Friday, October 31, 2014

HALLOWEEN IS HERE!

The Countdown has reached its end, and though it was fun while it lasted, Halloween being all up on us is even better. Time to go out and get some candy!!!

So in honor of the treat-acquiring on-deck for tonight, as well as the official mascot for 2014's Countdown to Halloween, here's a rad piece of art depicting the Creature from the Black Lagoon composed entirely of Halloween candy. This is the handiwork of Eric Milikin.

Happy Halloween, everyone! And thanks again to CountdownToHalloween.com for letting me be part of the parade - if you're bummed that this blog's countdown has concluded, feel free to check out any of the hundreds of other participants listed back at the HQ site!

Fight Club Friday! (5)

- You met me at a very strange time in my life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

1 Day 'Til Halloween: Ready to suit up

There's an interesting duality about Halloween. The roots of the festival focused on the nearness of the netherworld, meaning both our own mortality and the unsettling mysteries of inhuman things that lurk in the shadows. It's the one celebration we perform mainly at night, in the dark. We don't try to escape the season, the way we look past winter to the rebirth of spring by bringing evergreen trees in from the cold at Christmas. And given all of that, there's an obvious association of Halloween with fear and the gruesome and macabre, so that a marathon of slasher flicks or a visit to a haunted house/cornfield/hayride feels holiday-appropriate. But then, on the flip side, there's the costumes worn for trick-or-treating or masquerade parties, and while it's a given that people will always dress up as vampires and witches (and, perhaps in questionable taste, invocations of real life fears from terrorists to Ebola) there's just as much wish-fulfillment and empowerment and goodness and light in costume choices as there is embodiment of and surrender to the darkness. Whatever the superstitious origins of dressing up as goblins or ghosts on All Hallow's Eve, it's now almost entirely about personal expression. Not that I have a problem with this in any way. As I say, I just find it interesting.

And I should point out that there's not a huge schism in the way people get into the spirit (ha ha) of Halloween, dividing into neat camps. Someone who looks forward all year to attending the local Carnival of Terror may be the kind of person who meticulously plans the perfect zombie costume, but may just as well be the kind of person who prefers to be a superhero or a goofy visual pun. Personally I like the monster costumes for myself, but that's just me, not an opening salvo in any kind of "you're doing it wrong" rant.

I'm not dressing up in any costume this year, no Halloween parties on the social calendar and no group/family theme for trick-or-treating. The latter possibility had the best chance of happening, and if it had happened, it would not have been anywhere near the horror end of the dress-up spectrum. Because obviously at this point in my life, my kids are the drivers of Halloween, and they are not quite (and may never be) as into the gothic and ghastly as much as dear old dad.

You probably could have pieced this together from the last few months of posts (in fact I'm not 100% sure I haven't mentioned it before) but there is going to be a large Lego influence in the Halloween costuming of my offspring tomorrow night. We've been planning it for months, basically for as long as the little guy has been obsessed with The Lego Movie. It occurred to us early on that all five members of the family could dress as characters from the film: the little guy called dibs on Benny the Spaceman, and the little girl wanted to be Princess Unikitty, which left Wyldstyle for my wife and Emmet for the bino. I was happy to take on Vitruvius (and probably would have brought along a sheet and switched over to Ghost Vitruvius about halfway through the night, because, come on, who are we trying to kid here).

The major snag that we encountered was that Lego does not produce officially licensed Halloween costumes which, given the potential gold mine that would be, seems borderline insane. We waited through the summer to see if they would eventually become available (they'd be brand new since there was no such thing as The Lego Movie last Halloween) but they never materialized. Still, with the little guy's heart set on the idea, that meant we'd have to somehow kitbash together homemade versions, and faced with the sheer amount of effort anticipated, the possibility of mom and dad dressing up with the kids went right out the window.

Then, as Halloween costumes for every other marketable property in the world started appearing (right around back-to-school), my wife was shopping with our daughter and they saw an Elsa costume and my wife asked the little girl if she'd like to be her for Halloween, and the little girl enthusiastically latched on to the idea. Aside from the fact that Princess Unikitty would be extremely hard to recreate, and a storebought Elsa costume is infinitely easier to acquire, it did seem only fair to let the little girl decide for herself and not constantly be steamrolled by her older brother's grandiose schemes. (Last year the little guy's heart's desire was to be Buzz Lightyear for Halloween, and he got his way, along with his sister as Jessie and baby bro as Mr. Potato Head. If he continued to get his way I'm sure this trend could have continued indefinitely.)

So that's the plan: basically our three kids are dressing as characters from the two highest-grossing children's movies in recent memory. The bino has a toddler-sized orange safety vest and construction hat, whereas the little guy has blue sneakers and blue gloves, a blue body suit that was part of a Toy Story alien costume (the green, three-eyed head has already become just another toy for everyday amusement), and a bootleg Benny mask from Etsy. Last night my wife and I stayed up late, her sorting Lego bricks (not for Halloween per se, just because it needed doing) and me working on the last few handmade elements of the boys' costumes. I made a blue posterboard torso front and back, glued a Lego Space symbol I had downloaded and printed to the front and a couple rolled pieces of posterboard as oxygen tanks to the back. I also wrapped a shoebox in red paper to make a Piece of Resistance that we will try to attach to the bino's safety vest, although I really don't know how long he's going to stay in costume. Hopefully long enough for a few pictures, at least.

Preparations have been made and now all there is to do is wait for the big night, and hope that the weather and the children's relative health all cooperate!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2 Days 'Til Halloween: Power tool cuisine

We are actually having a chili cookoff here at the office today. Mmmmm, chili.

Wait, wasn't "chili" made from human remains one of the major plot points of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

What? No? That's actually from the dozen years later follow-up Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2?

My mistake. Carry on, then!

(And at least I got in the obligatory nod to the tendency of horror movies to metastasize into multiple ungainly, unloved sequels before the Countdown ran its course.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

3 Days 'Til Halloween: Trading Card Tuesday (Horrors!)

If this (nearly) month-long countdown, and this recurring feature in particular, have proven anything, hopefully it would be that I've just about always been into impulse-buy collecting, and I've just about always been into monsters and the overarching horror genre. And yet, I never directly married the two. In fact, I'm pretty sure growing up that I wasn't even really aware that stuff like this existed:

And yet, exist they did. Even if I had known they were out there, I'm not entirely sure I ever would have tracked them down, or picked them up if I happened to stumble across them. I guess it's a mood thing: I can pretty much always chuckle at the moronic humor of a good gross-out pun, or appreciate the whiz-bang escapism of comics, no matter what else is going on, but I take horror a lot more seriously. Or at the very least, I don't engage with horror casually. To separate the boogeyman from their surrounding narrative context, and freeze-frame them in glossy prints on cardboard, transforms them in a fundamental way which no longer interests me. As usual, I may be overthinking it a bit.

Monday, October 27, 2014

4 Days 'Til Halloween: The brew crew

As we enter the home stretch of the Countdown here, I am greatly looking forward to enjoying this particular treat on Friday night:

Which was on display at the Total when my wife and I stopped in a few weeks ago, and I promptly bought a six-pack as my contribution to the planned Halloween festivities. It has been sitting at home ever since (with other, non-holiday-themed beer bought and consumed since then) awaiting its designated purpose. I have no idea if I'm actually going to find it to be a transcendent drinking experience; I generally like Newcastle and I suspect I will find it palatable enough, but obviously I mainly bought it for the amusement factor, and that in and of itself should carry through as justification enough.

Speaking of amusements, one of my long-standing habits is following advice columns across various magazines and websites and so on. This in turn has alerted me to the fact that some people find it highly objectionable that some parents who walk around the neighborhood with a gaggle of kids on Halloween partake in adult beverages before or during said trick-or-treating. Which I suppose means I am part of the problem. I'll grant that it is both unseemly and irresponsible to get totally wasted and then attempt to supervise excitable small children who pose the near-constant risk of running into traffic in the dark while wearing bulky costumes and/or peripheral vision limiting masks. But rather than drawing a zero-tolerance line, I believe that moderation is as always the key. As I mentioned previously, for several years now we've been doing the multi-family get-together thing, and a selection of wines and beers for the legally of-age who choose to indulge is as much a part of the tradition at this point as the pizza dinner and the kids' never-say-die attempts to get us to start the trick-or-treating early (even though we ALWAYS wait until dark) and the post-trick-or-treating candy binges. If that makes me a bad parent or a bad community member then I guess I'll have to live with that.

But I'm totally keeping one of the Werewolf bottles as a display souvenir for my bar back home.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

5 Days 'Til Halloween: Candy Sunday (4)

It really wouldn't feel like an interwebboblog event if I didn't include a dose of snark and/or pointless complaining, and since we're at the five days remaining mark I'll go all in with a Five Things: specifically, the Five WORST Candies People Hand Out On Halloween:

5. Candy Corn.

It turns out my wife actually likes candy corn. Learn something new every year. I had failed to learn this any of the previous Halloweens we've been together, clearly because of a mental block based entirely upon how gross and weird these so-called confections are.

4. Peppermint Patties

My wife also likes these, but they taste like chocolate-covered toothpaste to me. Trade fodder at best, but fortunately they are pretty good for that because a lot of people enjoy them. They are welcome to them.

3. Bit-o-Honey

What ... I don't even ... what is this? A strange flavor which does not come remotely close to compensating for the risk of accidentally sucking out a filling that comes with stuffing a glob of adhesive in your mouth.

2. Tootsie Pops

Controversial? I just couldn't get into these when I was a kid. I was never really big on Tootsie Rolls, for that matter, because I felt like they were a bait-and-switch wherein my beloved milk chocolate was promised (really only implied, but KID LOGIC) and then a waxy choco-like gunk was delivered. Tootsie Pops were just tainted by association, especially since I was very much the impatient type of tot who would give a few licks and then bite into a lollipop. But biting through hard candy and into a Tootsie Roll was unthinkable.

1. Non-candy

Pretzels? Raisins? Pennies? Toothbrushes? All equally guilty of missing the point and generally being the worst of the worst. COSTUMES AND CANDY, PEOPLE. Come on. It's not that difficult.