her husband happen to be lucky enough to lease an apartment in the Bramford in New York City and thus simply happen to become involved in the plot to birth the Devil. In the television version, however, the setting is the more romantic Paris and the building is La Chimere, and the Woodhouses are practically led by the bull-ring to become involved in the plan: Rosemary is literally chosen to become the vessel for the anti-Christ and the Castevets do everything in their power to get the couple to stay in La Chimere, be absolutely indebted to them, and entirely under their influence. In this way, the film has a different creepiness to the original story, and the witches of the building have a supreme power that is not revealed quite so much in the novel.

I enjoyed the alterations to the context of Rosemary's story. Paris and its long history make for a more historical basis in witchcraft, although the existence of a coven in New York City is more unexpected. Of course, Paris allowed for the beautiful scene just before Rosemary discovers she is pregnant where she is surrounded by the consecrated skulls of the dead in the catacombs and falls into a precipice - a metaphor for the loneliness she is destined to feel in the hands of a coven and as the mother of a history-changing child.

In the television series, Guy is no longer dreaming an outdated dream of becoming an actor - he wants to write. However, his writer's block seems to have been brought about by Rosemary having a miscarriage. The couple have run away from this reality to Paris. This modern viewpoint was perfectly suited to the story, as is the couple's isolation in Paris, far away from home and even from many people who speak English.

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I also enjoyed the sinister representations of Roman and Margaux Castevet, the leaders of the coven. Their true evil is shown through the 'freak' accidents they cause against those who appear to be placing stumbling blocks in the path of their ultimate plan. I loved the hallucinatory effect of their spells against Commissioner Fontaine, for example, and in this scene, the casual manner in which Roman carries out the spell is an excellent touch. I did think the violence was a little gratuitous, however, and it made the deaths all seem very odd instead of strange-but-not-strange-enough-to-make-it-obvious to the main players that something untoward was going on.

I mentioned in my review of the book that it was a bit of feminist novel for its time, bemoaning the lack of control women had over their own bodies. I enjoyed Zoe's Rosemary argue with everyone around her about her bodily autonomy and right to choice, but the film did not make the control the coven had over her feel as dire as it could have been. Perhaps it is because most people nowadays know the basics of Rosemary's story - it has become a pop culture icon - that her situation simply isn't a surprise. It doesn't help either that revelations as to what Rosemary is in for are suggested right from the beginning of the film and thus the subtle scariness, the mystery, of the story is lost, even for those who have never read the book or seen the original film.

I know that technically this version of 'Rosemary's Baby' is a remake, but I haven't seen the original so I cannot comment on how good it is compared to that (yet). All I can say is that I enjoyed most of the changes from the book but found that there was a lot less mystery for the viewer than there was for the reader, making the story a strict horror instead of a thrilling ride.