halloween

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Too far away from the previous weekend to warrant proper revelry, not close enough to the next weekend to justify celebrating post-actual holiday, Thursday Halloweens are the most neglected Halloweens. Do your small part to help by wearing costume no matter what your day entails. And with this handy last minute guide, there’s no excuse not to dress up for the office, school, or whatever cramped underlit area you while away your days in.

 

The Monolith from ’2001: A Space Odyssey’

full_frontal_monolith

 

What you’ll need:

Large cardboard box (check IKEA or any place that sells refrigerators or flat-pack furniture)

Matte black spray paint

Black pantyhose

Glue gun/stapler

Duct tape

Random takeout containers &/or soda caps, or foam balls

Portable music device & portable speakers

1. Accept this will be a physically awkward costume. You will not be able to sit or walk very easily, but it will be worth it for the sheer weirdness of having a giant alien monolith in the middle of a party. Or room. Or daycare center.

2. Try on the box. Mark your eye level. Cut off the flaps by your feet.

3. Cut a small rectangular slit out at eye level. You can do the same on the box sides as well, if you care about peripheral vision. I don’t. Cut out a rectangle or two near the top of the box, either at the very top or on the sides (this is for the sound to come through).

4. Cut two thick strips from the bottom cardboard flaps – these will be your internal hand holds. Glue or staple the top part of the strip to the side wall, and repeat on the bottom, leaving room for your hand to grip the rest of the strip between.

5. Spray paint the box a fine matte black, including inside the eyeholes.

You won’t be able to spray-paint it the mattest black of the actual monolith though – turns out our blackest blacks are classified by the government! No joke – the U.S. Air Force pays good money to companies who can come up with ever-blacker blacks, as a paint that would prevent visibility either through radar or visual spectrum would be VERY USEFUL to use on satellites and plane underbellies that one might want to go undetected.

6. Cut out bits of the pantyhose larger than the eyehole and other holes cut. You may need more than one layer. Stretch and glue/staple the pantyhose to the INSIDE of the box.

7. Put ‘Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs & Orchestra‘ and ‘Atmospheres’ on your music device. I recommend taping the speakers near your speaker-holes using duct-tape, but if another configuration works for you, go for it.

8. Tah-dah! You’re ready to join the party! Get your pal to go as the Star Child or Dave for a couples costume, or if you have kids, get them to dress up as little apes. For extra fun, read this extensive theory on the Monolith as Movie Screen and the enlightenment of the viewer/Dave.

 

Talking Head

thoial

 

What you’ll need:

Cardboard box big enough to fit around your head

spray paint (likely black, or purple if you want a Simpsons TV)

Boxcutter/X-Acto/Scissors

Coat hanger/wire

Moderate drawing skills/printer

Glue gun/tape

 

1. Cut a hole at the bottom of the box big enough to squeeze your head through, but not so big it wobbles all around. If necessary cut bigger and once the box is on tape the hole smaller.

2. Draw a TV on the front of the box (either old-style with the knobs on the side and rounded corners, or ultra-sleek and modern with just a thin border and the name brand at the bottom. If the latter, make sure your box is ‘widescreen format’ (16:9) instead of traditional 3:4 ratio.

Here’s a nice vector image of the Simpsons’ tv to give you an idea of what you’re going for:

free-vector-the-simpsons-tv_029933_the-simpsons-tv

3. Cut out the ‘screen’ portion of your TV.

4. Spray paint the set the color of your choice.

5. Draw in any details. Use whatever vaguely dome-like objects at hand (half a tennis ball, take out container, cat food can) and glue it to the top of your TV. Glue smaller objects on the side (liter soda caps, buttons, whatever)

6. Depending on what kind of TV show you’re going for, draw or print out a picture to go behind your head. Action sequence, car chase, news outlet – might I recommend finding a dangerous situation (like a car burning, a bank robbery in progress) and going as local Tri-State news anchor and trouble magnet Ti-Hua Chang?

7. Unbend the wire and re-bend into classic rabbit ears (or skip this step if you’ve gone for the heartless modern variant).

8. Dress to match your chosen genre, and pop on your TV head.

 

Ralph Wiggum as Idahotumblr_lcj55pVdCk1qztjn5o1_500

What you’ll need:

Collared blue shirt

Matching pants

Piece of paper

Tape

 

I am not even going to dignify this with instructions, as it is truly the lazy man’s costume. If you happen to have foamcore about (or just an old mattress pad), you could just as easily whip up Lisa’s ‘Floreda’ costume.

 

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Last Halloween was a strange one. With everyone still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, people suffered desperate cabin fever while not being able to really go anywhere. Many events had been planned, including several all-cover shows at local music venues, but most places were shut down, and no one was sure if any events were still on. In some places the power still wasn’t on.

Several friends were slated to play back-to-back all-cover shows, first at Glasslands, then around the corner at Death By Audio. For the unfamiliar, all-cover Halloween shows are a delightful recent tradition, whereby all bands playing are strictly covering another well-known band’s songs, usually dressed up as & behaving like that band. The Misfits are a wildly popular choice here, though most can’t get the Lodi accent right. My friends were playing as…I’m not actually sure what name they went under that night, but they were a Go-Gos cover band and batted around The Go-Guys, Go-Guhs and We Got The Meat(ewwww). Other Glassland bands covered The Cramps, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, and oddly, Witchfinder General (didn’t think they were popular enough to warrant a cover band, but then life can be full of pleasant surprises). It was a crammed roster full of bands. Death By Audio had a showcase of just 4 bands doing full sets of songs, including a gender-switched Joy Division that worked despite initial doubts about female vocals hitting the low range (and unfortunately she couldn’t resist wearing a noose tie, which was expected but still tacky), and a MOST excellent Ramones who got EVERYTHING right, including a) announcing ‘Thanks, we’re The Ramones’ between every song, b) Dee-Dee in a half-shirt, c) no one making eye contact with any other member but glaring straight ahead. Genius. Both shows became insanely packed once word got out they were happening, and to Brooklyn’s credit, 95% of attendees had decent costumes (and no, a lone mask or glitter bowler hat does not a costume make. Fake cat ears + tail with a sexy dress is also debatable as to whether it’s a costume or a cry for help).

The shows went well, everyone had a damn fine Halloween with plenty of treats to make up for Nature’s vicious trick, and that seemed to be that. But having practiced all those songs for so long it seemed a shame not to do anything with it. So my friends went ahead and released a full cassette, available here. And then they had a bunch of footage left over from the photo shoot for the cassette, and it seemed a shame not to do anything with it, which is how I ended up editing a music video out of it for them.

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In 2011, Americans spent over 5.8 billion dollars on Halloween-related items. Five. BILLION. Assuming three quarters of the money was spent on candy and costumes, Halloween’s raison d’etre, that still leaves an enormous chunk of change frittered away on decor and gewgaws (and here I add my personal opinion that to purchase a costume is itself a waste).

It’s no surprise retailers latch onto Halloween as another excuse to push useless junk, or that the candy industry (ALLEGEDLY) tampered with time itself just to boost sales. Still, seeing the actual, physical detritus for sale is a depressing glimpse at naked capitalism, junk for junk’s sake churned out by the millions and sold at lower and lower prices until three days after the holiday, their true value is revealed in the dumpster behind the store.

It’s not all gloom and doom (though that would actually be semi-appropriate for a holiday based on appeasing and tricking the spirits of angry dead relatives into not killing you) – the absolute crap up for grabs is, in its own sad way, a Halloween treat. Below are some choice selections from Target’s vast warehouse of holiday goods:


Please explain to me what part of this wig is ‘urban’; perhaps that young Grandpa Munster’s out for a night on the town?


Of all the creeping Britishisms worming their way into American culture, ‘ginger’ is most irksome for its inherent insult and the fact ginger is not actually that color, ever.


The truly great catalog models stay deadly serious in character even wearing a mustache wider than their face.


Or a mop on their head.


He looks like a hissing cat. Also, dressing up as another holiday on Halloween should be a punishable offense.


It’s Peggy Bundy. Just call it ‘Peggy Bundy’.


This is a costume?

YOUR CHILD DOES NOT LIKE KISS.


Look at fake prepubescent Paul Stanley’s drawn-on chest hair! LOOK AT IT.


AAAAAH! WHY WOULD YOU NOT JUST PAINT YOUR FACE? Do you truly need the frozen visage of Paul Stanley staring out at the world like a somehow more horrifying Michael Myers?


Black Metal Carnivale!

I found it. I have found the lamest Halloween costume.

First, for the crime of dressing up as another holiday on Halloween. Second, for doing so with a total third-tier holiday. Third, ‘history hero’ is not the first phrase that comes to mind to describe Columbus. Fourth, it’s not a costume, it’s a ‘disguise kit’, implying some sort of Carmen Sandiego shenanigans going on, but with whole continents instead of national landmarks. Fifth, what child actually wants to dress up as a really crappy governor and semi-competent seafarer?

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After spending half a day in Witch City without encountering anything CLOSE to the sort of witches we came to see, we made it over to the Witch History Musem. Finally! Pointy hats and evil cats ahoy!

What the deuce?! THIS STILL LOOKS LIKE WICCAN B.S.

Oh, this is just the atrium? The real deal’s inside? Alright, witches!

OK WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CRAP.

As we sat in church pews staring at a stage empty save for the ‘Indians’, it dawned on us they were clearly modified from skiing mannequins. Especially the guy on the far right, they didn’t even try and change his stance.

Eventually a doughy young man in historical garb stepped out and gave us a brief history of the Salem Witch Trials, occasionally pointing to blown-up photos of historical landmarks framed around the room. Groups were taken down to the basement by another historically garbed young lady while the rest of us continued sitting there.

Sensing the general unrest the young man made the mistake of saying if we had any questions, we could feel free to ask. While everyone else sat around staring at tiny glowing rectangles I plied him for information he did not have about the debunking of the rye poisoning theory, the validity of psychosomatic group illnesses similar to the German Laughing Sickness of the Middle Ages, why the hell there were Indian mannequins on stage at a Witch History Museum, and if anyone knew the exact current location of Gallows Hill, where the actual hangings took place.

Answers: It probably wasn’t rye poisoning, group hysteria was a possibility but there was also the angle of nabbing a neighbor’s property or getting revenge, the Indian mannequins were there as a reminder of the gross stereotyping and sensationalizing of Native Peoples in the past (oh, irony, considering what we were about to tour), and while no one knew the EXACT location of Gallows Hill the land it once stood on was now a Dunkin Donuts and storage center.

Tour time!

Girls of the Puritan era didn’t have the same freedoms ladies today take for granted, like wearing zebra headbands out in public. They were treated like little hellbound adults, which led to all sorts of fear and repression, some of which may have been responsible for the madness of the witch trials. Here we see the girls wilding; just out of shot, an extremely creepy mannequin of a guy staring at them. Seriously.

All tableaus were accompanied by audio piped from hidden speakers; here the girls wailed and moaned as the adults around them tried to figure out the cause. We were trying to figure out, what, aside from a general lack of anatomial correctness and poor aging/maintenance, made these mannequins look so damn creepy.

Angry Jim realized whoever painted the faces rimmed all orifices in a bright pink-red, especially the eyes, and most of the eyes were painted a few shades too light, giving the impression everyone had just been maced.

Here we see the house of Samuel Parrish, where house servant Tituba and literally-named husband John Indian entertain the girls with stories. Little did they know how badly this would come back to bite them in the ass.

IT’S A DEMON!!! Oh wait, it’s supposed to be Samuel Parrish, the preacher confounded by his ward and her friends suddenly going bonkers for no apparent physical reason.

Eww.

AAAAAH! AAAAH! DEEEEMON! Oh wait, no, this melting face belongs to William Griggs, the doctor who, after closely inspecting all three girls declared no earthly cause afflicted them, and the church should be turned to. That turned out well!

What is a Conquistador doing here? They had their own witches to deal with. Fun fact: there IS a reason the witches of Salem were HANGED and NOT BURNED. The Puritans had moved to the godforsaken no-man’s-land that was America to literally as well as figuratively distance themselves from what they saw as the decadence of the Catholic (and pretty much every other) church. No reason why this shouldn’t apply to dealing with witchery as well! While the Catholic Inquisition labeled practicing witchcraft as a heresy,  punishable by burning at the stake, the Puritans made afflicting someone by witchcraft an offense against the state, and therefore punishable by hanging.

Puritan Andrew W.K. protects his family.

In the midst of numerous families crying and being rent apart- a wee tiny boy and his wee tiny horse. I cannot explain, just enjoy.

Not all Puritans went quietly into that good night; I forget his name but this fellow took out most of the men sent to arrest him and broke the chains they attempted to bind him in. Check out this ACTION SHOT! See kids? History is just as bloody and violent as your favorite video games.  He looks a lot like Charlie Gazin here.

Uhh…huh.  I see we improvised the mannequin representing a servant testifying against her mistress. We were told she’s holding a doll of cheese and grass…I honestly wasn’t listening why as I was too distracted by the blackface. Featuring guest judge Robert DeNiro…

and Harrison Ford as Guy In The Background!

And here all pretense of education gives way to sheer witchsploitation. The cat seems mildly bored.

“Haaay guyys, there’s a tiny hanging going on over herrre!”


Insert Misfits lyrics here.

The further we went into the museum the more the mannequins looked like Lon Cheney in ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

Issac Newton measures a skull.

Back on the streets of Salem we took in the sights:

But further horror awaited us at…THE WITCHES’ DUNGEON…..museum.

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A gorgeous Fall weekend before Halloween. What better time for a road trip to the site of young America’s shameful cave-in to fear,  Salem! Yes, Salem, Massachusetts, place where the witch trials of 1692 sort-of happened. Most of the real action took place in nearby Danvers (formerly Salem Village), with only two direct ties to Salem proper, but why let ‘facts’ or ‘history’ get in the way of Salem’s current existence as an amazingly cheesy tourist trap?

When traveling to New England, this is what’s expected. Wide expanses of ocean under icy blue skies, distant islets, proper trees all the way up to the water. Ships with rigging. Fishing crews.  Houses and people of a modest, solid mein, strong and conservative. Possibly Stephen King, if you go up far enough north.

New Englanders are very proud of their history; even here on this beach, within earshot of three locals complaining about The Government messing with their business we saw a Historical Rock.

I have my doubts about the rock’s historic value.

Our first stop was a sign of things to come- an enormous thrift store filled with gewgaws and knicknacks heaped at random filled with crowds in costumes and hats, and nary a thing to do with witches save for ridiculous haberdashery.

Perhaps going to the self-proclaimed Witch City during peak season was not the smartest idea, but we came for campy, corny Witchery and damned if we weren’t going to get it! So, witches ahoy!

Or not. Here you see one of the only direct ties Salem has with the witch trials- the Witch House. Not actually belonging to anyone accused, nor even haunted, the house belonged to one of the judges presiding over the trials. Inside you see the horrors of tourists wandering confused through a properly recreated historical dwelling! Ooooooh!

Whoever runs the place must’ve realized just a house would’ve had folks crying foul, so they spiced it up a bit with lore and a tableau of medical techniques of the era, including this page from a treatise on illnesses:

Winthrop’s Black Powder

“My black powder against the plague, small-pox; purples, all sorts of feavers; Poyson, either, by Way of Prevention or after Infection.” This marvellous remedy was made by putting live toads into an earthen pot so as to half fill it, and baking and burning them “in the open ayre, not in an house,: –John Winthrop the Younger

Ok, so the Witch House was a bust. We still had the Witch Museum, Salem Witch Museum, Witch History Museum, and Witch’s Dungeon to check out. Witches ahoy!

This is the best welcome ever.

The streets were packed with costumed performers yelling, ‘reenacting’ and generally doing whatever they could to get unwary tourist to sign up for their Magic Show or Haunted  Tour.

This mask is spooky for a whole different set of reasons than its sellers intended.

Ok, no witches so far, but what’s this? Tiny folk terrorized by a wee ship? That’s right, it’s…

The Pirate Museum! While witches mostly corner the market in Salem, New England has a rich history of piracy up and down its coast that also makes for excellent tourist trapping.

This beardy bedazzled fellow and….whatever the hell that thing is stood outside posing for photos. Once inside, we saw the first of many decaying, anatomically incorrect mannequins. Here my friend poses with a dapper looking fellow who…I don’t know, I think he got caught on his second pirating venture out or something. I was too stunned by the construction and set-up to pay close attention to names and dates.

Here sits The Saddest Pirate.

Our tour guide, the bandanna’d fellow on the steps, regaled us with tales of the most notorious pirates in local waters.

Here we see a classic Pirate game of Bridge.

And here, a barwench stops a drunken Captain from hitting on a mounted deer head.

For the guy not about to be hung this fellow looks awfully surprised. I believe that’s supposed to be Cotton Mather, who tried and failed to get William Fly to repent before dying.

Here be William Fly, a pirate unrepentant to the end. Calm throughout sentencing he became animated and upset upon approaching the gallows – the hangman had tied the noose with the wrong knot. A sailor worth his salt, Fly retied the noose properly and placed it around his own neck, chiding the hangman while doing so. While many a pirate warned of the grave dangers of drink, godlessness, piracy, and other moral lessons in hopes of catching a last minute reprieve, Fly instead warned Captains not to treat their men cruelly as piracy would surely result.

And here be the body of William Kid, gibbeted and hung for over 20 years on the Execution Dock in London as a warning to other would-be pirates. Kid denied being a pirate up to his dying day, and after his first hanging failed, many believed it a divine sign from God he was telling the truth. Not that it mattered to the judge, who ordered him strung up again with stronger rope.

This captain was put in charge of gathering a crew to fight piracy in the New England bays. Unfortunately for him, the crew mutinied pretty much right after they got on the ship, knocked out the captain and tossed him overboard.

Here’s my friend posing with the soon-to-be-tossed captain.

Here be a motley crüe of pirates having a super fun sleepover:

OMG SO MUCH FUN!

HAAAAY GIRLFRIEND!

I forget what the story was with these fellows but they sure beheaded that one guy but good.

I love the expression on both their faces.

Apparently lots of  pirates are rumored to have buried their loot in New England Woods. Metal detector enthusiasts, start your time wasting!

The second-saddest pirate in New England.

Behold the horrors of the Pirate Dungeon!

It was so scary we fled in mortal terror.

However before exiting we were greeted by Pirate Howard Stern swinging in from the ceiling.

Alright! We got our fill of Pirates, but what about the wiiiiitcches?

That is not a witch, however 7th-grade-me is dying inside right now.

Uh, still not quite the witches I was hoping to see…

Wait a minute, this isn’t witchery, it’s Wiccanism! We wandered into a NEW AGE SHOP!

Talk about false promises.

What’s stranger, that you too can smell like Chivalry or Witches and Weeds, or that they’re sold out of everything but the Tester bottles?

For negative or positive purposes. It must be ph neutral.

In retrospect I should’ve bought this to shake at the next Ultimate Kickball tournament taking over McCarren Park.

Oh look, a charming wallfull of gentle wiccan wood-art. Wait, what the…

NOOOO!

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