Thursday, August 17, 2017

Films to get you in the mood for the total eclipse

Little Shop of Horrors

The Total Solar Eclipse will be Monday (Aug. 21, 2017), darkening the skies from Oregon to South Carolina. And if you aren't lucky enough to be in the path of totality, you can still spot the eclipse in partial form throughout the United States.

But don't wait until Monday to get in the mood. Here's a fun list of movies to watch that include a total eclipse.

1. Little Shop of Horrors. This 1986 musical horror comedy directed by Frank Oz (think Miss Piggy) is a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical comedy by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (think Disney) based on the low-budget 1960 film of the same name, directed by Roger Corman (think "The Pope of Pop Cinema"). The 1986 film stars Rick Moranis as a nerdy shopkeeper who discovers an unusual plant during a total eclipse and begins raising the plant that ends up feasting on human blood. Other stars include Ellen Greene, Steve Martin, Christopher Guest and Bill Murray. Here's the fun scene in which the eclipse appears.

2. Delores Claiborne. This 1995 thriller based on a Stephen King novel stars Kathy Bates as a wife who's abused by husband David Strathairn. The film revolves around her daughter, who reluctantly returns to a New England island to clear Delores (Bates) from the charges of killing her employer. But then there's that time when Delores really did something bad during a solar eclipse. Left: That's Kathy Bates watching her drunk husband attempt to watch the eclipse. If you want to see the part with the eclipse, click here. But be warned, it spoils the film.

3. Ladyhawke. Matthew Broderick stars as Philippe Gaston, known as "The Mouse," who meets Captain Etienne of Navarre who has been separated from his love, Isabeau, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. They have been cursed and Navarre takes the form of a wolf by night and Isabeau a hawk by day so that they can never be together except for a brief moment at dusk and dawn. Only during an eclipse will spell be broken. See the trailer here.

4. Apocalypto. This pre-Columbian film set in the Yucatan and Guatemala around 1511 is directed and produced by Mel Gibson and told entirely through the Yucatec Maya language. The main character is captured and brought to a high Mayan city to be sacrificed but a solar eclipse and the superstitions surrounding it save him. See that scene here.

5. Pitch Black. I have not seen this film but had to include it after hearing the premise on NPR. Here's the description from IMDb: "A commercial transport ship and its crew are marooned on a planet full of bloodthirsty creatures that only come out to feast at night. But then, they learn that a month-long eclipse is about to occur." Leave the lights on for this one. Here's a scene that will give you the creeps.

Want more? The NPR podcast I mentioned deals with hot eclipses that are used in movies to denote plot changes. Hear "In Movies, a Solar Eclipses Means Change is Coming," here.

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves the weird and unusual, including in films.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The truth is out there…in Alabama

On Feb. 11-12, 1989, more than 50 people, including the chief of police, reported seeing odd objects flying over the small community of Fyffe in northeastern Alabama. The rash of UFO sightings, and the thousands of people who arrived looking for UFOs, resulted in the town being named the UFO Capital of the World. Not to be outdone, the state later proclaimed it the UFO Capital of Alabama.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, the annual Fyffe UFO Day Festival will kick into gear. Visitors may not spot little green men flying around in saucers — or maybe they will! —but there will definitely be hot air balloons, arts and crafts, children’s games, 5K run, antique car and tractor show and food vendors.  

Photos courtesy
DeKalb Tourism
Bands slated to perform are the country band Confederate Railroad, Backwoods Revival, Clear Creek Bluegrass, Danny Lee and much more. You might remember Confederate Railroad from the 1980s and 90s, when they recorded hits like "She Took It Like a Man," "Queen of Memphis" and "Trashy Women." In 1993, the group was awarded Best New Group at the Academy of Country Music Awards with a Grammy nomination and other award nods following. 

Gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Fyffe Town Park on Graves Street, but the hot air balloons take flight around 6 a.m. Parking and admission are free and visitors are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets. For more information on UFO Day Festival, call DeKalb Tourism at (888) 805-4740 or visit

Want to know more about that rash of UFO sightings in 1989 and a few Alabama UFO reports preceding Fyffe’s encounters? Click here.

Here’s something fun (or maybe weird), a commercial aimed at keeping teenagers from driving and drinking using Fyffe and its UFO reputation as a backdrop.

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves weird and unusual things. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flying Violins, ladybugs and Cajun culture in hubcaps: the Robert Dafford murals of Lafayette, Louisiana

Flying Violins
Robert Dafford is a legend in Lafayette, Louisiana, a muralist who has traveled the world creating hundreds of pieces of public art in magnificent ways. Walk around downtown Lafayette and you’ll see his paintings everywhere.

Take the “Flying Violins.” I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dafford for a DeSoto magazine feature (on Southern murals, coming up in October) and learned how he came to paint this mural I have walked past for years. In 1988, before the spring’s annual Festival International de Louisiane, in which musicians from all over the Francophone world — including Louisiana — visit Lafayette for several days of fun, Dafford was asked to paint a side of a downtown building. He chose to paint violins emerging from a swamp scene.

Till All That's Left is a Postcard
“I conceived it as a symbol of Cajun music leaving the swamps and flying out into the world,” Dafford said.

The mural represents the universality of music, an art form that pushes past the barriers of politics, language, and business, Dafford explained.

Other “Flying Violins” murals have been painted in sisters cities in France, Canada, Belgium and England, and several more are planned.

Other Dafford murals in Lafayette include:
Till All That's Left is a Postcard
“Til All That’s Left is a Postcard” -  Corner of Jefferson Street and Garfield in downtown Lafayette.

Dafford’s vibrant mural includes birds, dragonflies and other creatures escaping the Atchafalaya Basin from the encroachment of development. He painted this mural in the 1980s when people talked of developing Louisiana’s massive river drainage swamp that’s home to numerous wildlife.

“Ex-Garage” – Corner of Jefferson Street and E. Vermilion in downtown Lafayette.

This mural on the side of Jefferson Towers reflects what used to be in this spot, a parking garage. Dafford pays homage to those old cars but paints local chefs, musicians and other “Cajun characters” into the bumpers and hubcaps.

“Stereo Prairie” – 201 E. Congress St. 
This mural decorates the side of the Children’s Museum of Acadiana and includes other artists Herb Roe, Sherrie Bennet and Chris Confor.

The most recent Dafford mural to Lafayette graces City Hall (705 W. University), which used to be a Sears Department building. Like most of Dafford’s murals, the series of paintings tells the story of Lafayette’s origins and the people who called Acadiana home, including French, Spanish, African and Native Americans.

“We have international roots,” Dafford explained, adding that today’s city attracts and honors international partners. “Lafayette has always been and will always be international in its intentions, aims and goals.”

Want to know more? Check out “The Public Art of Robert Dafford,” written by and illustrated by Philip Gould, published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves public art that tells a story.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

New Orleans residents love their red beans and rice, celebrate the long-standing dish with new exhibit

If you’re from New Orleans, you know that Camellia Beans are essential to making rich and creamy red beans and rice. It’s a city tradition on Mondays, passed down from the days when housewives put a pot of beans on the stove while they washed clothes, utilizing the ham hock leftover from Sunday's supper. My momma was serious about using Camellia Beans, and she passed this knowledge on to me. She even mailed me packages when I lived in Los Angeles to make sure my beans were the real thing.

Don’t take my word for Camellia Beans being a vital part of culinary living in South Louisiana. The Southern Food & Beverage Museum of New Orleans honors this traditional foodway with a permanent exhibit opening Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. “Red Bean City” looks at the popular red beans and rice dish, along with the fourth generation business. Special events will mark its opening.

Events include:
Thursday, Aug. 3: Exhibit opens and visitors can take a photo with the Red Bean Car from 4-5:30 p.m. Camellia will also host a panel of New Orleans food culture and bean experts — David Beriss, Leah Chase, Poppy Tooker and Vince Hayward — to discuss the beloved dish of red beans and rice, led by historian Rien Fertel.

Saturday, Aug. 5: Free entry to the museum and complimentary tastes of red beans, plus the first 100 visitors will receive a free bag of red beans and kids will enjoy Bean Art from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The exhibit, created by Fertel, includes beans and rice traditions around the world, red bean secrets, history of the Hayward family of Camellia Beans and more. The Krewe of Red Beans marches at Mardi Gras and participants can also don a Krewe of Red Beans costume and snap a "parade" selfie.

Cheré Coen is a food and travel writer who loves her momma's red beans and rice!