Posts Tagged ‘Kenneth Branagh’

MacBeth was, in my humble opinion, some of the most amazing theater I have seen in a long time.  It was fun, full of energy, tragic too-don’t get me wrong with the fun comment, but there were some funny moments amongst all the death.  And so many aspects of theater were brought to the stage for the audience to experience making it quite easy to suspend disbelief for two hours.

First, I braved a tunnel for the first time in, like, 20 years for Kenneth Branagh.  Second, my bladder survived the over two hours with no intermission.  Bravo on both counts for me.

Tonight we will touch upon the concept of spectacle from Aristotle’s Poetics found in this smashing production of MacBeth.  And yes, I am biased because of Kenneth Branagh.  Spectacle–there was freakin’ rain in the theater.  Hello, rain. And mud.  And fire.  Obviously there was air too, so we’ve covered four elements.  The fifth element in my world was Leeloo Dallas, no, it was Kenneth Freakin’ Branagh.  The witches climbed up and down the henge, they floated, they cackled.  It looked like they used the same crap in their hair that I had to use in Oedipus.  What was that gross, nasty stuff called?  I can’t remember but it made your hair look dried out and greasy all at the same time.  You had to wash it three or four times to get it out of your hair–and I had short hair at the time!

The entire drill hall of the Armory was used.  You walk down a stone path surrounded by the Scottish countryside toward a henge.  Then, in the show, the army approaches through it, lanterns come floating forward, it gives the constant reminder of the vastness of the story and its place in the world.

The rain and the mud and the battles-the music of all the noises added to the spectacle of the entire production.The costumes had mud along the hems, their bare feet had to feel all squishy.  The bodies slammed into the walls of the audience, the swords clanging, the robed chanting people walking through the audience.  Hubby and I of course started hitting our heads on the significant beats during the chant…too many times watching Monty Python.

And mustn’t forget the language.  I loved hearing some of classic lines from this play that have worked their way into everyday use.  But mostly, to hear Kenneth Freakin’ Branagh talking, speaking and at times reminding myself I was sitting in the very space he was speaking in blew my mind.  And when love speaks the voice of all the gods make heaven drowsy with the harmony.  Can one voice harmonize with itself?  Sure sounded like it.

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June 8, 2014.  I will breathe the same oxygen as Kenneth Branagh.  Okay, technically, not the same, and every day we are breathing the same “air” but on June 8, 2014, it’ll be the shared air in the Armory.

Kenneth as MacBethJune 8, 2014.

Twelve years of marriage.  Fourteen years shared together.  Over ten years of parenting joy.  Two amazing sons.  A fantastic Adopted #3 Son.  Two dogs,  nine cats, two bearded dragons, countless fish, thousands of crickets (always temporary at best), multiple mealworm colonies, two rocket sleds, four POSs, a trip to India, honeymoon in Maine, many trips to Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and all around New Jersey.  Millions of laughs, a bunch of tears, fair share of bouts of sickness or the “sicks”, plenty of morning sickness!  A bunch of theater productions, many sets built and taken down, many 50/50s sold.  Around 36 family board meetings, reunions up and down the east coast.  Many pink pigs, hundreds of Three Stooges, dozens of flights to the Moon and bushes of pink roses.  How do you sum up a marriage?  You can’t.  You can make a laundry list, like this, but it doesn’t capture the heart, the soul, the body, and the mind of a marriage.

Hubby, I love you wamhasabam aiaw faeaad.  Happy anniversary!

P.S. Yes, others have pointed out Hubby’s resemblance to Kenneth Branagh.


bridal party



ring bearer


Old fashioned watch your step  


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As tomorrow is Sir Kenneth Branagh’s birthday, well, today if we’re going by his time, I share a joke that younger son made up on Friday morning.  Dead Again was on the telly while we were getting ready for school.  Younger son came up to me and asked “What’s a character in an ocean movie?”  I knew to ask “who” since both sons are on a making-up-jokes-kick right now.  The answer: Kenneth Piranha.  I think that was quite a good joke for a seven year old.  It was particularly good for a boy who still attends speech to learn to pronounce the letter r (like his mother did when she was a wee one).

Nevertheless, older son shot back with the following.  “No, it would be ‘What’s a character in a fresh water movie?’ because piranhas don’t live in salt water.  They live in fresh water.”  I tried to tell him that it is uncouth to correct a joke for scientific inaccuracies and that he can just let it ride.  He explained that wasn’t in his nature.  I do love the clarity each son possesses about their personalities.

Younger son is truly blossoming and forging his own path, distinct from his brother’s path.  It takes time for a younger one to realize he does not have to always do what the older sibling does.  We try to support the different areas that younger son has shown an interest in over the years.  He too likes dinosaurs, but kept away from them for a bit.  He finally asked if he was allowed to like and study dinosaurs too.  In hindsight, older son probably told younger son he couldn’t like dinosaurs because he had already claimed them.  They claim toys, why wouldn’t they claim areas of study?

I am very proud of my sons for all they do, but this weekend they also demonstrated keen abilities with Kenneth Branagh movies as well.  These films just happened to be on cable, I swear.  Younger son knew it was Love’s Labour’s Lost.  Older son realized that Nathan Lane (one of the actors in LLL) was the voice of Timon in The Lion King. Older son recognized Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.  Then as I watched Music & Lyrics (love that movie), they recognized Campbell Scott as “Doug” from Dead Again.

Yup…we’re making sure they have plenty of useless film and movie knowledge just like their parents.


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Well, I finally watched Thor.  Kenneth Branagh was a good choice for the director and is also not the right choice for future adventures of Thor.  Yes, I love my Kenneth and he was great for laying out the mythology behind this Norse god.  Now he has wisely stepped aside to let someone else handle the action franchise that I am sure will follow.  What a wonderful blend of the classical and modern language.  I particularly enjoyed “Is this your chamber?” or something like that.

The thing I loved best about this movie was the very obvious lesson of listening to your parents.  I didn’t even have to hit the boys over the head with a hammer to catch it.  I wonder if I get a hammer, one of the plastic Thor hammers, if the boys would actually listen to me.  I don’t know.  They are great boys.  They are really well behaved except for the parts we’ve messed up.  Hubby and I have spoiled them.  It’s been tricky lately to work on undoing this.  We’re having a yard sale next Saturday, per the boys’ request as they want to make some money.  But they don’t want to sell any of their toys.  We’ve been working on this for a couple of weeks and today there was a small breakthrough.   They started to realize that most of their toys were played with for a couple of weeks and then the novelty wore off.  I am hopeful that they will come around in the next few days and select some toys that might actually sell.

They each had to pick ten toys for the yard sale and put them on my bed yesterday.  Older son called out that he was done this chore.  I predicted he would have chosen a Nerf dart and counted that as a toy.  I was right.

They both really got into Thor.  We called out some other classic Kenneth lines as we watched it.  Their favorite worked into the film a couple of times- “The arthropods are back.”  Not sure why they love this line from Kenneth so much, but they do.  I am clearly somewhat obsessed with him since younger son asked if the movie was directed by Hamlet.

I think I’ll be picking up Thor’s hammer and see if it triggers a response.  No, I won’t use it on them (though they said I should get the one with the lightning bolts that shoot out).  I’ll use it for the symbolism.  They dig the Norse mythology.  I need to capitalize on these events when I can.  😉

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Again a show that I love has left the airways.  Again I was very happy with the final episode.  I must say I loved that House worked in a reference to Dead Poet’s Society…hee hee hee.  And I know it doesn’t happen often anymore, but I’m glad they left it open. Technically they could do a reunion show, albeit without Wilson, but…

Little bit Thelma and Louise at the end, not that I think they are going to drive off a cliff, but just taking off is freeing.  I was speaking with a coworker about it earlier today and we wondered if House and Wilson would rent a convertible, drive off,  and pick up Brad Pitt, which I think Brad would have done it.  So carpe diem to us all.

I didn’t get to watch the behind the scenes special before the final episode…work.  But I am sure I will watch it over the weekend.  Currently, Kenneth Branagh is playing in the background in Love’s Labour’s Lost.  (Geeky trivia question for you-what does Kenneth Branagh have in common with both Hugh Laurie and Robert Sean Leonard?)  Papers must be graded, tests must be scored, laundry must be folded, and trash must be put to the curb.

But it will be done with a satisfied brain, pleased with the end of House.

Oldest son claims he can no longer sleep with his brother in the same bed.  They’ve shared a double-size bed for six years and now he’s decided he can’t share a bed.  At the moment, there really is no other option for him, so his solution is to sleep on the chaise in the living room.  Yeah, sleep.  Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Youngest son was devastated by this event.  He was crying as he tried to go to sleep and fessed up to the fact that he is scared of the dark.  I didn’t tell oldest son this information as I didn’t want him to feel even more power and control over his baby brother.  I checked on youngest son several times as he was falling asleep.  He is sleeping soundly in the bed, cuddling Blue Bear and his Elmo’s blanket.  Oldest son is tossing and turning as he pretends to sleep on the chaise.

Oldest son did not like when I ignored his questions during House.  He kept asking why I was crying and I wouldn’t answer. Then he would ask why I was laughing and I wouldn’t answer.  He kept pretending I was waking him up with my reactions to the episode.  He’s really got to work on his delivery.  It’s too over the top and obvious.  I was trying to make a point however that he was well beyond his 8:30 bedtime.  In theory, they should have been asleep before the episode even started and then it wouldn’t have mattered.  But he likes to be a ham.

I like that the series gave us little pictures, snapshots, of where the other characters went after House’s grand exit.  Fans deserve that type of ending.  Monk did the same.  Left everybody basically doing the same-old-same-old just without our voyeuristic eyes peering into their lives.

But the best lives to peer into are our own.  I know why my sons were still up-they were waiting to see me, or to get a few more minutes playing a video game.  They do like to grab a few minutes with me when I get home and, with my current late night schedule, I don’t mind if they are up for a wee bit when I get home.  I miss the little buggers.

Well, remember the lessons we’ve learned from House.  There are books on the philosophy of House, but I sum it up like this.  Mystery is a good thing, friends do matter, and everybody lies.  Of course, the most important lesson:

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I’ve had two discussions this week about plots, or more specifically remakes that use the same exact plot and why do we need them in the world?  It’s a fun topic and in the end, every show has been a rerun since the theater of the ancient Greeks.  The roots of every story, play, movie, or television show can be found in Greek theater.

But I still love a good debate so…

For me, plays are meant to be a unique event each time because they are performed live and each performance will have slight variations due to a different audience and another day of life experience for the actors adding new dimensions to the performance, subtle though they may be.  I look at film versions of plays in a similar manner.  Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet is unique from Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet and from Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet.  (I don’t even consider Mel Gibson’s in the conversation as I did not care for it at all).  Each is approached from the roots of theater yet captured on film.  Each film includes distinct performances by the actors and a distinct interpretation by the director, as well as very intentional scenic and musical choices.  I glean something different from each one.

I think that You’ve Got Mail is a unique film from The Shop Around the Corner, the film that inspired the adaptation.  It also acknowledges the original, gives a tip of the hat if you will, within the film.  The sign on the Fox Bookstore building says “just around the corner” and they make references to mail…letters.  If you know the film The Shop Around the Corner, you’ll pick up on these wink wink, nudge nudge references.  If you don’t, they don’t stick out as out of place.

I don’t understand the need for remakes (I don’t care what you call them) if they only are a remaking of an original film without bringing anything new to the table.  The shot by shot remake of Psycho…why did we need that?  Hitchcock’s is perfect, no need to redo it.  I remembered how perfect on Mother’s Day when Encore Suspense treated us to a 24 hour marathon of it.

Arthur, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, why do we need to remake them when the originals were fabulous?  Give me a new twist at least.  And changing the gender of a character doesn’t count…just changes pronouns.  Scream could have been just another slasher flick in the tradition of the classics that changed the genre in the late 70s and early 80s, but it did something new in acknowledging the pedigree that bore it.  That made it original.

Another recent revamp was made by two of my favorites, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.  But Willy Wonka will always be visualized in my mind as Gene Wilder in a fabulous purple velvet coat.  I have a brown velvet coat that I call my Willy Wonka coat.  🙂  I will watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and embrace it as an individual movie because of my love of Tim and Johnny, but Gene Wilder will always be  Willy Wonka.  Their latest, Dark Shadows, has yet to be seen, so I cannot comment yet.

Are these amazingly fine lines to be drawing in the sand?  Yep.  I wonder though as I reflect if I haven’t noticed a wee bit of a trend.  When a film is adapted from a book or play, I’m far more open to seeing a new version of it.  Perhaps because for me I always approach a film version of a book or play with some skepticism since I’ve already got my own version of it in my mind’s eye.  It don’t expect it to live up to my expectations and so I am sometimes pleasantly surprised.  A remake of a story that was originally intended for film I am less flexible about because if it was written for film, it was intended to be a finite and finished product.  A play is meant to be produced over and over just as a book can be read over and over.

Now some might ask me what I think about The Three Stooges movie.  I’m fine with it-I haven’t seen it yet but my hubby and sons did and they gave it their own Three Stooges approval.  First, it incorporated the concept of short films, another wink wink, nudge nudge example.  Second, even with the original Three Stooges, there were four different groupings of them (Moe and Larry with Curly, Shemp, Joe, or Curly Joe and the original trio was Larry, Moe and Shemp to begin with but without the name Three Stooges).  They were always the same characters but in different short films, a different situation.

In the end, we keep repeating and remaking these stories on stage or screen because we will never finish exploring the human condition and the human existence.  We are egotistical by nature.  We also are a social creature and we feel better after sitting in a dark room together with a bunch of strangers watching ourselves and examining how we handle this thing called life, reruns and all.


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During the fifth course, I would be quite full but I would persevere, for Kenneth’s sake.  The conversation would weave its way to Hamlet.  Not that I could ever cover this subject in a lunch or even a life time.  I humbly study this work of theater and will never even scratch the surface.  But we would focus on a specific scene.  Act III scene iv.  This scene from Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet makes me weep even when I simply think about it.

Hamlet Act III scene iv

(I am hopeful that I have successfully embedded the scene courtesy of tediousoldfools’ upload.  I adore tediousoldfools and all the wonderful uploads that I enjoy during the rare lunch breaks that I take.  I pop on a little Shakespeare & Kenny and my day becomes brighter.  So thank you to tediousoldfools.)

But the scene is the point of tonight’s blog.  Last night I treated myself to watching the movie again.    Once the ghost appears, Hamlet completely reverts to a small boy trying to please his father.  The fact that he just killed someone completely disappears as he looks at this ghost.  I love the voice of the ghost…his whispers are horrifying and filled with love at the same time.  He says to Hamlet,

“But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul:
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
Speak to her, Hamlet.”

And he immediately obeys.  This is a moment of tenderness and concern between Hamlet and Gertrude, one that for me seems to be sincere concern from her.  As he says “On him…on him” he simply becomes filled with sadness, respect, and longing for his father.  Kenneth’s face changes and the tears well up as he struggles to please his father all the while trying to grasp that his mother doesn’t see the ghost.  The levels of emotion that course through his being in these two minutes of film are outstanding.

The scene makes me feel the wonder of what it would be like to see someone that you loved one more time.  It makes me think about unresolved matters and the desire to set things right within a family.  I think that Hamlet stands the test of time because every family has betrayal within it.  Hopefully not as horrific of a betrayal as in Hamlet, but on some level everyone deals with betrayal and a destruction of trust.  And as in this story, not everyone gets a chance to resolve things before being separated by death.  In some cases, a person may choose to separate from a particular person because of a betrayal of trust and this perhaps helps to avoid it ending the same way Hamlet does.  Bloodshed seems to be never ending in this group.

But in this scene, you just see a boy missing his dad.  Wishing for more time.  Hoping to please him one more time.  To defend his honor.  To gaze on him, on him one more time.

In case you’d enjoy reading it, here is the text of the scene:

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act III scene iv


A king of shreds and patches—(Enter Ghost.)

Save me, and hover o’er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?


Alas, he’s mad!


Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command? O, say!


Do not forget: this visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul:
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
Speak to her, Hamlet.


How is it with you, lady?


Alas, how is’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?


On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.


To whom do you speak this?


Do you see nothing there?


Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.


Nor did you nothing hear?


No, nothing but ourselves.


Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
My father, in his habit as he lived!
Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal! (Exit Ghost.)

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Oldest son called out very excitedly this evening.  What could it be, I wondered.  He shouted that there was a mealworm!  He first got his mealworms, larvae, and beetles about four months ago.  I think all but one made it to beetle.  For a while there were only beetles and apparently they were busy (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more).  He is very excited but now I wonder how does one care for newborn baby mealworms?  I emailed oldest son’s teacher and asked for advice.  She saw how much he loved her worms (she brought them into class) so she gave him his own starter colony!

I’m very proud of him.  He really dedicated himself to taking care of these critters.  He loves that he owns arthropods.  He quotes Walking with Dinosaurs, narrated by the beloved Kenneth Branagh, “the arthropods are back!”  I do think part of the motivation came from wanting an even more exotic pet based on his successful care of the beetles.  Another part of oldest son’s motivation is that it demonstrates he is older than his brother.  Finally, he truly thinks they are cool and fun to watch.

And they are fun to watch.  I didn’t think they would be as interesting as they are.  Oldest son will probably start negotiations for a larger, reptilian type pet.  That will open the floodgates for youngest son to chime in as well.  Ah, I wonder what other little creatures will be dwelling alongside the mealworms in our home soon.

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Billy was back and I really did enjoy him.  But before I get too far into the post, what was with the tinny feedback on seemingly every microphone?  Or was it just me?

Was that Sheila E. working the percussion in the band?

Why and when did they switch the order of the awards?

Yes, I’m happy for Christopher, but damn, Kenneth got dissed every single time.

I love that so many people kept their speeches really brief.  I loved Billy’s opening number.  I laughed my ass off at the “focus group” for The Wizard of Oz.  Thank you, Catherine O’Hara for saying to millions what I have been saying for years.  Glinda’s got a wee bit of wicked in her for not telling Dorothy earlier about clicking those heels together.

Billy Crystal made it feel like it was a ten or fifteen years ago.  What a difference compared to how I used to watch the Oscars.  With a party, pools on who would win, and I would actually have seen the movies that were nominated.  Now I was just glad the boys were practically ready for bed when it started.

I wonder if I will one day reconnect with the Oscars as I did in the past.  The one nominated movie I saw this year was The Muppets.  Tells you where I am in life.  Now I catch movies on demand as I am able.  Sadly, I still think movies from the 1990s are recent.  The other night I was enjoying my good friend Keyser Soze and noticed the year it was made.  1995?  Really, 1995?  When I realized The Usual Suspects is as old as it is, I realized I need to get some new lines to quote.  How did time fly away and the movies with it?

Perhaps one day I’ll re-embrace my desire to go to a large dark room filled with strangers and watch movies.  I do love the movie theater experience, but there are so many other things to do.  But as my sons get older, they too will embrace the experience.  Won’t that be fun.  As you wish.

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One has to be in awe of Mary Shelley.  She capitalized on mob mentality a long time ago.  Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus touched a nerve in society almost 200 years ago and continues to touch a nerve today.  College courses are designed around studying this piece of literature.  It has been adapted into multiple films, stage adaptations, and other genres within the fine arts world.  People misidentify the creature as Frankenstein all the time, driving me positively crazy in the process.  The themes within this one piece of literature are vast and deep, visible in our everyday society.

Politics capitalize on mob mentality stirred usually through propaganda.  The saddest part about this is even with the mob stirred up apathy runs rampant.  Many heated debates may take place in different forums, over coffee at the local shop, over online social media sites, in classrooms on university campuses.  Real change and progress take time, energy, passion, and determination.  Many people have these qualities about their personal passion, but may get tunnel vision and forget to look around.  So while they could help with change they lose perspective and everyone just ends up shouting their tale louder and louder hoping to be heard by anybody who might stop to listen.

Illness also feeds mob mentality.  What was the latest flu-swine, bird?  I cannot even remember.  People think I’m nuts to not get a flu vaccine but the last time I had the flu was the year I got the vaccine.  While many of our modern medicinal advances are wonderful and things I embrace, others are creating new medical issues.  I let my sons get dirty.  I don’t make them use hand sanitizer every thirty minutes.  They get enough of that in school.  You need some germs to help your body develop the ability to fight them.  Over sanitizing can make you get sicker more easily.  Like I said, some medical advances are amazing.  Others not so much.   There is not always one pill to fix something.  Natural treatments are still a valid option.  Mob think however wants that one pill.  They don’t always care if it’s brand spanking new and no one really knows what it could do over the long term.  I personally wait till a new treatment is at least seven years out on the market to see how it does (little trick I learned from my hubby).

Education often falls into the mob mentality.  This is horrific to me.  Everyone learns in an individual way.  While you can learn within a group format, we need to remember that each person is going to leave that group setting and process the information differently.  We label everything in education to the point of labeling the labels!  The mobs said 20 years ago that one needed to have their children in something everyday.  Now these children struggle to focus on one central goal and stick with it.  My boys get to be boys.  They have time to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.  They have time to focus on an interest and become good at it.  They have time to learn because they are learning every day.  There is so much they have to learn about simply being a gentle, considerate, compassionate person at this tender age.  I don’t need to overwhelm them with extraneous stuff.  The mob says I should.  I ignore them.

Children aren’t always hyper–they are simply being children.  They haven’t yet lost the ability to be truly excited and happy about something and show it freely.  I love when I remember to do that-to let my whole being show how excited I am about something.  I don’t care what the mob thinks.  If I’m excited or I really like something regardless of the societal popularity, I’m gonna show it.  Children express their emotions within the moment fully and I still wonder why we work so hard to lose that gift.

Be bold.  Ignore the mob.  Embrace your own thoughts, ideas, and dreams.  Follow your own beliefs.

Truly some think that one’s own beliefs are formed by a mob.  Many (not all) without an organized religion to call home seem to feel or think that organized religion is simply mob mentality or glorified cults.  But unlike what sometimes happens to a person with a political cause, those who embrace a religious family are coming together because of the shared vision.  Then by nature that person usually has similar views to the others within the religious family.  This is similar to how one chooses their political alignment, but one political group doesn’t always meet all of one’s needs. This can make the waters muddy and creates conflict.

Politics and religion battle often over who has control of the human body.  Once again, Shelley was all over that 200 years ago.  This has been debated forever (or at least it seems that way even though I haven’t been around forever).  We put our energies into many things that, while important, make us forget the other things that are equally important.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  They are probably trying their best each day but are dealing with their own struggles.  A little kindness and acceptance go a long way.

Ramblings flow easily from the brain whether it be the brain of a genius or the brain of “Abby someone…Abby Normal”.  These are my ramblings this evening.  Shelley gave us a lot to think about.  And tons of great movies to watch.  My personal favorites would be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (yes, Kenneth Branagh’s version) and Young Frankenstein (go Mel Brooks!).  They make a fun double feature if you’ve got the time.  Throw in Frankenstein Unbound and you’ve got your whole day planned.

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