Guest Post: Lavish Frugality

The Oxymoron

Lavish frugality. What a pair of words. The first time I mentioned it to a friend, he instantly said this is an oxymoron.

An oxymoron describes two contradicting terms put together. We have all stumbled upon it before. At school, at university, in advertising or when we have placed an order with our favorite Asian restaurant: “I’d like to have chicken sweet and sour chicken, thank you.”

Additionally, the terms lavish and frugal do not seem to go together at first.

Many understand frugality not only to be modesty and a cautious behavior, but also celibacy and the renunciation of certain enjoyments. As opposed to this, there is the concept of “lavish lifestyle”. Especially, nowadays this term has a negative aftertaste and stands for the frivolous and overly generous consumption of money, things and resources. Those who have a lavish lifestyle live very richly and wastefully. So how do these two terms fit together?

Cheers for enjoyment

What is minimalism?

If you look at Instagram, Pinterest and the lifestyle magazines, you will quickly notice that the current trend is towards minimalism and sustainability. There are two great documentaries about minimalism on Netflix and sustainability is receiving much-needed attention. It seems as if these two lifestyles always went hand in hand. When it comes to minimalism, you actively ask yourself:

“What do I really need to be happy?”

It is not about reducing your possessions to a certain number of things or living in an empty apartment if possible. It is about making room for the important things in life and sorting out everything that is not important or even burdensome.

What is sustainability?

When it comes to sustainability, your own consumption and lifestyle are optimized so that you live as resource-efficiently as possible. It is a matter of aligning one’s actions in order to preserve the natural regenerative capacity of the systems involved in satisfying one’s own needs.

Lavish frugality

The idea of “lavish frugality” is not about saving money come hell or even throwing money down the drain. It is not about minimizing or adding to your possessions. It is more about balance.

After having dealt with the topics of minimalism and sustainability, after several unsuccessful clean-ups and tidy out actions à la Marie Kondo, I had to realize I love beautiful things. It just makes me happy to sit on the couch in the evening and look at my wall full of well-stocked bookshelves. If this makes me happy, why should I reduce myself to twenty books?

Please do not get this wrong. I am still reducing, and it makes perfect sense and joy surrounding yourself with the things that make you happy and that you use. However, the joy of life should not suffer. Not everyone is a minimalist. Nevertheless, that is not bad either, because sustainability is also possible if you have a lavish lifestyle – if you define it correctly!

The sustainable, lavish lifestyle

We are surrounded by advertising all day long, whether on television, social media or by friends and acquaintances who arouse desires and needs in us without knowing it. Hence, everyone’s spending is likely somewhere between what we can afford and what we think we are owed. For everyone, money is synonymous with work and drudgery (more for some, less for others). Moreover, students in particular know the feeling of being torn between their studies and part-time jobs, only to start their professional life with student loans debts.

Create new, repair or buy used

The solution is that what you cannot afford financially, can be recreated, repaired or used for little money.

 There are now countless ways to add very beautiful items to your wardrobe without having to immediately spend huge amounts of money or invest in fast fashion. A capsule wardrobe is fine, but if you want to expand it, you can do that. In addition, if you switch to second hand, you also get the opportunity to breathe a second life into a beautiful piece and at the same time, you protect the environment. Those skilled enough can upgrade their favorite pieces themselves with a needle and thread. Therefore, you almost have an individually tailored piece of clothing for a few euros.

Books, whether for private reading enjoyment or for studying, can also be bought second-hand or borrowed from the library, if you know in advance that you will not necessarily have to have them in hard copy on the shelf later. You can also join so-called book hikes, in which a book is passed on to the next person after reading, so that it travels from person to person and hopefully gives you hours of joy.

Thanks to the corona lockdown (regardless of whether it is number one, two or five); we are forced to spend more time in our own four walls. You can have cabin fever and the furnishings lose their appeal. But isn’t this the perfect time for a self-painted picture that will be placed prominently over the sofa, as if you had bought it for several thousand euros in a gallery? Existing pieces of furniture can often be upcycled in a few simple steps and with little material and transformed into truly unique pieces. Each of us has seen at least one Ikea hack and thanks to YouTube and Pinterest there are no limits to the imagination of turning our own furniture catalog home into a dream house à la McGee & Co.

Not just consumption

However, lavish frugality is not just about shifting consumption to more sustainable and therefore cheaper alternatives. But to actively enjoy one’s life. Sit on a park bench with the first warm rays of sunshine with your homemade coffee and just watch people passing by? Having digital lunch breaks with your best friend or having a movie night with your loved one in the evening, including self-made popcorn. Why not just celebrate the nice idleness and sit on the balcony with a beautiful teacup (bought on eBay) and just read your favorite book again? Or treat yourself to a lush bouquet of self-plowed flowers.

Find the balance

In lavish frugality, one finds the balance between luxury and the essential. Instead of snacking on a pack of cookies every day (absolutely no problem in lockdown, trust me), just go to the patisserie and buy a wonderful, but sinful piece of cake. Alternatively, go to the trouble of strengthening your bed linen and ironing it, only to have the feeling of hotel bed linen in the evening when you slip under the sheets.

A cheap wine tastes much better from the crystal glasses bought at the flea market and you instantly feel like Lady Mary from Downton Abbey.

True luxury costs little or nothing – and you do not have to miss anything. It is enough if you think a little more about what kind of priorities you are setting. Even then, it is possible to behave freely and decadently at any time, even without overdrawing your own budget or painfully missing the missing millions in your bank account.

Lavish frugality means that you reinvent the rules for yourself, let yourself drift, create and develop without exploiting the environment and its available resources or having to miss anything.

Feel free to enjoy life to the fullest!

Guest Blogger: Julia

Check out Julia’s Blog: www.zeitistrelativ.com

Follow Julia on Instagram: @jezabel_botanica

Guest Post: The Power of the Internet – An Opinion on Assassination Nation

The internet is a two-faced jerk. It can make us feel loved and precious and hyped up to soaring heights, or it can leave us lonely and hated and at the absolute bottom of a bottomless pit of rage. It has the unique power to universally unite us as people. It has the historically unparalleled power of dividing us and creating problems where there were none before. And the extreme ambivalence I feel when thinking about this two-faced jerk results from the fact that embracing the good side means the acceptance of the bad side. As I open my door wide to the beautiful face of the internet, the ugly face sneaks in behind my back while me and the beautiful face hug it out in the doorway. I invite one face into my house, but both faces come in.

The internet’s good side is its magical power to connect people from all over the world. It enables me to see and hear things from remote cultures that I would otherwise never come in contact with, thus broadening my horizon, forming me into a more complete, more tolerant and educated being.

The internet enables me to share my creativity with others in the hopes of making their day a little bit better. And the very best thing about it is that entire generations can share their experiences with one another, be it through memes, or tweets, or TikToks, sending out into the world the very clear message that we all need to hear: you are not alone.

Especially now, in pandemic times, the internet and its ability to connect us are more important than ever. I know a video call with my friends will never replace their actual presence in my living room, but it offers me something of a reprieve until I can hug them in person again. And seeing my exact experience and feelings summed up in a meme created by someone from the other side of the world on Facebook reminds me, again, that I am not alone in this.

So the internet’s best side brings people together to create something beautiful. However, there is a dangerous downside. The troublesome thing is the reason why people get together, because it can be to share love or creativity, but it can also be in order to unite against someone else and ostracize them.

The internet’s bad side that piggybacks on the good side is the way in which it has changed the way we communicate with one another. It has completely deconstructed the notion of facts, as David Mitchell explained on the Graham Norton Show: thanks to the internet, the truth may never be recognized as such again. There is no certainty of factual evidence on the internet, because the internet has given everybody the chance to share their thoughts on any matter, and the result is an endless web of facts mingled with opinions that are then misunderstood as facts and again mingled with opinions until nobody can actually comprehend what is true and what is not. There is no way to share your thoughts without them being misconstrued by someone else, and that is one of the big downsides to the internet’s ability to give everybody a voice: people think that because they have the opportunity to express their opinion, their opinion is automatically important, and it is not. Your opinion on a subject needs to be informed, or it is completely useless, but this idea of information is rendered more and more obsolete.

The result of this desire to share your thoughts on any subject with anyone simply because the opportunity is there has led to what I would like to call audience entitlement. Everyone obviously is entitled to their thoughts and opinions. Your mind cannot be controlled, it is yours and yours alone. The problematic thing about the internet’s open platform of opinions, however, is that people appear to have developed the feeling that because they have an opinion, it needs to be listened to. And while this feeling of being entitled to an audience in itself might not be inherently problematic, it very much becomes so once it leads to what Joe Rogan once called “recreational outrage.” People become habitually upset about things they read on the internet and, thanks to their audience entitlement, share their outrage and demand it to be taken seriously. If enough people share their outrage about the same thing on social media, their combined outrage is bundled into a shitstorm. And there have been outrages that were completely justified. The internet pools and combines worldwide forces to fight against injustice and that is beautiful. The issue is that it has become habitual, recreational, for people to try and kickstart shitstorms. In the process, we become desensitized to our own outrage and its consequences. And this desensitization is the bad consequence of the beautiful unification of the people.

The bad is created out of the good, then. The question I have come to ask myself is: is the good created out of the bad? Do they condition one another, or is it a one-way street that ends in doom and destruction? I have to admit I am not sure I have a definite answer, but Sam Levinson’s 2018 film Assassination Nation opts for the pessimistic view that yes, it is a one-way street, yes, it does end in doom and destruction, and that is because it is human nature. It is the human way of handling things, and it has been since colonial times, if not before that.

The film uses the analogy of the witch hunt to make this drive to destroy explicit. The city in which the plot takes place is Salem, Massachusetts, which is historically known for the Salem Witch trials, during which women were burnt at the stake or otherwise executed over accusations of witchcraft that the accused failed to disprove. What the film makes clear through the connection created between the history of witch trials and the postmodern process of the online shitstorm is that both kinds of hunts are not about the accused’s actual culpability. They are about scapegoating.

In Assassination Nation, a group of teenaged girls are blamed for a hacker’s leak of personal information that concerns the entire town of Salem. The girls are actually innocent, but once the town has settled on them as the guilty parties, nobody cares to prove or disprove the assumption of their guilt. And as one Salem citizen after another becomes the victim of a shitstorm concerning their private data (now open for the whole world to see), these victims become the perpetrators of a new shitstorm, namely the hunt for witches. As the hunt for the four girls escalates into a massacre, people die, blood is spilt, and Salem becomes a battleground for a war that started online, but has entered the real world. The fascinating thing is that the film takes the idea of the recreational outrage of online shitstorms, which are a safe, sanitized form of hunting someone without ever having to actually face the victims, and places it in the analog world. An execution in the street is an online shitstorm taken to its logical extreme. As such, Assassination Nation is the satirical, over-the-top conclusion to the trend of online outrage. The internet brought us together for us to share love, but the film proposes that it inevitably transforms the world into an assassination nation.

I watched the film because I saw it in Amazon Prime, and I had no fleshed-out expectations; Wikipedia described it as a black comedy thriller, so I might have expected some laughs, but to be quite honest, it was a horror film to me. You can easily read Assassination Nation as a slasher, with the four girls at the center as the final girls and the entire town as the killers. Reading it like that makes the expectations heaved upon girls by patriarchal structures in the postmodern age even more explicit. The most horrific thing, however, must be the fact that these girls are innocent. They have done literally nothing to deserve the town’s persecution, and it does not matter at all. Nothing makes you feel powerless like telling the truth and being called a liar. The girls have the truth on their side, but we live in the age of alternative facts, so really, who cares? Apparently, we don’t want the truth. We just want someone to blame.

As such, I can’t really find humor in the film. It scares me too much. I am aware of its satirical exaggeration in the Tarantino-esque escalation of bloody violence, but it felt too real for me to be satire. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian described the film as “social media revenge porn,” which best describes what Assassination Nation presents to the audience: the consequences of lives lived on social media that then (literally) bleed into the real world. Ultimately, the film seems to suggest that the two forms of life (online and offline) do not mix. The intersection between online and offline is also a one-way street. The real world barely affects the online world, but the online world has massive consequences for the real world.

That being said, I really enjoyed Assassination Nation for its artful inclusion of social media into the medium of film. I always enjoy films that explore the limits of the medium, and the internet is so much a part of our lives that we will cease to exist without it.

Miri

Guest Blogger: Miri

Follow Miri on Instagram: @miri_mh8

Four TV Shows with Bad Fourth Seasons Part One

There appears to be a pattern in television entertainment that some series peak in their third season and then plummet in quality in the fourth. I am unsure of when I first noticed this pattern, but once I had recognized it in four of my favorite shows, I decided it was high time to think about it and possible causes and effects. So this is that. Beware, however, that I will talk about these shows in great detail, and not just their third and fourth seasons, but all of them. These “bad” seasons may not be that bad in isolation, so in order to explain what I mean when I call them bad, I have to compare them to the rest of their respective shows. So if you have not watched these shows, or have only watched up until the third season, there will be hard spoilers and you may not want to read. Let’s begin.

4. Teen Wolf

Oh, the beautiful mess that is Teen Wolf. Like two of the other shows on this list, Teen Wolf’s seasons vary in quality. The first season was nice, but still had a rather trashy look, and Tyler Posey as the lead was an undeniably mediocre actor—it didn’t help that his sidekick was Dylan O’Brien, who from his very first moment on screen outdid everybody so clearly it was almost embarrassing. Still, the show had a unique charm and so many beautiful people, I couldn’t stop watching. The second season was already a lot less trashy, but still featured some questionable ideas, such as letting the werewolves run on all fours while still in human form (an idea that looked so stupid it was thankfully abandoned after season 2). It did make some very good decisions, however, such as bringing back Peter, one of the funniest characters (and one who could provide a lot of friction). And then came the third season, which was the best season so far, the second-best season overall and definitely the scariest season. Stiles’s dream sequences in the second half were seriously uncanny, and the whole Nogitsune situation was body horror at its finest. It was exhilarating, complex, devoid of any trashiness, and the writers really went all out on emotional impact, as the death count in this season was higher than in any other. It would have been difficult to continue the series with something even better. But the fourth season made some serious mistakes, and in order to explore what went wrong, I’d like to say a few words on story arcs.

The story arcs of a TV show can span over one season and then be done, or they can be continued over the entire run of the series and be resolved (or not) after several seasons or even at the very end. The advantage of closing a story arc after one season is that it makes writing a season simpler: you present a problem/mystery at the end of the season premiere, and the problem/mystery is solved/revealed in the season finale. That structure gives the story arc a clear direction while still leaving room for interesting action. And if the stakes are high enough that the audience really cares for the problem to be solved and the mystery revealed, then this structure works. And it worked in season 4 of Teen Wolf. The stakes of finding the benefactor were very high, indeed, so lack of caring on the part of the audience was not the problem. The problem was the revelation of who the benefactor was. Seriously? Peter orchestrated the whole thing, but he did it while he was in a coma, so he didn’t remember, and then he stole his own money from himself, and Meredith, the traumatized reclusive, made it all happen? I mean, come on. It seems like the writers had a lot of fun constructing the plot for the season, lost sight of the time, and then had only five minutes left to come up with a resolution and realized they didn’t have one. The only possible resolution that could have been worse was that in the end it was all a dream. Gerard being the benefactor would have made more sense. Kate would have made more sense. Even Meredith on her own would have made more sense. Throw in the stupid idea of de-aged Derek and the convoluted side-plot in which Kate and Peter, the characters who arguably hate each other the most out of all the characters on the show, suddenly start working together, and the season was an overall failure.

It wasn’t all terrible, of course. There was the crucial introduction of some new characters after the numerous departures in the last season, there were some amazing fight scenes, Tyler Posey’s acting had considerably improved. But the main reason why Teen Wolf in only in fourth place, apart from the fact that its fourth season isn’t the worst fourth season on this list, is that the fifth season was much better, and almost as scary as season 3 (even if the writers seemed to have completely forgotten about Peter for an entire season, which admittedly was pretty weak). And the last season was the very best one, even if Dylan O’Brien was absent for a lot of it because of The Maze Runner. The drama of Stiles ceasing to exist, and the panic I felt when that happened, were gripping, and the series ended in the best possible way. After all the supernatural threats the McCall pack had to face, in the end the worst monster of all turned out to be the human being. It was just really good writing. So Teen Wolf’s fourth season was a dip in quality in the middle that it completely recovered from, ending the show on a high.

3. Community

Community is an outlier on this list for several reasons. First, it is a sitcom, not a drama series (and as hilarious as Teen Wolf is, it’s still a forty-minute-drama). Second, because of its difference in genre, it has a completely different structure in terms of story arc. While dramatic shows tend to tell stories that span over several episodes or even seasons, classic sitcom episodes function in a more self-contained way and rarely continue the main plot from one episode into the next one. Even though Community does exactly this at the end of season 2, the plot is only stretched over two episodes (A Fistful of Paintballs, and For a Few Paintballs More), and even between those two episodes, there is a significant tonal difference, as the first one is a homage to classic old Western films, while the second one makes clear and obvious references to Star Wars, complete with Storm Troopers and Abed’s Han Solo outfit. And third, it is the only series on this list with a constantly high quality that experienced only one decline: season 4. Now, first off, not all the episodes were terrible; I liked the Halloween episode, the Thanksgiving episode and the Inspecticon episode, and I thought the attempt at an origin story in the finale was nice. I didn’t hate the puppet episode as much as most do, either. But still, most of this season was dreadful, cringeworthy, and unfunny, most of all the abysmal body-switch episode. There is a clear tonal difference in this season compared to the others that I can’t quite pinpoint, but it is obvious that safe for Jeff, none of the characters develop or change in any way at all, and even Jeff’s change seems rather superficial considering the fact that the half-brother he meets and connects with in the Thanksgiving episode never appears again. The paintball episode was a nice try, but really what the writers did there was an attempt to recapture the brilliance of Remedial Chaos Theory (without question the best episode of the entire show and maybe the best episode of any sitcom ever) that was doomed to fail because they didn’t get it at all. The season 3 episode Remedial Chaos Theory explores seven different possibilities of what could happen, and it uses the roll of a die to lead us through the different timelines. The brilliance of Remedial Chaos Theory is that all of the different timelines actually happened, and all of them gave us as the audience valuable information about every single character. And in the season 4 paintball episode, despite the nice reference to Terminator, nothing actually happens, it is all in Jeff’s head, and the re-introduction of the die made no sense and had no effect, not to mention we didn’t learn anything about anyone.

The reason why this season was so bad is well-known and seated behind the scenes. For some stupid reason, Dan Harmon, the creator and mad genius behind Community (and nowadays, Rick and Morty), was fired after season 3, and then apparently NBC thought anyone could do what Harmon can and hired some replacements for him who wanted to capture the humor and tone of the show and epically failed. In addition, Chevy Chase wanted to leave the show, and that resulted in a lot of scenes where Pierce just wasn’t there and the remaining characters had to laboriously explain his absences. That alone disturbed the comedic rhythm enough that the audience had to notice something was off. And because it must have been so obvious that the show’s quality was rapidly declining, and because the cast complained about Harmon’s departure, Harmon was rehired for season 5, in which Community finally felt like Community again. That season had the most insane episodes—the one where the floor is lava, the MeowMeowBeenz episode (the idea of which allegedly Black Mirror stole for one of its own episodes), and G.I. Jeff. Of course, this season suffered from the departure of Donald Glover, but Harmon turned this massive change into an important character development for Abed. And despite NBC cancelling the show after season 5 and Yahoo!Screen picking it up for a sixth season (and plunging into financial ruin because of it), the last season is beautiful and hilarious and the finale was a real heartbreaker. And as Community has always been extremely self-aware, the finale even contains a reference to the low quality of the fourth season: when Abed mentions the fourth year (the fourth season), Chang farts and then explains that “it’s an inside joke.” May season 4 of Community function as a warning for anyone who thinks humor is easy to replicate.

Part Two coming this Thursday…

Author: Miriam (@miri_mh8)

The 3 Best Non-English TV Shows – Guest Entry by Miri

What’s up folks?

This is Miri. The last couple of years I have always been on the lookout for new, exciting TV dramas, and, as we all know, the best (or, at the very least, the most) entertainment is still produced in the US and Britain. However, there are a few golden pieces of TV I’ve come across that may completely escape the English-speaking viewers. Of course, being able to watch something in its original form, without dubbing or subtitles, is always the most rewarding, but trust me when I tell you that for the three shows I will introduce to you, dubbing and/or subtitles will not ruin the fun.

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No.3: Gomorra – La Serie

Gomorra is an Italian TV series produced by Sky about the mafia in Naples, Italy. The show is based on the nonfiction book by Roberto Saviano, who infiltrated the Camorra (the mafia’s local name) and published names of important people and detailed information on the organization’s illegal operations. Saviano’s book was so close to the truth that he has had to live with a constant protection detail due to threats. Herein lies the series’ biggest advantage as well as its biggest flaw. The stories told are so realistic and so sinister they not only make for prime entertainment, but they also serve as a constant reminder that what we see here is not fiction but bitter reality; this knowledge creates an intense viewing experience. Because of its realism, however, we have no one to identify with. Everyone is evil, no character is likable. Every person portrayed in-depth is either a hateful, cruel beast of a human, or an innocent soon to be killed. That is reality in the mafia, and that makes the show hard to watch, so those who like gritty crime shows with hero figures may be disappointed or confused. We are constantly reminded that we are not watching standard, easily digestible TV because of the violence that always undercuts each scene, every piece of dialogue, always threatening to break out. Everybody is fair game, no one is safe, not even little children.

So why is this show worthy of your time? For one, it is something that needed to be made to expose the violence that exists day to day to a broader audience. The people live with fear, the young kids grow up believing that they will never get out of their parts of the city. Honest jobs are rare, so if you need money, you have to turn to crime. The show brilliantly portrays the way in which the kids in Secondigliano take the crime and cruelty for granted, even emulate what they see in their childish games.

Also, and we as viewers should never take this for granted, Gomorra is incredibly well-made. The cinematography is stunning, especially in the third season, where every frame would be worthy of being hung on a wall as a piece of art. The original score is haunting and creates a unique atmosphere. In these gorgeous images, we see devastation and beauty exist side by side.

Lastly, the characters may be unlikable, but they are strong and interesting and captured in amazing performances by talented actors. The show has been renewed for a fourth season set to air next year, and I cannot possibly imagine what may happen next, but the first three seasons all centered on the relationship between Ciro di Marzio and Gennaro Savastano. There is an entire army of characters, including some strong women, but Ciro and Gennaro and their connection with one another has driven the show forward. It is brutal, and disgusting, and beautiful all at once.

No. 2: Deutschland 83

Everybody in Germany who loves great TV entertainment has had to turn their backs on German TV productions. Most shows produced in Germany, by Germans, for a German audience, are not very good, and every German will agree with me, I’m sure. I think the problem is that the German networks are, on the one hand, very hesitant to allow change (which is why, when Breaking Bad was aired on free TV, it was hidden in a very small channel Saturdays at 10 pm). Experiments are never welcomed with open arms. On the other hand, the prime networks probably think we, the viewers, are stupid. They do not seem to have a lot of faith in our comprehensive abilities. These issues make it all the more astounding that such a show as Deutschland 83 exists at all. It is a well-written, intelligent, thrilling show about the tensions between East and West Germany in the 1980s. Martin Rauch, a young man who firmly believes in the government of East Germany, is forced to go undercover for the Stasi in West Germany, posing as a soldier named Moritz Stamm. The real Moritz has been killed to make room for Martin. Suddenly, Martin is ripped out of his safe, relatively comfortable existence with his sick mother and his (unfaithful) girlfriend and thrust into the colorful world of West Germany, where all the restrictions and trade embargos on American merchandise of the East do not exist. But Martin also continuously risks his life for his country, spying on the West, stealing important data, only barely escaping from being discovered. The stakes are high, as would be the punishment for treason.

Deutschland 83 thus manages to combine history lessons on East and West tensions and the Cold War with a genuinely thrilling espionage story. The actors are amazing, and the soundtrack includes some of the best songs from the 80s. What makes this show so entrancing, however, is the development the main character undergoes over the course of the episodes. Martin starts as a rather naïve young man who firmly believes in his government’s values, that East Germany is right and everybody else is wrong. When he is forced to go undercover in the West, he refuses at first, but with a few patriotic lines, his Stasi handlers, who include his aunt, manage to convince him that what he is doing is “the right thing.” This serves as one example of how fanatic patriotism is akin to brainwashing. And the longer Martin works for the Stasi, the more ruthless he gets, until even human lives seem to pale in significance compared to his mission. Subtly fused into the compelling thriller is the story of how one finds his or her identity, sometimes by consciously turning away from what you know. The show is also very well-made, as lighting and editing basically scream American TV standards. And, indeed, it is a co-production between German network RTL and the AMC. If only we could have more collaborations such as this one. A second season is supposed to be coming this year, and I can only hope that t will be able to compete with the first one.

No. 1: Bron/Broen

The Bridge is a Scandinavian crime drama I discovered on accident while I was browsing articles for my bachelor’s thesis. The pilot episode begins with a female murder victim on the Øresund Bridge, a bridge that is 5 miles long and provides a direct connection between Denmark and Sweden. The body discovered has been placed exactly at the junction of the bridge where the official border between Danish and Swedish territory runs, even though the border crossing is not marked on the bridge. Also, the body of the victim is cut in half, one half each lying on Danish and Swedish territory. As the upper half is immediately identified as belonging to a known Swedish citizen, the Swedish police claims the case as theirs. On closer inspection, however, it turns out that the lower half of the body belongs to another victim, making it two cases of murder. The lower half is discovered to be that of a Danish woman, and thus a cooperation between Swedish and Danish police forces becomes necessary. The bridge obviously stands in for more than just a geographical connection between two places; it also symbolizes the cooperation between two nations, as well as the language gap that is artfully bridged in the show. The original title, Bron/Broen, means “bridge” in Swedish and Danish, respectively. As I do not speak Swedish, or Danish, I watched the show in German, so the language barriers that the characters may encounter at times was completely lost on me, but I do know that when the Danish characters speak, there are Swedish subtitles, so the language definitely factors into the viewing experience for native Scandinavian audiences.

Even without the language barrier, however, the show makes for a unique experience. In part this is due to the clearly Scandinavian crime thriller vibe. Muted colors, sparse lighting, and imaginative murders create an oppressive, sinister atmosphere that provides a welcome distraction for those viewers who are tired of polished, over-produced shows where everybody looks pretty and the bad guy is always apprehended. This is one thing The Bridge has in common with Gomorra: there can be no happy ending. The bad guy is never caught, or if he is, he has been caught too late.

What really makes this show worthwhile is its main character: Såga Norén, homicide detective in Malmö, is the strong female lead women have been waiting for. Interestingly, she is the antithesis of what societal norms predetermine a woman should be. An excellent detective, extremely intelligent, with an almost perfect memory, Såga is incapable of understanding social cues and engaging with other people on an emotional level, which makes her come across as cold and rude in the beginning. Once the audience gets closer to her, it becomes clear that she must have some form of Asperger’s Syndrome, and although she has never been diagnosed, Såga herself is aware, as she says at one point, that she is “not normal.” She never tries to hide this fact about herself, however, which gives her a range of freedom in social interactions others can only dream of: not inhibited by the unwritten rules of “proper” conduct, Såga has sex whenever she wants, with whomever she wants to have it, without ever coming across as anything but self-assured and determined. On the downside, her condition, and the love she has for her job, make her incapable of maintaining relationships, and she has a hard time finding, and keeping, friendship. Såga’s job is her life. Not interested in hobbies, police work is all her life consists of. We learn more about her tragic backstory as the seasons progress, and it fits right into the sinister mood of the show. Basically, if you love Scandinavian crime thrillers and strong female lead characters, this show is an absolute must. I am currently waiting for the fourth, and final, season to arrive on Netflix, because I would really like to see how Såga’s story concludes. If you have the opportunity, just watch it. It is time well spent.

Do you know any non-English TV shows that would be worth watching? I would love to hear some suggestions. Also, follow me on Instagram if you want: miri_mh8

How to find your passion project when you have no idea what to do with your life – Guest Blogger Stephanie Vivienne

Have you ever felt that you weren’t achieving great things in life? That’s exactly what I, and many others, have contemplated about in the wee hours of the morning. You aren’t the only one going through this so read on as I tell you that there IS a way out of this. The way out is through finding your passion project.

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So, what is a passion project?

It is exactly as it reads.

It is a project that you are passionate about. If I told you that you can only do one thing in your life, what would it be? That would be your passion project. It could be blogging, starting your own business, writing a book, or volunteering, along with many other things. Finding your passion project can be difficult but don’t fret as I will show you some of my tips on how you can find your passion project when you have no idea what you want to do with your life.

Figure out what you enjoy

This is my number one tip. Figuring out what makes you tick is crucial to finding your passion project. Without passion, it is merely a project. What do you love? What makes you spring out of bed at dawn?

For me, I enjoy a lot of things, most of which are what many classify as “introvert-type activities”. I enjoy reading books, writing, photography, social media, playing computer games, and working as an entrepreneur. Those are the things that make me tick. What are yours?

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Photo by Stephanie Vivienne

You can have multiple passion projects

You aren’t restricted to only one passion project, you can have many. One day, you might feel like working on one project, another you might want to work on another, or if you’re super savvy with time management, you can spend blocks of time a day working on your different passion projects. If you want to focus on one passion project only, then go for it!

Everyone has different interests and work ethic. You do you.

Get inspired by people around you

If you really have no idea what you want to do, get inspired by the people around you, whether in real life or on social media.

See what others are doing and it might spark a lightbulb. In saying that, this doesn’t mean you are copying them, unless you are blatantly copying them exactly. That’s a no-no. Getting ideas from the world around us is perfectly normal. What makes each idea different is the person behind the idea and how he/she can make it reflect themselves.

Now my challenge to you is to find your passion project and let me know what it is! You can catch me on my blog (www.stephanievivienne.com) or chat over on my Twitter (@steph_vivienne) and Instagram (@theworldofpixels).