Alice Hoffman – The Museum of Extraordinary Things

Hoffman has this brilliant ability to create vivid worlds in her novels, and she does exactly that in The Museum of Extraordinary things. She gives the reader a beautifully written description of life on Coney Island in the early 20th Century. While reading you find yourself stood on the board walk with your senses alive, you can smell the hot dogs, hear the screams of carnival goers, you will find yourself so immersed in this world it will be hard to come back as the words roll off your tongue. However, this vivid world does come at an emotional cost. The story is based around two real fires Coney Island suffered in the early 1900’s. The first fire was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. Almost 150 people perished due to a locked door and malfunctioning sprinklers. The second fire was the Dreamland fire of 1911. It destroyed most of Coney Island. The screams of joy soon turn into screams of anguish and it is hard to read without being punched in the face by the fist of sorrow. this beautifully crafted world soon becomes a nightmare.

The story follows Coralie Sardie, her father owns The Museum of Extraordinary, a freak show on the Coney Island board walk. Coralie’s father shelters her from the world for most of her life, however, when she turns ten he exploits her as a mermaid and uses her deformity to attract the very world he shelters her from. The story also follows Eddie. Eddie moved to America with his religious father and moves away to pursue his own dreams as a photographer. After photographing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he meets Coralie, a beautiful and interesting young woman. They both become tangled in a dark world as they investigate the disappearance of a woman.

The story is beautifully crafted, however it can be quite depressing. Along with the fires, there are parents who sell their children, animal cruelty and any characters that are good and honest people have a backstory that will break your heart. Hoffman’s skill of description will take you on a journey you will never forget. From the fires to the heartfelt love story between Eddie and Coralie, this emotional roller-coaster is hard to get out of. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a beautiful, depressing and vivid story that will be hard for you to put down.

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Why I Am Not A …

Why I Am Not A Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have SARDINES in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s SARDINES?”
All that’s left is just
letters, “It was too much,” Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called SARDINES.

Frank O’Hara

This is one of my favorite poems. I first came across this poem when flicking through a book on post-modern American poetry and I think it fits well with video art.

Daisies (1966)

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Dasies (1966) Short Review

Daisies is a stylish Czechoslovakian comedy-drama film written and directed by Věra Chytilová in 1966. The avant-garde film follows two extremely annoying and destructive teenage girls named Marie, who are on a journey of self discovery as they decide to become ‘bad’. The girls played by Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová engage in playing a series of ridiculously strange pranks because they believe that the world is ‘spoilt.’ The film is okay and can be quite funny at times, however the repetitive gags and jokes quickly become quite tedious and boring to the point of where you find yourself looking at your watch and thinking of ways to escape. I found myself looking for a spoon with the intention of digging my way out half way through this drole (Irish meaning) 74 minute film. The experimental film is filled with 1960’s feminist propaganda, anarchistic colour, balmy attempts at comedy, juvenile pranks, a narrative that feels like a hacksaw to the skull and a ridiculous plot that doesn’t make sense. The film is quite bold in terms of colour as it uses a range of psychedelic techniques that makes the film very colourful and nice to look at. It also uses a range of shots in black and white that competes with the colour to resemble the corrupt and spoilt world Marie and Marie live in. The use of fresh and decaying fruit tends to be a recurring theme. It starts with an apple tree in a field which would resemble the tree of life from the Garden of Eden. Marie takes a bite of the ‘forbidden fruit’ just as she decides she wants to be bad the scene then cuts to the two adolescents lying on a bed full of fresh and rotten apples. There is also a recurring theme of wastefulness as a direct protest against consumerism and materialism. The final scene of the film made such an impact that it was banned for over a year until being branded as a milestone in New Wave cinema. Overall the film is pretty for the eye, but for the ears it is a nightmare. The characters are far too annoying and the story doesn’t make sense. Its a shame they are crushed at the end of the film and not at the beginning. Dasies is a bold statement, but is seriously lacking in interest as it gets very boring very quickly. Most of the screening time is watching the two abnormal teens stuffing their face with food. In fact the picture above describes the whole film. 4/10

The Irony of Horror

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Horror, to me is pretty ironic because the genre has unfortunately died out. Nothing shocks people anymore, makes them scream or have nightmares. Every horror film seems to be the same. I mean, some have tried to resuscitate it, like those from Blumhouse Productions, but nobody seems to be able to recreate the effect it had on people back when films like The Exorcist were released. Personally, (and this is a very biased post) I really do believe that nobody will bring the genre back. Nothing original has been released since the classics and this really upsets me. I love a good horror film, when I was a kid I used to stay up late to watch them. Back then, they had a huge effect on me. They scared me. Maybe horror films should be made with the intention to scare children?

 I want to see something completely different and horrifying, maybe not The Human Centipede horrifying, but something that makes my bones shake. I really enjoy classic Japanese horror. Things like the original Grudge or The Ring are great. The Japanese seem to have a good grasp on horror. Well maybe not so much horror, but definitely an imitation of it. I think I may do a little research and try to recreate a short horror in the style of an old Japanese classic. The Japanese have some excellent cultural stories and it would be good to turn one of those into a short three minute horror.

But that is the irony of horror, horror is dead. Only this time, I don’t think it is coming back to life.