Friday, 28 November 2014

Creepy Reads Review: The homecoming by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Dave McKean

In November's Creepy Reads Review I am going to introduce a short story by Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). Bradbury's best known work is Fahrenheit 451, a novel that describes a dystopian society, in which books are considered dangerous and are therefore outlawed. I shall not talk about it any longer but it is a classic when it comes to novels describing fictive dark futures. The short story of Bradbury I am going to write about is The homecoming, which was first published 1946, though I have a copy published in 2006. The homecoming is a tale for both adults and children thanks to its universal themes and almost poetry-like language and of coarse pictures; this new edition I have is illustrated by Dave McKean, a well known artist.

You are probably familiar with the illustrator's other works especially the ones in which Neil Gaiman has also been participating. Dave McKean has for example made the cover for Neil Gaiman's Coraline, and McKean has directed MirrorMask (screenplay by Gaiman) and he has made a lot of art (covers, illustrations and so on) for Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels. He was also a concept artist in two Harry Potter movies.

The main character of The homecoming is a 10-year-old Timothy, who is the only human member of a family of ghouls. It is All Hallows' Eve and all the creepy and odd family members are coming to celebrate together at the home of Timothy's parents. The story is about a heartbreaking situation of a little boy, longing to belong but realizing his own difference. I really like this set-up, because usually goth-y stories are about the spooky one (a teenage werewolf or a vampire), who is different in the creepy and alluring way the readers would like to be themselves.

Many goths and other darkly inclined people like mythical horror creatures and would like them to be true. In The homecoming those creatures are true but the poor protagonist still can't be completely included into the creatures' dark world or to really take part in all the activities of the huge party on All Hallows' Eve. He is not even sure if he really wants to be exactly like others. Though Timothy loves his family, his little pounding heart allows him to see the sun, which he loves too.

This short story reminds us that you can't have everything you want and more importantly, all things you want are not good for you.

Another big theme beside the theme of "not belonging" is death. The story is also about Timothy realizing his own mortality in a family of ghouls. His blood circulation is the sign of life and also of the inevitable death. By accepting his fundamental difference, Timothy can come in terms with his own mortality and even more importantly, by accepting his own mortality, which makes him different, he can also belong. With the mortality Timothy also finds that part of himself that is same with the other family members and allows him to participate to ghoulish life, even if just for a fleeting moment.

Thanks for reading my review, I hope some of you get inspired and if you see The homecoming somewhere, you'll grab it and read it!

Monday, 24 November 2014

100th post: DIY ideas for a werewolf party

This is my 100th post and I am quite excited about it! Though I am more excited about that I have such nice people reading my posts and commenting them. ^___^

"Down the corridor, werewolves!"

This post is not only about being the hundredth post, I am going to give some "DIY" tips for a party themed as "Lycanthropy" or "Werewolves". Last week I had my birthday party with that theme for my university student friends. Because I temporarily live 200 kilometers away from those friends, I could not have the party in my home but luckily a friend let me have the party at her place.

Since I had to travel to my university city in the morning, collect the key to the apartment from the friend (she was at work till 18 o'clock), buy the ingredients for food and punch and then go to the apartment and work in a strange kitchen, I would not want to do anything too difficult that might flop, nor could I spend hours and hours to make really nice and theme related snacks, so here is what I made fast and easy:

A classic Halloween snack is fitting for hungry werewolves, don't you think? I obeyed this recipe. Though, I did not obey it while actually making the fingers and accidentally I cooked for too long at least half the sausages and they just looked like they exploded. I still managed to make a decent amount of fingers and people thought they were funny yet yucky.

Moon cookies
Now, they are just plain oat biscuits bought from the store, and I think they are mimicking full moon rather poorly. If I have a party with this theme again, I shall make better moon biscuits.

Blood red punch
I decided to make a variation of a recipe for instant sangria. This meant vodka, red wine, coca-cola, and sprite. I can't tell the exact amounts I used because I just added them until it tasted and looked good. I think I added about 3/5 of wine, then 1/5 of each lemonade and then a splash of vodka. I had asked my friend to make some ice hearts for the punch with my heart shaped mold, since certainly werewolves like some human hearts! Unfortunately the weren't that visible in dark fluid but that's not such a big deal.

Chips and gore dip
Also known as boring and plain chips and salsa dip. :D

A hungry werewolf gnawing a finger

Then we are off to the more or less DIY ideas. I do realize some of these are not really DIY crafty stuff but they are ideas others can be inspired by, so what the heck!

"Looking for lycanthropes? One floor up!"
If I could have had the opportunity to drag a couple of video projectors to the place, I would have used them as lighting; I would have put old black and white Wolf Man movies on loop, muted, and projected on walls. Alas, I had no video projectors so the movies were on television as the playlist was playing as a weird soundtrack both to the party and to the movies.

Guiding notes are handy, especially if all guests have not been in the place party is held and the place is situated in a block of flats or some other maze.

It is preferable, that the notes are according to the theme of the party, so I had a couple of notes in the outdoors of the building. There were two doors, one on floor zero and the other on floor one, so the picture above was on the other door and the picture you can see in the beginning of this post was on the other door. They stated to the guests, which way to go.

This photo on the left of a note is from the door of my friend's apartment, because not all guests knew this was not actually my apartment and therefore my name would not be on the door. I thought this would make things less confusing. Do click photos for larger view, the one on the left is a quote from the old The Wolf Man movie. I have also smeared some fake blood on the note to give a little color. I got to admit, I like the stuff! I've had that particular bottle of fake blood for four years now and half of the content is still there! It is also easy to wash off skin and clothes.

Dressing according to the theme was encouraged among the guests and I am happy to say many were inspired. We had awesome werewolves, a moonbeam and even Sam and Dean Winchester of Supernatural, though luckily they had their day off.

Do you guys watch Supernatural?

Moonbeam and Wolf
Here is the moonbeam, with her slightly green moon. There is also a little werewolf, excited of the friend from the skies. These awesome two ladies with two other equally awesome ladies, who just are not in the picture, had given me as a present a bottle of red wine with a picture of a sheep on the label and a pack of bacon, because a wolf needs her vitamins!

The tails
For my own outfit, I had bought a fur collar made of two tails from an internet auction. I separated the tails and used one myself. I wondered for a while, if I should make ears out of old leather mittens, but decided they would probably not match with my tail.

I was slightly amused that in the advertise of the fur collar it stated that the product is "probably genuine mink". Really? With that long hair? Had this person ever seen a mink or a coat made of them? It doesn't take long to google "mink"... Well, it doesn't really matter, because I found it and thought it would fit my party theme. It was also lucky that the seller did not want ridiculous amounts of money of this "mink" fur.

I realized it would be awkward, if I would put wolf make-up on my hands and then fuss with the foods. My costume was not that special, I did not manage to make a good wolf make-up to my, so I just made my self look creepy. :D You can see it in the end of this post. I had the old skull of a brown hare stitched to a flower as a hair piece.

To entertain my guests, I held a quiz concerning werewolves. A couple of questions were for example "from what year is the first The Wolf Man movie?" and "In what werewolf movies did Bela Lugosi have a role?" I asked people to round up teams of three or four people, because there would be prizes.

The winning team got black candles and little jars filled with all the ingredients one needs to turn oneself into a wolf! Wolf's blood and magical herbs, that is. Or, at least something that will look cool around their neck, even if they do not start to sprout fur and fangs.

I bought some twine and the little plastic bottles from a local arts & crafts store Sinelli, unfortunately they did not have miniature jars of glass with real cork but these did just fine.

I then filled two with fake blood from a costume shop and then put some glue on the neck of the bottle before putting the cork on, to make sure the little bottles are well closed. It would be awkward, if a bottle started to ooze on an innocent guest and a winner of the quiz, even though that fake blood fades away pretty well from the clothes in the washing machine.

Then I gathered some natural elements (also known as twigs, blueberry shrubs and lichen) from the woods nearby, dried them and filled the other two bottles. I also put in some black pepper.

Final photos are of my outfit, I am oddly twisted so that my tail is seen and there is a good reason why I look a bit distressed; there is a close relative hanging on the wall!

That's about it! Those were my DIY ideas for partying like a werewolf. I had a really lovely birthday party, my friends were awesome and considerate, participating into the theme and giving me amazing and funny birthday gifts.

Thanks for reading and my next post is going to be about a short story by Ray Bradbury!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

CorpGoth Status Report: My commute

First I was not going to participate, because I did not remember to take photos on my route and I only go to the university once a week nowadays. This also is my 99th post and I had already scheduled one and made preparations for my 100th post but now I'll just reschedule the 99th to be 101st!

To the actual report: As I explained, I only go to the university once a week and not even every week, because I am doing my master's thesis. So I live 200 kilometers away due to several reasons and that means once a week I travel two hours in the morning by train and two hours back in the evening or the next morning. My seminar meetings are usually on Thursdays and on Thursdays there are often some student parties. :3 So, I'll stay over at friend's and we go to the party together.

This travelling for two hours is actually really great, because while sitting in a train I get done enormous amounts of reading of theory books. Depending of the day, how much I make notes and how interesting the writing is, I read 50-100 pages on one trip. Two hours in the morning is my "high-performance time" which is the time I am most active, I think better and get things done.

You can probably guess my subject from the photos. My thesis is going to be about grotesque and I am really excited about it!

When I sit and read, I rarely look out of the window. One day I finished my book early and spent the last hour listening music and looking at the view. I was slightly disturbed by the fact that I did not recognize most areas the train went by. Don't know if it is a good thing or not.

Thanks for reading my rather small report of the local commute and do click the Status Report Icon to go and read other participants' posts too!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Gothic Art in Spotlight: Kim Simonsson's creepy sculptures

In November's Gothic Art in Spotlight I am going to write about Kim Simonsson's creepy yet witty sculptures. I first saw some of them in an exhibition in Helsinki 2013 and again today in an exhibition in Lahti, which is another Finnish city. That exhibition is open till 18th of January 2015 and Lahti is situated an hour drive or a train journey away from Helsinki. If somebody is visiting Helsinki in near future, it would be easy to go and check the exhibition in Lahti too.

"Lisa and Louise" just like in The Shining!

Simonsson is a distinguished artist, he was nominated as the Young Artist of the Year 2004. He has had several exhibitions, for example in the world contemporary ceramics exhibition, "Trans Ceramic Art" in Korea 2005 and a review of his art has been published in the webpage of New York Times.

How to describe the works of Simonsson? Cuteness of the statues is combined with subtle or sudden cruelty. The dark eyes of the statues can start to look more and more maleficent the longer one stares them. There are also macabre statues positioned next to the cute and innocent, like the black pile of dead deer titled "Bad Shepherd". Bad Shepherd was not in the exhibition in Lahti but there was a composition named "Deer Boy". At first those little animals seem to be sleeping but their fur is all worn out and they look more dead to me at lest.

Not so spooky from behind, I guess.

Getting creepier.

Lighted close-up to show the weariness.

As if the boy is suffocating it with his boot!

In the exhibition a year ago the statues were strictly ceramics with paint and occasional silvered glass. In today's exhibition I saw new sculptures coated with nylon thread. If I understood correctly, electricity is used to make this beautiful green:

"Moss Girl"

 The next is one of my favourites, the "Killer of Swan-Snake". As you can see, this small child has ripped off the head of the creature.

I do apologize the quality of photos, once again I had only my phone with me, not a proper camera. :(

On Simonsson's webpage reads that "[H]e combines the innocent with an odd agenda" which I think is a very accurate way to define the statues of manga-like children. There is something estranging in those statues of children and animals.

I think that is also the very essence of today's gothic aesthetics; feeling alienated from the "normal" world and sinking willingly into the estrange.