Deliciously Dark – Kind Hearts & Coronets and Ealing Studios

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Oh man. Did you say you’ve never seen any of the Ealing Studios comedies with Alec Guinness? I envy you the joy you are about to experience.

I know most everyone loves the Cohen Brothers – and rightly so, they are artists of great skill in their own right – but when I watch their films I mainly admire how proudly they wear their influences on their collectives sleeve, particularly Preston Sturges and Ealing Studios chief among them.

And since we are looking at the dark and macabre this month, let’s start with the absolutely jaw-droppingly great Kind Hearts and Coronets, a deeply and deliciously dry pitch-black comedy, exemplifying Ealing at its best.

The plot concerns an undesired, discarded minor noble who kills his way through his family tree, all played by the young Alec Guinness (including the Lady Agatha!), to inherit the dukedom of the Descoyne family.

But really, this film serves as a vehicle for a young Alec Guinness to play eight separate roles, each funnier than the last. The script is as sharp-edged and bon-mot-filled as an Oscar Wilde play and the direction is as precisely perfect as any film student could ever dream to see.

Kind-Hearts-&-Coronets-Alec-Store Kind-Hearts-&-Coronets-CoupleSo, here are a few more critics, directors and actors raving about how much they adore Kind Hearts & Coronets in case you need any more convincing. Absolutely well-worth watching, whether you’re feeling your most murderous or you just want some high level snark. You can catch the whole film on Turner Classic Movies or borrow the Criterion version from Netflix.

Obscura-ditty: Rockin Bones- Spooky Vintage Rockabilly Playlist

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Plenty to catch up on today and I thought I’d pass some of the best pieces of my playlist onto you – a great mix of classic kooky rockabilly songs from my beloved Rhino Records Rockin Bones Box Set and a few extras to round out the list. I think this one just gets better the longer you listen…

Skeleton Rockabilly Couple Illustration, Artist Kippery

Comment with your favorite Halloween songs – I need some more inspiration!

Monsters – Your Fears Personified & ProblemGlyphs.Org

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With Halloween this month, our culture and media is saturated with monsters – vampire soap operas, zombie thrillers, serial killer detectives, Cthulhu environmental parables – the list goes on.

Our fascination with monsters lasts increasingly throughout the year and something like The Walking Dead almost feels like a throwback to monster films of old with its genuinely terrifying unstoppable forces, since the majority of our books and films look to understand and humanize monsters.

A few months back, Refinery29 featured the work of Eliza Gauger, who in her online interactive project Problem Glyphs creates glyphs and sigils of power for individuals who submit a source of fear or shame to her. Her work is beautiful, but the reader-submitted stories are fascinating, sad and lovely as well.

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Eliza seeks to create symbols to help overcome, accept and find power both from and over the fear and shame – and she often uses symbols of monsters from legend and myth to do so. I love the idea of personifying our fears and internalizing them through empowerment, but I’m also intrigued by her monsters and the monsters all around me this month.

What are your monsters? Have you made friends with them? Can you? Perhaps Eliza can  help…

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I Married a Witch with Veronica Lake

Veronica Lake in I Married a WitchMovie I Married a Witch Veronica Lake Cauldron

I can’t think of a better way to continue this series of posts than draw some attention to the ridiculously charming, totally family-friendly film, I Married a Witch.

The always stunning Veronica Lake stars as Jennifer, a centuries-old witch who curses the descendents of her Puritan accuser, Jonathan Wooley (Frederick March as several generations of Wooley men), to be forever unlucky in love. Trapped in a bottle with her father to escape their execution, Jennifer is released in the 20th century and immediately seeks out the current male Wooley heir to enact her revenge.

Movie I Married a Witch Couple

Of course, not all goes to her plan – Jennifer develops a crush on the stodgy Wallace Wooley and instead attempts to help him win a seat in political office, using all the skills at her disposal, including the help of her father (Robert Warwick).

Hijinks ensue in the best mid-century screwball comedy fashion, but it’s really director René Clair’s misty fairytale atmosphere and sly humor that lift  I Married a Witch beyond being simply a fun film. Clair, the director of Le Million and Le Voyage Imaginaire, with the help of the brilliant Preston Sturges created this 1942 classic that inspired the Bewtiched television show and thus the magic twitching noses still running on TBS today.

You can watch the full movie below or on Hulu, catch it this month on Turner Classic Movies or request the Blu-Ray Criterion Collection version through Netflix.

Adventures, Cheap & Local: Canoe Trip on the Shenandoah River

Canoes Red and Blue on the Shenandoah River VA

Do you like the idea of watching otters and herons frolic while you glide through crystal clear waters with a canopy of trees shading you from the sun?

In other words, are you alive and breathing?

For some reason, I imagined a multi-day canoe trip would be much more arduous and complicated than it actually was. Not unlike the point where I realized hiking is nothing more than walking outdoors off the concrete sidewalk, canoeing is mostly just floating down river trails, carefully curated and maintained by the park service. Our 28 mile trek drifted sedately by over the course of three days.

And it is wonderful! And relaxing! And cheap! And you should absolutely plan a canoe trip before the cold weather hits this fall – just grab a map and a canoe (plus your  usual camping kit and supplies) from one of these fine local proprietors (Down River Canoe or  Shenandoah River Outfitters) and start on your way! Free camping sites are noted on the maps, as well as more difficult portions of the river and spots with clean fresh water available.

But for the moment, just take a look at these photos and visualize your own adventure.

Canoe Trees LowCanoe Sam Becca Low     Canoe Paddle Low Canoe Bernie Low Canoe Becca Zombie Low   Canoe Two Canoes Lowcanoe trip canoe paddle low  Canoe river grass low Canoe Christian Low Canoe River Grass Low (2)Canoe Becca Tall Lowcanoe in front lowCanoe Farm LowCanoe Horizontal Low

Evolution Inspiration: David Bowie – 5 Years Documentary on Showtime

Best of Bowie Cover

Whenever I feel stuck, stodgy or just completely uninspired, listening to the right David Bowie album never fails to help me see the situation from a new perspective.

There is always a David Bowie album for exactly the right moment (I usually start with Scary Monsters, a gift from a particularly creative, innovative and inspiring friend and go from there) and I happened to see the recent BBC Documentary on five pivotal years in Bowie’s early career this morning, right when I needed inspiration the most.

David Bowie has a gift for re-imagining – he sheds personas, visual, musical and emotional, with a fearlessness and commitment to beginning fresh again that inspires me.

This documentary particularly hit home as the filmmakers looked to the nuts and bolts creative process of starting something new, both with frequent collaborators and new partners. His fellow musicians and producers discussed their own journeys with his constant evolution and how they were able to gain or lose insight and perspective along the way.

Five Years was made mostly with previously unused or discarded footage by the BBC for the David Bowie IS exhibition staged by the Victoria & Albert. The exhibition opens at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art tomorrow through January 4th, 2015.

My only qualm would be a several minute section on China Girl, which included no mention of Iggy Pop as the writer/originator. Since the focus of the documentary was the influence of collaborators in both helping and hindering David Bowie’s evolution as an artist, I would think Iggy Pop would be a major feature!

Regardless, well worth your time – and please let me know if you were similarly inspired.

1812 Overture: Pride of Baltimore II Cruise on the Potomac

The Pride of Baltimore II Mast

1812 1This past weekend, I had the luck to sail with a friend on the Pride of Baltimore II, as part of Accokeek Foundation‘s 1812 Bicentennial celebration. The rain held off for a beautiful evening sail – well worth a trip up to Charm City to visit her again soon!

More information on the Pride and the Chesapeake in the War of 1812.

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Obscure Ditty – My Forgotten Favorite, Velocity Girl

Pssst! My blog title comes from a song by Velocity Girl, which was featured on the original Clueless soundtrack.

As soon as I started brainstorming name ideas, My Forgotten Favorite just started playing in my mind and stuck. Eventually, I looked up the song and found Velocity Girl was actually a local band from Rockville, MD – Surely a sign this was meant to be!

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