1. The Red House
On Friday night I went to the Egyptian with Norman and a co-worker named Kate to see an Edward G. Robinson double feature. Kate knows little about classic films and nothing about noir, so it was a kick to introduce her to my favorite movie genre. Both of Friday's movies featured Robinson in atypical (i.e., not tough, criminal, scheming, etc.) roles. The first film, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, was pretty good -- based on a Cornell Woolrich novel, it's the story of a vaudeville spiritualist who discovers he actually does have the ability to see the future, and it more or less ruins his life. Robinson was sweet and angst-ridden, and William Demarest was great as a fast-talking idiot cop. But the evening belonged to the second feature, The Red House. This movie is in the public domain (I think you can even watch it online), which means there's no financial incentive for anyone to preserve a good print of it. The print we watched was courtesy of the UCLA film archive, and it consisted of two prints spliced together. It was pretty scratched and the sound wasn't great, but man, it was worth it. It's a very gothic tale that includes an isolated farm, a teenage love triangle, a haunted woods, a borderline-inappropriate mother-son relationship, unintentional double entendres, and Edward G. Robinson as a farmer. Julie London, looking far older than her 20 years, is delightful as a teen vixen, and Robinson's kind, long-suffering sister is played by Judith Anderson -- sadly, I couldn't really warm to her because every time I looked at her, I thought, "That's Mrs. Danvers!" The Red House features a spectacular ending that draws all the plot threads together in a satisfying, melodramatic way. When the lights came up, I turned to Norman and said, "That was craaaaazy." Kate was thrilled with the evening's program and is now an affirmed fan of film noir. I lent her my DVD of Laura -- if she likes that, I'll know she's on her way to joining my cult.
I love these bags. Each one holds as much as three plastic grocery store shopping bags, yet you can fold it up into a little slipcase that measures less than 5 x 5 inches and stash it in a pocket or purse. I bought one for myself and received a second one as a birthday present, and I've used them a half-dozen times in the last week. They come in snazzy colors, too -- I have one in lime green and another in red-and-orange stripe. I love things that make it easy to be environmentally savvy.
3. The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
A week or so ago, I watched a bunch of Indiana Jones-related videos online, and ever since, I've been jonesing for something adventurous. I've had this book for years, and by years I mean "probably more than two decades," and I figured it was finally time to start reading. Now, of course, I don't know what I was waiting for. Davis is (or was, 20-plus years ago) an ethnobotanist at Harvard; when he was given an assignment to learn how zombis are created (if, in fact, they really exist), he jumped at the chance and traveled to Haiti to discover the recipe for the poison that can turn a person into a zombi. I remember seeing a news program shortly after this book was published that included interviews with at least one zombi -- this man had died, then been resurrected and enslaved. He had a flat affect and seemed brain-damaged, but he also had memories of his former life, and family members who hadn't seen him in years confirmed that it was he. Very eerie and unsettling. I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book, but so far it's excellent. I do like a good zombi story.
4. Earth Shoes
Could anything be more quintessentially 70s than Earth Shoes? (Besides disco, that is.) They're famous for their "negative heel technology" -- the front of the sole is slightly higher than the back. I had a pair of these babies back in the day, and although I can't tell you much about them (I think they were brown), I do remember loving them and wearing them until I either outgrew them or they wore out. I was about eleven at the time, so outgrowing them is the more likely probability. Anyway, I found out that they're either still being made or are being made again, so I ordered myself a pair in a style called Devi, pictured above, and they arrived last Thursday. I wore them all weekend, and I'm in love; the strange sole doesn't feel odd at all, and they're lightweight and very comfortable. They make me want to hug every tree I see. Now I'm thinking about buying a pair of these.