“Dracula Dead and Loving It”:
Many, many, many years ago, after an afternoon at Egyptian Treasures, an unlikely shop that used to be in the middle of Des Moines which specialized in imported papyrus and phony ushabti figurines, my father and I rented this movie on VHS from HyVee. It’s an odd to think how much the world has changed in a couple decades. You can get anything from your couch right now. I suppose modernity has its advantages, after all, though I’m still frequently irked that I’d get a peculiar look if I took to donning a beaver skin hat and cape. Oh well. Fashion is cyclical. Let’s get the 1890s popping again! Dracula Dead and Loving It was incredibly inappropriate for a child my age, but I have to give this picture some credit for the development of my sense of humor. It was my introduction to the comedy of Mel Brooks, which has been a great love of my life ever since, from The Producers to Young Frankenstein. The jokes are dumb but very well executed. This film is a parody of Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel, Dracula. It is absolute genius. Stupid. But genius.
It is based more on the film adaptation from the thirties and the more recent one by Coppola rather than the book. So, Renfield is the solicitor instead of Jonathan Harker, which I always think is an awfully peculiar choice in the cinematic retelling. Other than this, this film follows the same basic plot, but makes a gag out of everything. Dracula turns into a bat with Leslie Nielson’s head. Blood flows freely and abundantly. The famed vampire’s hair is a hat. The shadow of the monster is a character in itself. There really is nothing I can say to adequately recommend the film, aside from my heartfelt recommendation that you put it on your Netflix queue immediately. Don’t wait for Halloween to have a laugh.
“Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris”:
By now, I’m sure you’re well aware of my BFF status with Dame Angela Lansbury. I mention it at least once a week, if not more. Our meeting in Washington DC was one of the biggest triumphs of my life so far. Let’s reminisce:
It was more important than bumping into Prince Charles,
posing with Dita von Teese,
finally making my way into the Great Pyramid,
or seeing Harry Styles in concert so many times that I’ve lost track.
Walking along the Acropolis in Athens failed to match the thrill of shaking Angela Lansbury’s hand. I doubt that anything ever will. I have yet to see every picture she’s made, so when I discovered the existence of Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, I knew that I had to have it at once.
Angela plays a maid in London who wants nothing more than to own a Dior gown. I mean was this film written about me? I’m a poor educator wanting nothing more than to own a pair of Saint Laurent boots. I couldn’t find a copy of the movie anywhere for the longest time. I am accustomed to finding things on Netflix or on YouTube, even obscure things, but there was no trace of Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. There were copies available on Amazon, but they were over a hundred dollars! Finally, a used one came on the market for $15, and I screamed and snatched it. It took weeks to get here from England, but on the day when it finally arrived, it went straight into the DVD player. Jessica was over that day, and we were enchanted at once. Angela has the most radiant Cockney accent and has no time for her naysaying best friend. It was literally the most perfect film representation of Jessica and myself that I have ever encountered. Surreal. I’m not going to give away anything about the plot, but there’s nothing so charming as shopping at couture houses, a romance along the Seine, gorgeous apartments, Omar Sharif, and gorgeous music. The film is the epitome of my taste, and I will watch it a thousand times. When I eventually have my night on TCM as a guest host, this will absolutely be one of the pictures I show. It’s fabulous.
New Apple TV:
Many long years ago, I figured out what was wrong with cable. It was a broken system and remains so. It’s unjust to force a consumer to pay over a hundred dollars for a thousand channels they never watch. I decided then that the future of the industry was selling channels individually. I’ve written about this before, but it’s exciting to see one of my better ideas become a reality with Showtime and HBO selling their content by the month. It’s a slow dawn to this new age, but it’s coming quickly, and I’m excited to be at the forefront of it technologically. I am getting rid of cable at my house sometime before the end of the year, so I bought a new Apple TV for each of my screens. I even have an older one for the flatscreen I hung above my bathtub. (Reader, there is nothing so luxurious as soaking in the tub with a martini as you watch Murder, She Wrote. Just trust me on this one.) Now that I’ve hooked them all up, I’m discovering a few issues. Well, only one: I CAN’T WATCH THE WENDY WILLIAMS SHOW. That is a big deal for me, but I’m sure I’ll find a solution. Right now I’m just so in love with the interface of the Apple TV, the remarkable implementation of Siri, the gorgeous screen savers, the access to every song ever recorded, and Hulu. I just signed up for that service last night and I am obsessed. They have That Show with Joan Rivers. I died with excitement. I thought that show had been lost to some shelf in some dusty archive. I feel blessed and honored to watch Joan chat about grapefruit spoons and kitchen islands and plastic surgery. And I already realize that I won’t miss cable, especially when the channels start providing more. It’ll happen. The future is now.
In my slow but steady attempt to convert my home into a vacation home, I have been making luxurious upgrades to every room. One of my prouder achievements, aside from the flatscreen television above my bathtub, an espresso machine on every level, a signed poster of Julia Child above my oven, and Egyptian cotton sheets on my king-sized bed, I am most delighted by the twenty-seven inch monitor I installed in my office. I don’t know why I call it that, it’s really my Egyptological library and dressing room, but I do have my writing stuff in there, too. It’s a multipurpose chamber until I finish the last room on this level. Anyway, I have lusted over one of those big Apple retina monitors, but I didn’t feel like spending $1000. I found a gorgeous one by HP that has a lesser quality screen for $200. It’s not the setup of my dreams, but it’s nice. It really brings the room together quite well. The cords really freaked me out, so I whipped out my drill, put a few holes in my island, ran the cords through, and now it looks like I’m a magazine editor in The Devil Wears Prada. I’m thrilled! Now I can edit my upcoming novel with four pages open. FOUR! It will be so simple to get it ready for publication now! Treat your house like a destination and you’ll love it more.
“Le Testament Néfertiti” by Xavier Milan:
This summer, on one of the few days that I had to spend in Paris, I was making my usual rounds at the Louvre. I was in a state of absolute shock as my beloved membership chambers had been converted into a temporary bookstore. I have nothing against a bookstore, of course, but where was I suppose to buy my annual pass? Sadly, it had been moved to a room in the back with less space. But it still exits, so that’s all fine and dandy. After checking in on the galleries that I love, I decided to take a spin around the new bookstore. There was a nice assortment of scientific books about ancient Egypt, but nothing was really tripping my trigger. Le Testament Néfertiti did to some extent, but the cover was ugly, so I decided to pass on the purchase. It lingered in my mind, though, so the other day I found it on Amazon and was happy to see that there was a Kindle edition. I sent myself a sample, and then about a half hour later, I ordered the book. I have been gorging myself on it. I have been looking for a good historical mystery about Egypt ever since the sad day when I read the final installment of the Amelia Peabody Series. Those divine books changed my life. Truly. This book isn’t quite on that level, but I’m enjoying it. It’s about Claire, a curator of Egyptian antiquities at the Louvre, who discovers that her distant and unknown aunt married an Egyptologist on the verge of a great discovery before the Second World War. I haven’t read a book in French in ages, so I get to experience two of my favorite things simultaneously. #blessed And I just discovered that there is one before this! Oh well, I guess I will just read them out of order.