05 Amusement and Distraction

Please, submit your reading response by March 07, 4 pm (24 hrs before class) based on the following readings and film:

Coney Island: The American Experience (1991), dir. Ric Burns, streamed on MyCourses [to be viewed before class]

Kasson, John F. Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century, American Century Series, 11-55. New York: Hill & Wang, 1978.

Koolhaas, Rem. “Coney Island: The Technology of the Phantastic.” In Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, 29-77. New York: Monacelli Press, 1994.

Kracauer, Siegfried. “Cult of Distraction: On Berlin’s Picture Palaces.” In The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays, edited by Thomas Y. Levin, 323-28. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995.

12 responses to “05 Amusement and Distraction

  1. Jennifer Ju

    I wonder what exactly resolved from “the tensions in the larger culture” that were present “As Coney Island developed” as a place that “lured wealthier customers” to the economically diverse crowd at the turn of the century as described by Klasson. It would seem that it was due to profit mongering from the creators who were especially desperate to fight against the drain on money due to the rampant vice. However, what is it about Coney Island that, quoting Klasson, “broke down the sense of rigidity that dominated so much of the life of American cities at the turn of the century?” Perhaps it is the same looseness that originally brought about vice: its location away from officials and the freedom to act however. It may have also been due to sharing common activities. Coney Island was simply “a welcome institution for public fellowship” through its relaxed, recreational atmosphere. The movie’s comment about Coney Island being a “playground” reflects this. It’s fascinating how much power it had in loosening social norm. It thus seems that seediness is what brought about such a mingling of classes. Without the original taint in the name, Coney Island developers may have wanted to stay exclusive to the upper class, staying with the theme of catering to the wealthy.

    Kasson’s description of Coney Island where there is intermingling contrasts Kracauer’s description of picture houses where everything is grandiose and self-contained. Despite claims that the latter “raise[d] distraction to the level of culture: they are aimed at the masses,” the developers did not seem to respect the lower class (324). Instead, the author writes that “The masses also gather in the provinces, but there they are subjected to a pressure that does not allow them the spiritual and cultural…fulfillment appropriate to their number and real social significance” (324). Instead, they only get “the rubbish and outdated entertainment of the upper class” (324). The author’s tone makes it sound as though the masses are forcing themselves into the lives of the upper class, aiming to mimic them. This contrasts the idea of Coney Island allowing the upper class to break their rigid rules and enjoy themselves among the masses. Perhaps there is this difference between an atmosphere like Coney Island versus a theater, but Kracauer uses such a condescending tone towards the “masses,” talking about how they “allow themselves to be stupefied,” that it is easy to knock off his arguments as biased (328).

    At first, I had trouble taking Koolhaas’s article seriously just because it seemed to rely mostly on lofty metaphors and ideas without many facts, such as “technology + cardboard (or any other flimsy material) = reality.” Writing like “bird’s-eye inspection of a common domain that can trigger a sudden spurt of collective energy and ambition” and “a small army of midgets and other freaks who retire to Coney after a life of hectic traveling” seem more like fantasy and poetry than a description of a real place. However, as I read on, I realize that it may just be that the fantastical nature of Coney Island and its plans that make the writing seem unreal. As absurd as “midget fire fighters” sound, they are indeed a reality on Coney Island. The actual fantastical nature is only reflected further in the movie with similar mentions of “electric bathing” and dwarfs, and additional tidbits like electrocuting an elephant.

    The movie also pointed out a voyeuristic quality in Coney, with covers being pulled off of boats where couples had been snuggling and with couples are being filmed kissing on the beaches. Then again, I guess the entirety of Coney Island is voyeuristic, between midget shows and ethnic groups being taken from their homelands to be put on display.

  2. Anish Gonchigar

    Coney Island seems to have exemplified the narrative of the American boom and bust cycle. What began as a leisurely escape for New York’s upper crust was soon cohabited by ‘rougher characters’. However, by the time developers realized Coney’s expansive potential, these two conflicting sects of society gave way for a much larger demographic—New York’s working class. Indeed, leisure time was increasingly heralded as a right among the city’s hard-working laborers, and Coney Island was an increasingly popular retreat. During the summers, people would escape to Coney on Sundays or whenever they had free afternoons.

    As the demand for diversions grew, so did the ambitions of the developers. The few initial sideshows and hotels paved a path for grand, extravagantly-themed areas such as Luna Park and Dreamland. Coney island espoused a sense of worldly allure with typical carnival freak-show entertainment to establish an early form of ‘mainstream American culture’. For New York City’s many immigrants that visited Coney Island, it was an opportunity to integrate with a culture and society that had previously seemed to be out-of-reach.

    The Depression began the eventual abandonment of Coney. The lackluster economy quickly replaced the grandiose with the comically mundane. Cockroach races replaced elephant shows until Robert Moses eventually decided to convert much of the peninsula into public parks. To this day, Coney Island has not recovered from its abandonment, and it has come to exemplify kitsch where once it was a landmark of American optimism.

    Two ideas stuck out to me most in these readings. The first, as mentioned before, was the notion of a mainstream American culture. Today, the idea of American culture conjures up a variety of images, but I would argue that Times Square best captures it today. Times Square is the hub of numerous social and commercial elements of Americana, and numerous shows and movies still depict the center of Times Square as an awe-inspiring visual monolith. The other idea that drew my attention was what Koolhaas referred to as the institutionalization of misbehavior (specifically in regards to Midget City). Numerous cities in the United States, most notably Las Vegas, promote themselves as places where misbehavior is permitted, if not the norm. Vegas’ ubiquitous slogan ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ has legitimized the city as a place where broader social norms are briefly exempted.

  3. Ambika Roos

    I always find Koolhaas to be quite a brilliant writer, if at times perhaps a little too clever. His prose mimic in many ways the hyperreality of Coney Island. I found one of his most interesting points to be the way Coney shifted in the way it was a retreat from Manhattan. The island had originally provided a source of nature for jaded city dwellers. Kasson describes wealthier customers eager for “seaside seclusion.” As transportation made the island more and more accessible to mass audiences seeking to partake in a new mass culture, Coney turned itself into the opposite of nature, highlighting its artificiality and intensifying rather than alleviating the density of the urban environment. The glittering displays and bizarre shows on the island condensed and heightened Manhattan.

    I think Coney Island in some ways gave form to a side of the city that was present in Manhattan but not manifested. The crowds of young people, hoping for opportunities to have each other’s company, took advantage of the looser restrictions on the island to flirt and hang around, either through rides that were structured to do so (the Barrels of Love, or canals), or simply on the street and at the beach. I wonder whether other themed environments that we have discussed thus far similarly tap into and intensify what is already present in society, a collective imagination and desire.

    An interesting question arises regarding the mixture of classes on Coney Island. Drawing upon the history of wealthier residents, horseback riding turns to mechanical horses. Kasson would call this an example of the “gamier amusement” demanded by working classes. But Kracauer suggests that workers are “handed down the rubbish and outdated entertainment of the upper class” (324). Describing movie theater’s aspirations to appear thespian, he writes that these forms of culture are reactionary. Were the rides and shows at Coney Island cheap and vulgar imitations of higher class entertainment, the dregs of what was left over by more affluent New York residents? Or were they amusement in their own right? Did the tacky lights of rides and fairs offer th sort of distraction Kracauer writes about, exposing disintegration? Or did it mask it?

  4. Sarah Rovang

    In cultural anthropology, an “inversion ritual” gives society a chance to subvert or reverse standard and accepted social norms. These events, such as Halloween and Carnival allow participants to behave in a way that would otherwise be unacceptable, but only on designated days which are demarcated set aside for this particular purpose. In the narratives of Kasson, Coney Island becomes a place of transformation remarkable for its carnival atmosphere – it is geographically severed from the workaday environment of Manhattan. Removed from the confines and strictures of everyday life, Kasson presents Coney Island as a place of recreation; its relaxed atmosphere giving rise to a culture of joviality, voyeurism, and sometimes prurient behavior.

    But if we apply Kracauer’s typical mass-media critique to Coney Island, it appears that this “inversion ritual” is not actually a space for cathartic self-expression but rather a form of top-down control—a shallow distraction from a disjointed and fracturing reality. The spectacle, the dissolution, the glittering pastiche of mismatched architectural styles provided a necessary release for the lower and lower-middle classes. Yet at the same time, as Rem Koolhaas hints in Delirious New York, Coney Island at the same time was perhaps more reflective of reality Manhattan. As Kasson indicates, Coney Island “emerged as a popular countertype to Chicago’s White City” —unlike the world of Burnham and Olmstead’s 1893 Columbian Exposition, which strove for a unified theme and aesthetic, Coney Island captures American visual culture in all of its imperfections: a palimpsest of impulses and inspirations. The “white city” of Dreamland could not be further from that of the Columbian Expo – it aspires towards divergence, variety, the surreal, and the intangible. Koolhaas astutely ascertains that the playground of Coney Island, with its myriad styles, outrageous structures, and extravagance in some ways anticipated the twentieth-century blossoming of architecture in Manhattan; after Coney Island “Manhattan itself has become the theater of architectural invention.” Perhaps, instead of the sheer illusion that Kracauer takes popular cinema to be, Coney Island held up a mirror to society, albeit a distorted and fragmented funhouse mirror.

    Are Coney Island and its theme park descendents a form of mass distraction or do they provide some necessary cultural release? How does themematizing help to create a world clearly delineated from the everyday and how does this alter our experience? What cultural purpose do our amusement parks serve today: are they “inversion rituals” or merely methods of mass distraction?

  5. Ashley Adams

    It is interesting how last week in class we extensively discussed the profuse spectacle of fakeries recently developed in the Los Angeles area. This week we, or at least I, was newly introduced to the hidden histories of the spectacles of fakery developed on Coney Island – the east coast. The sheer magnitude of adornment and elaboration poured into the design of this place is unbelievable, and it makes me question whether this had actually existed in the history of mankind or not. This example of the development of Coney Island reminded me greatly of how we humans are, in essence, only animals by nature. We are still bound and governed by our natural instincts to spread, survive, and procreate, in order to leave behind our “DNAs” in the next generation.

    Though the whole of Coney Island, with its corrupt, wild, and incestuous communities, greatly resembles this “animalistic” nature we posses, I was also equally interested in the animalistic natures found amongst the developers – the creators of the mega amusement parks, and ultimately of this “animalistic” world. Just as we may learn in our Intro to Ecology textbooks, the open niche called Coney Island was immediately occupied by opportunistic individuals who successively engaged in an evolutionary arms race to building the most successful entertainment environment available, in order to attract “mates” and leave a trace of their DNAs behind in histories next generation. With such fierce competition laying the foundations to this new and undeveloped world, it is as if we had slipped back in time to the primitive era (such as the caveman days perhaps) when rules, regulation, and surveillance was not yet implemented into our systems yet. Just like when earth was first born and the evolutionary wheel put into motion, with organisms of all size and types competing for survival and the passing on of their genes to the next generation, Coney Island was also a fresh place filled with such competition. Though this time, these primitive creatures/cavemen were equipped with super computers and electricity. This lack of established rules and surveillance, generated in people, no matter what class or background they came from, a sense of liberation to the “natural” self. And thus extracting such distinctly different behaviors exhibited by the visitors of Coney Island. But then we are faced with the ultimate ironic conclusion of this newly developed, purely human-based animal kingdom, by a catastrophic fire. It is as if this chaotically artificial evolutionary competition could not balance itself any longer and spun out of control, crashing to its bitter end. Though the natural evolutionary wheel continues to turn, this artificial, spectaculary fake one was doomed to failure. Yet, perhaps it was not as doomed as we thought it to be. Perhaps, as we see in the spectacle of fakeries developed in LA, it was, in its last moments, successful in leaving a part of its DNA in the coming generations.

  6. Crystal Ngo

    Both Kasson and Koolhaas refer to the funhouse mirror that, paraphrasing the former, simulated the illusion that Coney Island spectators had become freaks, and according to the latter, was an appropriate analogy for describing the Island’s association to Manhattan as its carnivalesque other. I’m interested in using the mirror and the medium of encounter to understand the multiple social attachments that emerged from the special space that Coney Island and its various amusements engendered.

    As Kasson wrote, Coney Island attracted all social classes and reflected New York’s changing ethnic composition during this period of massive immigration from Europe (emigration from elsewhere was largely criminalized). Not only did the gleeful character of certain attractions resemble that of ethnic street festivals and celebrations, the Island drew people out of their neighborhoods and into collective spaces. Kasson considers its participatory nature an invitation to assimilate to mainstream American culture. On this topic of immigrant incorporation, I’m curious to know whether going to Coney had a parallel effect on visitors who were working-class “Americans” (white Anglos). Did their experiences make them feel even more American, either in their collective consumption of the new mass culture or in their encounters with ethnic others?

    I’m skeptical about the way Kasson constructs freaks of nature and culture merely as props which served to amplify visitors’ sense they had entered another world–the freaks are living curiosities that suspend one’s sense of reality. These human exhibits were successful because they embodied difference in relation to viewers, operating as the former did on the basis of an exclusionary appeal. And within this context was an underlying recognition of, and self-recognition through, the radical separation between what was normative and weird. As Kasson describes Little Egypt’s dance as a vicarious travel experience, she’s being framed from the perspective of the discover who defines the performer’s sense only in terms of her service to spectators. The author misses an opportunity to tease out this dichotomy.

    Returning to the funhouse mirror, we see ourselves in opposition to that which we are not: that is, our other. Despite its mockery of the established social order, the Island’s “organized anarchy” (Koolhaas) produced affective responses based on visitors’ subscription to prevailing conventions. The wealth of aberrations offered by Coney Island must have confirmed at least some visitors’ assumptions about themselves and these various others-as-entertainments.

  7. anya ventura

    I’m fascinated by how emerging technologies and infrastructures were used to construct Coney Island as this liminal space. For example, I thought it was interesting how the feelings of social freedom and disorientation were made physical through the experience of the rides. Physical suspension mirrored social suspension in the Loop-the-Loop; the Barrel of Love forced couples together as sexual mores broke down; Luna Park echoed the park’s pervasive “moral weightlessness.” As a self-contained island divorced from the “real world” of the urban metropolis, Coney Island became a projection of escapist fantasies (even if the shape of this escapism was contested, reflecting tensions between Puritanism and hedonism, progress and pleasure). Yet at the same time, this was only made possible by improved transportation networks easily linking the island to Manhattan. Koolhaas theorizes Coney Island as Manhattan’s Other: an urban experiment, viewed either as a perversion of the city or an antidote to it, both real and unreal at once. So what is the relationship between the themed environment and social engineering? To what extent are these environments utopian responses to an unruly world? And how is pleasure used as an instrument of mass control? Interestingly, Disney first developed EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) as an ideal functioning city. In exploring the uses of such metonymic representations, we see the themed environment as a social corrective: addressing cultural anxieties through the “technology of the fantastic.” Here, artificial simulations become a form of organization and control, and we see the mechanization of the natural world in service of pleasure and power.

  8. Kasson’s description of Coney Island made me wonder about the differences visible in today’s amusement parks from that of the infamous New York park. According to Kasson, Coney Island led audiences to a world without social conventions and rules- freaks are honored in freakshows, illusionary mirrors turned visitors themselves into freakish images of fantasy, and performers from all cultures transported the viewers to another land (53). Given that Coney Island’s encouragement of “extravagance, gaiety, abandon, [and] revelry” has set a new paradigm for amusement parks, Coney Island succeeded with flying colors in providing distractions and diversions from reality. So how has the amusement industry become so sterile and regulated? In studying Disneyland, one can see the rigidity of the fun-going experience in today’s amusement parks: after paying the heavy entrance fee, and going through security checks to have prohibited items removed prior to entry, visitors are then guided by the circular layouts of the parks, forced to comply with numerous rules and regulations, form neat lines for attractions, and can be evicted for the slightest infractions or unruly behavior. Every detail is controlled by the corporate mastermind behind the parks, pushing the entrepreneurial spirit of Coney out of the picture. Even in comparison to “the Thrill Capital of the World”, Six Flags Magic Mountain, whose main audience is young adults, systematic controlling of the population within the park remains more similar to Disneyland than to Coney Island. The rip roarin’ atmosphere that Coney Island pioneered for amusement parks seemed to have died down to corporate regulation; even today, the surviving Coney Island itself is but a shadow of its past, with many attractions now pushed towards children and the elderly rather than the young couples that populated the parks’ Barrel of Love and canal attractions.
    Although the wild nature of Coney Island’s amusements have abated, the conviviality and amazement at the illusions of theme parks still continue. Koolhaas’ piece shows Maxim Gorky’s horrified reactions to “the sight of them [(children)] feeding their little souls upon this hideousness, which they mistake for beauty” (68). As Eco demonstrated with his analysis of wax museums and theme parks, the masses still need their fantasies. The illusions of Main Street, Disneyland still provokes such a reaction and still has such an effect. If this inherent need for fakery and illusionary distractions still prevails to this millennium, then what comes of the transformation of the amusement industry from “Sodom by the Sea” to “Happiest place on Earth?”

  9. Ned Myerberg

    I think Koolhaas’ idea of Coney Island as “a fetal Manhattan” is a really rich one. He describes writers’ impressions of Coney as hopeless attempts “to record and preserve a mirage”, a description equally appropriate to impressions of New York City itself. Koolhaas seems to be getting at the increasingly important role that fantasy plays in the experience of a place. For Gorky this leads to inevitable disappointment. The fantasy, the promise built up by the view of Luna Park’s “ineffably beautiful” illuminated towers in the distance leads only to an overwhelming disappointment as he enters the park itself which, up close, appears cheap and decrepit. But for many of Coney’s visitors it seems the fantasy was strong enough to overwhelm any disillusionment experienced in a first-hand encounter. If the reality of Coney did not exactly fit the visitor’s preconceived fantasy of it then it at least it bore the closest resemblance to that fantasy of any actual place. In a sense the physical reality of Coney was always in conversation with the fantasies its visitors brought to it. Koolhaas talks about how Coney, pressured by an increasing number of visitors, was forced to transform itself from a beach resort that relieved urban pressure to a group of amusement parks that intensified it. I wonder then what effect this had on the New Yorkers who visited. What sorts of Manhattan-born anxieties were relieved in the madhouses of Luna Park and Dreamland and which ones were, in the absence of a quiet, natural escape for New Yorkers, held inside or even exacerbated?
    I found it really interesting (in the Kasson) how much Coney’s merchandise contributed to the construction of this fantasy with postcards that had prewritten messages like “I had a h_ _ _ of a time at Coney Island” which restricted the message that visitor’s could send out to would-be visitors. Certainly the same prescribed message is seen in New York merchandise with the I heart NY campaign.

  10. The key paragraph in this set of readings was the first full one on page 326 of Kracauer. He discusses how the “emphasis on the external has the advantage of being sincere.” “Truth is threatened only by the naïve affirmation of cultural values that have become unreal…” Anyway, this line of reasoning has a lot of bearing on the comparison (or at least juxtaposition) that Kasson makes between the Chicago World’s Fair and Coney Island. By all accounts, early 20th century Coney Island was a rip-roaring success—much as the Columbian Exposition was—yet Coney Island had somewhat more success in bringing enjoyment to the people. The Columbian Exposition, very proud of its Beaux-Arts neoclassical architectural references and self-aware efforts to influence the morality of its attendees, experienced exactly the problem that Kracauer brings up—that the cultural values that were trying to be spread at the exposition were incongruous with either what people knew or at least what they wanted to experience. So Kasson points out that it was much to the chagrin of Burhman and Olmsted that the Midway at the World’s Fair was more popular than the White City’s free events sponsored by the Fair. Coney Island, in a lot of ways, was just a distillation of the successes of the Midway at the Chicago World’s Fair: freakshows, chaos, rides, spectacle, and fun. In short, its focus was much more the external. Its aim was not to try to inspire any sort of direct internal reflection—it was about entertainment, an escape from the city, an escape from the drudgery of everyday life. In being so honest about this, Coney Island was wildly successful because it delivered on those exotic experiences and while not trying to promote elitist ideas about morality or control of the rude common man.

  11. Alice Hines

    Kasson draws on pre-industrial carnivals in his analysis of Coney Island, writing that “[Coney Island] served as a Feast of Fools for an urban-industrial society.” In fact, many of Coney Island’s qualities as described by Kasson and Koolhaas recall elements of Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories on the carnivalesque. For Bakhtin, the carnival is defined by an intimacy between people of different classes or groups; a valuation of the body and the profane; and a quality of parody, satire or self-conscious performance. (Vice, Introducing Bakhtin, p. 152) The carnivalesque (as well as its offshoot the grotesque, made up of disjointed cultural elements) was very obviously at play in “architectural frankenstein” that was Coney Island.

    There is one notable difference: “Coney located its festivity not in time as a special moment on the calendar but in space as a special place on the map.” (Krasson, pp. 11 of pdf) What conclusions can we draw from this shift of carnival as a category of time to a category of space? What changes when the carnival experience it is not a singular holiday, but a separate world that exists concurrently to the “real” one?

    For Bakhtin, the carnival was first and foremost a ritual. At a prescribed moment in time, people from different classes dressed up and adopted different behavioral codes, subsuming their individual identities in “utopian realm of community freedom, equality, and abundance.” (Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World, 9).

    Because of its spatial existence, Coney Island grew and evolved alongside Manhattan, something a carnival or festival could not do. The Midget community of Dreamland is one example of a fantasy world that existed alongside the real one, in exaggerated, grotesque simulation of it.

    If Bakhtin’s carnival was shaped through the behavior of participants, it was the built environment that shaped behavior on Coney Island. Specific technologies like the Canon Coaster gave visitors permission to loosen their moral codes. Visitors did not create this environment; they were absorbed into it. Arguably, the freedom enjoyed by visitors to Coney Island was actually a control mechanism that contained “misbehavior” or lax social mores from seeping into society at large.

    Marxism is at the root of the difference between Coney Island and Bakhtin’s theory of the carnival. For Bakhtin, who wrote in the 1930’s Soviet Union, the carnival was ultimately a space whose transformative pleasure could reveal and undermine ingrained, hierarchical ideologies of normal society. Many constructivist artists and filmmakers (Eisenstein, Meyerhold) also used the related concept of the grotesque as a way to awaken proletarian audiences to the disjunctures of capitalism.

    Here we can begin to understand why Kracauer (a film theorist whose early works were influenced by Marxism) criticizes Berlin’s picture palaces. These spaces, he argues, would have the potential to reveal larger society’s disorder and incoherence and incite revolution, if it were not for the sentimental narratives that falsely unify them. He writes: “Distraction (an improvisation, a reflection of the uncontrolled anarchy of our world) is festooned with drapery and forced back into a unity that no longer exists.”

    One could make a very similar Marxist critique of Coney Island and the “themes” that attempt to unify the chaos and construction. As Koolhaas writes, “the site is a miniature state, the program is ideology. . .” While Coney Island, as a “fetal Manhattan,” had the potential to exaggerate and expose aspects of society at large (for example, the idea of progress or the exclusion of physical difference, be it “midgets” or nonwhites), narratives of pleasure and leisure prevented this world from being anything but an escape.

  12. As cities grew attracting more and more masses, the need for a form of mass entertainment, or distraction as Kracauer puts it, grew. The three texts for this week’s discussion focuses on the different venues of mass amusement: Kasson and Koolhaas on Coney Island, and Kracauer on the large picture houses in Berlin.
    Kasson goes through the history of the development of the Coney Island, as it renewed its image from a place for “customers eager for seaside seclusion” as well as for people who “demanded gamier amusement.” (p.1 of PDF) After the renovation of the Island as the “New Coney Island” with more emphasis on more “decent” forms of amusement, Kasson states that the success of the new popular summer resort venue stemmed largely from the “contrast it offered to conventional society, everyday routine, and dominant cultural authorities.(p.7)” The New Coney Island was also a venue for “public fellowship.(p.8)” Kasson goes on to say that Coney Island appeared to have “institutionalized the carnival spirit for a culture that lacked a carnival tradition…declared a moral holiday for all who entered its gates.(p.12)” Another character of the Coney Island which is very relevant to what we’ve discussed thus far in class is that Coney Island drew upon “all social classes and especially upon the rising middle class and the more prosperous working-class visitors.(p.6)” Some points I was curious about looking at Coney Island in the time of Steeplechase, Luna Park, and Dreamland were: How much of this new and separate world of pleasure is the influence of social surroundings (ex. jovial atmosphere and people) and to what extent does the actual physicality of the space influence this experience of pure and detached pleasure land? And how do the amusement parks nowadays differ from Coney Island, other than the fact that Coney Island was also a place for young men and women to meet and enjoy a day of freedom? Also, is this promoting an “impersonal society” as critics supposedly charged the venue with? Or did the island function more as a “welcome institution for public fellowship” that contributed to more social interactions that the sprawling urban culture deprived people of?
    Koolhaas also talks about the Coney Island, breaking the elements up into different aspects such as model, tower, bridge, horses, and the infrastructure. Koolhaas explores Coney Island as a form of testing ground for Manhattan. An idea I found intriguing in this text was when he talks about the Luna Park in comparison with the earlier Steeplechase. He makes an interesting argument when he says that Luna Park turns the “provincialism of the masses into cosmopolitanism. (p.42)” What marks the different of provincialism of the masses into cosmopolitanism? In a world of globalization, are we living in a world of provincialism of the world or are we heading towards a uniform cosmopolitan culture? Looking at the text generally, I do not necessarily agree with Koolhaas in saying that Coney Island was a testing ground for Manhattan, even in terms of architecture, because the social function of Coney Island as a land of amusement and pleasure was very specific and therefore employed a very particular form of architecture.
    Lastly, Kracauer talks about the importance of architecture in the rise of Berlin’s picture palaces as well as the “distraction” brought to the level of masses. Berlin provides an interesting perspective on the masses and its “addict[ion] to distraction (p.325)” as he puts it, and how this has motivated the Berlin picture palaces to focus solely on distraction and “improvisation(p.327).” In a way, Berlin and New York are similar in that they are both “home[s] of the masses(p.328),” but it would be interesting to look and compare the differences between the two places and the development of pursuit of pleasure in the two places.

    p.s. I could not access the film through computers at the Rock. Other films like Le Jetee works, but the Coney Island did not play.. Has anyone else had a similar problem?

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