Posted in Art

An Answer to A Woman’s Cry of Help

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Artwork by İlayda Üstel

This awesome piece of artwork belongs to one of my friends from school İlayda. I fell in love with  it the moment I saw it, no exaggerating here (I actually have a print out which is framed and positioned near my favourite books). So I wanted to write an entry about it and hope it will actually live up to her art’s standards! The reason I wanted to write about it now, instead of in october (that’s when she showed me) is that I had this response paper for my Victorian Literature class and I had to write about a decorative item that I had at home and try to look at it the way John Ruskin would have if he were alive to it. I wanted to use something hand-made and perfect in its imperfectness, something Ruskin would definitely love and that inspired me to write a bit about it on here as well.

At first this may not make any sense to the onlooker-and before İlayda told me what it was about I was like “Oh-kay what is this?” Let me give you a hint: this is her take on Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” (which is one of my favorites and totally devastated me when I first read it back in high school). Those who have read it, are probably nodding now and realizing what every little detail may symbolize. For those who haven’t read it, well I might as well give a short summary. “The Lottery” is about a tradition of a village to ensure a good harvest although there are communities who have started to stop doing it. Nevertheless, on the day of the lottery people gather around and every head of a household has to draw a piece of paper from a black box. The household of the one who has the paper with a black dot on, has to draw again. So Bill Hutchinson draws the black dotted paper and then his wife Tessie. Then they let the paper fly off in the wind, pick up Tessie and *spoiler alert* stone her to death. I am not going to comment on the story though. There are so many good papers written on what it means, what every individual detail symbolizes. I don’t think that I have something more to add. So now, after the plot summary the painting (is it a painting though İlayda?) makes more sense I believe. That hand that we see there in the middle is clearly Tessie Hutchinson’s (although at first I thought it to be Bill’s, but Tessie makes much more sense) although it is not particularly a feminine hand (don’t really know how would that be but….) so that creates the ambiguity. We could be standing in the shoes of either Bill or Tessie and that fluidity kind of accepts all sorts onlookers, which is nice. Also, if this is Tessie’s hand it looks rough from working and by that I may say that the artist is showing us the hardships of the village, rural life especially on women. The hard work does not differentiate, it is hard for all of the genders. I also love the fact that she chose to focus on Tessie instead of the spectacle. This work is almost a recognition of Tessie’s final cry of help. While her fellow villagers fail to hear her, here the artist hears her weak solitary voice and through her work she keeps Tessie alive (going a bit Sonnet 18 here but isn’t that what art does though?).

I also like the background. It is mainly gray, representing the gloom that is awaiting Tessie, and blue, representing the cheerful summer day (June 27), but I like the addition of pink in the middle. It may represent the life and liveliness of Tessie, but it is a very light shade of red which can mean that her life is fading away. The juxtaposition of warm and cool colors also reflect the mood of the village. First we have children running around, gathering rocks and having fun and then we immediately shift to a scene of death. This sudden and unexpected nature of her death is captured by the (what I consider them to be) shiny blood drips. They also shocking and in your face, the artist here clearly criticized the shocking outcome of the draw and how people just go with it and turn it into a mob violence without even considering. I picture Tessie here as laying on the ground, being stoned to death-because of the stones scattered around the hand-and she is still clutching the piece of paper that changed her life while her life is slipping away. We see her in her last moments and that can be why her hand is see-through and not entirely material.

I have a lot more to say about both the story (if you haven’t read it yet, please go and do so it is not that long) and the art work, but I want to finish of by saying how I love the fact that the painting gives away nothing regarding the plot. This is a simple but thoughtful and brilliant way of picturing the story-it is simply genius. That is why I love it so much, besides the fact that it physically just looks good, you can see new details and make new connections to the story and ask new questions. So I personally thank you İlayda for creating this!

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Posted in Movie

Fantastic Spinoffs and Where to Watch Them

BEWARE! FANTASTIC SPOILERS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM (I really don’t know what people consider as spoiler)

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I could only wait for two days before writing about “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” I have to say, I had my prejudices against it way before it was filmed. I felt like (still kinda feel like) Rowling was turning “the world of Harry Potter” into one of those franchises that go on and on for more money. Don’t get me wrong, when I first heard that there was gonna be a spinoff, I was really excited. It could be about the marauders, the rise of Voldemort, the founding of Hogwarts or even next generation. So the idea of Harry’s textbook turning into a whole new series did not really sit well with me. Although I have to say, the atmosphere was awesome, there even were people in cloaks (Me? I wore my Weasley sweater and Gryffindor scarf-the stuff for Fantastic Beast is scarce right now, fingers crossed for upcoming collectibles). The energy was also high, the whole theatre laughed at the same time, everyone was obviously Harry Potter fans (based on their age and accessory) and everyone was discussing and speculating during the ten minute break. At this point I think it is pretty safe to say that the Potter Fandom is back for good!

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I did my homework before watching the movie, that is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the one under The Creature Vault

First of all, let’s get something straight: this is not a prequel to the series but a spinoff. The difference between those is that, prequel tells the story of what had happened previous to the plot whereas spinoff is having another character/story line that was mentioned in the original plot and building upon it. Hence we see Newt Scamander, who was only mentioned as an author in the series, as a fully developed character at the beginning of his real career (he normally works for Ministry of Magic) in 1926. I couldn’t really picture how they could turn the story of a man who dedicated his life to beasts, beings and spirits (oh, believe me there is a difference) into not one, not three but five movies (so my first spoiler: there will be four more movies). There, Rowling as a writer comes into the picture thankfully (she was the one who wrote the screenplay) and you can see her penmanship in some scenes (Newt’s mating dance was certainly one of those. I can picture her writing it down). That also means that we will have a nice plot that does not have various plot holes and stupidity (I am looking at Cursed Child here). Although it is based on Newt’s adventures, the side plot, the rise of Grindelwald to power, is pretty exciting since we haven’t really read much on it. We see him in America, trying to recruit followers slyly (and the symbol for the deathly hallows makes an appearance). I don’t know in which movie it will be, but we will definitely see a showdown between Dumbledore and Grindelwald and from Rowling’s own writing, I am sure that it will be magical. (at this point I may as well admit to it, YES I loved the movie) Untitled.pngBut for now what  I can only say is how awesome Johnny Depp looks as Gellert Grindelwald in his cameo. He is a little bit old for the Grindelwald I had in mind, though it is based on the younger movie version. Considering Dumbledore’s age, Depp’s looks are pretty accurate. He looks like the sophisticated yet murderous villain in the end of the movie (his one and only appearance in the first movie) and adding his acting skills, I am sure that he will create a unique take on Grindelwald and make us love it.

The beasts were simply, for a lack of a better term, magical. When I read Fantastic Beasts at home, I really couldn’t picture them, thank Merlin we have technology! There is nothing I can say against the representation of them-I absolutely especially loved the thunderbird (which happens to be my house in Ilvermorny). There is one inconsistency though, in the preface of his book Scamander states that there are 75 beasts he was able to include in the 52nd edition, however we encounter species in Fantastic Beasts movie that were not listed in the book which were the swooping evil, thunderbird and nundu. And from what I have seen, we will encounter many more that were not originally listed. Let me just mention the first photograph above before I forget. That is the suitcase of Newt which is full of beasts (that part is also problematic. You see he carries their habitats in them. Is that even possible? Sure with an undetectable extension charm you can carry loads of things but isn’t there a limit to it? Add this to the questions I would like to as Rowling if I ever meet her one day) and the whole chaos ensues from there, like the hat of The Cat In the Hat. That claw belongs to a niffler which is a being known for its love for anything shiny (yes kinda like a Tolkienesque dragon) and this one here is particularly mischievous and that one photograph aptly sums up the whole series.

We weren’t able to see anything related to Ilvermorny yet which is the American school of witchcraft and wizardry (you can read its history on Pottermore). Although Newt and Queenie had a punny (see what I did there) dialogue: Queenie claims that Ilvermorny is the best school in the world, Newt as a proud Hufflepuff defends Hogwarts and says it is the best-as all the audience did. Queenie then replies with “Hogwash.” (which means nonsense and is a pun) Ilvermorny was actually modeled on Hogwarts by its founder Isolt Sayre who happens to be a descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself, so get your facts straight first Queenie! I also have to give credit to Newt here, who proudly shows support for his house throughout via his black and yellow scarf (also another question to as Rowling: if Scamander was expelled, how come he still carries his wand with him?) Also he befriends a muggle, Jacob Kowalski, and they have their adventures like an improved version of Sherlock and Watson. (another spoiler: Jacob has a thing with Queenie. I wonder if they’d cause any change in the law in America in upcoming movies.)

Aside from all these entertaining and nice things, we also encounter a harsh, dark counterpart. In 1920s America, it was illegal for a wizard/witch to have any relation with a no-maj (American version of muggle which is abbreviated version of “no magic”). Thus, we see the Salem witch hunting (muggles’ negative fanaticism this time around), direct conflict between magic and non-magic worlds (the death of Senator Shaw) and the unreliableness of people in power-nothing we haven’t seen in the original series. She founded a very solid base in the first movie for the upcoming ones, I don’t think we will ever be bored with them.

All in all, it was really good to be back in the movie theatre watching a Harry Potter movie. I got chills when I first heard “Hedwig’s Theme” and I never realized I have missed hearing in and watching the logo of Warner Bros come into focus slowly. The plot was also good, unsurprisingly really, and I can’t wait to be back in the theatre to watch the second one again! And one final note for those who don’t want to watch the movie, the script was released a book as of yesterday so you may wanna check that out.

Posted in Music

Arnold Long Ago Heard It On the English Channel

For the past few years, I have been almost obsessed with Tom Odell. He is a brilliant artist and if you have not listened to any of his songs, you should go check some of them out (I force my friends to listen to him, who says I can’t do the same to you too?). Lately, I have been constantly listening to “Constellations” and for some reason I got this feeling that the lyrics were quite familiar. Turns out they are not, but a few weeks ago I had to write a response paper on Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and then it dawned on me. The feeling the song has, is kinda similar to Arnold’s. Their approach to love is hopeful and that is something which is hard to find nowadays in our contemporary music industry or in poetry in Victorian era (or in general really. Such powerful poems or songs often tend to be more pessimistic.)

There was this stanza in “Dover Beach” that made me associate it with Odell’s song.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

In the poem, the persona stands by the window looking over the sea (and giving us way too many sea imagery-even when you look at the poem, the form looks like the tides: ebbing and flowing) talks to his lover, who very conveniently silent throughout the poem as if she was a mere object in the room. In the lines above, the persona compares himself, his standing, to that of Sophocles. The sea is the same sea (though they are not looking at the exact same sea) it stays constant but only time and conditions have changed. Arnold has a more pessimistic tone here though, he believes the world to be full of misery and there can be no absolute trust and happiness. This is likened to the sea, these comings and goings of feelings, but the sea is constant (literally and allegorically). Even in Sophocles’ time this sea of misery was there and it will be so in the future (and let’s face it, after almost 150 years, the misery is still present if not entirely turned into an ocean). But in the end, the persona holds on to the love he shares with his lover (I am guessing the persona is meant to be Arnold and the lover his wife as they honeymooned there) in this world of appearances: “a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain” and sees love as some higher power that could save him.

Similarly, Odell talks about “the same old constellations” that would “look different” because he is with his lover. The atmosphere is similar to the poem’s; here the candle as the light source “lying low” whereas the starts are the only light sources coming through the windows in Arnold’s poem. This lover is kinda alone (“There’s people all around us but they’re leaving you alone”) and nostalgic (“You’re telling me a story, some lover that you had”) and just like Arnold’s is silent in the song-though she has a name here which is an improvement. Odell also places importance upon love which is so strong a concept that can change how the individual views the world.

I do not have much to say really. These are all minor similarities and they both give me the same vibe, although I am still hoping that maybe, just maybe, Tom Odell read “Dover Beach” because how can he not, and thought: “You know what? These stars can be used in a better way in another context.” Although the personas of the poem and song are in completely different situations, looking at different things in very different eras in time; they have this same trust in love to act as some kind of a shield (so yeah like a patronus) against the world that they are facing. Arnold thought of Sophocles when looking at the sea (although he is supposedly talking to his lover), maybe Odell was thinking of Arnold whilst he was writing this who knows? This can be me reading too much into this, but at least you get to listen to an awesome song and read an awesome poem!