Ken Russell: Perspectives, Reception & Legacy

I was fortunate to attend this ground-breaking conference and experience all its delights. Here are a few pictures (the rest on Facebook). Host Matt Melia is looking into publishing the proceedings, so I’ll certainly let you know when that happens. There was a really high ratio of excellence, as might be expected with many people waiting years to have a opportunity like this: really a terrific bunch of folks. I finally got to meet the lovely Lisi face to face and we were all graced with Murray Melvin‘s stellar presence. Yes, I got to hold Ken’s Peruvian madonna.

Mom

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Marjorie Virginia Laity, née Weber 1937-2017

Rather unexpectedly my mom died Saturday night. We’re all reeling a bit, especially my dad. She had hip surgery earlier this summer but had recovered so quickly that she was walking down the block without assistance already. In keeping with her desires there will be no funeral; if you would like to honour her memory, you can send a donation to the Friends of the Thomas Branigan Library, PO Box 213, Las Cruces, NM 88004. If you’d like to be part of a general donation we’re gathering in her name [click here for the PayPal link].

Robert wrote up a very nice obituary that will be appearing soon in The Lansing State Journal, The Johnson City Record Courier and The Las Cruces Sun-News.

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If you knew my mom, you knew how energetic she was, never still for long. In recent years she really loved feeding the roadrunners from the back yard of their home in Las Cruces. They got a new Lab puppy at Christmas and Maggie is already a robust 70 lbs.

Mom was a superb seamstress: she always said that computers were beyond her, but somehow she had no trouble programming the computer-run sewing machine that seemed to do everything but knit (it scared me!). She loved ice skating so much, even when she fell backstage at the ice show on Mother’s Day and broke her ankle in four places. Of course she had her first knee surgery after a spill hill climbing on motorcycles back when we were kids. She was mostly fearless.

Here’s something that never failed to make her laugh. It became a long-running joke on family trips along with the guy who looked at the beauties of Monument Valley and muttered, “I see no significance in that.”

In high school she started working as a telephone operator, a job she loved. She always told the story of helping the woman who wanted to talk to Elvis (she was a big fan herself) and they got as far as Colonel Tom Parker. My dad and us kids would always make her call for pizza because “You have such a nice telephone voice” (which she did). We always had music on in the house. My mom loved to dance too, especially a lively Polish polka.

Thanks for everything, mom. Feel free to share your memories.

 

FFB: Frenchman’s Creek – Daphne du Maurier

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Yes, I had this edition. Virago FTW!

Du Maurier is having a bit of a renaissance at the moment what with the new film of My Cousin Rachel which I very much long to see. Her tales have translated well to film as Rebecca and The Birds have demonstrated as well as the earlier version of My Cousin Rachel. There is apparently a television film version of Frenchman’s Creek (which I will seek out) but it seems to have strayed far from the novel, to its detriment.

I’m not sure why this novel doesn’t get the acclaim of the others: it is sheer delight and you don’t have to be a pirate at heart to love it (though it helps). Lady Dona St Columb flees London and her dissolute life, fed up with her stifling gilded cage and escapes with her children to her husband’s remote Cornwall estate.

She had played too long a part unworthy of her. She had consented to be the Dona her world had demanded…and all the while another Dona, a strange phantom Dona, peered at her from a dark mirror and was ashamed.

In the quiet of the house, she and the children romp in the green and the woods and the salt air and for once she’s happy. She sees a ship in the harbour one day and is struck with a strange premonition that presages her meeting the pirate captain of La Mouette. Her life changes.

‘Why are you a pirate?’ she said at last, breaking the silence.
‘Why do you ride horses that are too spirited?’ he answered.
‘Because of the danger, because of the speed, because I might fall,’ she said.
‘That is why I am a pirate,’ he said.

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There are just so many good quotes:

‘It is because we are both fugitives,’ she thought, ‘there is a bond between us.’

Du Maurier recognises that ‘it’s different for girls’ but also gives her heroine genuine adventure that never feels anachronistic. This is a non-stop book that has a simple narrative and yet moments to reflect on what freedom means when we accept ties to others. Hard choices indeed. And while du Maurier is often seen as gothic, cynical and distrustful, she has her moments every bit as swoony and heady as Heyer (reading her on the journey back, laughing out loud on a crowded train).

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Check out all the overlooked books at Patti’s blog. It does actually fit the heist theme (there’s a few, though the best may be the perriwig snatching 😉 hee).

Write 4 a Day: Sunday 23 July

Write 4 a DayDon’t you deserve at least one day to write?

Write 4 a Day is a series of monthly one-day writing retreatsin upstate New York. There is:

  • no workshop
  • no agenda
  • no required activities
  • no assignments
  • no schedule
  • no WiFi!

Unplug. Write. Don’t write. Think. Daydream. Doodle. Outline. Come for the whole day or just for part of it; network, collaborate or write solo; wander the woods, hills, fields and streams of Universal Pathways for inspiration (bring sturdy shoes) or sit in a comfy chair and brainstorm. It’s up to you.

WHO – you! We haven’t had to limit attendance yet, but it’s getting to be a consideration. If you want to be sure to reserve a space, email me via the contact form.

WHY – because you deserve a day to devote to your writing (or daydreaming or sketching or scheming or knitting or…)

WHAT – $22 fee for the space (cash/check/PayPal/$20 for HVWG members) and food (a dish to share or your own lunch)

WHEN – 10am-5pm

2017: July 23, Aug 20, Sep 17, Oct 15, Nov 19, Dec 17

WHERE – Universal Pathways, 692 Pleasant Valley Rd, Berne, NY 12023 – Phone: (518) 872-2272

World Listening Day 2018

Pauline Oliveros Listening all the timeYou hear all the time: how much do you listen? What do you listen to? What do you hear when you don’t think you’re listening?

Celebrate the memory of Pauline Oliveros with World Listening Day.

Take a walk. Walk so silently that the bottoms of your feet become ears.

Share what you’re listening to.

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Southbound

kingston kenI am bound for London — well, actually Kingston-on-Thames first for the conference. Never been to this campus before but it looks lovely. I’ll be near Hampton Court so I might finally go there. The Royal Horticulture Society had a big show there: the gardens are bound to be lovely.

Of course the conference ought to be a blast. I really get to enjoy it because I am the first speaker after the welcome! Heh, that makes a difference from going in the last panel of the last day. Far more relaxing. All the papers look interesting — after all, it’s Ken Russell!

I’ll be flying down which is a change. Rail tickets have gone up so much it was actually cheaper (not to mention quicker). Going by way of Surbiton which always puts me in mind of Monty Python.

I will have adventures to share, of course: at least a couple of concerts in London afterward, too. I will doubtless share my opinions here. In the meantime I’m just glad to have my paper finished well before time!

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Representing the skulk always!

Film for a Friday: Woman Who Came Back

Yes, it is written like that in the title card: no article on Woman. Low budget offering from Western Television, Woman Who Came Back (1945) offers a tale of the past invading the present in the form of a witch burned at the stake who wants revenge. In New England — where of course no one was burned as a witch.

Criminy people: witches were not burned in the US, they were hanged (and occasionally pressed). Also EARLY MODERN ERA was the time of the  wild witch crazes: you needed the print era to really get propaganda going on a massive scale.

Anyhoo: this is a fun little no-budget film. Including great creepy vintage Halloween costumes.

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The story is simple: Lorna Webster (Nancy Kelly) on a bus returning to her hometown and the man she ran away from at the altar meets an old woman who claims to be Jezebel Trister (Elspeth Dudgeon – best name I’ve heard in a while), the witch who had been condemned by Lorna’s great grand pappy. Of course she’s back to curse his progeny and the bus crashes killing everyone except Lorna and the old woman’s dog who haunts her the rest of the film.

Her paternalistic head-patting fiance (Now Voyager’s John Loder) assures her everything will be fine and the epically old guy pipe-smoking Rev. Jim Stevens (Otto Kruger) agrees. Let’s just all forget this bus full of dead people and get on with our charming New England lives of small town paranoia: Shirley Jackson meets Grace Metalious.

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Of course weird things happen: everything Lorna touches dies and it spooks people, like Expositio her housekeeper (okay, her name’s not really Expositio but she does explain a lot of back story before giving notice presumably because the windows won’t stay shut and the curtains billow mysteriously in the ever-present wind).

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Naturally, Lorna discovers the truth about her curse from a volume in old grandpappy’s study that just happens to be in a mausoleum in the crypts under the church. The townfolk don’t like these goings on especially when her fiance’s niece falls ill and they react accordingly.

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Will they gather into an angry mob or will clearer pipe-smoking heads prevail to show they’ve all been Scooby-Doo’d? It’s only a little over an hour so you can watch and find out for yourself. Hardly a masterpiece, it’s nonetheless fun and goes on my list for the course on witch films I’m thinking about doing sometime in the near future.

I learned about this film from a terrific piece on the folk-horror of Powell & Pressburger’s Gone to Ground.