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My Bizarro, Surreal Book Reading Events In 2017

Hello! I’ve got book writer author type events happening this year and, if possible, it would be wonderful to see you there. If you’re American I’ll be in Portland, Oregon, this November for an event that all weirdo writers should take part in. Have a look below at the fantastical things.

May 14th, Brighton, Made Cafe

As part of the Brighton Fringe I’ll be reading from my new novella (OUT NOW!) 4 Rooms In A Semi-Detached House (Strange House Books). Meet me downstairs in Made Cafe.

Readings And Revelry, July 4th, The Big Green Book Shop

American author Laura Lee Bahr is hosting an evening of interviews and readings at The Big Green Book Shop in London. It’s been on the BBC, don’t you know? We may be joined by writer Adam Lowe but, as yet, we’re not sure.

Bizarrocon, November 

And, finally, I shall be attending Bizarrocon mid November in Portland, Oregon, for a week of workshops and readings. If anyone is able to attend I shall see you there, but if not I’ll regale you with tales of the Lovecraft bar and other wondrous things. To find out more nearer the time follow blog bizarrocentral, or the specially dedicated site Bizarrocon.

Disturbing And Creepy Early Cinema Vintage Clips

Quick announcement: Bill and I are having a holiday at home, so after this post I shall see you in two weeks’ time.

Before the motion picture industry solidified in the 20s, The tens and 1890s were a period of gleeful experimentation, much like the advancement of YouTube from dramatic gophers to defined communities and vloggers.

From the cinéma vérité of the Lumière Brothers, the fantastical whimsy of Georges Méliès, the glamour and fun of Alice Guy-Blaché  and the innovation of the world’s first animators, everyone had something they wanted to test. Vaudeville stars of the Belle Epoque and big events were a natural draw, but sometimes events don’t go according to plan, vaudeville acts seem alien to modern eyes and other things… are just odd.

The Balancing Bluebottle/The Acrobatic Fly (F. Percy Smith, 1910)

I honestly felt sick after watching this. It’s fascinating though and I couldn’t look away. But…yeah I still felt sick.

A fly is glued to a matchstick by the wings, it’s strength tested by placing objects onto it’s flailing legs, one of the objects being a dead fly. Yep, it spins around the corpse of it’s brethren on frantic arthropodic feet. You know that shudder Bart does in the Simpsons…

Fish (Bert Williams, 1916)

This next one isn’t creepy so much as sad. Bert Williams wrote and directed two films, unheard of for a person of colour back then. However this two reeler is very light on humour and audiences had a hard time accepting him, as a 42 year old man, playing a boy. Added to the mix are parents played by white people in black face with incredibly poor comic timing and pathos that leaves the viewer depressed.

Bert was never able to reach his full ambition, stuck as he was in ‘black’ roles often in blackface. Friend and fellow vaudevillian WC Fields said “Bert Williams was the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew.”

On stage and in his other short he was a more subtle comedian. After the disappointment of Fish he returned to live performances.

Death jump from the Eiffel Tower, 1912

On the 4th February, 1912, Franz Reichelt was scheduled to test his homemade parachute by jumping from a great height. Nobody in the watching crowd or French and British media thought to tell him it was a bad idea and off he went, falling from the tower to his unfortunate death.

The Dancing Pig (1907)

The internet is quite familiar with a small section of this vaudeville performance, namely the titular pig gurning grotesquely at the end. The rest is pretty darn odd too, involving public humiliation and torment. All in good fun though.

The Cameraman’s Revenge (Wladislaw Starewicz, 1912)

Perhaps it’s my phobia of dead bugs (live ones I’m fine with though, no idea why) that leads me to find this film so shudder inducing. It’s a shame because this satire by the Polish, Russian and French stop motion animator is really incredible.

The cast of deceased insects perform an operatic melodrama of betrayed love and revenge in a mischievous swipe at popular theatre.

Monkeyshines 1, 2 and 3 (Thomas Edison, 1889 – 1890)

These ghosts from the past were captured during Edison’s first attempts to record image on film.

The Consequences of Feminism (Alice Guy-Blaché, 1906)

Either this film is meant to show the absurdity of men who protested against the suffragette movement or it’s an indictment of what could happen if allowed to continue. Seeing as Alice was a filmmaker herself I’d prefer to believe the former, but we just don’t know.

The Inferno ( Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan and Giuseppe de Liguoro, 1911)

This ambitious project was one of the first feature length films ever made (the first being The Kelly Gang, 1906). It’s packed with disturbing imagery from cannibalism to tortured souls and remains hauntingly fascinating to this day.

Bizart 32: Twin Peaks, The Brighton Fringe Festival And Social Media Hang Ups

Our podcast, Bizart, is back. We discuss odd things, art things and anything else.

Bizart: A Podcast Of The Odd, The Art And The Rest

And we are back! I (Madeleine Swann) chat with fellow weirdo arty type Stephen Waring about odd stuff, art stuff and anything else.

Timeline:

0.23 – Twin Peaks Season 3

3.00  – The Brighton Fringe Festival

22.55 – Religious cults and social media hang ups

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Witch Trials, Hysterical Nuns And Not Haunted Houses: Horror Nonfiction Bizarre Book Club

Good morning my little cups of fiery chai, I’ve been reading some very interesting books lately.

I’m drawn to the myths of ghosts, black magic, the Devil and other spooky things, but what I really love is clearing the fog of legend and finding what’s really underneath. To me the truth behind a haunting is infinitely more interesting than the initial stories, though I respect believers of the paranormal and would never make fun of them. Each to their own.

All three of these books take incidents or places that have been imbued with supernatural meaning and show us the ‘truth.’

1. Witchfinders by Malcolm Gaskill

The story of Matthew Hopkins, the self-titled ‘Witchfinder General,’ is quite close to my heart as I live in Essex and his numerous victims were held in a castle not far from me. Witchfinders painstakingly recounts the journey he took through Essex and Suffolk, whipping the people into a frenzy of blame and fear, and on through the trials and executions themselves.

The concept of witch-hunting in the magical sense seems alien to us now but Malcolm Gaskill does a great job of explaining the world of magic people lived in and how the uncertainty of the Civil War affected them. The thorough research helped me to better understand what might have been going through the minds of each player, even Matthew Hopkins himself.

2. Ghostland by Colin Dickey

This is a fascinating tour through the most mythologised houses, hotels, hospitals and even cities of America. Drawn to the ghosts, he strips back the stories and locates the factual accounts. If it sounds like he’s made them boring, trust me, he hasn’t.

One example is the famous Winchester Mystery House, long believed to have been created by a widow half mad with loss and guilt over the deaths of her husband and the victims of the gun he created, building endlessly to confuse any spirits seeking revenge. But, fantastically, the tale everyone including myself assumed to be fact isn’t, and this is only one of the little surprises in its pages.

This quote sums it up very well: “More than just simple urban legends and campfire tales, ghost stories reveal the contours of our anxieties, the nature of our collective fears and desires, the things we can’t talk about in any other way. The past we’re most afraid to speak aloud of in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.”

3. The Devils Of Loudun by Aldous Huxley

You might recognise the story of Grandier, the French priest whom women loved, men hated and burned as a witch after nuns became hysterical, from the Ken Russell film The Devils (1971). You may also recognise it’s author as the infamous psychonaut and writer of The Doors of Perception.

Where the two previous books are distantly fascinated and relatively dispassionate, Aldous Huxley’s philosophy and personality runs strongly throughout. Normally I wouldn’t like this, but he’s so well read and intelligent that it doesn’t matter.

It gives the story an air of being told by someone who knew the people personally, who smelled the horrible smells of seventeenth century France and had befriended Grandier, in spite and because of his complexities and contradictions.
Mass hysteria is a fascination of mine and anything that can go some way towards explaining it or recreating it in my mind is a definite winner.

5 Bizarre, Freakish And Surreal Animation YouTube Channels (And One Trailer)

It’s probably no secret by now that I love YouTube, I watch it more than TV. So many artistic and weird things can be found that would never previously have seen the light of day outside of a few old tapes passed from hand to hand.

So I thought I’d share with you some channels entirely devoted to bizarre, freakish or otherwise surreal animations, the kind that shows you the real odd side of YouTube. I’m guessing most people know of Cyriak, David Firth and Rachel Maclean so I picked the smaller ones lurking below the surface.

Also, last night, my boyfriend Bill uploaded the trailer to an upcoming animation of his. It’s brilliantly absurdist and dark, I’m very proud of him, and I can’t wait for you to see the whole thing.

Door – Trailer by Bill Purnell.

OK, first up is Colin Raff. All his animations are roughly a minute long and they’re a little Max Ernst, a little Monty Python, and very peculiar.

Supercriminal Pregnant Pink Surprise Eggs Fun in Real Life by Colin Raff

Next up is someone whose blog I’ve been visiting on and off for a few months, and recently discovered their YouTube channel. They’re videos are mainly surreal landscapes with jolly music, or a clip of a road or beach with some kind of animated layer on the top.

Pestle Ham by Megaeggz

Gmcfosho hasn’t uploaded anything for a few years but his parody rap videos make me chuckle. With lyrics like “Fresh up out the water like a amphibian, I’m so fresh that I got a Aunt Vivian,” and rudimentary animations he’s entertainingly daft.

COMEUPOUTDAWAHTA by gmcfosho

ProudNothing sometimes likes to throw a bit of humour and social commentary into his mind melting weirdness.

Snapchat Simulator by ProudNothing

Wendy Vainity, or madcatlady, says “I am just a hobby animation software user using ready made content, just having fun on my computer and sharing.” Thanks, Wendy!

Viral Vacuum by madcatlady

I Read From My New Bizarro Book At The Brighton Fringe And Didn’t Run Off Crying!

Hello popsicle sticks! I read my own work to an audience of complete strangers for the first time in my life, my new bizarro book 4 Rooms In A Semi Detached House, for the 2017 Brighton Fringe Festival. My hands were shaking, I was terrified.

Brighton has a lot of cool stuff in it so I made a little backstage video as well as filming the first reading (which has an impromptu Q&A at the end), and I also offer advice to any live reading newbies such as myself. My boyfriend Bill, who does my book covers, and our friend Steve had art showing in a gallery at the same time and I added clips of them discussing their work below.

Ta dah!

Fun times around Brighton, including books, rainbows and lots of tea:

The first reading, 11 am, at Made Cafe:

Bill discussing his work at The Round Georges:

Stephen Waring (LoFiGuy) discussing his work:

Short Films, Art And Writing By Women: The Fifth Sense, In Partnership With Chanel And ID

Bonjour my little balls of bellybutton fluff that are quite cute really so you leave them where they are. I’m madly getting everything ready for my reading in Brighton this weekend (for the Fringe Festival) so expect more on that next week.

In the meantime here are some short films, some on writing, some on art, some just creative, from a video, article and exhibition project called The Fifth Sense between Chanel (yes, the perfume/designers) and iD. Vice has more info.

I like Jellywolf because it gives you a really good insight into my life around age 19-24: lots of luminous clothes and clubs and a world not quite set in reality.

Here’s the director, Alma Har’el, talking about making films.

Photographer Harley Weir discusses her photography and film work.

Her final project became portraits of five different artistic women. The first is poet Zariya Allen.

Next is dancer Manthe Ribane.

Then artist Christine Sun Kim.

Then photographer Momo Okabe

Lastly actress Oulaya Amamra.

Finally, here is a video of the mirror sculpture exhibition by Es Devlin. See you next week!

 

Lovecraft, Racism And ‘Problematic Content’

Hello sponge muffins! I’m experimenting with this thing called ‘talking with my mouth.’ It’s weird, letters don’t come out of my fingers and my gob makes these strange noises.

Anyway, I made a video on Lovecraft, also inspired partly by a tweet from author Morgan May regarding 50 Shades of Grey and people telling her she shouldn’t read it anymore.

All things mentioned in the video are linked below. For more BookTube videos visit my YouTube channel.

Nicole Cushing’s blog post

Lovecraft radio documentary, The Strange Life of HP Lovecraft

The Secret World of Lewis Carroll