Saturday, January 29, 2011

Raindrops On Roses Notwithstanding

A few of my current favourite things:

Mad Men

I know, I know. I'm so incredibly late to the party that people are making cocktails with Buckfast and someone's fallen asleep in the jacks. The Bear and I are only a handful of episodes into the first series and absolutely loving it. Although I now feel terribly underdressed going anywhere, given the perfectly turned out fifties glamour of Betty and Joan.

Mini Wham Bars

A big yellow bag of these tasty little bad boys is a mere €1.99 in the Spar across the road. Tooth melting deliciousness. I am in so much trouble the next time I go the dentist.


Slick animation, one liners that'd make you choke on your tea and Jessica Walters from Arrested Development playing almost the exact same character as Lucille Bluth, only filthier. An entire stationery shop doesn't contain the amount of shiny gold stars that this show deserves. Look it up immediately. You can thank me in tiny Wham bars.

Free Vodka

The nice people at Conway Communications were kind enough to send me a bottle of Absolut, as a pretty cut-glass version of the bottle was being launched. And I'm not one to turn down free booze. Not when it fits in my freezer so nicely.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Scream Queen

Back in November, while on the train home to Waterford for the weekend, that day's Guardian newspaper was left behind by a fellow passenger. While skimming through it, I came upon an obituary for Hammer Horror actress, Ingrid Pitt. After reading it, I pulled out the page and kept it in my bag, which sounds like I was being a bit of a weirdo, but it was actually because her story was so fascinating.

Ingrid was born in Poland in 1937, to a Jewish mother and German father, who worked as a scientist. After her father refused to work on the Nazi's programme to develop rockets, her mother and five year old Ingrid were sent to a concentration camp for three years. When they were taken into a forest to be shot, amazingly they managed to escape and were rescued by partisan troops, with whom they lived rough for a year. Eventually, badass Ingrid made her way to Berlin and joined a theatre company, after a short stint as a medical student. However, it was soon time to leg it once more after she got in trouble for speaking out against the Communist authorities, and fled westwards with the help of a US Marine officer, who she then married. However, restless Ingrid wouldn't stay settled with her new husband in the Colorado military base they lived in. She ended up divorcing him and returning to Europe, landing bit parts in Dr Zhivago and Where Eagles Dare, as well as lead roles in dodgy films doomed to be consigned to the scrapheap of terrible sci-fi like The Omegans. Heard of it? Yeah, me neither.

Ingrid finally made her breakthrough in The Vampire Lovers, where she was cast as a 200 year old lesbian vampire that seduced female victims while barely clad in low cut transparent gowns. At a time when British horror in the late sixties and seventies was ramping up the sex and gore in its baroque films in an attempt to win over cinema crowds, Ingrid made a cult name for herself thrilling cinemagoers as a sexy predator with no problem making the most of her vampy cleavage.

She wrote numerous books in her later years, including her autobiography Life's A Scream and The Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity, both of which sound bleedin' fantastic, and given the eventful life she led before breaking into film, I imagine would make for a fantastic read.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Penguin, Joker, Riddler... and Catwoman, too! The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!

So the internet is abuzz with the news that Anne Hathaway has been confirmed to play that slinkiest of supervillains, Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, in Christopher Nolan's next Batman film. I would have thought that Hathaway is too lovely and sweet to pull off a mean, sexy character as deadly as Catwoman, but I'm completely willing to be proven wrong. Moreover I'm really looking forward to seeing what the new approach to the Catwoman costume will be. As such, I've had a look at the feline femme fatale's costume style over the years.

Her first appearance was in 1940, in Batman #1, where she was introduced to us as a thief called "The Cat" in a fetching green dress with a stylish blue-black forties hairdo and no costume to speak of. Poor show, Selina. Must try harder.

However, she wasn't long stepping up her game somewhat, appearing in furry cat masks between 1940 and 1942, which was an improvement on the lack of costume front, but didn't exactly bring the sexy. It wasn't until the mid-forties that she really kicked things off with a more revealing mask and an altogether more attractive look in a purple dress and green cape, which she rocked well into the 1950s.

The purple theme made a comeback in the 1990s versions of Catwoman, albeit in a much more skintight way to match her amplified rack.

Catwoman in the 1960s had sashayed her way onto television in the gloriously camp Adam West Batman series. Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Miss America 1955, Lee Meriwether (in the crazy-ass 1966 Batman film) all poured themselves into the shiny black catsuit and kitty ears. In my opinion it's Newmar who steals the sixties Catwoman crown by a long shot, with her cartoon-like tiny waist, low slung belt, spikey eyebrows and general jaw-dropping rideyness.

While Julie and Eartha were purring up a storm onscreen, comic book Catwoman seemed to have borrowed from the TV show, style-wise, as she was now appearing with a long necklace like Julie's and a mask a lot like Eartha's. Although the hugest difference was the choice of green for her skintight catsuit, as apparently green was the colour of choice for sixties comic book villains. I'm not convinced by this weird green getup though, as it makes her look like some kind of slithery lizard girl as opposed to crafty cat burglar.

1969 thankfully saw the end of the green scales shenanigans, with our girl re-emerging in red and black boots with matching eyemask and some manner of leotard with a collar. Ka-pow!

Catwoman has also given grey ensembles a shot here and there in her time, in comic books and as an animated character. While the nineties saw the resurrection of purple in her outfit, Michelle Pfeiffer was kicking Gotham ass in Batman Returns as a hyper-sexy red lipped, leather clad and slightly deranged Selina Kyle.

Of course in 2004, Halle Berry made an absolute balls of Catwoman in an impractical leather bikini mess of an outfit, although to be fair, the ripped trousers were a nice touch. And I'm pretty sure the movie is hilarious when you're drunk.

Currently, comic book Catwoman is tearing up Gotham with a shiny black crop of hair and an even shinier black catsuit. This most recent look seems rather influenced by the movie versions, although she's now working a pair of cat-eye goggles rather than a mask. I'm guessing Christopher Nolan's take on her costume will most likely be black in colour, but I can't wait to see what happens next with Anne Hathaway stepping into the bad ass pussycat's sexy boots.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Magical Mystery House

If there's one thing I love, it's a spooky old mansion. Creepy buildings with weird histories, like Loftus Hall or the Hellfire Club really float my boat. As do bizarre follies like the Bovolo staircase in Venice, where a 15th century rich fella got some notion that he wanted to be able to get to his top floor bedroom on horseback and had the money and lack of cop on to make it so. I'm glad he did though, because it's absolutely gorgeous and wonderfully strange.

I want to be a rich eccentric when I grow up.

Another thing I'm fascinated with is mad old birds like the Marchesa Casati, or the Edies of Grey Gardens, eccentric women who did their own thing regardless of whether they were acting the complete loolah or not. As it happens, these three things I find so interesting are all smashed together in a wondrous and weird place known as The Winchester Mystery House, situated in San José, California.

Front view of the house. But wait till you see...

...The Winchester mansion on Google Maps. Seriously. Flipping size of it.

Sarah Winchester was an extremely wealthy and deeply troubled widow, after the deaths of both her baby daughter and gun magnate husband. A medium she sought help from allegedly told her that the Winchester family was cursed and doomed to be haunted by the ghosts of the thousands that the famous Winchester rifle had killed in battle. Sarah's efforts to confuse and waylay these supposed spirits are what led to the massive 160 room Victorian mansion she resided in. Taking eccentricity to a whole new level, the lady of the house had continuous 24 hour construction work going on, adding rooms and entire wings to the house, sometimes tearing them down entirely and rebuilding them, for 38 years until her death.

This looks like an entire town, but it's actually the Winchester mansion before the huge 1906 earthquake that knocked the house from seven stories to four and demolished the observation tower. Scald. I love a good observation tower.

The constant building and rebuilding of the house is only one part of the story's craziness though. The labyrinthine interior is rife with demented features like staircases that lead to the ceiling, or rise up eleven steps and then descend for seven, windows in the floor, cupboards that open onto brick walls, doors that go nowhere and Tiffany art glass windows with specially designed spiderweb patterns, as well as brilliant oddities like hidden rooms and secret passageways, all as an attempt to throw off any evil spirits that she believed were following her around the house. There's even an account of the roundabout way in which she made her nightly visit to her "Seance Room" that mentions her clambering out windows onto flights of stairs and slipping between rooms via sliding panels. Poor old mad Sarah.

Door to nowhere, stairs to the ceiling, windows-a-rama and spiderweb motifs a go-go.

After Sarah died, there were meant to numerous sightings of the ghosts of former workmen, eerie unexplained footsteps and the like, earning the house a reputation as one of the most haunted in America. Whatever about that, the house itself is surely worth a nosey around, as it's open to tourists and y'know...amazing. All I know is that if I should find myself anywhere near San José in the future I'll be all over that like white on rice.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Take A Good Hard Look At The Motherfuckin' Boat

So I have this coat that I bought in London well over a year ago at this stage, which I'm rather fond of. For some reason I've never quite gotten around to posting about it, until today that is.

Ta daaa

It's a lovely Elgee of London 1960s trenchcoat with embroidered red flowers and a suede SAILBOAT on each pocket. Kablammo! Everybody loves boats, right? And on top of all that it's showerproof, no less. Just showerproof, mind. None of your fancy stuff. When people ask me where I got it, I get to sound like an unbearably smug hipster-type, seeing as the answer to that question is in fact a vintage shop on Brick Lane. And now that I have an iPhone thanks to the Bear and his supreme Christmas present buying skills, I'll get to wander off taking Hipstamatic pictures of my feet (isn't that one of the things they do? Probably not while walking though I suppose) after I answer, just to dial up the hipster-ness to eleven.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Quelque Chose #6

Me: Whatever happened to Gina G, I wonder?

The Bear: She ended up in porn.

Me: Oh my God, really?

The Bear: No. I just made that up.

Me: Oh. That's something that you'd totally believe though, isn't it? It just sounds true, like.